Happy End :)

Hi friends,

We apologize a lot that we didn’t follow through with this blog. We failed at this..BUT we didn’t fail at something more important! On August 4th, 2010 around 6 pm we crossed the bridge over Columbia river and entered Portland, OR after nearly 10 weeks on the bikes. The joy was enormous. It was a great experience from which we learned a lot about us, people around us, life, USA and most importantly, we learned that people are great! We couldn’t have done this trip without guys such as Paul who gave us hamburgers for lunch while we asked him for directions, Jeff who drove 30+ miles only to host us in this house, all the guys from gas stations and inns who never refused to give us water, and many other who opened their hearts and homes for us and made us feel that we have homes all across the country! We remember and will remember each one of you because you were the reason for us to be able to accomplish this trip. And this success is as much ours as it is yours.

We  hope that we have inspired you to follow your dreams and showed that impossible is indeed nothing as long as people are determined to pursue their goals until the end. So, enjoy your life to the fullest and all the best to all of you!

Once again thank you for everything! We will always carry you in our hearts!




Although we spent almost two weeks in Wyoming, they passed as quickly as two days. Every day of our stay in the first truly Western state on our route was full of stories. We entered Wyoming after we passed the gorgeous Spearfish Canyon in the Black Hills. Both of us expected that the moment we would cross the border with South DDakota, we would hit the mountains. We were wrong. Wyoming was nice and flat for awhile. We spent our first night in the fairgrounds of the town of Sundance. That night marked the beginning of series of cold nights. As soon as the sun went down, the temperature dropped by so much that even after we put on our cold weather gear, we were still freezing. That forced us to pitch the tent quickly and go inside the sleeping bags. In the morning it was again nice and warm.

That morning we decided that we had enough of peanut butter (Andre) and Nutella (Avi) , so we headed towards the grocery store to get something else for breakfast. We ended up having muffins, milk, and yogurt in the company of Rosa Maria from Brazil and her husband, Robert. They were traveling from Massachusets to Alaska, so they were loading up their car with provisions. We spent good time chatting about Brazil and cultural differences. After we shared a cup of yogurt and Andre learned how to pronounce his name in Portuguese, we jumped back on the bikes. That was our first day riding on an Interstate road. However, we weren’t given much choice because they were no other paved roads. The traffic was surprisingly slow, the shoulder was nice and big and we felt much safer riding on Interstate 90 than on Route 30 in Pennsylvania. Our destination that day was Gilette. The ride to the town was monotonous and it continued to be relatively flat as if we were in Illinois. We rolled into Gillette around 6 pm. As did not have a place to spend the night, we started looking for a grocery store to do what we usually do in such situations: sit in front of the store, get people into a conversation and hope that someone will offer their yard, garage, or house. Well, we didn’t find a grocery store, but we found a bakery…that was already closed. However, we got two important pieces of information from a poster on the front store: firstly, there was a college in Gillette and secondly, there was a play, Tartuff by Molier, at the college that had already started. We asked around for directions to the college and 20 minutes later we were sitting on the lawn in front of one of the buildings on the campus and watching the French comedy. The actors, despite the fact that they weren’t professional, did a very good job interpreting Molier’s witticism. The end of the play came quickly and we were again faced by the question where we were going to spend the night. As we were arguing who should go up on the stage and announce to the audience that we were looking for a yard to pitch our tent, a guy approached us and asked us if we had a place to spend the night. A couple of minutes later we were standing on a top of a hill in the back yard of Ray and Hiedi’s house and were mesmerized by the nice view of the town and the surrounding area. Apart from the super soft grass in the yard, we were offered showers, food, and a good evening of entertainment.

Andre had a nice jamming session with the family. Avi was offered percussions , but quickly gave up as she was mostly making a non rhythmic noise. The night on the soft grass was amazing and it was followed by a delicious breakfast, more music, and lunch. We mentioned to them that our following stop was Buffalo and they happened to know that there was a folk music festival that started on the same evening. On the top of that, they also knew a guy, Rick Erb who was volunteering there and could help us become volunteers as well and thus, stay at the festival for free of charge. So, this was some of the fun we had during the following two days, while volunteering for the festival security.

And to make it even better, we met Sarah and her husband from Buffalo. They gave us heads up about the Powder River Pass (9666 ft) that we had to do once we get out of Buffalo.

South Dakota

On June 27th we crossed Missouri river and enter South Dakota. South Dakota – the state that everybody has been warning us about: the headwind is too strong, the mosquitoes are everywhere, there is no food, no water, no people, even cars run out of gas, the badlands are really bad, the temperature is really hot, it is very hilly, etc. Well, it has definitely been different from the other states we’ve gone through, but we’ve enjoyed every inch we’ve passed. The fact that this state is so vast, open, and deserted should not cause worries, but rather joy; joy that there are still parts of the US where one will not see big commercial centers or restaurant chains; joy that there are sometimes more horses and cows along the road rather than motor vehicles; joy that there is no need for gps because the paved roads are so few that you can remember them by looking at the map once. For the first time during this trip we feel what it means to be surrounded by the nature. And it is great!

Also, for the first time we encountered other touring cyclists who are going from East to West.

A couple from Chicago that we met on our way out of Yankton, SD. They had sold their house and moving to the West Coast. Notice: they are not moving with U-haul, but on their bicycles.

We also run into Mike from Wesst Chester, PA who started his trip across the US by foot and eventually got a bike in Iowa;  Cameron and his brother from Connecticut who had Home Depot buckets on their bikes instead of panniers; and a rancher who we got to help for a day.

And finally in Scenic, SD (a town that is at the exit of the Badlands with population of no more than 10 people), we met three guys from Reading, PA and Leon from Ireland. Leon is going up to Seattle, then down to LA, hopping on a boat and continuing in New Zealand and South East Asia. The six of us got to ride for 40 miles until we reached Rapid City. It was like a small critical mass bike ride!


Illinois was absolute craziness – from the moment we put our wheels on the territory of this state until the sign that said “Welcome to Iowa.” We said good-bye to Indiana on June 13th and headed towards our first stop in Ilinois, the city of Chicago. Both of us did not know what to expect from it. We entered the city from its Southern part that is notoriously known as the part of the city that should be avoided. However, those who are trying to avoid that neighborhood, risk to miss the best view of the city. As we started entering the city, we got confused by all the signs for different bike trails. We were going to spend the night at the apartment of a Dickinson alumna, Sara Abernethy ’03 who attends grad school in the city. We knew she lived somewhere near lake Michigan, so we followed the arrows for the bike trail that goes by the lake. We were awestruck by the view of what was ahead of us. We were only 5 miles away from the downtown, but it took us more than an hour to reach it. It was so beautiful and peaceful…








Once we made it to the downtown city, there was another surprise. It was the last day of the annual Chicago Blues Festival! Music, beer, happy people dancing everywhere – we couldn’t have asked for more after a rainy day of cycling. We spent about two hours chilling on the grass before it started raining again. We reached Sara’s apartment at around 10 pm.


  Chicago Rest Day 


    Traveled by Metro (CTI) and Bus 12 to LIttle Italy for the game. Tried to find Italians with whom     to watch the game. Found “Italian” places where nobody spoke Italian. Settled into a Mexican restauraunt which broadcasted the game in English. Italy tied Paraguay  1 – 1. 

    Bus 12: Conversations from a wheelchair sittin’ man: a man climbed up city hall with his arms alone. 

    An aside about street movement: No left or right – North, East, South, and West. 


      Sculpture of the waist-down giants, 

      a pair of legs twenty feet high, 

      by sixty one. 

      The feeling of walking in a city where the sheer number and anonimity of its 

      residents makes you, the thinking, emotional person, seem lost in a world of others. 

      Among walking, working machines, you use words, but have no voice. 

      Those shoes and sticks, 

      are they so cold as the metal which bore them? 


      A park of folks on the grass with friends, winding down, and up. 

      Intervals of applause. 

      Lots of personal moments. 

      Like the old saying goes: clusters of oats make granola, 

      but clusters of people and some very funky music* makes a big hot bunch of dancin’. 

      *i got my mojo workin’ 

The only reason we decided to spend a night in Aurora, Il was because Avi wanted to stay in the town that has the same name as hers. However, if we decide to go to Aurora again someday it would be to visit Jeanne and her husband Jamie. During our stay at their house we experienced the correctness of the saying “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” We were supposed to arrive at their house around 7 pm and have a nice dinner with them. We ended up arriving at 10 pm covered with mud and gravel from head to toe. We were anxious how they would welcome late comers that would make a mess in their house. However, all of our anxiety vanished the moment Jeanne welcomed us with her big smile and a hug and told us that a freshly caught fish from lake Erie is awaiting us on the table. We quickly put the bikes in their garage, washed the dirt off our feet, and ten minues after our arrival we were already sitting on the table and enjoying the nice meal accompanied by an entertaining conversation with Jeanne and Jamie.

The following morning was dedicated to washing bikes, clothes, and equipment off the mud. It was finally a nice sunny day with a lot of wind coming from the west. It was going to be a day fighting against the wind, but at least it wasn’t going to rain. We had to cover about 60 miles to reach our next destination, the tiny town of Franklin Grove. We found a nice back road on the map that would take us right to the town, so we were looking forward to a nice bike ride at a leisurely pace. However, we didn’t get on the bikes until it was half past noon. Cleaning all of the equipment and saying bye to Jeanne and her grand daughter proved to be harder than what we thought. We took a picture with them and hopped on the bikes. At the moment we would have never thought that we wouldn’t have to wait for a long time until the next time we see each other…

We easily found the back road that we had to take and it was exactly what we expected – almost no traffic, farms, corn everywhere, and a lot of headwind. No matter how hard we were pushing the pedals, we couldn’t go too fast, the headwind sucked up all of our energy, so we decided to stop for a quick lunch break. We would remember our lunch break with the guy who did a series of complicated driving manoeuvres only to get his mail from the mail box without getting off the vehicule. It was hard not to be amazed by that scene.

We got back on the road and tried to increase our speed, so that we could make it to Franklin Grove before it got dark. However, half an hour later we didn’t have to worry about making it to Franklin Grove because the flat roads of Illinois proved to be to big of a hurdle for Andre’s bike. His back shifter made “Crack” and suddenly we were on that deserted back road and a broken bike. The nightmare of any cyclist. Well, in this situation what else could have we done, but have some fun :)

After the photo session, it was time to find how we could get out of that situation. It was clear to us that Andre couldn't continue on that bike that had two flat tires during the first three days of the trip and every once in a while would have a broken screw in the frame that required to be drilled out. It was time to make some changes and this meant returning the bike and getting a new one. To do this, we had to go back to Chicago.


First night in Indiana. Camping at Neil’s family backyard.


On June 4th at around 5 pm we finally left Pennsylvania and entered Ohio. After we spent one day racing with trucks and cars on Rt 65 (try to avoid it if you are cycling), we found ourselves in the tranquility of the hills in Ohio. 

Our energy lasted until the first town that we reached in Ohio. This happened to be Negley. We asked around about a place to spend the night and we were directed towards the creek where usually “the young go to party.” The place was indeed by the creek and not very easy to find. There were some remnants of the last few parties they had there. We set up the tent hoping for a calm night of a good sleep without kids partying by the creek on a Friday night. Well, no kids showed up, perhaps because there was a downpour that went throughout the entire night – from 1am till 7 am. Here’s how we spent the night.

After the few hours of sleep that we got, the ride from Negley to our next destination Kent was in a slow pace. However, we had to hurry up after we heard that another storm is coming soon. The storm caught us about 35 miles away from Kent, so we had our first ride under the rain. The rain was getting harder and harder and it was very difficult to see the road. Suddenly, a car pull over and the woman inside the car offered us to go to her place until it cleared up. We agreed. She offered us tea and towels and we waited at her place until it rain calmed down. In Kent we stayed with Carolyn and Jim Brothers. We were so grateful that we had a warm place to spend the night and dry up our clothes and equipment. Jim had just finished part of the Appalachian Trail (he had also hiked the entire trail), so over dinner we had a nice conversation about hiking, cycling, and all kinds of adventures. Ironically, he passed by Boiling Springs on our graduation day.

After the great breakfast we had the following morning, Jim gave us some directions about how to get on the bike trail that will take us almost all the way to Cleveland.

At that point we couldn't not imagine what it was to ride on a bike trail for 40 miles, but once we got to Cleveland after a day of calm riding without having to race with cars and trucks we couldn't have been happier. Only if there were more bike trails like that one...

After the amazing day on the bike trail we were warmly welcomed in Cleveland by recent alumni of Oberlin College who moved to the city after their graduation. We spent two fun days with Emilio, Mara, Rob, Joel and Beca. We particularly enjoyed the asparagus lasagna that Rob and Mara made for us :) Among the things that we will remember from Cleveland are the enourmous local market on West Side (neither of us had seen before such a big market in the US), the lake that is 5 mins walking from the downtown, the Great Lakes beer, the farmer's market at the Slavic neighborhood that Emilio started, and the cool bridge with the guardians of the roads.

We did it! We passed through all of them: Blue Mountain, Tuscarora Mountain, Wills Mountain, Alleghny Mountain, Laurel Hills , and now we are on our way to Pittsburgh and our first rest day. I guess the Pennsylvania mountainas were our first challenge. Everybody we met on the road said that from Pittsburgh to basically the Rockies the terrain is relatively flat. However, there we have to face other hardships, such as deserted areas with no water or food or people, the bad plains, headwinds, etc. But we have a couple of weeks to prepare for that :)
These first few days have been so eventful that is hard to organize and summarize our thoughts and feelings. There is one thing that we will never forget from this first leg of the trip and this is the generosity and support of the people we encountered on the road.
Our first stop was at Shippensburg at Mike’s house, he’s a raising junior at Dickinson. As soon as we got to his place he had already organized a barbeque party for us. We spent the night flipping burgers and jamming. His family was driving to PIttsburgh the following day and offered us to put our bikes in truck and drop us there, so that we don’t have to go through all the mountains. We quickly turned down this offer, but accepted gladly the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that they gave us.


After we thanked Mike and his family and took a picture, we hit the road for our second day of biking. As we were looking for the road we needed to take, we got into coversation with two motorcyclists. One of them had crossed US five times on his motorbike. We received some helpful advices from him, such as getting bells before going to the West and attaching them to the bikes, because this was how we will hopefully scare the grizly bears away. Apart from the the steep climbs and the three mountains that we had to go through, this day will be memorable for our encounters with some real characters along the way. After we descended the second mountain we realized that we were running out of water and we needed to refill the bottles. Luckily, the solution came really quickly. There was a local inn in front of us. As we entered the inn in this small town called Fannettsburg, we were quickly recognized as the guys from Dickinson who are cycling across the country and were on the news the night before. We spent a good half an hour talking with the guys there and at the end not only did they refill our water bottles, but also gave us two t-shirts from the FBI (Fannettsburg Inn) on the back of which was an environmentally friendly message that says “Save water, Drink beer at the FBI.” We took a picture with Barbara, promised her to send her a post card from Portland and hopped on the bikes to do the last mountain for the day.


A useful piece of information that we got from the gang at the FBI was that right after we descended the third mountain there’ll be a tiny town called Burnt Cabins and a campsite with a grocery store. This campsite was our motivation as we were climbing the third mountain.


To be continued…

The campsite happened to be located right next to the turnpike which meant that it would be a noisy night. However, the people there seemed to be nice and the price was good, so we decided to staySince we didn’t have any food left, we went to the store inside the campground to get something for dinner. As we walked in, the guy behind the counter asked us a question we heard earlier that day, “Were you, guys, on the news last night?” The moment we confirmed, he offered us pork chops and salad that his friends had made for dinner. We couldn’t refuse. And that was by far the most delicious dinner we’ve had so far. Mark and his wife are excellent chefs! After the dinner Andre tried out for the first time the flute that he bought for the trip. And here’s a new surprise! 

A native American guy from Pennsylvania who makes his living by playing flute with his family stopped by and gave us a brief history of native American flutes. Then he invited us over his family’s trailer for a little jamming session. And there we were sitting by the turnpike and listening to Danuwa family playing this music that makes you feel you are up in the mountains surrounded only by the beauty of the nature. 

He also makes flutes out of anything that is wooden including baseball bat and plunger.

Time flew away and we had to say good-bye as it got late and we were very tired.


Message to Dickinson!

Turn out for Bike Across America launch

In the usual intrepid spirit of true Dickinsonians, two of our newest alumni will embark on a cross-country biking trip. Please join us at 11 a.m. this Friday, May 28, at the Benjamin Rush statue to give Avi Keremidchieva and Andre Lekich, both class of 2010, a spirited send-off. The purpose of their Bike Across America venture is to raise awareness about Dickinson and promote sustainable modes of transportation.

Avi and Andre will bike from Carlisle to Pittsburgh for the first leg of a planned 3,200-mile journey that they anticipate will culminate in Portland, Ore., on Aug. 4. Along the way, they will connect with their fellow Dickinsonians in Cleveland, Chicago and many small towns East and West.

You’ll be able to track them and experience their adventures through their blog at http://blogs.dickinson.edu/bikeacrossusa. Along with a written account once or twice a week, Avi and Andre intend to post videos and photos depicting their adventures. This journey is made possible through the generosity of Student Senate, which provided funding for equipment.

Let’s all get together to wish them well this Friday.