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Our Stomachs Overfloweth

November 6th, 2008

The gourmandizing began almost as soon as we landed in Chicago.  Andrew’s family met us at the airport.  We avoided the irksome task of putting our bikes together at the airport and the ride to our host-place in the dark streets.  Instead we loaded them into the back of the Spidahl’s truck and went straight to a Chicago deep-dish pizza restaurant.  I ate and ate until I was stuffed.  Yet, it was only by summoning a great amount of self control that I avoided snatching bits of uneaten crust off Dr. Spidahl’s otherwise polished plate.

 At the pizza place.

spidahl's and kate and fbr

                The pulchritudinous trio behind the couch: Kate and Drew’s sister and mom.

Kate Ritger, our host for the next couple of days, brought us back to our roots by preparing broccoli in a peanut sauce with rice.  We gobbled that down, only to be taken out to dinner a few hours later by my Uncle John and Aunt Jodi.  We tried to demonstrate our enjoyment of the food by consuming it all, but our efforts collided with our full stomachs, and a side of fries went almost untouched.  Later at the prayer dinner at De Paul University at which we fielded questions about the trip, we couldn’t even think about eating.  Later, at a presentation on the election, we managed to find room for complimentary brownies and chips.

Jim with Uncle and Aunt, post hamburger.

On our third day back in the U.S., Pete’s high school friend Molly and her husband Matt prepared a mountain of pasta for us.  The next day Nakia’s birthday feast, prepared by our second Chicago hosts Amanda and Woody, graced our stomachs.

molly and matt and fbr

FBR with Matt and Molly and Amanda

Before we knew it, we had left Chicago for Wisconsin.  We landed in Beloit, or almost in Beloit.  I was off on the distance estimate, and it seemed we wouldn’t be able to meet up with our friends the Klocke’s who reside in that prestigious town.  Luckily, however, Dan Klocke saw fit to drive out at dusk and rescue us, or at least some of us.  The rest of us, having passed on the burden of luggage to Dan’s car made it to the Klocke residence in no time, where Catie treated us to two pans of stuffed pasta.  She harbored no illusions about FBR’s capacity for caloric consumption.

Dan manhandles a grapefruit.

The next day found us in Madison, at Jen and Xavier’s, where we received more pasta and homemade cheese (for this we thank the Kutters).  The prestigious gardiners, Ryan and Jenny, also saw fit to buy everyone a Mediteranean lunch the following day.

In Madison, Pete’s cousin Todd biked with us on our first day out of town.  He helped us find a campsite in a dense line of trees and summoned his girlfriend, Erika.  She drove out to collect him, but brought with her a huge pot of beef stew and a salad.  We partook of this pabulum with our guests, sitting around our campfire and listening to fascinating tales of scientific outposts in Greenland .  It was the first time we’ve ever hosted anyone at our campsite-at least since Cambodia.

Now we’re in Western Wisconsin.  Andy and Karolanne hosted us at the former’s countryside home two nights ago.  Last night Karol Anne cooked for us again even though she had night class.

Drew diving into stew courtesy Karol Anne.

 Tonight we had the incredible fortune to be hosted by Jane Steingraeber at a potluck of veritable who’s who of the La Crosse CSBSJU community.  There was so much food I forgot to take a picture. 

We certainly don’t deserve any of this special treatment, but so long as people see fit to provide it, I’ll sure waste no time gulping it down.  Thanks everyone!

International Reaction to the Election Results

November 5th, 2008

I was scanning some Chinese news sources after the election.  I began reading one and decided to translate it.   I offer it here without comment, though I will note that reading the Chinese perspective on American politics is interesting and perhaps a bit entertaining.  However, we would do well to keep in mind the extent to which this election has been followed around the world and the fact that often people in other countries are affected more strongly by our elections than we the electorate.

Original link (from the Xinhua news agency):

What is the meaning of Obama’s Victory?

Liu Huidang

1st: This year the American economy has begun to decline, which was not beneficial for the republican candidate McCain.  In September of this month, the American financial crisis became an economic depression, consumerism shrunk and unemployment expanded.  Therefore the American government adopted measures to prevent the crisis.  However, the effects of these measures have yet to be felt.  The trust of the American people is difficult to obtain.  The financial crisis may continue for two or three years.

2nd: Since 9-11, the war against terror has emerged.  The Bush administration used an antagonistic strategy as their starting point.  The serious mistake of invading Iraq made the administration lose much of the confidence of the people.

History has shown that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, and consequently that the Bush administration’s excuse for the invasion was preposterous.  Furthermore, after the invasion, American forces found themselves in a serious quagmire.  The invasion has cost billions of tax dollars and the lives of more than three thousand American soldiers.  The American anti-terror policies have not only not been realized, but to the contrary have led to increased terror, and have failed to obtain peace for the whole world.
3rd: American voters are fickle; eight years of Republican rule seems too long.  They wish to change the flavor, they want the democratic party to take over and turn over a new leaf.  They want America to be able to extricate itself from its financial and diplomatic difficulties.

4th: Another reason for the Democratic victory is opposition to the Bush administration by the American public.  Bush has ruled for eight years, and whether in domestic or international affairs, has demonstrated sub-par performance.  The American people had their patience tested too far and thus used their ballots to pass judgment on the last eight years.

5th: This election demonstrates that American voters were not discriminatory. At one time, racial discrimination was a serious problem in the U.S., especially for African Americans.  The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 is just one example of this.  Recently, the U.S. has made considerable progress with regard to racial discrimination. Both Powell and Rice, ethnically black Americans of diverse backgrounds, have assumed positions of international importance.  American voters, by choosing an man of African heritage to run the country, have made a miracle of historical nature.

6th: Obama’s youth is of consequence.  He appears handsome, which helped him obtain the support of women and youth.  He was born in August of 1961 and at 47 is full of vigorous energy.  McCain is 72, and seems a bit old.

Obama will begin governance on January 1st.  He will face no few problems.  He must adopt measures to moderate the financial crisis and stop the degrading economic situation.  He must resolve the military situation in Iraq.  In the election, Obama’s attitude regarding Iraq was perfectly clear: he means to withdraw American forces as quickly as possible.

Obama’s policy regarding China will almost certainly follow Bush’s lead of encouraging friendship between the two countries.

Minneapolis arrival this Sunday, Nov 9th: Chili Feed Location

November 3rd, 2008

We plan to arrive in Minneapolis on bicycle from Chicago this Sunday, Nov 9th, marking the end of our 2 week American Leg, and the final finish of our 13.5 month world tour (we will arrive in LaCrosse, WI tomorrow).  As posted previously, we are having an indoors arrival Chili Feed party upon arrival this Sunday evening, and you are welcome to attend:


Edina Morning Side Community Church

4201 Morningside Rd

Edina, MN

We will be biking in from Rochester Saturday and Sunday with nearly 20 friends.  We will do our best to be there by 5pm, but maybe we’ll be there closer to 4pm, maybe a little after 5pm, but we should be there pretty close to 5pm and look forward to hanging out until 8pm or so.  We look forward to seeing you! 

Thanks again for all of your support and interest in our bicycle adventure.  But don’t take our word for it: we hope that YOU seriously consider your own bicycle tour, be that 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, or longer!

I still have plenty of photos that haven’t made it up, and we’ll continue blogging, including old stories and our reflections as we transition back home and to a more normalized life.  We will also be professionally recording our music this month, and hope to offer some of those recordings on the “music” section of our website after Thanksgiving.  So please, continue to check this website every so often!  =) 


Chicago, USA

October 26th, 2008

Hello friends, family and occasional browsers. We have arrived in the United States after thirteen months and ten thousand miles.  Our journey to Charles De Gaule Airport in Paris found us biking through deserted city streets at 4 a.m. Oct. 21 in the gathering rain, but we missed the heavier traffic so we arrived newly wet and safe for our 10 o’clock flight.  Packing up the bikes went smoothly, the check-in set us back about $60 per bike, but considering everything we were hauling (trailer, two guitars, laptop, drum + all our stuff) we thought we made out pretty well on Aer Lingus.  Going through the scanners I lost one of my cheeses, (it was too soft…) but otherwise we made it complete. In Chicago we were met by my parents and sister (the Spidahls), and Kate Ritger and Amanda Schmitz —  Chicago residents and graduates of CSBSJU.  We gorged on deep-dish pizza and soaked in the traffic noise and curious familiar language of strangers’ conversations…    After several days of enjoying Chicago and reconnecting with some friends, we’ll be off tomorrow morning to brave the late October weather of these United States in the north, headed towards Minneapolis but not forgetting friends along the way.  Homecoming is an odd affair, with mixed emotions, but I can say for my part I am happy to be back.  More soon, from this side of the border. 

Another French Homestay

October 25th, 2008

Two days out of Paris we biked under blue skies to a small village where we dined on pasts soup.  A curious carpet layer enjoying his day off joined us onthe grass across from the church  After hearing our story he saw fit to buy us beer, which we eagerly gulped down.  We biked out of the vineyards that surrounded town, considering ourselves lucky to have met such nice people.  Soon the light grew soft.  The sun fled westwards.  I thought forward to the night, when I would be crouched around my campstove, chopping veggies into my pot before sleeping on the ground.  I savored the rough nature  our lives had assumed in the past few months.

Laurent pours champagne

 You can imagine my surprise when one hour later I found myself sipping champagne while seated at an exquisitely set table in a wonderfully remodeled farmhouse.  We had asked Laurent for directions as he  collected walnuts from a lawn in his village.  I spoke with him in halting, ungrammatical French until he established we were English speakers.  He invited us back to his house to look at a map.  Soon we found ourselves sitting around his table, sipping yet another free beer.  He then extended the use of his shower to us, and in a shockingly wonderful escalation of offers, he invited us to stay for the night.

fBR and Laurent and Christine

 Perhaps it was only natural then, that the evening led to champagne.  What surprised us about Laurent’s offer is that he and his wife, Christine, are attempting to raise sixteen month old twin boys.  At first, they regarded us shyly through wide eyes. Upon release from the living room, they abandoned shyness and they tore into the kitchen, bent on raising hell.  As Able attacked the lower cabinets and their contents, Hugo assaulted the steep stairway leading to the guest room.  Managing the twins took the best efforts of both parents.

Over our cooperatively-cooked meal, Laurent explained that he had worked on a farm in Canada for half a year.  He and Christine enjoyed several travels overseas.  Perhaps this explains both their eagerness to host us and their adeptness with English.

Whatever caused our hosts’ invitation, we passed an enjoyable evening, punctuated though it was by wails from the baby monitor that sent Christine scurrying upstairs to try to restore order in the nursery.  Laurent communicated his fears about the fate of a world addicted to petroleum.  We agreed we all must do whatever we can to avoid use ourselves while trying to educate others.

After dinner I realized I would have to add ice cream to champagne and other things I would have to offer cyclists in the U.S. if I intend to repay some of the hospitality extended to me on this trip.  Guys like me probably don’t need any more excuses to keep ice cream, but oh well.

Nakia wtih able and hugo

Laurent left early the next morning and Christine prepared breakfast.  We loaded up the bikes while the twins stumbled around the road.  Able often fell down and used the opportunity to stuff his mouth with small stones.  Christine extracted them, and after a photo we biked down the road, warmed from the extension of kindness and gleeful to be able to present slightly cleaner versions of ourselves to Paris.

FBR to Present at St. John’s and St. Ben’s Nov. 18th

October 20th, 2008

We are scheduled to give a presentation in the Alum Lounge on the campus of St. John’s University Tuesday, November 18th at 8:15pm. The Presentation is open to the general public.

We will also appear at the Festival of Cultures on the College of St. Benedicts on Saturday, November 15th in the Hahen Campus Center Field House from 5:00pm - 8:00pm.

At Pete’s church, Holy Name of Jesus, we will present in the evening on Wednesday November 19th.

Don’t forget about other important FBR events coming to a zip code near you:

Nov. 8th: We begin biking from Rochester to the cities. Everyone is welcome to join us.

Nov. 9th: We arrive in the Twin Cities and have a huge Chili Feed with friends and family, sometime in the afternoon at an as of yet undisclosed location.

WE HAVE ARRIVED IN PARIS FRANCE on bicycle from Beijing: 13 months, 16,500km/10,000miles! Wasai!!

October 17th, 2008

In the midst of maps and streets seeming more like spaghetti than roads,

the natural stress of biking into a major world city, and with light rain, as the trend has been in Germany and France, coming around the bend of the Seine River to get our first glimpse of Notre Dame Cathédrale met with emotions gone numb, but still having the fuzz of excitement buzzing in my head.

and then we followed the Seine further to The Tour Effel

I need more time, more down time to process and just comprehend that we are here. But, we have already had 1 great host, Eric, from

and now we are staying with our 2nd host, Julien, whom we again found online (Eric had to go to Berlin this weekend). Julien is generous and friendly… and yeah, his best friend is getting married tomorrow and the party is here in his amazing ground floor studio apartment with small yard. But that wasn’t any reason to not host us this weekend!

Cecilia Xiong - twin sister of one of my previous students and good friends, Tracy Xiong, and Drew’s Chinese tutor back in Beijing - is here with us to be the only person to both see us start this trip back at Matt and Austin’s apartment in Beijing AND finish it here in Paris. She moved to France last spring to study for 3-4 years.

From Sacre Cours Cathédrale overlooking central Paris, with Cecilia Xiong

Moreover, Sara, one of Nakia’s good friends is coming in from the UK this morning to celebrate with us this weekend too.

I’ll do my best to take it all in. Interestingly, all of us FBRers have been to Paris before, reducing some of the pressure to see the sights, for this city is packed with amazing things. Instead of rushing all around town, a little leisure on the Effel Tower lawn with some wine and strong cheese, and maybe one or two muséum exhibitions will be enough. Jen also recommended the bathhouse at the Paris Mosque to soak and relax, which sounds like a worthy splurge to me.

But this is not the end. Stay tuned for our American tour, Chicago to Minneapolis beginning Oct 21, arriving in the Twin Cities on Sunday Nov 9th, inshallah, in the late afternoon for a Chili Feed at a park TBA. Again, you are welcome to join us!

Where are we again?

October 12th, 2008

September 25th was a long day.  We biked over mountains, along streams, down huge hills, broke the trailer, fixed the trailer, broke Pete’s spoke, fixed Pete’s spoke.  And that was all before lunch.  We had spent six days on the road since Regensburg zithout a shower or shelter from the blowing wind, the often driving rain, or the cool to cold temperatures to which Germany seemed determined to subject us.  We eagerly anticipated the end of the day, for we were supposed to arrive at the home of Tommy and Juliet, my friends from college, and thus escape the weather.  By 3:00pm, however, we had only gone 20km.  We had another 60 to go, but often we barely do that with a full day.  We resigned ourselves to staying another night in the open air, and putting off the paradise of Tommy’s to the next day.

However, we kept plugging away.  We biked down a river valley, and the kilometers ticked away faster than expected.  Darkness fell.  We turned on our lights and clung to the protected bike lane, hoping against hope we would muster the fortitude for the final few kilometers. 

tommy and juliet

Tommy and Juliet.  Yaaayy!

Finally it was clear we had made it.  I called ahead to let Tommy know we were coming, after all.  He apparently set out immediately in his car in an attempt to do what Juliet later described sardonically as “find you”.  But he actually managed to find us, and good thing too as we had passed his house and were headed back out of Heidelberg.

 He reeled us in to his and Juliet’s apartment.  We found cupboards full of American food (Jiffy, CEREAL!, maple syrup) and a table set to the T.  Even though it was nearly 9:30 and we had told them we weren’t coming, they had waited.  We gobbled up the meat they offered us with extra zeal.  At bed time, we found that we each had a bed made for us with matching sets of towels and wash-clothes on top of which rested a packet of gummy worms. 

The next morning, we slept in as they rushed off to work.  We awoke late and consumed embarrassingly large quantities of CEREAL! and milk and toast toasted in a real toaster.  Every day, Juliet and Tommy insisted on cooking for us, though we occasionally managed to help with this or that.  Juliet and I engaged in a sort of bake-off.  Her crusts were better than mine, but I tried to pursue victory through prolificness.  In this I was aided by long days with nothing to do, whereas she had to work all day, and prepare dinner.

fbr with tommy and juliet

We enjoyed our time with Tommy and Juliet immensely, and not only because of the food, the warmth, the hot showers or even CEREAL!  We traded stories around the dinner table and played games like telephopictionary late into the night.  It was bitter sweet indeed when we left several days later and biked into the rain.  Tommy and Juliet provided warm company and what was undoubtedly the most organized barrage of hospitality I’ve perhaps ever enjoyed. 

An uncommonly comfortable lunch

October 12th, 2008

We biked into a soccer field east of Heidelberg around 2:00pm to eat lunch.  A man in thick clothes and clad in a motorcycle helmet greeted me with curiosity, but without a smile.  I prepared to be told that we ought to find some place else to eat.  Instead he said something ambiguous in German.  “Essen,” I said, miming the action fashion models disdain.  ”Nicht hier,” said the man.  My heart sank.  FBR was again being banished on account of looking too homeless. 

Luckily, Drew came over and cleared up our misunderstanding.  The helmeted man thought I meant to buy food.  Of course there wasn’t much food to be had in the soccer field.  Once Drew explained the purpose of our peculiar stop, and that we had already purchased food, the man retreated from his motorcycle and searched for a key.  ”Don’t you want to sit down?” he asked as he opened up the food and drink stand usually opened only during games.   Our legs, used to being cramped and pinned into unnatural angles as we squat or sprawl on the ground, quivered at the site of the table and chairs inside the stand. 

Werner Winterscieid, as we later discovered our lunch sponsor’s name to be, hastily swung open the shutters, instructed us to not drink the water from the faucet, and scribbled down his name and phone number in case anyone came by and wondered who authorized us to use the concession stand for a picnic area.  The lights for the field didn’t work, so he scrambled about trying to get them on for a game that night.  He kept saying he was going to leave, but instead just wandered around.  He finally did leave, but came back right away.  He offered us each a lemonade beer from a crate we’d been eyeing since we gained entrance into the shed.

He left again, and this time didn’t come back till we had almost finished cooking the soup.  Pete used his German to chat with Werner, who not only acted as caretaker for the field, but also coached children’s and adult soccer.  He said he enjoyed working with younger kids though he is currently coaching the adult village team.  Once the kids got older things became too serious.  “If the team wins, the players are good,” Werner explained the philosophy many coaches have to deal with, “but if the team loses the coach is bad.”  He said he didn’t like the way Germany has changed in the last few decades.  He’s seen people become more and more private and self’-interested, less trusting, and caring less about the community.  ”Things are too easy here,” he claimed as he shook his head of greying locks, ”so people have to manufacture problems.”  “In Poland people are poor but happy,” he claimed through a rueful smile.  “Here they are rich and unhappy.”  He left again, but not before giving us a basket-full of heart-shaped waffles. 

fbr with coach

He returned with a car and distributed coffee.  The warm brew revitalized us on a cold day.  We cleaned up the concessions stand and wished him good luck with his games.  We traded addresses and he walked off into the field wheeling a chalk line-painter.  I added heart-shaped waffles to the list of things I owe random travelers in the U.S.

Minnepolis arrival: Sunday Nov. 9, 2008

October 11th, 2008

After numerous calculations we have zeroed in on an arrival date in Minneapolis with bicycling in from Chicago: The late afternoon or evening of Sun Nov 9th.  We are planning an arrival Chili Feed party at a park TBA that will idealy have a shelter so we can eat rain or shine. You are most welcome to join us, so please mark your calanders!

We will be bicycling in that weekend from LaCrosse, WI (leaving Weds Nov 5 or Thurs Nov 6), and will either go through Rochester or Redwing… Route post LaCrosse TBA. 

Again, you are welcome to join us for all or part of the ride from Chicago to Minnepolis. For most of you, the weekend ride Nov 8-9th will be easiest to schedule. We will set up a start point for Saturday morning from Rochester OR Redwing.  Stay tuned for more details! 

Thanks for your continued interest and support!