Baie St-Paul and Sherbrooke Canada Cups... and an hospital visit

 
When the big sisters are gone… the little one gets her parents all to herself. And sushi.

When the big sisters are gone… the little one gets her parents all to herself. And sushi.

Getting the bikes up on Mamie’s car to get to the race in Baie-St-Paul. Photo by Paul Brouillard.

Getting the bikes up on Mamie’s car to get to the race in Baie-St-Paul.
Photo by Paul Brouillard.

Ready to race the Baie St-Paul Canada Cup! Photo by Paul Brouillard.

Ready to race the Baie St-Paul Canada Cup!
Photo by Paul Brouillard.

Warming up. Photo by Paul Brouillard.

Warming up.
Photo by Paul Brouillard.

Mara crashed hard on the first lap of the Baie St-Paul mountain biking Canada Cup when her handlebar hit a trail marking pole. They carried her down - partly in a coach’s arms and partly in a 4 X 4 (can someone tell me why they didn’t have a proper ambulance with a stretcher at such a big event?!). Photo by Paul Brouillard.

Mara crashed hard on the first lap of the Baie St-Paul mountain biking Canada Cup when her handlebar hit a trail marking pole. They carried her down - partly in a coach’s arms and partly in a 4 X 4 (can someone tell me why they didn’t have a proper ambulance with a stretcher at such a big event?!).
Photo by Paul Brouillard.

She was sent to the hospital for some x-rays. It was nerve wracking to follow that from afar, but my mom was with her and the medics and a Dalbix coach took great care of her. Photo by Paul Brouillard.

She was sent to the hospital for some x-rays. It was nerve wracking to follow that from afar, but my mom was with her and the medics and a Dalbix coach took great care of her.
Photo by Paul Brouillard.

There is no spinal injury, no fracture and no concussion. Pffeew!! They did an ultrasound to rule out internal bleeding since she crashed on her belly (and the tip of her handlebar poked her in lower abdomen...). There might be some torn ligaments, but all she needs to do is rest + ice and take anti inflammatory meds. She even had the OK to race the Sherbrooke Canada Cup the following weekend! That’s all she wanted to hear! She’s such a tough cookie!

There is no spinal injury, no fracture and no concussion. Pffeew!! They did an ultrasound to rule out internal bleeding since she crashed on her belly (and the tip of her handlebar poked her in lower abdomen...). There might be some torn ligaments, but all she needs to do is rest + ice and take anti inflammatory meds. She even had the OK to race the Sherbrooke Canada Cup the following weekend! That’s all she wanted to hear! She’s such a tough cookie!

The XCT on Sunday in Baie St-Paul was pretty muddy. Aïsha slid under the tape, but got back on the bike and finished strong. Mara was there to cheer for her team!

The XCT on Sunday in Baie St-Paul was pretty muddy. Aïsha slid under the tape, but got back on the bike and finished strong. Mara was there to cheer for her team!

Catryana, Mara and Aïsha.

Catryana, Mara and Aïsha.

In the tulips with Mamie. Photo by Paul Brouillard.

In the tulips with Mamie.
Photo by Paul Brouillard.

Bringing Mémé out in the sun and eating some fast food (her favorite - Louis Luncheonnette!)

Bringing Mémé out in the sun and eating some fast food (her favorite - Louis Luncheonnette!)

Aïsha racing the Sherbrooke Canada Cup course under the eyes of her grandparents (up on the hill).

Aïsha racing the Sherbrooke Canada Cup course under the eyes of her grandparents (up on the hill).

Mara on the Sherbrooke Canada Cup course.

Mara on the Sherbrooke Canada Cup course.

Aïsha

Aïsha

Sisters talking about the race just after crossing the finish line.

Sisters talking about the race just after crossing the finish line.

Debriefing with coach Dan.

Debriefing with coach Dan.

Grand-papa and Grand-maman came from Terrebonne to watch the race and cheer for their grand-daughters.

Grand-papa and Grand-maman came from Terrebonne to watch the race and cheer for their grand-daughters.

The whole Dalbix-Siboire Expert Cadet and Junior Crew!

The whole Dalbix-Siboire Expert Cadet and Junior Crew!

Sweet Charles - aka Cha-cha - who was quite confused to hear people cheer for Aïsha using his own nickname (Sha-sha). He kept repeating: but I AM Cha-cha!

Sweet Charles - aka Cha-cha - who was quite confused to hear people cheer for Aïsha using his own nickname (Sha-sha). He kept repeating: but I AM Cha-cha!

Family who cheer for your daughters when you’re not there: Priceless! It made our hearts so full to see them there.

Family who cheer for your daughters when you’re not there: Priceless! It made our hearts so full to see them there.

Mara during the XCC on Sunday.

Mara during the XCC on Sunday.

Aïsha during the XCC

Aïsha during the XCC

Aïsha during the XCC

Aïsha during the XCC

Sprint finish for 2nd place for Mara at the XCC (she is the first one here).

Sprint finish for 2nd place for Mara at the XCC (she is the first one here).

Breathing a sigh of relief after securing the 2nd place in a sprint finish!

Breathing a sigh of relief after securing the 2nd place in a sprint finish!

That’s what you call leaving it all on the course!

That’s what you call leaving it all on the course!

Aïsha’s back was killing her during the XCC and she was in a lot of pain. She still finished the race and was proud of herself for not quitting.

Aïsha’s back was killing her during the XCC and she was in a lot of pain. She still finished the race and was proud of herself for not quitting.

Mara on the podium of the XCC.

Mara on the podium of the XCC.

It was the first time the girls were away for 2 weeks and that we could not be at their races. Needless to say, it was nerve-wracking! But they were very well-surrounded!

The girls had a great flight experience and I feel like since we often hear bad things about Air Canada, I feel it is important to talk about the good things they do too. The girls were upgraded to a direct flight from Montreal to Vancouver (instead of a transfer in Winnipeg) and got upgraded to First Class for that flight AND given 20$ each in per diem to spend at the Vancouver airport! Way to go, Air Canada!

And a little something I posted on Instagram that you might not have read:

And they’re off again, this time it’s only the twins, but for a trip to Quebec. It's funny how when your kids are young and you choose to keep them close people are feeling like you are over protecting then… I've always been a believer in the idea that kids who feel secure when young become confident adults, that you cannot force independence, that it actually come from a place of secure attachment. I had cautious little girls who took their time and we gave them that time. And here they are, at 15 yo, leaving on a trip across Canada alone with 3 flights, solid, independent, resourceful and self-reliant. It's a real treat to watch. Maybe it's time for a little pat on the back.


 

Yukon Energy Cycling Championships

 
Tori, Mathilde and coach Trena racing the Crit on Friday night.

Tori, Mathilde and coach Trena racing the Crit on Friday night.

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We had all sorts of weather during the Crit and that made for some pretty cool lighting and even a rainbow!

We had all sorts of weather during the Crit and that made for some pretty cool lighting and even a rainbow!

The Crit racers!

The Crit racers!

Tori and Mathilde during the Prologue in Whistle Bend on Thursday.

Tori and Mathilde during the Prologue in Whistle Bend on Thursday.

Thomas wearing an aero helmet for the first time. Pride and cuteness overload.

Thomas wearing an aero helmet for the first time. Pride and cuteness overload.

Dave Jackson during the TT on Sunday.

Dave Jackson during the TT on Sunday.

Mathilde finishing the TT on Sunday.

Mathilde finishing the TT on Sunday.

Beautiful wooden medals created by Dave Jackson.

Beautiful wooden medals created by Dave Jackson.

Proud kids!

Proud kids!

Mathilde helped for a mountain bike race put together by U Kon Echelon and Participaction. She was very proud to give her handmade chocolate to the kids as prizes. They were delighted too, obviously!

Mathilde helped for a mountain bike race put together by U Kon Echelon and Participaction. She was very proud to give her handmade chocolate to the kids as prizes. They were delighted too, obviously!

Look at those!!

Look at those!!

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The Yukon Energy Road Cycling Championships started on Thursday evening with a race in Whistle Bend, a criterium in Marwell on Friday night, the Southern Lakes Yukon Grandfondo on June 1st  — which doubles as a road race in the championships — before concluding with a final time trial race on June 2 on the North Klondike Highway.


 

Hayman Classic stage road race, Penticton, BC

 
Mathilde during stage 1 (TT). Photo by Cody W Gannon.

Mathilde during stage 1 (TT).
Photo by Cody W Gannon.

Mara trying to keep up with the boys during stage 3 (crit). Photo by Cody W Gannon.

Mara trying to keep up with the boys during stage 3 (crit).
Photo by Cody W Gannon.

Mara (at the back) losing ground on the all-boys peloton. Photo by Cody W Gannon.

Mara (at the back) losing ground on the all-boys peloton.
Photo by Cody W Gannon.

Mathilde (center in purple + turquoise helmet) taking the start of the crit. Photo by Cody W Gannon.

Mathilde (center in purple + turquoise helmet) taking the start of the crit.
Photo by Cody W Gannon.

Aïsha (purple shirt toward the middle) during stage 2 (circuit). Photo by Cody W Gannon.

Aïsha (purple shirt toward the middle) during stage 2 (circuit).
Photo by Cody W Gannon.

Aïsha (left) during the circuit. It was wet! Photo by Cody W Gannon.

Aïsha (left) during the circuit. It was wet!
Photo by Cody W Gannon.

Drawing her friend who had a bad crash at the last stage of the race and got a concussion, and adding it to a care package she is preparing for her.

Drawing her friend who had a bad crash at the last stage of the race and got a concussion, and adding it to a care package she is preparing for her.

While the girls were gone, JF and I had a beautiful weekend of mountain biking in Carcross.

While the girls were gone, JF and I had a beautiful weekend of mountain biking in Carcross.

And good local beer too!

And good local beer too!

The Hayman Classic is a multi-stage road race that consists of a time trial hill climb and circuit race on the first day, a criterium on the second day and a road race on the last day.

Rather than dividing the field based on age and gender, the field was self-selected based on ability. The change was designed to provide “flexibility to help each rider find their appropriate level.” An unintended side effect of this change, is that most top-five finishes were being awarded to male riders. Since Mara was the only girl riding in the ability ‘A’ category, she is the only Yukonner who got a podium prize money.

Despite only having one gear thanks to mechanical issues, Mara finished her race. Aisha rode in the ability ‘B’ criterium, finishing in ninth for females, just one minute and 50.5 seconds behind the winner. In the ability ‘C’ criterium, Ava was second, Tori third and Mathilde sixth on the female leaderboard.

After Tori took a bad fall, Ava stuck around to wait for her and rode with her until they reached medical attention and Tori withdrew from the race. It was a beautiful example of team spirit. Mathilde took over and Ava was able to finished her race.

The Hayman Classic was the first major road race for our girls, and it was a great experience will to prepare them for the Western Canada Summer Games in August.

Only a day after coming back from Penticton, Mara and Aïsha flew to Québec where they will do two Canada Cup mountain bike races, while Mathilde will take part in the last of the major Yukon road races, the Yukon Energy Road Cycling Championships.

And for those who haven’t read about the butt foam on Instagram:
After a race, we like to ask the girls to share a positive and a negative of their race. This time Mara said: Being the only girl in the A category and being able to hang on to the peloton toward the back allowed me to see all the strategy that was going on. On the down side, 5 or 6 guys from the same team had used a strange shammy butter that started foaming because of all the rain and started flying off everywhere. The guy beside me just had time to say: “What the hell is that?”  before getting hit in the face by butt foam.


 

Tour de Skagway, AK

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You know the mountains are big when the bus looks that small.

You know the mountains are big when the bus looks that small.

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The head peloton composed for 3 strong men + Mara getting ready to tackle the climb to the summit on the lap race on Saturday.

The head peloton composed for 3 strong men + Mara getting ready to tackle the climb to the summit on the lap race on Saturday.

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Trena, Ava, Tori and Mathilde getting fast on the downhill.

Trena, Ava, Tori and Mathilde getting fast on the downhill.

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Look at that backdrop.

Look at that backdrop.

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11 pm in the Pass. Summer here is truly disorienting. I really struggle to sleep well and enough. Even after so many years of practice, having dark curtains and putting myself in the dark around 9:30 pm (+ using a buff on my eyes + earplugs to not ear the birds signing at 3 am…), I still have a restless light sleep. My body is really influenced by light as I have shared many times here and too much light is not better than not enough light for me. I have to cut down on my coffee intake because I truly feel like I’m hyper agitated by all this light. That being said, the midnight sun is something you have to experience at least once in your lifetime.

11 pm in the Pass. Summer here is truly disorienting. I really struggle to sleep well and enough. Even after so many years of practice, having dark curtains and putting myself in the dark around 9:30 pm (+ using a buff on my eyes + earplugs to not ear the birds signing at 3 am…), I still have a restless light sleep. My body is really influenced by light as I have shared many times here and too much light is not better than not enough light for me. I have to cut down on my coffee intake because I truly feel like I’m hyper agitated by all this light. That being said, the midnight sun is something you have to experience at least once in your lifetime.

The start of the hill climb on Sunday morning in the green and lush Coastal forest of Skagway, AK.

The start of the hill climb on Sunday morning in the green and lush Coastal forest of Skagway, AK.

Climbing!

Climbing!

Mara and Lukas stuck together for the whole climb and finished super strong hand in hand! I love to see this kind of team spirit!

Mara and Lukas stuck together for the whole climb and finished super strong hand in hand! I love to see this kind of team spirit!

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Westy made it to the summit! That in itself is an accomplishment.

Westy made it to the summit! That in itself is an accomplishment.

Mathilde was able to finish the hill climb thanks to this awesome young girl who kept encouraging her and stayed with her the whole time. They also got an extra adrenaline boost thanks to a close encounter (4 meters!) with a black bear cub on the side of the road

Mathilde was able to finish the hill climb thanks to this awesome young girl who kept encouraging her and stayed with her the whole time. They also got an extra adrenaline boost thanks to a close encounter (4 meters!) with a black bear cub on the side of the road

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We’re just back from an incredible weekend of racing the Tour de Skagway in the White Pass between Alaska and the Yukon. The weather was perfect, which is rarely the case there, and the riders were strong and ready for a challenge. Because a challenge, it was. On the first day, there was a 20 km Time Trial and a 72 km lap race (24 or 48 km for some), and on the second day, there was the hill climb, which started from Skagway, AK, at sea level all the way to the White Pass summit at 3292 feet. It is rated the second hardest hill climb in Canada!


Tour the Haines Junction + Kluane National Park

 
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Kluane National Park has a special meaning to us: it’s the first place where we had our first real taste of the Yukon when we spent a weekend hiking with our new Yukon friends in July 2003. This is also where the twins were conceived on that same trip… So there is a bit of our family history here.

Every time we drive from Whitehorse to Haines Junction, we are in awe at the incredible landscape that greets us. You just can’t get used to so much beauty. You know, a lot of people who did the trip to Alaska tell us that Kluane National Park was the highlight of their trip. Just so you know, it’s an hour and a half from Whitehorse and it will save you hours of boring drive to get to similar landscapes in AK… From there, you can simply drive 3 more hours and get to Haines, AK, a very cute town with an end of the road feel.

The Tour the Haines was the girls’s first long distance road race. Mara did 100 km, Aïsha did 80 km and Mathilde did 50 km. They all had an awesome race! And you know, with such an incredible backdrop, you can’t help but enjoy the ride!

 

Whitehorse, Yukon

 
Our friends’ beautiful backyard that we are so very glad to be able to enjoy while we are in Whitehorse.

Our friends’ beautiful backyard that we are so very glad to be able to enjoy while we are in Whitehorse.

Stout approves.

Stout approves.

I'm so excited to finally have my copy of Go-Van’s book. There are so much great information on there and I'm so glad they highlighted all the places they talk about to make it easy to refer back to the book as needed. And I'm so excited to see my photos and words in print in a book!!! It is available (in French) in all the librairies in Quebec!

I'm so excited to finally have my copy of Go-Van’s book. There are so much great information on there and I'm so glad they highlighted all the places they talk about to make it easy to refer back to the book as needed. And I'm so excited to see my photos and words in print in a book!!! It is available (in French) in all the librairies in Quebec!

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The girls raced their first ever Criterium. What is that you wonder? A criterium, or crit, is a road bike race consisting of several laps around a short closed circuit. The girls are new to road riding and working with the peloton and knowing what to do and when to sprint is an art that has to be learned and experienced over and over. Luckily, this great group at U kon Echelon guided them throughout the race and it was the perfect first experience. They left exhilarated and asking when the next race would be. An undeniable success!

The girls raced their first ever Criterium. What is that you wonder? A criterium, or crit, is a road bike race consisting of several laps around a short closed circuit. The girls are new to road riding and working with the peloton and knowing what to do and when to sprint is an art that has to be learned and experienced over and over. Luckily, this great group at U kon Echelon guided them throughout the race and it was the perfect first experience. They left exhilarated and asking when the next race would be. An undeniable success!

Then this happened. I guess that thing I said about this being the best time of year to drive up the Alaska Highway sure came back to bite me in the butt, didn't it?

Then this happened. I guess that thing I said about this being the best time of year to drive up the Alaska Highway sure came back to bite me in the butt, didn't it?


Late night paddle.

Late night paddle.

Final sprint in her first Time Trial on the Alaska Highway. Can’t hide the mountain biker position yet! Much learning to do in this new discipline.

Final sprint in her first Time Trial on the Alaska Highway. Can’t hide the mountain biker position yet! Much learning to do in this new discipline.

Mathilde’s first road bike race ever!

Mathilde’s first road bike race ever!

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Yukon kids are tough! That water was freezing… The lake had thawed only 6 days before!!

Yukon kids are tough! That water was freezing… The lake had thawed only 6 days before!!

Historically, coming back to Whitehorse is emotionally charged for me, so I had prepared accordingly. I know myself pretty well and made sure I had a plan in place and that I was regularly checking in with myself. So far, it’s been really good and very pleasant to connect with dear friends. It’s hard to keep our schedule from becoming too packed but I am guarding it pretty well so far.

The girls are really enjoying their road biking experience with the local club and are also able to teach the kids from that club some mountain biking technique since some of them will be heading to the Western Canada Summer Games in August, and that the cycling event combines 2 road biking races and 2 mountain biking races. The Yukon is a great place to learn the ropes of road riding: there is very little trafic and the club is small and full of super helpful people. It’s been so positive! Mathilde has fallen in love with road riding here and might be allowed to go to the Western Games even if she is under 14 if she makes the try outs.

 

Driving up the Alaska Highway, 2019 Edition

 
After a few days in Langley (a suburb East of Vancouver) where we went to a garage we really like to get the bus ready for the long drive, we stopped in Hope and slept at the Othello Tunnel trailhead for the night (the exact location is in iOverlander). It’s a section of the Kettle Valley Trail that leads you along this beautiful baby blue river through many tunnels. Unfortunately the tunnels were closed for the winter season.

After a few days in Langley (a suburb East of Vancouver) where we went to a garage we really like to get the bus ready for the long drive, we stopped in Hope and slept at the Othello Tunnel trailhead for the night (the exact location is in iOverlander). It’s a section of the Kettle Valley Trail that leads you along this beautiful baby blue river through many tunnels. Unfortunately the tunnels were closed for the winter season.

It was still a short pretty bike ride. And there was a bear on the trail!!

It was still a short pretty bike ride. And there was a bear on the trail!!

When then started our way North and were rewarded with incredible views. And snow, which felt pretty exotic to me.

When then started our way North and were rewarded with incredible views. And snow, which felt pretty exotic to me.

And lots of wildlife too.

And lots of wildlife too.

Stone sheep on the side of the road (and on the road licking minerals) in the Stone Mountain Park.

Stone sheep on the side of the road (and on the road licking minerals) in the Stone Mountain Park.

Such a spectacular drive! It’s the first time we drive up that early and it truly is the best time of year to do it!

Such a spectacular drive! It’s the first time we drive up that early and it truly is the best time of year to do it!

Muncho Lake, usually turquoise, was still frozen.

Muncho Lake, usually turquoise, was still frozen.

The Liard Bison herd. There were lots of brand new calves too!

The Liard Bison herd. There were lots of brand new calves too!

Liard Hot Springs!

Liard Hot Springs!

Paradise!

Paradise!

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10 o’clock sky after leaving Liard toward Watson Lake.

10 o’clock sky after leaving Liard toward Watson Lake.

We saw lots of cariboos since it was still so early in the season.

We saw lots of cariboos since it was still so early in the season.

We slept at the Watson Lake territorial campground boat launch parking lot since the campsites were still covered in snow! You know what struck me the most this time driving up North: the complete utter silence. It's probably because most of the lakes are still frozen here, but it's as near as the Yukon winter silence as I've been in many many years.

We slept at the Watson Lake territorial campground boat launch parking lot since the campsites were still covered in snow! You know what struck me the most this time driving up North: the complete utter silence. It's probably because most of the lakes are still frozen here, but it's as near as the Yukon winter silence as I've been in many many years.

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And we made it to our friends’ place in Whitehorse! This is their backyard on Kookatsoon Lake, our view from the bus for the next few weeks!

And we made it to our friends’ place in Whitehorse! This is their backyard on Kookatsoon Lake, our view from the bus for the next few weeks!

Camping in BC can be pretty expensive, but it is also fairly easy to find free camping spots as long as you are not on the islands or the coast. We used a combination of iOverlander, Park4night and Campendium (where I posted many reviews years ago about many spots in Northern BC) and were able to not pay for a site once after leaving the island. Granted, there were quite a few parking lot and industrial area nights, but as soon as you get North of Prince George, there are many rest areas and pull outs on the side of the roads where you can sleep for free, all the way to the Yukon!

 

What to do and where to eat in and around Victoria, BC

 
The Parliament.

The Parliament.

The Royal BC Museum.

The Royal BC Museum.

The Royal BC Museum has many life size exhibits. Here: a salmon cannery and an authentic village.

The Royal BC Museum has many life size exhibits. Here: a salmon cannery and an authentic village.

Miniature World.

Miniature World.

Miniature World.

Miniature World.

Munro’s Books and Habit coffee shop.

Munro’s Books and Habit coffee shop.

Agrius and Fol Épi.

Agrius and Fol Épi.

The best fish and chips are at Blue Fish Red Fish (well-worth the line!).

The best fish and chips are at Blue Fish Red Fish (well-worth the line!).

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Jordan River Regional Park campground is only $15 June-Oct or $10 Nov-May and right on the ocean. There is no Canadian cell service (no Bell), but 3 bars 4G LTE Verizon on our American phone, however it fluctuated a bit. I posted my full review on  @campendium   It's a bit out of the way but the perfect place to be far from everything and to go hiking or kayaking.

Jordan River Regional Park campground is only $15 June-Oct or $10 Nov-May and right on the ocean. There is no Canadian cell service (no Bell), but 3 bars 4G LTE Verizon on our American phone, however it fluctuated a bit. I posted my full review on @campendium
It's a bit out of the way but the perfect place to be far from everything and to go hiking or kayaking.

Juan De Fuca Trail

Juan De Fuca Trail

Our birthday hike tradition continues with this beautiful hike on the Juan De Fuca Trail that leads to an isolated beach for my 41st birthday.

Our birthday hike tradition continues with this beautiful hike on the Juan De Fuca Trail that leads to an isolated beach for my 41st birthday.

Mystic Beach.

Mystic Beach.

Discovering Victoria has been so much fun thanks to all the great recommendations many of you gave me. I'm so impressed by how green most of the restaurants and coffee shops are! No straws, all compostable containers and utensils, compost and recycling on the premises, locally sourced ingredients. 

We really fell in love hard with this city and the whole area. If we had to pick a place to settle down in Canada, it would definitely be our first choice… if lodging was affordable (which it isn’t). I can officially announce that we have decided to stay on the road at least for another year (as long as the bus doesn’t die on us…). We had said that we would not make a decision until we come to Vancouver island. Our time here has been incredible and the girls got to rub shoulders (and race with) very strong and pro riders. It has allowed them to see how our lifestyle gives them the flexibility (in terms of school schedule AND moving around) to keep progressing in the racing world - something all 3 want to do. After talking with many kids who go to school and race, our daughter who was curious about going to school changed her mind. We have a pretty exciting summer and fall ahead of us, and I can’t believe I will finally get to visit the Magdalen Island, where my dad’s side of the family comes from!

But for now, we are headed North to our beautiful Yukon!


 

Two more Island Cups and turning 15

 
Celebrating their 15th birthday racing in the rain in Campbell River!

Celebrating their 15th birthday racing in the rain in Campbell River!

Mara took the first place in the women expert field! A great birthday gift to herself.

Mara took the first place in the women expert field! A great birthday gift to herself.

Mathilde got first in the women beginners and Aïsha got second in the intermediate women! A memorable race!

Mathilde got first in the women beginners and Aïsha got second in the intermediate women! A memorable race!

Simple and beautiful birthday for our sweet girls.

Simple and beautiful birthday for our sweet girls.

A bald eagle feasting on a dead seal during our morning walk…!

A bald eagle feasting on a dead seal during our morning walk…!

The view near our campsite in Comox. So pretty!

The view near our campsite in Comox. So pretty!

The Cumberland Island Cup was a very muddy one on a beautiful but tough course. Mara lost her chain twice on her last lap, but managed to finish third in the women expert. Mathilde pushed too hard on the climb and got sick, while Aïsha had to stop since the pain in her neck and back was too intense (again - my poor girl).

The Cumberland Island Cup was a very muddy one on a beautiful but tough course. Mara lost her chain twice on her last lap, but managed to finish third in the women expert. Mathilde pushed too hard on the climb and got sick, while Aïsha had to stop since the pain in her neck and back was too intense (again - my poor girl).

So muddy! One turn in the washer wasn’t enough to remove all of it…

So muddy! One turn in the washer wasn’t enough to remove all of it…

We only spent 10 days in the Comox-Cumberland-Courtenay area, but really loved it. We were camped at Cape Lazo RV Park since we needed water and sewer hook-up with all that mud! It is a great little RV Park right by the ocean, but it is crazy windy. We nonetheless recommend it and would go back there!

The biking community here is very active and the trail system is very well developed. Parts of the village of Cumberland reminds us of the old downtown Whitehorse, before all the big box stores moved in. Actually, all these stores are not far, in Courtenay, 15 minutes away, so it allows Cumberland to keep it’s charm and local shops and restaurants.

 

The Bear Mountain Canada Cup

 
The whole Dalbix-Siboire Team for the Bear Mountain Project with the coaches.

The whole Dalbix-Siboire Team for the Bear Mountain Project with the coaches.

Mathilde taking part in the race even with her 12 stitches.

Mathilde taking part in the race even with her 12 stitches.

Aïsha going strong even with very intense back pain.

Aïsha going strong even with very intense back pain.

Mara finished 3rd on the cross-country course! A pretty impressive feat for a first year cadet!

Mara finished 3rd on the cross-country course! A pretty impressive feat for a first year cadet!

Mara giving everything she had on the short track. She kept her second place for most of the race and slipped in a corner on her very last lap… She still finished 3rd and was very happy!

Mara giving everything she had on the short track. She kept her second place for most of the race and slipped in a corner on her very last lap… She still finished 3rd and was very happy!

Left: Mara sharing the short-track podium with one of her teammate from Dalbix. Right: Mara and Aïsha with their wonderful coach who has been training them from afar since December.

Left: Mara sharing the short-track podium with one of her teammate from Dalbix.
Right: Mara and Aïsha with their wonderful coach who has been training them from afar since December.

Proud team. Such amazing young people!

Proud team. Such amazing young people!

The Bear Mountain Canada Cup was the first national race to which the girls ever participated. They are finally old enough for it and did great for first year cadets (U17)! If, like me, you are a neophytes to race lingo, you might not know the difference between a Canada Cup and the national Championship. The Canada Cups are a series of 8 races to which anybody can participate (so there were US racers who came to race it in the Junior category - U19) whereas the national Championship is a once a year event to which only the best Canadians can participate. Bear Mountain was the first Canada Cup of the 2019 season and Mara and Aïsha were racing in the cadet field (15-16 - the age at the end of the year) as first year cadet. The big race (the XC race) was on Saturday and there was a short-track race on Sunday. There was also a big Enduro race happening on Sunday, as well as a Bike Festival, so it was quite the event!

Mathilde is still too young to be part of the Canada Cup, but she could take part in the Bear Mountain Challenge XC on Saturday morning. However, she crashed on the Enduro course while pre-riding with the local team (Dirt Squad) group 4 days prior and ended up in the ER and needing 12 stitches on her knee… She was very bummed to not be able to race, and at the last minute decided she still wanted to give it a go and said she would stop if it was too painful. She did one lap and decided to stop (her race was 2 laps), and was very proud she gave it a try.

It was a wonderful team experience for the girls and they were so happy to be part of such a big event. It was great to be finally reunited with the team and their amazing coach. I’m already looking forward to the next Canada Cup… and coming from me, this means a lot!!

 

The Hammerfest race and a visit from Grand-Père

 
The Hammerfest race was a really fun event. The course was long for the expert, but Mara had a great race, finishing 2nd in the U19 field. Aïsha is still struggling with some back issues and a vertebrae pinched during her warm up, forcing her to stop the race after one lap since she has lost sensations in both her legs.

The Hammerfest race was a really fun event. The course was long for the expert, but Mara had a great race, finishing 2nd in the U19 field. Aïsha is still struggling with some back issues and a vertebrae pinched during her warm up, forcing her to stop the race after one lap since she has lost sensations in both her legs.

Mathilde had a great race and placed first in her field!

Mathilde had a great race and placed first in her field!

My dad took the train across Canada and came to spend a week in Victoria.

My dad took the train across Canada and came to spend a week in Victoria.

He taught me to shuck oysters.

He taught me to shuck oysters.

My dad and I took a road trip to Port Renfrew. We stopped at French Beach Provincial Park along the way.

My dad and I took a road trip to Port Renfrew. We stopped at French Beach Provincial Park along the way.

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There is so much to explore on the Island and we will not see it all in the month or so we are here. I’m glad I got to see a part of it with my dad while he was here with us!

 

First week in Victoria, BC, and the Hartland Island Cup

 
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Pre-riding the Hartland Island Cup course. Quite a change from the AZ courses!

Pre-riding the Hartland Island Cup course. Quite a change from the AZ courses!

Checking out the lines.

Checking out the lines.

Practice, practice, practice!

Practice, practice, practice!

There is still snow on the ground. It’s very unusual in Victoria!

There is still snow on the ground. It’s very unusual in Victoria!

The view from our beautiful campground - Pedder Bay RV Resort and Marina.

The view from our beautiful campground - Pedder Bay RV Resort and Marina.

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Look at that water!

Look at that water!

The girls were pretty excited and nervous to race the first Island Cup of the season (it’s their first time here). Mara had a great start and was keeping up with the strong girls until she got a flat, Aisha’s and Mathilde’s timing chips got mixed up, so they didn’t have their results, which wasn’t acknowledge before podiums (Aïsha was waiting for her turn on the podium and someone else got called because of the mixed results, even if she really was third…). They all acted with such maturity and positive attitudes, it was very heartwarming to see. Mathilde said she had her worst race ever (they rode a lot this week and their legs were shut), but that she had fun and was proud of herself. All in all, a success! And this community is simply amazing.

The girls were pretty excited and nervous to race the first Island Cup of the season (it’s their first time here). Mara had a great start and was keeping up with the strong girls until she got a flat, Aisha’s and Mathilde’s timing chips got mixed up, so they didn’t have their results, which wasn’t acknowledge before podiums (Aïsha was waiting for her turn on the podium and someone else got called because of the mixed results, even if she really was third…). They all acted with such maturity and positive attitudes, it was very heartwarming to see. Mathilde said she had her worst race ever (they rode a lot this week and their legs were shut), but that she had fun and was proud of herself. All in all, a success! And this community is simply amazing.


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Mathilde and I when on a paddling date. It was so beautiful, seals were playing hide and seek around our kayak, a trumpeter swan landed beside us and a bald eagle took flight nearby. We could even see the snowy peaks of Olympic National Park in the US in front of us.

Mathilde and I when on a paddling date. It was so beautiful, seals were playing hide and seek around our kayak, a trumpeter swan landed beside us and a bald eagle took flight nearby. We could even see the snowy peaks of Olympic National Park in the US in front of us.

JF and are celebrating our 20th anniversary (well, as you know, we’re not married, but that’s 20 years from our official dating date) and it is my birthday in a few weeks as well, so he treated us to a guided tasting flight in the cellar of Bear Mountain Resort. Every Friday, there is a different theme and this week was Italy. How perfect! The sommelier led our group down to this incredible room with a huge table covered with canapés prepared with local cheeses and charcuteries, and guided us through a tasting of 8 different wines. When they brought out the lobster cakes, I looked at JF with big round eyes and asked: How much was this thing? He said: well it said from 40$ per person… So we laughed imagining cameras looking down on us to see how much food we ate from the decadent spread and charging accordingly! It turned out to be just a little over that and I kept bugging him that it was because he went for the prosciutto 3 times! It was so fun to be with him in such a different setting. It really felt like we had traded life with another couple for an evening, in a weird but cool way.

JF and are celebrating our 20th anniversary (well, as you know, we’re not married, but that’s 20 years from our official dating date) and it is my birthday in a few weeks as well, so he treated us to a guided tasting flight in the cellar of Bear Mountain Resort. Every Friday, there is a different theme and this week was Italy. How perfect! The sommelier led our group down to this incredible room with a huge table covered with canapés prepared with local cheeses and charcuteries, and guided us through a tasting of 8 different wines. When they brought out the lobster cakes, I looked at JF with big round eyes and asked: How much was this thing? He said: well it said from 40$ per person… So we laughed imagining cameras looking down on us to see how much food we ate from the decadent spread and charging accordingly! It turned out to be just a little over that and I kept bugging him that it was because he went for the prosciutto 3 times!
It was so fun to be with him in such a different setting. It really felt like we had traded life with another couple for an evening, in a weird but cool way.

 

Heading North, 2019 edition

 
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Spring Lake Regional Park, in Santa Rosa, CA.

Spring Lake Regional Park, in Santa Rosa, CA.

Just as we were marveling at the pastoral beauty of the miles and miles of almond trees in bloom in Yolo, an aircraft shot from around a corner spraying a torrent of pesticides over them. This is right by a residential area and a school... I know there has been concerns and debates about this situation and that it has been the focus of recent media scrutiny because of the large amount of water required to grow almonds (12 liters per almond kernel!!), but to see it happen right in front of your eyes makes you realize firsthand the impact of our increased consumption of almonds (the almond orchard acreage has doubled in the last two decades!). We have definitely cut back on our almond consumption and focus more on hemp seeds

Just as we were marveling at the pastoral beauty of the miles and miles of almond trees in bloom in Yolo, an aircraft shot from around a corner spraying a torrent of pesticides over them. This is right by a residential area and a school... I know there has been concerns and debates about this situation and that it has been the focus of recent media scrutiny because of the large amount of water required to grow almonds (12 liters per almond kernel!!), but to see it happen right in front of your eyes makes you realize firsthand the impact of our increased consumption of almonds (the almond orchard acreage has doubled in the last two decades!). We have definitely cut back on our almond consumption and focus more on hemp seeds

Lenticular clouds around Mount Shasta.  Mount Shasta straddles the territories of the Shasta, Wintu, Achumawi, Atsugewi and Modoc tribes. Not surprisingly, the imposing mountain shows up in a lot of tribal myths and stories. Mount Shasta has been identified by many experts as a spiritual and cosmic energy point, a landing area for UFOs, and even an entry point that leads into the fifth dimension, and as access to underground civilizations.  It is also known for its many mysterious disappearances throughout history. One of the most recent cases occurred in 2011 when a 6-year-old boy disappeared for about 5 hours while playing in the woods. According to witnesses, the boy suddenly vanished from sight in a second and reappeared 5 hours as if nothing had happened.  Regardless of what one believes about the mountain, it's easy to see why it has so many legends to its name. Shasta is a "non-denominational mountain," a blank slate for wonder — and even transcendence. This is nothing new. The Greeks had Olympus; Moses had Sinai. And spiritual seekers in the modern age have Mount Shasta.

Lenticular clouds around Mount Shasta.
Mount Shasta straddles the territories of the Shasta, Wintu, Achumawi, Atsugewi and Modoc tribes. Not surprisingly, the imposing mountain shows up in a lot of tribal myths and stories. Mount Shasta has been identified by many experts as a spiritual and cosmic energy point, a landing area for UFOs, and even an entry point that leads into the fifth dimension, and as access to underground civilizations.

It is also known for its many mysterious disappearances throughout history. One of the most recent cases occurred in 2011 when a 6-year-old boy disappeared for about 5 hours while playing in the woods. According to witnesses, the boy suddenly vanished from sight in a second and reappeared 5 hours as if nothing had happened.

Regardless of what one believes about the mountain, it's easy to see why it has so many legends to its name. Shasta is a "non-denominational mountain," a blank slate for wonder — and even transcendence. This is nothing new. The Greeks had Olympus; Moses had Sinai. And spiritual seekers in the modern age have Mount Shasta.

Shasta Lake, CA.

Shasta Lake, CA.

Oregon Dunes

Oregon Dunes

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We crossed back into Canada on the Ferry (Port Angeles, WA, to Victoria, BC)

We crossed back into Canada on the Ferry (Port Angeles, WA, to Victoria, BC)

We made it back to Canada! We had to drive pretty fast through Oregon and Washington State to meet our reentry date in Canada. We stopped for a few days on the Coast around Bandon and for day in Eugene to meet with some friends from the road. We will be on Vancouver Island for a good month where the girls will do many bike races, namely their first Canada Cup! We’re pretty excited to explore this gorgeous island.


 

Romping around the Bay Area without breaking the bank

Carmel-by-the-sea

Carmel-by-the-sea

Riding in Fort Ord.

Riding in Fort Ord.

 
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Delicious Humphry Slocombe ice cream in Oakland.

Delicious Humphry Slocombe ice cream in Oakland.

Tartine Bakery

Tartine Bakery

Beautiful San Francisco houses on Valencia Ave in the Mission District.

Beautiful San Francisco houses on Valencia Ave in the Mission District.

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Our first year on the road, 6 years ago, we did cities, museums, paying activities and organized campgrounds most of the time. We quickly realized that it wasn’t sustainable for our limited budget… Fast forward to now, we very rarely pay for campgrounds, only do free activities and go to the restaurant once every two months. However, we couldn’t pass on San Francisco. We had spent 10 days here in 2015 and our dear friends who had been living in the Mission District for decades showed us around to many cool spots. I reached out to Liza for her suggestions for ways to explore SF, Berkeley and Oakland on the cheap.

 
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There are good spots to spend the night for free on iOverlander around Berkeley, but with all the bikes we have on the Westy, we decided to go for a campground this time (Anthony Chabot Regional Park). That is one of the downside of our current set-up… So with that expanse, we knew we had to be even more thrifty.

In Berkeley, we went to check out the amazing grocery Berkeley Bowl and had fun looking at all the cool produce, we checked out a few bookstores (Pegasus was great) and thrift shops on Telegraph Ave, and drooled over the menu of Chez Panisse and the Cheeseboard. If you want a quick meal on a budget, check out the food court right by the Imperial Tea Room, they have amazing sushis to go.

We went to have an early dinner at Vik’s chaat to beat the crowds. Chaat is Indian street food (and it doesn’t mean you eat it in the street here… it’s a big open area behind an indian grocery store). It’s very decently priced (not cheap, nothing is cheap here, but their weekday specials are the best deals, we got 2 of those to share and a few sides) and we discovered new-to-us food (do not skip the cholle bhature if you go!). We then bought what we needed at the store to make a delicious saag paneer at home the next day (for a little over 20$) and some more Indian fare.

We ended the night walking the streets of Oakland and tasting the ice cream at Humpry Slocombe (get their Blue Bottle vietnamese coffee flavor).

Another fun outing would have been to go to Ranch 99 in Richmond (about 20 minutes North of Berkeley, depending on trafic). It’s an asian mall with lots of cool things to see and eat - I hear the dim sums are great. I also really wanted to tour the St. George Spirits distillery in Alameda, but the tours were only on the weekends and children under 21 are not allowed on the premises. There is also Faction Brewing that sounds like a great place to enjoy a beer on an open deck (dogs and children allowed) and watch the city from across the water.


In San Francisco, we went straight to the Mission District to find a spot to park since it was Thursday and we walked around on Guerrero. The Mission was once a multicultural neighborhood of artists and intellectuals and is now an enclave for the privileged… It is still a beautiful place to visit, but it is also a pretty sad reality. Only white college-educated professionals with double income can *maybe* afford it… There are tent and tarp cities on many street corners (and even more in Berkeley and Oakland)...

We went into chez Panisse (one of the best bakeries) and quickly got out when we saw the prices (as tempting as their offers were, we cannot fork out 5,50 US$ for a pain au chocolat - that’s almost 8$ CAN - or 6$ for a *short* baguette!). We checked out Bi-Rite Market around the corner, but the prices were also too high for our budget (they sold the Chez Panisse Country loaf for 11$...) and went to their Creamery across the street instead where we shared a large size bowl (4 flavors) for 7,50$ (always share! That’s the best way to sample the good food on a budget).

We checked out some cool stores on Valencia, a used and new Scifi and mystery bookstore (Bordelands book), a really beautiful store selling *nomad tools* (mostly amazing journals, charging stations and cute slippers...), JF and I had a coffee at Rituals (the beans a very pricey, so we didn’t buy any…), I went to drool over all the Italian goodies (and Amari!!) at Lucca Ravioli Company (and only left with a jar of passata, I’m such a good girl). We then went to Buffalo exchange - a thrift store - where we found amazing deals. The girls really needed puffy coats and wind breakers and we left with a brand new looking REI insulated vest (19$), a Montbell 800 coat (22$) and a Nike windbreaker (12$).

We thrift about  85 % of our clothes (the 15$ is mostly bike shorts, sneakers and bike shoes). We are by no mean an example of anything… Heck, we still forget our cloth grocery bags way too often. When we lived in the farm, we were much greener in many ways, but I'm pretty sure our ecological footprint was still bigger there than on the road… Anyways, I’m very aware that the #vanlife is simply a new iteration of privilege, so I’m not gonna play holier than thou. We just thrift a lot, it’s good for the planet and good for the budget.

We had an early dinner of burmese food that was delicious. Again, we shared 5 dishes (2 were appetizers) that were simply amazing. If you go to Burma Love, do not miss their Platha & Dip, Nan Pia Dok and Rainbow salad (people rave about their tea leaf salad, but we were not crazy about it). The calamari melt was amazing but too greasy for my taste (my family loved it!).

We then headed to Japantown for desert! Japantown is a cool indoor mall (sprawling on both sides of Webster street over 6 blocks - we parked at the Safeway for free parking and got a few things from there). We had read about an ice cream and crepe shop (Belly Good café and crêpe) that made cute little animal face deserts and Mara really wanted one, so she did and we shared a few taro bubble teas (super reasonable prices). We had planned to sample the ramen at Marafuku, but we were not hungry anymore and everything was closing down.

Walking around, we could witness the Japanese "kawaii" phenomenon. Kawaii in Japanese translates roughly as "cuteness", and is a big part of the Japanese popular culture. Kawaii encompasses all the ultra "cute" creatures of Hello Kitty, Pikachu and the numberless anime characters, not to mention all the accessories with big-eyed, baby animals, pink hearts… So if you know Mara, you know she was all over that

One of the coolest spots in SF to see or photograph the Golden Gate Bridge is Crissy Field that you get to by driving through the Presidio (which also has some museums). Crissy Field is on the water and there is a narrow beach right there where you are so close to best close up view of the bridge. There is free parking and the beach is off leash dog friendly- it is just gorgeous. Also if you like fresh clams and oysters, the best place is Swan Oyster Depot- tiny place south one long counter and there is a line down the street to get a seat at the counter- usually an hour wait, but so worth it. Just fresh shucked clams and oysters, clam chowder, big hunks of sourdough bread and cold beer and wine! Also go for a stroll in the Golden Gate Park and drive by the Conservatory of flowers, one of the most beautiful building in SF, and head to the Huntington Falls and Stow Lake and ride the Carousel and visit the Arts Studio, where you can see stained glass artists and jewelers at work. There is a great used book library not too far on Clements called the Green apple books. Go see the Diego Riviera mural at the SF Art institute. You can roam the halls and look at studios. Don’t miss Burma superstar (lots of vegan and vegetarian option, the Rainbow salad was AMAZING). Check out Mission Dolores, it is the first Spanish Mission was created in 1791. It is San Francisco's oldest standing building. There are lots of amazing murals initiated by the Chicano Art Mural Movement of the 1970s and inspired by the traditional Mexican paintings made famous by Diego Riviera. Some of the more significant mural installations are located on Balmy Alley and Clarion Alley. In North Beach district, you can go to Lombard street (the world’s steepest and more crooked street in the world) and check out City Light Bookstore where Jack Kerouac and his friends used to meet for literature and poetry readings. Go to Caffe Trieste, known as the beatnik hangout of the '50s. Their home-roasted coffee is impeccable.

So that is to say: cities are never cheap, but there are ways to make then budget-friendly. Ask the locals you know (in person or online), focus on ethnic food (forget the pretty restaurants, go for the hole-in-the-wall places full of locals, Yelp is your friend). Spend time walking the isles of international markets and buy stuff to cook at home (or in your bus). Share to taste a little of everything.

Also note that our girls often offer to pay if they want something special. We don’t do allowances, but our girls have money from gifts and work they did. They are very reasonable (it’s not always been that way for all 3). They know that our lifestyle doesn’t allow us to splurge (and are very aware of our budget situation since Stout got sick), they also have a clear sense of what they need vs. want (and very little space to put it, be it clothes or books or else), so they choose wisely. And that helps.

Faria Beach, Solvang and the Firestone Walker Brewery

 
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The view from beautiful site 7 at Faria Beach County Park.

The view from beautiful site 7 at Faria Beach County Park.

The moon is setting as the sun is rising. A truly magical moment to wake up to (seen from bed and photo taken without even exiting the bus).

The moon is setting as the sun is rising. A truly magical moment to wake up to (seen from bed and photo taken without even exiting the bus).

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Faria Beach

Faria Beach

When the locals walk the beach in their puffy coats and surf in their 6 mm wetsuit, Yukon kids be like:

When the locals walk the beach in their puffy coats and surf in their 6 mm wetsuit, Yukon kids be like:

This big guy made it to the beach! What no celebratory burger for me?

This big guy made it to the beach! What no celebratory burger for me?

Cheers!

Cheers!

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Watching the sun set over the ocean from home.

Watching the sun set over the ocean from home.

There are many places to camp along the Pacific Coast Highway. Most are overpriced, crowded and noisy. This one is no exception, but if you are lucky enough to reserve site 7, you have a little slice of paradise to yourself (for $36, no services). Be advised that it requires some maneuvering to back into the site (to have your door facing the ocean), especially if the nearby sites are occupied, but it is well worth it. Dogs are allowed to be off leash on the beach.

 
I expected Solvang, the self-proclaimed Danish capital of the USA, to be pretty kitsch, but honestly, old-world Danish architecture and Danish pastries (try the folded crêpe at Mortensen’s) make up for the cheap looking souvenir boutiques and 3 (yes, 3!) windmills.

I expected Solvang, the self-proclaimed Danish capital of the USA, to be pretty kitsch, but honestly, old-world Danish architecture and Danish pastries (try the folded crêpe at Mortensen’s) make up for the cheap looking souvenir boutiques and 3 (yes, 3!) windmills.

 
We were there on a Tuesday and were impressed by their small but good and affordable Farmer's market. It made this cute little town even more likeable. Our favorite store was the old bookshop where they have the Hans Christian Anderson Museum.

We were there on a Tuesday and were impressed by their small but good and affordable Farmer's market. It made this cute little town even more likeable. Our favorite store was the old bookshop where they have the Hans Christian Anderson Museum.

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After an afternoon touring Solvang, go have dinner and beer in the next town over, Buellton, home to the famous  Firestone Walker Brewery . They specialize in sour beers and have delicious food on offer (the fig and pig pizza with an arugula extra, and their fried chicken sandwich with sriracha aioli and jalapeno slaw + homemade fries were truly amazing).

After an afternoon touring Solvang, go have dinner and beer in the next town over, Buellton, home to the famous Firestone Walker Brewery. They specialize in sour beers and have delicious food on offer (the fig and pig pizza with an arugula extra, and their fried chicken sandwich with sriracha aioli and jalapeno slaw + homemade fries were truly amazing).

 
 
As for beer, I really loved their Capt Franc, a beer-wine hybrid at 9.8% produced with Cabernet Franc grapes from the area and aged for 12 months in French Oak with 12 different atypical yeasts. Plenty of barnyard funk with a gueze-like quality. I also really wanted to try their Krieky Bones, but they were out.

As for beer, I really loved their Capt Franc, a beer-wine hybrid at 9.8% produced with Cabernet Franc grapes from the area and aged for 12 months in French Oak with 12 different atypical yeasts. Plenty of barnyard funk with a gueze-like quality. I also really wanted to try their Krieky Bones, but they were out.

Death Valley National Park

Zabriskie Point is the Delicate Arch of Death Valley National Park and people gather there at sunset. Being only 15 minutes away from the main Furnace Creek area by car, it is undeniably one of the most popular spots. It is only a 0,1 mile hike up a steep paved path to the viewpoint. Bring warm clothes if it is cold, it can get crazy windy there.

Zabriskie Point is the Delicate Arch of Death Valley National Park and people gather there at sunset. Being only 15 minutes away from the main Furnace Creek area by car, it is undeniably one of the most popular spots. It is only a 0,1 mile hike up a steep paved path to the viewpoint. Bring warm clothes if it is cold, it can get crazy windy there.

Zabriskie Point was named after Christian Zabriskie who was the general manager of the Pacific Coast Borax Company, which was huge in Death Valley during the borax mining days. The view has been featured in many pop culture references as well, with the most notable being the Joshua Tree album cover for the band U2.

Zabriskie Point was named after Christian Zabriskie who was the general manager of the Pacific Coast Borax Company, which was huge in Death Valley during the borax mining days. The view has been featured in many pop culture references as well, with the most notable being the Joshua Tree album cover for the band U2.

Most people know that Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park is the lowest point in North America (282 ft below sea level), but there's something even more fascinating about that place. When rainstorms flood the valley bottom like it did in the last few weeks, the salt expanse is covered with a thin sheet of standing water. Each newly-formed lake does not last long, because the 1.9 inches of average rainfall is overwhelmed by a 150-inch annual evaporation rate. This means that even a 12-foot-deep, 30-mile-long lake would dry up in a single year!!! How crazy is that?

Most people know that Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park is the lowest point in North America (282 ft below sea level), but there's something even more fascinating about that place. When rainstorms flood the valley bottom like it did in the last few weeks, the salt expanse is covered with a thin sheet of standing water. Each newly-formed lake does not last long, because the 1.9 inches of average rainfall is overwhelmed by a 150-inch annual evaporation rate. This means that even a 12-foot-deep, 30-mile-long lake would dry up in a single year!!! How crazy is that?

From the parking lot, you can see the sea level sign that is located 280 feet above you on the adjacent mountain. It really puts in perspective how low you are when you see it compared to the mountain.

From the parking lot, you can see the sea level sign that is located 280 feet above you on the adjacent mountain. It really puts in perspective how low you are when you see it compared to the mountain.

Look at those cool salt crystals! You can even taste them!

Look at those cool salt crystals! You can even taste them!

As soon as you enter the walk out on the platform you are immediately greeted with a huge lake of what looks like snow. This water is so high is salt content that almost nothing can actually live there. The salt flat itself is 5 miles long. Badwater Basin is a truly unique place to stop. You don’t need a lot of time here, but it is worth checking out. Also note that it is very often windy there.

As soon as you enter the walk out on the platform you are immediately greeted with a huge lake of what looks like snow. This water is so high is salt content that almost nothing can actually live there. The salt flat itself is 5 miles long. Badwater Basin is a truly unique place to stop. You don’t need a lot of time here, but it is worth checking out. Also note that it is very often windy there.

Golden Canyon is one of the many sites where different parts of the original Star Wars movies were filmed. It is the most popular hike in all of Death Valley National Park and is a little over 3 miles round trip, depending on where you stop. The parking lot is about 10 minutes South of Furnace Creek.

Golden Canyon is one of the many sites where different parts of the original Star Wars movies were filmed. It is the most popular hike in all of Death Valley National Park and is a little over 3 miles round trip, depending on where you stop. The parking lot is about 10 minutes South of Furnace Creek.

It has gaping canyons, massive boulders, waves of plantless terrain and even a large red rock called the Red Cathedral at the end. You can totally picture a few stormtroopers appearing around a boulder. You can see some of the reconstructed scenes vs the original scene  here .

It has gaping canyons, massive boulders, waves of plantless terrain and even a large red rock called the Red Cathedral at the end. You can totally picture a few stormtroopers appearing around a boulder. You can see some of the reconstructed scenes vs the original scene here.

Approaching the Red Cathedral (in the back).

Approaching the Red Cathedral (in the back).

After leaving Death Valley from the south west road, we decided to stop to visit another geologically interesting place near Searles Lakes. When you visit Trona Pinnacles, you cannot help but feel like you are on the moon or on another planet. The unusual landscape is made up of more than 500 spires, some as high as 140 feet, rising from the bed of the Searles Dry Lake basin. The pinnacles vary in size and shape from short and wide to tall and thin, and are composed primarily of calcium carbonate (tufa), like those found in Mono Lake. The pinnacles were formed underwater from 10,000 to 100,000 years ago when Searles Lake was one of a chain of interconnected Pleistocene lakes stretching from Mono Lake to Death Valley.

After leaving Death Valley from the south west road, we decided to stop to visit another geologically interesting place near Searles Lakes. When you visit Trona Pinnacles, you cannot help but feel like you are on the moon or on another planet. The unusual landscape is made up of more than 500 spires, some as high as 140 feet, rising from the bed of the Searles Dry Lake basin. The pinnacles vary in size and shape from short and wide to tall and thin, and are composed primarily of calcium carbonate (tufa), like those found in Mono Lake. The pinnacles were formed underwater from 10,000 to 100,000 years ago when Searles Lake was one of a chain of interconnected Pleistocene lakes stretching from Mono Lake to Death Valley.

The Trona Pinnacles are not in Death Valley, they are truly in the middle of nowhere, about 25 minutes east of Ridgecrest, and are one of those places that have to be seen to be believed. Like the Alabama Hills, it is hard to do justice to the sheer beauty of these massive rock structures that jot a landscape that is almost entirely barren and flat.  The Pinnacles are recognizable in more than a dozen movies. Over thirty film projects a year are shot among the tufa pinnacles, including backdrops for car commercials and sci-fi movies and television series such as   Battlestar Galactica  ,   Star Trek V: The Final Frontier  , Disney's   Dinosaur  ,  The Gate II ,   Lost in Space  ,   Planet of the Apes  , and more recently the movie  Holes .

The Trona Pinnacles are not in Death Valley, they are truly in the middle of nowhere, about 25 minutes east of Ridgecrest, and are one of those places that have to be seen to be believed. Like the Alabama Hills, it is hard to do justice to the sheer beauty of these massive rock structures that jot a landscape that is almost entirely barren and flat.

The Pinnacles are recognizable in more than a dozen movies. Over thirty film projects a year are shot among the tufa pinnacles, including backdrops for car commercials and sci-fi movies and television series such as Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Disney's Dinosaur, The Gate II, Lost in Space, Planet of the Apes, and more recently the movie Holes.

There is a short half mile hiking trail, but you can drive around easily in a 4 x 4 vehicle to see the formations. They were more impressive from afar in my opinion. There are designated camping spots and the area is very well defined with rocks to prevent driving over the fragile areas. Please set up camp only where there is already a fire ring outside of the rock-fenced areas. There was no usable cell signal there.

There is a short half mile hiking trail, but you can drive around easily in a 4 x 4 vehicle to see the formations. They were more impressive from afar in my opinion. There are designated camping spots and the area is very well defined with rocks to prevent driving over the fragile areas. Please set up camp only where there is already a fire ring outside of the rock-fenced areas. There was no usable cell signal there.

We have decided to camp at Texas Spring Campground, since it is the cheapest and the more beautiful. There are no services and a no generator rule. There is a dump, water and toilet on site. Note that for 5$ per person (during the week, $10 on weekends), you can access the hotel warm fed spring pool and showers. The pool was just too cold - 85 F - to be comfortable when we were there (it was cold and windy that night). Note that you only need one card ($5) to enter the pool and shower area and that there is no lifeguard or staff on duty there, so decide accordingly ;)

There are more hikes and sights to see in Death Valley, but some were closed when we were there since the recent rains had washed out the roads or there were closures due to construction. We wanted to hike Mosaic Canyon, check out Scotty’s Castle and bike Titus Canyon, but couldn’t.

We passed on the Mesquite sand dunes since we had just been at the Kelso dunes in the Mojave desert (that are bigger and more impressive) and the Racetrack (those moving rocks that have left tracks behind them) since it is located at the end of rough dirt road and is an adventure in itself.

*Be advised that exiting Death Valley through the west (road from Stovepipe Wells to Panamint Springs) requires driving a very long twisty downhill section that could be hard on your brakes if you tow a trailer or drive a motorhome. We separated the Westy from the bus for the long climb and descent and it still was a bit nerve-wracking, glad we have a brake retarder on the bus. A friends’ brakes caught on fire there. Be warned and drive slow.

Interesting facts about Death Valley:

Death Valley National Park is the largest national park in the Lower 48 at a whopping more than 3.4 million acres.

The highest recorded temperature in the world was recorded in Death Valley’s Furnace Creek at 134 Fahrenheit in July, 1913. For almost one hundred years, a false recording made in Libya overshadowed Furnace Creek’s claim to fame. In 2012, however, the record went back to Death Valley after it was concluded that the Libyan recording was made in error.

Death Valley is only 76 miles from the highest point in the country, Mt. Whitney, which tops out at an elevation of 14,505 feet. In other words, the lowest and highest points in the contiguous U.S. are less than 100 miles apart!

There is every year an ultramarathon in Death Valley called the Badwater 135, which links these two points! The race organizers description goes like this : Covering 135 miles (217 km) non-stop from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, CA, the Badwater 135 is the most demanding and extreme running race offered anywhere on the planet. The start line is at Badwater Basin, Death Valley, which marks the lowest elevation in North America at 280’ (85m) below sea level. The race finishes at Whitney Portal at 8,300’ (2530m), which is the trailhead to the Mt. Whitney summit, the highest point in the contiguous United States. The Badwater 135 course covers three mountain ranges for a total of 14,600’ (4450m) of cumulative vertical ascent and 6,100’ (1859 m) of cumulative descent.

From this blog.


The Mojave National Preserve

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Pencil cholla in front of a big Joshua Tree.

Pencil cholla in front of a big Joshua Tree.

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Great campspot among the Joshua Trees.

Great campspot among the Joshua Trees.

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The Mojave desert is the driest desert in North America, receiving less than 2 inches of rain a year. One of the most significant dunes in North America, the Kelso Dunes stick out like a sore thumb in the landscape of the Mojave.

The Mojave desert is the driest desert in North America, receiving less than 2 inches of rain a year. One of the most significant dunes in North America, the Kelso Dunes stick out like a sore thumb in the landscape of the Mojave.

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It is a pretty challenging hike in the sand, but they are known as the singing dunes, a phenomenon you can experience if you slide down slowly, generating a low-frequency rumble that can be both felt and heard. Watch  this YouTube video  if like me, you have a hard time picturing what it can sounds like. We went to explore them, but didn’t have the courage (or the time) to climb all the way up.

It is a pretty challenging hike in the sand, but they are known as the singing dunes, a phenomenon you can experience if you slide down slowly, generating a low-frequency rumble that can be both felt and heard. Watch this YouTube video if like me, you have a hard time picturing what it can sounds like. We went to explore them, but didn’t have the courage (or the time) to climb all the way up.

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Our favorite place was the  Rings Trail ; it’s one of the best 2 miles hikes you can do. We decided to go down the rings and back up at the end of Banshee canyon to experience the rings again, since the rest of the trail is more traditional hiking through the desert.

Our favorite place was the Rings Trail; it’s one of the best 2 miles hikes you can do. We decided to go down the rings and back up at the end of Banshee canyon to experience the rings again, since the rest of the trail is more traditional hiking through the desert.

Banshee Canyon

Banshee Canyon

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The Kelso Depot is quite the unusual Visitor Center. I wrote its story below.

The Kelso Depot is quite the unusual Visitor Center. I wrote its story below.

The Kelso Depot’s beautiful Spanish Colonial revival style architecture.

The Kelso Depot’s beautiful Spanish Colonial revival style architecture.

If you are just driving through the Mojave desert, you might think it is a big expanse of desolate land; but once you take some time to explore its remote corners, you realize it’s a pretty special place with singing sand dunes, lava tubes, cinder cones, abandoned mines and the highest concentration of Joshua Trees in the world. (Near the cross on the Teutonia peak trail, you will find the largest Joshua Tree forest in the world. Most people assume it is in Joshua Tree National Park, but it is actually here in Mojave National Preserve.)

While you are there, take a look at the Cima Dome. Most people would probably go past it if they didn’t know it was special but once you notice it, it is pretty crazy. It looks like the land is being viewed through a fisheye lens (from this site, lots of great info on the area).

We decided to stay at the Hole in the Wall campground since it is located right next to the Rings Trail and since it is one of the only places in the park where we knew we would have decent connexion for work. This campground is 12 bucks a night, first come first served and has water. It is a great spot to stay at and has amazing surrounding mountains and views.

You can camp at most spots in Mojave National Preserve as long as they have fire pits set up. This allows you to be able to camp in some amazing places. Just be sure to respect the environment if you chose a spot like this. Know that the connexion is very spotty in the Preserve and that most place won’t have signal strong enough to allow you to work.

There is no gas and no food in the park, and many of the backroads are washboards and only accessible by 4 x 4.

The story of the Kelso Depot

The first depot was built in 1905, when the Union Pacific wanted a foothold on the West Coast, but the actual building was built in 1924 and included a conductor’s room, telegraph office, baggage room, dormitory rooms for staff, boarding rooms for railroad crewmen, a billiard room, library and locker room.

Originally, the restaurant and telegraph office each had three shifts, operating around the clock. This continued through the boom years of the 1940s, when Kaiser’s Vulcan mine caused Kelso’s population to grow to nearly 2,000. The closing of the mine coupled with diesel engines replacing steam resulted in the UP moving jobs and families out of Kelso. In 1985 the UP decided to close the Kelso Depot entirely.

Believing that the now empty building would become “a target for vandalism, unauthorized entrance, and a legal liability,” the UP Division Superintendent made plans to raze the building. Local residents and others across the region heard about the proposed demolition and began to publicize the building’s plight.

They organized into the Kelso Depot Fund and set about saving the building. While they were able to stop the demolition, the costs of restoration grew too expensive for the group and they turned to local politicians and the federal government for assistance. Members of Congress from the area went to work, and by 1992, the BLM had the title to the building. Renovation of the Kelso Depot began in 2002. The building reopened to the public as the new visitor center for Mojave National Preserve in October, 2005.


Christmas 2018 in Tucson

The girls decorated this saguaro cactus for Christmas.

The girls decorated this saguaro cactus for Christmas.

Mara made macaroons for Mathilde’s Christmas gift.

Mara made macaroons for Mathilde’s Christmas gift.

Our Christmas meat pies.

Our Christmas meat pies.

The most amazing 1985 Vintage Port. Our friends truly spoiled us.

The most amazing 1985 Vintage Port. Our friends truly spoiled us.

That we drank with Stilton blue cheese, figs and dark chocolate. It was heavenly.

That we drank with Stilton blue cheese, figs and dark chocolate. It was heavenly.

JF’s delicious Mascarpone orange chocolate pie (from Jamie Oliver).

JF’s delicious Mascarpone orange chocolate pie (from Jamie Oliver).

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Antonio’s delicious Portuguese cod.

Antonio’s delicious Portuguese cod.

And his wonderful flan!

And his wonderful flan!

Served in Pascale’s grandma’s ice cream bowl.

Served in Pascale’s grandma’s ice cream bowl.

Leg of lamb for New Years served with a 2005 St-Julien. Spoiled. I tell you.

Leg of lamb for New Years served with a 2005 St-Julien. Spoiled. I tell you.

New Year’s Tiramisu.

New Year’s Tiramisu.

Our traditional fireworks in the backyard!

Our traditional fireworks in the backyard!

Christmas morning donut making.

Christmas morning donut making.

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Aïsha’s truffles.

Aïsha’s truffles.

Our very sick puppy on Christmas morning.

Our very sick puppy on Christmas morning.

As per tradition, we spent December in Tucson, parked in our dear friends’ yard, enjoying our time with them and sharing daily meals, playing board games, watching movies and riding bikes together. It is always a pleasure to slip back into our simple rhythm and to see our girls and their boys connect and grow together. It was heartwarming to see the girls go on bike rides with Antonio or Pascale by themselves and learn from them.

However, our celebrations were tainted with lots of sadness since our beloved Stout is very severely ill from late stage disseminated Valley Fever (VF), a fungus that is found in the soil in the desert. He likely contracted it in November and the fungus quickly spread everywhere in his body. He has heart failure from the VF and fluid build up around the heart, lungs and intestines. He has had seizures, which tells us it is in his brain too, and he moves with difficulty, which means it is everywhere in his bones. He has lost 17 pounds in 10 days. On December 26, we were pretty sure we were losing him. However, he responded pretty well to the treatment. He is on 4 different meds right now to try and control the VF, but the heart failure requires surgery, a very complex, pricey and risky surgery in which they remove the sac around his heart.

A friend has set up a Go Fun Me to try and raise money to pay for all the vet fees and possible surgery. If you can help even just a bit, we would be incredibly thankful. Here’s the link.

Homolovi State Park and Petrified Forest National Park, AZ

It is so incredible that the archeologists that work at the Homolovi State Park research center allow visitors to wander through the site and find artefacts (it is obviously illegal to take anything).

It is so incredible that the archeologists that work at the Homolovi State Park research center allow visitors to wander through the site and find artefacts (it is obviously illegal to take anything).

It is quite the feeling to find all sorts of pottery pieces created by the Hopis that are over 800 years old.

It is quite the feeling to find all sorts of pottery pieces created by the Hopis that are over 800 years old.

As we exclaimed at every find we did, we could picture the women who cooked in these pottery containers…

As we exclaimed at every find we did, we could picture the women who cooked in these pottery containers…

Between the 1200s to the late 1300s, there was over 1,200 rooms on this land. Standing on these grounds, you can still feel the village buzzing with life. What a privilege to be there.

Between the 1200s to the late 1300s, there was over 1,200 rooms on this land. Standing on these grounds, you can still feel the village buzzing with life. What a privilege to be there.

Petrified wood is pretty cool the first time you see it, but a bit less exciting on the third or fourth time… We went to Petrified Forest National Park mostly to see the Painted desert, those colorful layered hills you see in the background. It’s too bad there are not longer hikes in the park. I would have loved to get lost in that unique landscape.


The next day, we went to visit the Petrified Forest National Park. This is the painted desert part. Just gorgeous.

The next day, we went to visit the Petrified Forest National Park. This is the painted desert part. Just gorgeous.

Blue Hill Mesa.

Blue Hill Mesa.

At the bottom of Blue Hill Mesa (short hike).

At the bottom of Blue Hill Mesa (short hike).

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Petrified wood.

Petrified wood.

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I've spent many hours in nature lately, in silence, on my bike, meditating on the part of me that is afraid of not offering my girls a more normal teenage life full of activities and peers on a daily basis. What if we stick to the fact that our family culture is to live on the road, away from a busy calendar? How do I know what is best for them at this stage of their lives? I can listen to their desires (which ebb and flow and change with their hormonal cycle...) or I can simply hold the bar, as I did all those previous years and say: this is our family, this is what we do. I will make sure you get a great online education and a high school diploma while living on the road. I wonder if we have become a generation of parents who cater too much to their children's desires. If I struggle with this transition, if living in a house for 4 years, needing a second income and vehicle, yearning to be out in nature in my bus, to have more quality time with them does not feel right... is it still the right thing to do for them? I don't know. I truly don't know.
My friend @reneetougas wrote a beautiful series on her blog on homeschooling the high school years. She asks an important question:
"Perhaps in the same way that schooling parents ask homeschoolers - how do you manage to be with your kids all day? Which for me is incomprehensible to answer since my reverse question is how can you stand to not be?" I still cringe when I hear parents cheer because school is about to finally resume after spring break. I mean, I get it, being surrounded by young children all day is hard work and wanting some alone time is totally human. But I feel like we don’t know how to be together anymore. We find it intimidating. Here, take my phone. And draining. Yes, you can go on Netflix. 
Why is that? Can’t we just have a good time together? Have meaningful conversations? Have we become so busy that we need to schedule fun times and laughter fits?

You know, we did not wake up one morning and saw that all the stars had aligned, that all the conditions had come together and decided not to send our girls to school. It is rather the opposite. We decided to not send them to school, then we invented the circumstances that made that possible.

Sedona

Gorgeous stormy sky from camp on our first night in Sedona.

Gorgeous stormy sky from camp on our first night in Sedona.

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Chuckwagon Trail.

Chuckwagon Trail.

Aerie Trail.

Aerie Trail.

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Mezcal Trail.

Mezcal Trail.

Deadman Trail.

Deadman Trail.

Oh Sedona… you are so… ethereal.

People go around town in old Volvos or Subarus with licence plates like

WLDSPRIT or SNCTUARY (I can't make this sh*t up), long time no see acquaintances get into awkwardly long full body hug at Whole Food, people in the fruit aisle look at you in the eyes and smile this compassion smile, and you know they are totally looking at your aura and judging you.

OK, I give the crystal/vortex crowd a hard time, but if I’m being honest, I totally feel the Sedonal vibe and it affects me (and I did feel the vortex when we went to check out the Kachina woman last spring… I wanted to laugh it off, but I felt incredibly jittery… I do feel that stuff, maybe I should just accept my hypersensitive side).

I feel a similar vulnerability here as the one I feel in the Yukon. A rawness. I feel stripped to my essence. I can't sleep. I want to run away as much as I want to stay and dig deeper. Every single time.

Sedona and Whitehorse are healing lands. I've heard it many times. Both places chew me and spit me out a shaken but more aware being.

Maybe at some point I’ll need to admit that I am one of them, but simply hiding in dirty bike clothes while shopping for sprouts and tahini instead of wearing hemp pants and a shaman pouch around my neck.

See my previous posts (and here) on Sedona for more biking info.