Cari St. Aubin graduated from Marshall High School in 1998, went off to college in Iowa, and has been living in California. When she came back to Marshall this week she had a lot of stories to tell about her bike trip through North and South America, and Europe.
St. Aubin presented her slide show and an account of her travels with her partner Mike Lawrence at the Adult Community Center on Tuesday morning, to an audience that included her proud grandfather Don Klein.
In June, 2010 At. Aubin and Lawrence set off from the east coast to the west coast along the top tier of states, then down through the Americas to the tip of Tierra del Fuego. From there they flew to Japan, intending to bicycle across the country.
Mike Lawrence and Cari St. Aubin stop for a photo at the Pyrenees Mountains in northern Spain.
However, they arrived 10 minutes before the earthquake and were stranded in the airport for four days. So they decided to fly to Europe, and starting from Portugal biked to the Arctic Circle in Norway and back down to Denmark, before medical problems Lawrence suffered forced them to abandon their trip three weeks early.
They didn't have a problem changing their route plans, because they didn't have one.
"In my opinion, life is too planned," St. Aubin said. "We never knew where we were sleeping that night when we got up in the morning. We stopped when we were tired and kept going when we weren't."
St. Aubin and Lawrence rode steel-framed bikes with four bags mounted on each. They carried clothes, tent, tools, sleeping bag, food for four days, and in places like the Altacama Desert in Chile, lots and lots of water.
"We planned and saved for nine months, sold our car, TV and anything else we could," St. Aubin said. "We learned to live very, very cheaply."
According to At. Aubin they biked 14,667 miles over 15 months, spent 250 nights in their tent, visited 19 countries, averaged 11 miles per hour, 65 miles per day, and repaired 23 flat tires.
St. Aubin said they "wild camped" in secluded areas away from observation or under bridges. They were often invited by people they met to stay, have home cooked meals, and the occasional welcome shower that didn't come from a water bottle.
"The world is full of good people," St. Aubin said.
The emotional height of the trip may have come when they visited the location in Norway Lawrence's grandfather was shot down in during World War II, at age 28, the same age as Lawrence at the time.
"We collected parts of the plane that were still in the ground, and met some of the people who were still alive that had sheltered the crew," St. Aubin said.
In Denmark Lawrence suffered persistent leg cramps that forced them to fly home early. St. Aubin said they hoped the problem could be resolved soon, because they want to tour Southeast Asia on their bikes starting next January.