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This is Carl & Anaïs

by Guest

A few months ago, Tara was contacted by Carl, an avid reader and cyclist. He and his partner Anais would be in our area for the Green Mountain Stage Races, and were wondering if they come visit, and leave their truck at our place while they went on a bike tour? We said sure, and ended up meeting this delightful couple from France and Quebec.

As soon as we met, Anaïs and I knew that we would travel together. As we Skyped three hundred kilometres away from each other, we were making plans to fly to Europe and fantasized about turning a school bus into a mobile home, showing each other pictures of what we found over the Internet. I eventually moved in with her and her parents to be able to save enough to make our dream of road biking in Europe come true.

After a lot and lot of reflection, we thought that we could bring along a light tent and a pair of sleeping bags to be able to stay mobile while we are there and avoid renting a car all the time. Then we added a camping stove and some cooking pots to save on eating expenses. And on and on. In the end, I built two Specialized Awol from scratch with racks and panniers, a incredible departure from the roadies we are, and from the starting idea of the trip.

I’m a bike tech turned manager and Anaïs is a biologist and avid cyclist too. With everything we know about bicycling, we were concerned by the fact that we didn’t know anything about camping, and even less about bike touring. We toured on the Internet from east to west and north to south only to find “list-like” websites. Knowing how many kilometres somebody could ride in a week in Italy does not really tell you if the food is as succulent as they say, or if the people are friendly at all…

Then one day, Anaïs happened upon a website called Going Slowly about two folks building a self-sufficient home that happened to have traveled all around Europe and Asia, and a little bit in Africa for two years. All on two Surly Long Haul Truckers, and in all kind of conditions. At first, we focused on the gear page (Ok ok, we pretty much bought the same stuff they did), only to drift toward the journal as we were inquiring about what places to visit, or seeking personal points of view about a country or a city.

Then, I got completely hooked as many of you readers. Reading page after page of adventure, only to be mind-blown each time I clicked "Next." How is it possible that two human beings could have been dragged into that quantity of twists and turns? And I just recently started to read the Mongolian part of their trip!

Eventually we decided to test our setup and do more than just ride our bike around the block, or cook on the patio. And what a better place to start than the homestead of the couple we'd been reading about for a year? Unfortunately, some circumstances prevented us from meeting them on the first stop we made, when we parked our truck on their land for the duration of our trip around Vermont (Thanks again by the way!).

But after our mostly vertical vacation up and down across the Green Mountains, we came back to their place three days before our planned arrival. On the road, without any answer to our text letting them know we were showing up early, we thought they weren’t at home and started to philosophize about the fact that sometimes, it's better to not meet somebody, and instead keep in your mind the idealistic mental image you have of them.

As we pushed our bikes to our truck, we saw a busy Tyler walking from the house to the camper looking like he was on a mission. We waved at him and then he stopped, very surprised we showed up so soon. We then realized that we were wrong and right at the same time. We met one of the nicest guys we'd ever met, and that we definitely had to meet him rather than keeping a lesser image of his personality. We felt exactly the same when we finally met Tara around a late-night campfire. She is as romanced as in her writing, thus listening to her stories was as pleasing as reading them.

We especially loved Tyler's pearl about stealth camping that wiped all our fears about doing it.

“First, someone would have to see you stealth camping.
Then, they would have to care about you stealth camping illegally on a given spot.
Finally, they would have to actually do something about it, which never happens.
You have to trust in people's apathy!”

We chatted for hours around the campfire until the exhaustion led us to our tent and them to their camper. Before we went to bed, Anaïs proposed to help with the house the following day since we were so early in our schedule.

Being able to put our hands on the house we saw rising up was super nice. We loved helping them achieve their goal a little bit faster, even if they are supposed to go slowly ;). We buzzed around the home to clean the rafters as they were affixing the window seat inside it. Cleaning a wooden beam with a plastic brush ten feet up in the air gives a whole new meaning at the expression “cleaning the house”!

Carl Cleaning Rafter Tails Anais Cleaning Rafter Tails Carl Cleaning Rafter Tails Anais Cleaning Rafter Tails Carl & Anais Cleaning Rafter Tails

Then with all my patience, I chiseled a piece of two-by-four to make it even while Tara was probably wondering when I was about to snap! The amount of work there is to do when you custom build a house is incredible. I would compare it to building each piece of a puzzle as you’re making it. You take an entire day to complete what is supposed to be simple and quick on paper!

Carl Measuring Veneer Plywood for Pony Wall Nook Carl Cutting Veneer Plywood for Pony Wall Nook Anais Affixing Tar Paper Carl Anais

Tara & Tyler, thanks you for sharing with us during those two days and with your website beforehand. And also sharing a super good Asian meal with us even if we were all exhausted! We were honored to meet you and look forward to visiting again once the house is finished. We came to meet bicycle travelers; we ended up finding new friends!

—Carl & Anaïs


  • Tyler > Carl at making fire. Seriously man! Are you a wizard?! I looked away for five seconds and you set up a freaking mountain of raging flame!

  • Anaïs had a hard time saying Tyler’s first name. It went through Taylor, Tylor, Taileur and Tayler. Finally she nailed it on the last day!

  • Tara’s French is flawless! Incroyable!

  • Since you ate rat, it would have been chicken of me to not eat crab when we dined out. It’s pretty good for an un-evolved insect from the sea! : P

Tyler & Tara here:

Thank you for getting in touch with us, you two, and for coming to visit—it was so wonderful to meet you both, and to have the chance to talk about life and love and travel. Thank you so much for your help with the house, and for your willingness to write a journal entry. We're so sorry it took so long to publish! We hope very much to see you both soon. xoxo

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Now that I read back my text, I find it super condensed! There's not enough words I could write down to resume those two days. We've learn to relax a bit and enjoy the moment. And a pinch of stress flew away after or talk around the fire pit. Simple mantra like "Whatever happen, it's a part of the trip" changed definitely our reaction when facing a problem or a failure.
We probably won't meet again before the end of next year, after we'll be back from Europe because we're saving up everything we earn for the trip and there little room for extras, but as Terminator said: We'll be back. ( Armed with more tiny plastic brush and scrubbing green pads! :P ).

Keep up the good work! You're nearly there! ;)
Posted by Carl & Anaïs on November 12th, 2014 at 8:13 AM
Nice 'This is...' post, Carl! (your english is perfect, n'est-ce pas Tara?...😄)

and T & T,
I guess one day you will have to plan a round trip in the province of Québec to visit all your fans up north!
If you find winter too long, you will be more than welcome around here anytime to really see what WINTER is!!! 😜
Posted by David B. on November 12th, 2014 at 7:52 PM
Unrelated to this post, I was just checking your website out for updates and looked throughout your 'recent photos'. Guys! T&T, your progress is amazing! It's a house!!! all the mud and the straw bale and the plastering... And now you have a kitchen stove, and a faucet, and you're building a bed! It's amazing. I know from the inside it may not feel like it, but from the outside it looks like fantastic (and fast) progress. Take a bow - you guys rock.
Posted by Maria on November 28th, 2014 at 2:56 PM