Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Manchester, New Hampshire:   Day 49 of my cycling trip isn’t about the cycling.   It’s about family.   A mile into the day’s ride we entered New Hampshire and passed through some pretty towns, including Keene and Greenfield, on a Sunday morning.  But the highlight was intersecting with my family near Francesville. They were driving from the East and I was cycling from the West, and amazingly we crossed paths somewhere on a country road.  It was at that time when I felt the journey was complete, and I was ready to thumb it back home:

Well, I did pedall all the way to Manchester where I enjoyed a rendez-vous that also included my step mother Sylvia and my cousin Robin and her beautiful family, who drove up for the day from Connecticut.   It had been ages since I had last seen Robin, and my son finally had some playmates.

The evening was devoted to a celebratory and reflective farewell banquet among the riders, support team, and some significant others.   A song was sung; a poem was read, and a hilarious skit was performed.  Each rider was then awarded an America by Bike “Abby” award for some distinction on the ride, and we then had the floor to address the group.

I received my “Abby” for wearing my cycling shorts inside-out.  After 50 days and thousands of miles on the road, I will be remembered as the guy who got the cycling shorts wrong.  Upon accepting this award, it was only appropriate that I drop my pants to reveal underneath a pair of cycling shorts inside-out.   That resulted in considerable laughter. It was the first time, ever, I have dropped my pants so publicly.

During my farewell remarks I reflected on the morning of June 21, the start of this ride.  In Astoria with my cousin Kevin, I shared to the group a conversation he and I had about how preposterous and unlikely this whole endeavour seemed, which made the present moment somewhat surreal.   I then expressed sentiments of appreciation to the fine and fun group of cyclists with whom I shared this experience, and much gratitude to the incredible support team who got us here, to this moment, safely.    

The support team also had an opportunity to address the group.  Barbara, in her infinite wisdom, told the crow of mostly hyper type-A people with a need for speed to essentially slow down, and to not forget to live in the moment.  Throughout this trip she has dispensed very wise and caring motherly advice.

Tomorrow I cycle to the beach.

Day 49 Summary:

Day 49 route:  Brattleboro, VT to Manchester, NH     
Day 49 mileage:  82.92 miles  
Cumulative mileage:  3,642.06 miles
Day 48 climbing: 4,200 feet 
Cumulative Climbing:  102,495 feet of climbing
Terrain:  hilly

Now for the Top 10 list.  When you spend 50 days in intense physical activity with 50 very diverse period, all kinds of things get said.  Here are my favourites.  If some of these things don’t seem so funny, well I suppose you had to be there.  And we cyclists do have a warped sense of humor.

#10- “It’s going to be hard to take it all in.”  Said by 79 year old Howard, referring to the Corn Palace, the rodeo, and dinner at a Mexican restaurant.

#9- “Have you seen my Kuchaloo?” asked Nan.  Wow, that takes our friendship to a whole new level.

#8- “I paid good money for this.  Why?”  asked Don, climbing Teton Pass

#7-“You clearly don’t own a pair of cranky pants” said Margot to Texas Tom

#6-“If you don’t rinse your shorts enough, you end up with soapy butt,” advised Jeff, one of the tour leaders 

#5-“The rain has washed away my butt lube and I am chafing somewhat awful,” said Don

#4-After I confessed I wore my cycling shorts inside out for 92 miles without realizing it, that elicited all kinds of responses and has been the butt of many jokes (no pun intended).   “But where did you put your chamois butter?” asks Beth. “It just goes to show we don’t look at each other’s butts as much as we think,” said Barb.  “That’s how to get 184 miles out of a pair of shorts” reasoned Texas Tom

#3- “He’s coming to ride.  I’m coming to talk,” confessed Teresa, referring to Pennsylvania John

#2- “Mike doesn’t know what he’s missing.  It’s so cool and tangly,” said Katie, referring to chamois butter and Mike’s comment that he’d never tried it in 175,000 miles of cycling.

#1- “If your corn flakes taste funny, don’t blame it on me.  I just needed a place to pee,” said Don

Brattstock

Brattleboro, Vermont:   Today was nearly a perfect day of cycling, the kind of day that makes me sad this journey is nearing the end.  It’s a day when we crossed the entire state of Vermont (albeit the skinny part) in a day.  Brattleboro is just one mile from the New Hampshire border, and is “close to Vermont,” says Vermont native and trip mechanic Jim. 

The morning began in Eastern New York, when we crossed the Hudson and passed through the city of Troy, which was founded in 1789 and happens to be the birthplace of Uncle Sam.  We then pedaled through three quintessentially New England towns in Vermont:  the college town of Bennington; Wilmington; and easy-going Brattleboro. 

  

The weather was ideal, with amazing blue skies and fluffy clouds.  It was ideal terrain too, with some good hills courtesy of the Green Mountains of the Appalachian Range, and plenty of trees, including the Green Mountain National Forest.  But most of all it was an unrushed day with some excellent company.  I cycled with Margot from the first SAG stop to Brattleboro and though we attacked the hills at a good pace, we also stopped in all the important places, such as a chocolate shop in Bennington, an antique flea market, and we enjoyed a picnic lunch from a gourmet deli next to a covered bridge.  I certainly don’t get to do that very often.  The hills reminded me of the good ole’ days earlier in the trip climbing in Oregon and in the Tetons.

In Brattleboro I had some yummy chocolate orange ice cream (imported from Massachusetts, unfortunately) with Sarah, Renny and Leo.  It was very good.   I then stopped by Brattstock, Brattleboro’s three-year old charity music festival.  It was a real treat to listen to some great music in the park.  Alex and I had a good chat with the emcee — who was very intrigued about our ride — and introduced us to a fantastic chanteuse, Samirah Evans, who gave a fine performance.  Samirah relocated to Vermont  from New Orleans after Katrina.  It’s refreshing to unexpectedly come across such a talented and energetic performer.

Entering Vermont was a watershed moment for me.  I finally realized that I am on the East Coast.  For some riders, reaching the Mississippi or the Great Lakes was the watershed moment.  Tomorrow is where the bubble world of this group and this cycling journey collide with my real world.   In New Hampshire I meet my family tomorrow — my son, Patrick, my folks and a cousin — and thus begins the process of re-adapting back to reality, a process that begins in earnest on Monday when we reach the ocean’s edge.

Day 48 Summary:

Day 48 route:  Latham, NY to Brattleboro, VT     
Day 48 mileage:  79.2 miles
Cumulative mileage:  3,559.14 miles
Day 48 climbing: 5,050 feet 
Cumulative Climbing:  98,295 feet of climbing
Terrain:  hilly!

Meet the Cast

 

Seven weeks ago we convened in Oregon as strangers.  Today, thinner with funky tan lines and perhaps a bit sore in some delicate areas, we’ve become an extended family of cycling fanatics with a powerful and, I think, forever lingering shared experience.

The camaraderie among my fellow cyclists and the mix of colorful personalities have made this epic bike ride between the left and right coasts a singular experience.  The  awesome America by Bike team — the producers and directors — have enabled a safe journey and guided and coddled us along the way.  

Although we’re still shy of  The End of this transcontinental adventure, with just 148 miles to go and with almost everyone in reflective mode, here, in their own words and in random billing, is the cast of the 2010 version of Across America North.  Let the end credits roll . . .

Margot (L, Connecticut) and Ellen (Maine):   Margot did this ride for fun and for adventure but will miss the people and the unexpected laughs.  Ellen says – “Head ’em up and move ’em out.”

Rod (New Hampshire) has enjoyed seeing the countryside from a bike and gaining more perspective on the country.  He’s enjoyed the camaraderie and family of the group and hopes to maintain the healthy lifestyle during this trip.   (Editor’s remark:  Does that include the SAG food, Rod?)

Gerard (Arkansas):  “Saddle sores suck.”

Teresa (Pennsylvania) chose this ride to see Mt Rushmore (“FABULOUS!”)….but the journey to Mt Rushmore was just as good as the experience there. 

Matt (L) and Mike (California, father/son):  Mike’s riding for Hunington’s Disease families.   Matt is along for the ride.  Plus, he doesn’t want to get grounded.

Fred (New Hampshire):  His best moment is cresting Teton Pass; worst is the final hill at Kah-Nee-Ta.

Tom (Texas):  “The older I get, the faster I remember I once was.”  (Editor’s Note:  Brings to mind the words of the Indiana Jones character, who quipped: “It’s not the age, babe, it’s the mileage.”)

Sarah (Wyoming):  “If you’re not having enough fun, you need to lower your standards….but not as far down as John Day.”

Kim (Washington):  This trip, he says, illustrates that any challenging goal in life can eventually be achieved when broken down into small pieces.   This is Kim’s third transcontinental bike crossing, which coincidentally occurred at 11 year gaps apart.

John (Pennsylvania) says this ride has been the most rewarding life experience other than the birth of his daughters. 

Ann (Ontario):  “‘Where are all the mountains?,’ says my crotch.  This flat ride is killing me.”

Dave (Michigan):  Expectations have been exceeded personally and with the trip.

Margo (California) strives to “keep the rubber side down.”  She says  this ride is “like summer camp for adults.”  She wanted to do something momentous, and this is a momentous thing to do!

Tom (Washington) has enjoyed seeing the diversity of viewpoints and varied perceptions of the same world.   The rodeo in Mitchell is a good example. He’s also surprised how much agriculture there is in the US, from the start to the finish of this trip.

Ken’s (Pennsylvania) most vivid memories are the asphalt truck turning a corner and spraying gravel and descending from Teton Pass at 45 mph.  

Shirley (Iowa) says the trip has been surreal. She can’t believe she’s ridden across the US.  This has been one of the most challenging and rewarding “vacations.”  Although apprehensive at first, she says she’s glad the trip has turned out the way it did.”  

Ian (England) was hoping to meet lots of Americans on this trip but hasn’t had time, because he’s been busy eating, sleeping, cycling and doing laundry.  The rain showers  and rolly ride into Little Falls reminds Ian of cycling in England — except in England he would have stayed indoors on such a rainy day.  (Editor’s note:  Smart man).

Andrew (Connecticut) decided to do this trip “because it’s there.”

Leo (Texas) did the ride for the downhills.  (Editor’s note:  The Minnesota downhills?)

John (Maine) sums up the trip as a “fantastic experience!” 

Mark (Canada) marvels at the power of a central goal with this ride; how an incredibly diverse people can get together and rally to a common goal that everyone wants to achieve, at the same time, with the same purpose.

Mark (California):  This is Mark’s third Across America North section with ABB in as many years, and says by far this is the best group because everyone is very friendly. 

Nan (Indiana):  Feels like a “kid in a dream” getting up every morning to do this FABULOUS TRIP!”  Also, has anyone seen her Kuchaloo?   

Eileen (Connecticut) marvels how the days are long but the trip is short.

Renny (Wyoming):  “Just because it’s all-you-can-eat doesn’t mean you have to eat it all, in 15 minutes or less.”

Alison (Arkansas) came to the ride with no expectations, but this has turned out to be an “incomparable” experience.

Rick (Arizona) says these trips are a ball and appreciates the “tons of supportive people” and “no bad attitudes.  His best day was in the Black Hills enjoying the trees, granite formations, and good climbing.

Mark (New Jersey):  “There was a moment on almost every day when I said, ‘this is the best day of the trip.'”

Team Suisse : Bruno (L) and Daniel (Switzerland):  Bruno’s highlights were Mt Rushmore and Niagara Falls, and he confesses this trip has been easier than he expected.   Daniels says: “So viele Menschen haben Trau me.  Mit dieser Tour wurde mein Traum wahr.”  (Editor’s translation:  ‘Many people have dreams.  This trip has made my dream real.’ Not bad for rusty college German, eh? ) 

Don (Oregon) says, “What a magnificent country we live in.  From sea to shining sea we are so blessed to live in this country and to see it from the top of a bicycle.”  

Helen (Indiana) most enjoys the non-biking parts of this biking trip.  She loves stopping and listening and watching and appreciates this bike ride as an excuse to see the country. 

Gary (Connecticut) had high expectations, and they were exceeded.  “It’s all about the biking (it’s not about the food and motels!)”  

Sandy (L, Colorado) and Todd (Hong Kong):   Sandy describes the ride as self-revealing; she is continually surprised how the little steps have formed a big feat.  “Each day doesn’t seem so big,” she says,  “but then I look at the map and go OMG.”  After cycling past thousands of miles of corn fields, Todd still asks “Are We There Yet?”   There’s still a long way to go.  This transcon trip is the first stage of Todd’s plan to eventually cycle around-the-world.  It should be more comfortable now that he always wears his cycling shorts with the chamois on the inside.

Katie (New York):  “Laugh.  Dance.  Cycle.”

Dan (Indiana):  “Oh what a beautiful morning…..”

Beth (Colorado) describes this as a “journey of a lifetime. A great way to live in the moment.  Every moment.”

Dereka (Maine): “If you don’t complain, how will they know you’re alive?”   She then ponders,”How many times do you spend seven weeks with strangers?  This is longer than most experiences.  It gives more time to care about people, but this is like a shipboard romance and not a marriage.”

Bill (Colorado): “Watch for the camels.”

Howard (Iowa) says the best experience of this trip hasn’t happened yet.  He expects it will happen on Monday, the end of the journey.   The worst experience, he says, were the headwinds going into Pierre.

Dennis (Oklahoma) has done this ride in three stages over three consecutive years.  What he enjoyed the most is having some of his kids along for the ride….his son-in-law during the first year and his son this year during the Ontario leg.

John (Ohio):  “Great trip.  Great people.”

Jeff (Connecticut):  Quoting Lincoln, “It’s not the years in your life, but the life in your years.”  Jeff hopes to have both.

Alex (Indiana):  “Old men are weird.”

Mark (Maryland) considers this the “experience of a lifetime.” It’s meant much to him to do this ride for his father-in-law and for his father and other people he has met with lung disease.  And it’s been “wonderful to ride with 50 people I can relate to almost completely, who think like I do.”

Steve (Illinois) says he was first attracted by the physical challenge of this ride, but has grown to appreciate the support staff and camaraderie of the cyclists.” 

Joe (Georgia):  Looks forward to hiking the Appalachian trail after completing a marathon, a 100 mile race and this ride. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Producers and Directors:   The awesome America by Bike Support Team:-

Mike (Alabama – Trip Leader):  Mike is drawn to leading ultra long-distance cycling trips for the people, watching the people grow, and to share his love of cycling.  Riders have preconceived perceptions and varying experience levels, and Mike enjoys seeing a group grow and bond and helping them achieve a common goal.  He also enjoys helping to instill good cycling habits among the riders that will serve them for the rest of their lives.  These good habits are a form of ambassadorship which can also positively impact the sport of cycling.  He also notes that most riders return to their normal lives, but the experiences they have had on a trip like this has changed their lives forever — although sometimes the impact isn’t immediately apparent. 

Karen (Oregon):  “The best part about working for ABB is meeting new people and seeing the group come together as a family.  Many close friendships seem to have formed during the 2010 America North Tour.  Thanks for letting me share in your great accomplishment and journey.”  (Editor note:  Thank you, Karen!)

Jim (Vermont) sees long-distance rides as an exploration, and cyclists as explorers.  Increasingly, he sees more and more cyclists on exploring inward on these long rides.

Debbie (Pennsylvania) says this group is the most “even keeled” group she’s ever seen.  Quoting Einstein, she adds:  “Life is like riding a bicycle.  To keep your balance you have to keep moving.”

Jeff (Minnesota):  “No matter where you go, there you are.”

Barbara (Alabama):  “The reason I do this ride, or any ride, is I enjoy helping people reach their goals — and this is a hard goal to reach.  I admire people who have such a lofty goal.  (Editor’s note:  Thanks, Barb and we are really, really gonna miss your tips of the day!)

Editor’s comment:  This support team is superb…professional, caring, and very, very knowledgeable about cycling.  Their passion for cycling shines through.   What has greatly impressed me is the strong emphasis on safety, which started at orientation and is reinforced every day on the ride.  But what makes this team really stand out is their profound and sincere commitment to safely guide the group across the country….to get us to the other side.

Latham, New York:   This week we have crossed New York state and  New England is just around the corner.  There are 33 miles to the Vermont border and only 227 miles to the Atlantic.  For the next two days there will be some speed bumps in the form of the Appalachian mountain range, but after thousands of miles of corn fields, speed bumps are welcome.

Today’s ride into Latham, a suburb of Albany, was superb.  Excellent weather with blue skies in contrast with yesterday’s moisture.  The terrain is beginning to feel like New England with bigger hills and rolling terrain with picturesque farmland and more cows — it looks like a Ben & Jerry’s ad.  We crossed the Mohawk River early in today’s ride and passed through towns of differing sizes before joining near Schenectady an excellent rail to trail bike path along the Erie Canal, which led us to Latham.  Today’s ride was thoroughly blissful and relaxing.

I saw several things today which I have not yet seen on this trip. Early in today’s ride there was a neat memorial/burial ground dating from the 1700’s for a Jesuit priest who was tomahawked by the Iroquois Indians, and a burial ground for an Iroquois maiden. 

        

We also passed through some Amish country, and witnessed this horse and buggy getting down the highway:

Finally, in a park near Schenectady, we met a group of cyclists who are heading to Toronto on super-sized home-made bicycles using recycled materials.   These were the two most interesting bikes I have ever seen; one with a fully functional hammock underneath the seat, the other a double-decker.  “Bubba,” my trusty Cannondale, felt inadequate in comparison.

I spotted many pretty barns but none were picture worthy.   I also tried the low-fat (yes, I am trying to cut back now on my caloric intake) frozen blueberry yogurt at Jumpin’ Jaks.  It was good, but not the tastiest on this trip.   My wearing cycling shorts inside out is still a continuing source of laughter.  I guess after 47 days on the road we have a warped and deficient sense of cyclist humor.

Day 47 Summary:

Day 47 route:  Little Falls to Latham, NY     
Day 47 mileage:  74 miles

Cumulative mileage:  3,479.94 miles
Day 47 climbing: 2,100 feet 
Cumulative Climbing:  93,245 feet of climbing
Terrain:  hilly

Cats and Dogs

 

Little Falls, New York:   Today was a soggy day but proves the truism that after the rain comes the sun.  During the first ten miles of the day’s ride we tried to out speed the rain, then spent the next 40 miles in a wonderfully robust rain shower.  It poured.  Rather than trying to take cover as some cyclists did, I embraced the rain and kept on pedalling.  In an odd way the downpour had a cleansing, purifying, calming  effect.   It’s all part of the experience, I reasoned, and sooner or later the sun will appear.  That moment appeared just before we rolled into Little Falls, a small town west of Albany that straddles both the Erie Canal and the Mohawk River.  My route sheet dissolved in the rain so I relied on Dennis, who had the foresight to put his directions into a ziplock baggy, for navigation into Little Falls.  The afternoon was spent doing bike cleaning and maintenance, laundry, and drying out.

I took one photo today, of the world’s smallest church.  It’s a non-denominational church that sits in the center of an algae-dominated pond.   The church can accommodate about half a person. 

There’s also continuing amusement in the group about yesterday’s folly in wearing  my cycling shorts inside out.  This has been the butt of many jokes (no pun intended).  Both NJ Mark and California  Margo showed up at breakfast this morning with their shorts inside out.  Who’d a thought I would start a trend?

We have just four more cycling days but about 15,000 feet of climbing until we reach the Atlantic on Monday.  Are we there yet?

Day 46 Summary:

Day 46 route:  Liverpool to Little Falls, NY     
Day 46 mileage:  77.72
Cumulative mileage:  3,405.94 miles
Days 46 climbing: 1,610 feet 
Cumulative Climbing:  91,145 feet of climbing
Terrain:  flat with some hills

Breezin’ by the Erie

Liverpool, New York:  Had a delightful early morning ride on the Erie Canalway Trail, which hugs the Erie Canal for about  20 miles, and passes through some charming historic towns.  This was a welcome change of scenery from corn fields.    

Whereas my previous mantra was “Are We There Yet?,” these days my mantra is “What’s the Rush?”  I enjoyed a leisurely start to the morning and took my time cycling along the canal, walking through some villages such as Pittsford, which was founded in the late 1700’s, and watching a tugboat and barge negotiate passage through a lock.  The Erie Canal is historically significant because it enabled a purely domestic shipping route from the Midwest (via the Great Lakes) to the East Coast when it opened in 1822.   Today it is mainly used for leisure traffic, and there are many small, private boat docks on the Canal — an interesting twist to the back porch concept.

Once we exited the bike path and after the first SAG/rest stop, Ohio John, Rod and I formed a paceline to hightail it to the next SAG stop.  We then had a good lunch in Weedsport before continuing the journey into Liverpool, a suburb of Syracuse.  Mike and Matt on the tandem hauled it into Liverpool in good time and we stayed on their wheels.  In Liverpool I stopped at Heid’s Sweet Treats, purveyors of fine ice cream since 1866.  I tried the Muddy Sneakers variety.  It tasted better than it sounds.

Today I cycled 95 miles today and was very embarrassed when I discovered, at mile 92, that I was wearing my cycling shorts inside out.   I’ve found a new way to get double mileage out of my cycling shorts before having to do laundry!

Day 45 Summary:

Day 45 route:  Henrietta to Liverpool, NY     
Day 45 mileage:  94.68 miles 
Cumulative mileage:  3,328.22 miles
Days 45 climbing: 1,600 feet 
Cumulative Climbing:  89,535 feet of climbing
Terrain:  flattish

New York State of Mind

 

Henrietta, New York:   This morning we left Niagara Falls for a four-day swath across upper New York State, bypassing the major cities of Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse.  It’s great to be back in the Empire State and into the state of mind that comes with it.  This is the final week of our transcontinental journey.

Today’s 82 mile ride to this suburb of Rochester was nearly effortless, fuelled perhaps by pizza last night and wheat pancakes this morning and a nice little tail wind.  It’s very evident we’re approaching the East coast.  While the cycling route continues to be on rural roads through farmlands, the farms are smaller and the roads busier, with houses throughout the way.  Generally, there’s much more activity and a continuing series of small towns and villages.   Corn crops are still prevalent, but the corn fields are getting smaller and fewer.  Here are some snapshots from today:

My major activity of the afternoon was an excursion to Borders books.   This ride across America has renewed my interest in American history, which I haven’t formally studied since the 11th grade of high school.   So at Borders I picked up a copy of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.    On this trip I have done less reading than I hoped, though I have completed Plainsong, a novel by Kent Haruf set on the Colorado plains; Sebastian Junger’s War; and for some escapist reading, Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Tomorrow we ride alongside the Eerie Canal on our way to the Syracuse area.  It’s supposed to be a very good ride.

Day 44 Summary:

Day 44 route:  Niagara Falls to Henrietta, NY     
Day 44 mileage:  82.3 miles + 5.63 miles to Borders bookstore 
Cumulative mileage:  3,233.54 miles
Days 44 climbing: 1,550 feet 
Cumulative Climbing:  87,935 feet of climbing
Terrain:  flat for the first half, then rolly