Thursday, July 30, 2009

Day 52 and beyond: Manchester to Portsmouth to Harrisburg to Columbus -- The end of one adventure and the start of another!

Pictures are here.
Miles: 59
Total Miles: 3975
Time: 4:00
Average: 14.6
Max 34.5
Flats Today: 0; Total flats:9
Climbing: Pretty flat and down to sea level.
Weather: Sunny, warm, and gorgeous beach weather.
Climbing: Pretty flat and down to sea level.
Weather: Sunny, warm, and gorgeous beach weather.

Tuesday's final ride capped 7 plus weeks of this grand adventure. An absolutely picture perfect day on which to finish this ride with those I had ridden so much of it -- Leigh and Bob as well as Hans. Chuck had friends and family there who rode with him but the four of us took out sweet time to squeeze every last inch of riding pleasure out of these last miles. We got in two wrong turns, one of which was under Gerard and Judy's direction in response to an omission on the last day's "clue" sheet. So fitting after all the rides' successful reroutes they had engineered to have that happen on this final day.

We also added one yet unencountered road surface to our lengthy list -- a water crossing produced by last night's rain. We got to splash our way through it. And, when told that we had 15 extra minutes to reach the staging area for the community ride to the beach, we found one last coffee shop so Seattleites Bob and Leigh could satisfy their iced coffee addiction while Hans and I treated ourselves to a fruit smoothie. The leisurely coffee shop service and the soft couches drew our break out a bit longer than planned and so we had to hustle along to make those last 10 miles in 30 minutes.

When we rolled in at 11:47 the rest of the gang was already assembled under and in the sprawling branches of a large tree for our final group picture. The troopers were there with their cruisers to lead us down the last 3 miles to the beach. Our spirits soared at the prospect of soon sighting the Atlantic. After the picture posing was past, we rolled out in 4 columns and made our way to the Atlantic and then along the coast to Wallis State Park. The public beach was crowded with sun bathers while the spot where we arrived was crowded with riders' friends and families sporting signs and cheering to welcome us in. The beach was soon the scene of handshakes, hugs, champagne, tires being dipped, poses for pictures, jersey's shed to leap into the surf, shouts of congratulation and words of appreciation.

As the excitement subsided, Marcia and I began to make our way to the Portsmouth motel where I showered, changed, and bade final farewells before we headed south to Canterbury CT to spend the night at Marcia's brother Steve's home. I told Marcia I would plan to leave at 7:00 and ride about 70 miles west and she could then pick me up on our way to Harrisburg PA where her sister Andrea lives. Thankfully she would have none of that! We had a quiet evening at Andrea and Jerry's home, though I faded completely before 9:00. I think the past 52 days have caught up with me!
Today we finished up the journey to Columbus. We made a beeline to the hospital to visit little Max and proud parents, Jocey and Andy. What a thrill that was! The start of an entirely new and different and exciting adventure. We have been praying for this little guy for quite some time now. Certainly for a healthy arrival but even more than that we've been praying that little Max will come to know and trust in the God that has given him life. May little Max come to know Jesus as Lord and as Savior early in his life and so experience the joy of a relationship with Him.

I would like to wrap all of this up by sharing some final thoughts.

I feel immensely grateful to have had the health, the time and the means to do this trip. There are many who would like to but few who can make it happen. I had tears of gratitude the first few mornings of this trip and they returned as I reflected on it the last few days. My brother Pete would LOVE to do this trip, but he cannot. Chris Ray, who I met in Colorado would love to do it as well be cannot. I don't know why I should be able to, but I am very GRATEFUL to God that I could.

I am very grateful to Marcia who encouraged me to do it, who sacrificed so I could and who made the trip out to pick me up and share in this with me. Thanks sweetie!

The experience of this trip exceeded my expectations in almost every way. I loved seeing the US at 15 miles an hour. I loved the great variety of scenery we passed. I'd never seen Lake Tahoe and the Sierra's so I would say that was my favorite part. The mountains and the water were breath-taking. But I also loved the rugged Nevada desert, the endless fields of corn through most of 7 successive states, the big western sky, the tight New England hills and streams, the vast west Kansas plains and the broad-shouldered Rocky Mountains with those long 6% climbs. I loved riding in double pace lines along I80, cranking for an hour or more to the top of Mt. Rose or shooting down the back of Monarch feeling mildly out of control for most of the descent. I loved that tail wind in Kansas that made 20 mph seem easy and 25 doable if you wanted to work for it. I loved riding along at a social pace, conversing comfortably with so many of my fellow travelers or riding in a double pace line with conversation snippets for a minute or two between Chuck's shouts to "rotate" or sometimes hammering so hard with a few others that winded grunts were all the conversation there was. I loved chatting with locals about where they lived or what we were doing. In short, it was much much more about the traveling than the terminus. The accomplishment of riding across the US on a bike may be what first jumps out to others, but the memories of the journey and those with whom I made it are what will remain with me.

I am grateful that two guys with whom I really connected early in the trip, rejoined the tour for the last couple of weeks. Jim, my doubles roommate early in the trip came back riding strong. We did lots of miles together, talking and enjoying riding together. Jim is one of those guys whose knowledgeable on so many topics, can connect with about anyone and is a real gentleman. He had a string of friends and relatives he connected with all across the country. Rick is an elder at his church and a close follower of Jesus. His love for Christ is evident in how he talks, lives and conducts himself. He pulled those that wished together after the route raps for prayer for all the riders' safety. I very much loved getting to know Rick and share with him.
I am also especially grateful for our Always Leaves Last team (ALL) of Chuck, Bob and Leigh, as well as Hans who often joined us later in the ride. Chuck's infectious enthusiasm was a delight. And he was about as competitive as I am when it came to riding, horse, pool, table tennis, basketball and about any other win lose event. I really enjoyed our more serious discussions about how to live life to honor God. Bob good spirits and ready humor were a delight as well. He is able to sum up any situation with funny pointed brevity. Some of his lines will stick with me for a long time. I appreciated Bob's serious side as well. He is well read and knowlegable. And very devoted to Susie, and his two kids, Kyle and Bethany. Leigh is a great listener and interested in talking about all sorts of things. She has a great sense of adventure and has traveled all over the world. She wants to leave the world a better place which I commend. I really enjoyed reading her descriptive well written and well illustrated blogs.

Another point of gratitude is for the wonderful Ohio riding I have right here in my back yard. We have smooth roads, low traffic and flat terrain when we go west of Columbus. We have rolling terrain to the southeast of us and all the hills we want if we go further southeast. We have many many roads to choose from in every direction. Along the way there are small towns with little stores and delis and dairy queens and subways and local festivals . And if we wish, we probably have a greater network of bike trails to choose from than most other states. All in all, Ohio riding is pretty special.

I am grateful that I was able to check out of a very full life for a while. I greatly enjoyed the focus that simply riding each day brought. I never dreaded getting on the bike in the morning and my enjoyment of riding was enhanced, if anything as a result of riding each day.

Finally, I am grateful to my brother Pete who introduced me to riding in the first place. He and I had ridden many many miles together and it would have been so sweet to do this with him as he had dreamed. But that was not to be. He has made an impact in a far greater way than any I could make through the riding he has done which has impacted and benefited so many. Pete, you were on my heart and in my thoughts often over these 52 days. May God encourage you and bless you and keep you and continue to use you for blessing in the lives of others. You're courage, your initiative, your perseverance, your sense of humor and your love for others is exemplary. It has been a privilege to ride for Pete's sake!

Thanks to each one who followed along with me on this journey through the blogs and pictures. May God richly bless you and encourage you in mountain tops He allows you to climb as well as in the valleys He leads you through. May we each seek Him on of our journeys.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Day 51: Brattleboro to Manchester, NH -- Yet another "best" day of riding!

Pictures are here
Miles: 87
Total Miles: 3916
Time: 5:45
Average: 15.1
Max 43
Flats Today: 0; Total flats:9
Climbing: About 6000' total climbing including 3/4 mile long hill that had 15% grade sections.
Weather: Sunny, warm, a bit muggy with temps in mid 80's. Another absolutely gorgeous day!

Penultimate night and day of the grand adventure! The end is clearly in sight. Almost literally from the top of Hogback mountain yesterday where the claim was one could see for 100 miles. We were about 170 miles from the Atlantic and now it's shrunk to less than 70.

The penultimate hotel stay was a bit unusual as I was in with Tom and Jim for the night. It was fitting. Jim was my first nights roomie out of SF and we rode a lot together since he returned in Indy. Tom rolled in about 9:00 from an afternoon in Brattleboro with some of the others and was a bit surprised to see me in the suite, but he was a great sport about it. Especially when he learned that he and Sean had dropped me and I had not had had chain problems as they assumed when they realized I was no longer behind them. Oh the simple pleasures of friendly competition.

And then today's second to the last day's ride. What an absolute delight that was with its many ride textures. A long 6% climb to the top of Pitcher Pountain. A 3/4 mile grind and grunt and sweat and sweet talk to the top of two very steep back to back climbs that featured 15% grades in spades. Fast downhills on very smooth tarmac and a fast down hill on a mile of dirt road through the woods. A long wind driven ride that followed the bends of that clear fast moving NH stream off our right side. Long shaded roads, open ridge tops and fast sections on the shoulder of gently undulating US highways. This ride had it all!

The first SAG featured the best peaches by far I've had all season. And these after I said to someone last evening that I'd just love fruit in season -- and Oh by the way, peaches are in season right now. And then the second SAG stop featured a full gourmet lunch provided by Judy's husband, Dan. He had a spread of chicken salad on Pita bread, past salad and fruit salad all laid out on the back of his pickup for us. All we had to do was dig in and eat. Judy, you got yourself a jewel!!

SAG 2 also featured some neat reunions. Bob's wife Susie and two kids, Kyle and Bethany had driven in from Boston in their rental to connect with him early. And then Chuck's 80 some year old uncle who had ridden cross country some 20 years ago joined him there on his bike and the two did some miles together. "Bullet Bob" as he was called, must have been the fastest in his crossing those years ago.

And when I rolled into Manchester, I looked for the gray Odyssey and sure enough -- it was parked in the lot and Marcia was waiting for me! We enjoyed our last route rap together followed by a slide show of photos Gerard had put together that captured the ride well. Then dinner, awards by staff and some comments from each of the riders that wanted to share.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Day 50 Latham NY to Brattleboro NH -- Thank yous and acknowledgements

Pictures are here.
Miles: 81
Total Miles: 3827
Time: 4:52
Average: 16.7
Max 46
Flats Today: 0; Total flats:9
Climbing: About 5000' total climbing
Weather: Partly sunny, a bit muggy and temps in low 80's. Gorgeous day overall!

Well, the number of posts is starting to dwindle so I'm going to do something a bit different.

Oh, the ride was great today -- beautiful Vermont mountain scenery, great weather with temps in the lower 80's and no rain as forecast, smooth surfaces on most roads and manageable traffic. And there was a mix of competitive riding on this last day of continuous climbing along with some leisurely riding as well. I caught Sean and Tom at the first SAG stop about 26 miles out and we rode together to the start of the climb. Sean kept a steady strong pace up the 4 mile 6% climb we had and Tom stayed on his wheel. Though I tried to stay with them, I could not and slipped back a ways before we got to the top. I had hoped to reach the top first, but they were both definitely stronger. Congratulations guys!

As a result of the aggressive pace to the top of that first climb, I got to the second SAG stop at close to 60 miles out just after Tom and Sean left and decided there was no point in pushing hard any further so I ended up chatting with Michelle a good long while until Steve and Jack arrived and the three of us finished the last climb and the long downhill to Brattleboro together.

But what I really want to do here is to offer some thank you's.

Thanks again to all who have donated to thes ride. Thanks Haide for your pledge to this ride for PwP. Haide, my step-mom has been such a wonderful encouargement, mentor and supporter to Pete over all these years and continues to support PwP year by year by volunteering and giving. Haide, I want to salute your part in Pete's life and the many other lives you have touched! Thanks for your support.

Also, Thank you's are in order to the great AbB crew that have made these past 50 days go SO well. Michelle and Gerard, you have done a great job in leading. You have been even tempered and even handed. You have been cheerful when it would have been easy not to be. You have responded to small and large requests quickly. You have spent endless hours souting out routes ahead of time, plotting reroutes, shuttling us to dinner, to airports, attractions and other places. You have been there to fix endless flats, spokes, wheels, shifters, derailleurs, cleats and anything else that ailed our bikes. You have set up SAG stops and torn them down only to set them up and tear them down again. You have joined in our fun with field trips, riding, gag shots, pace lines and whatever other crazy ideas were floated.

Judy, you've been a great support and a real asset to have along. You, have of course, willed and reminded us to ride safely. You have supported Gerard and Michelle in every way as far as I could tell, taking on the jobs that needed to be done. Tom -- your cheerfulness is infectious! You have the gift of encouragement for sure. Who could ever get upset with you! And, your wrenching skills were not bad either. Always filling in where there were needs. Alex, I loved your willingness to fit in with a bunch of folks 3 times your age and more. And, to do a lot of the grunt work that needed to get done -- cheerfully!

All of you have been great to ride with, chat with and hang with. Thanks SO much!

And, finally, to my fellow riders! I've enjoyed so much getting to know each one of you. Riding with you, sharing meals together and competing with some of you :=). I could not have imagined a better group to share this great adventure with. Thanks to each of you!

Tomorrow is the penultimate ride -- a time for dawdling, reflection and milking all there is on the road to Manchester before all of us spend our last evening together!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Day 49: Little Falls to Latham, NJ -- Mohawk River Ramble

Pictures are here.
Miles: 81
Total Miles: 3745
Time: 5:46
Average: 14.0
Max 33.5
Flats Today: 0; Total flats:9
Climbing: Nice and flat most of the day.
Weather: Fog in the morning then glorious sunshine and low 80's with little wind. Gorgeous!

Promise of a beautiful day from the weather report and sure enough, it was all it was made out to be. Low traffic all Saturday morning let us enjoy the many neat New York vistas over green valleys. Periodically we came upon a small town with shops and old factories along the river.

Early in the day we stopped at Fort Klock, a collection of 18th century structures with attractive gardens and vegetation scattered about. Then came Nelliston, Fonda and Amsterdam along the wide Mohawk River to our right. Occasionally we climbed a bit above it and got a clear view. A railroad traveled between the river adn the road so we regularly saw short passenger trains and long freight trains.

After 50 miles we passed over the the south side of the Mohawk and soon hit a bike path that we were on a good deal of the last 30 miles. Lunch was a burger and root beer float at Jumpin Jacks, a popular summer burger joint.

I spent the day riding with a variety of folks and did a lot of dawdeling. A picture here, a turn into town there and so it went. Had a good chance to talk with Jim early in the day about his family heritage. He was in a reflective mood as he was heading off route to Schenectady where his mother was born and raised and where she met his dad, a WWII veteran who had seen much action in Germany. Jim looked up the house where his mother was raised as well as the hospital he was born in. While there, he connected with the woman, now 81, who had helped deliver him. It was quite the day for him.
I stopped along the way in to pick up some super glue to drip into the many slashes my tires now have. I am hoping to make it in on these tires the last three days. We'll see. I also bought a new chain as mine is worn out. I am hoping to get more miles from both sprockets as a result.

This evening we had a spirited T-shirt swap which was great fun. I offered up a PwP T-shirt. There was a soccer jersey from England, a school T from Switzerland, a mountaineering Tshirt and a whole variety of biking related Tshirts like "I'm only wearing this because my biking jersey is in the wash". Steve from Florida, offered one that had the highest mountain in FL -- which of course is a joke since the highest elevations there are freeway overpasses. I ended up with the T-shirt I wanted, a mountain climbing related shirt Jim had offered.

Most everyone was feeling up beat after the day and the fun at the swap. In general the reality of this trek closing down is affecting different folks in different ways. The prospect of real life, looking for a job or returning to one that is less than desireable is less than appealing to some. The fact that friendships formed will not be refreshed is depressing to some. The sense of accomplishment is uplifting to some. The long time on the road living out of a suitcase and eating at buffets can't come to an end fast enough for a few.

Best news of the day for me is that Marcia will be joining me a day early in Manchester on Monday for our last dinner together celebration and a time where we each share with the group what this ride has meant to us. The next day is an easy ride to the ocean with the last 7 miles being all together with a celebratory police escort. Two days of climging left before then to get us throgh Vermont and New Hampshire.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Day 48 Liverpool to Little Falls -- Other Traveling Bikers.

Pictures are here.
Miles: 80
Total Miles: 3664
Time: 5:17
Average: 15.1
Max 30
Flats Today: 1; Total flats:9
Climbing: Nice and flat most of the day.
Weather: Overcast to start turning to light rain half way out. Rain stopped before we got in.

Chuck and I talked about hammering it out today, but before I pulled out from the motel Jim had a hotel flat and I decided to stay and ride with him. There was a second flat and then a third.
It was flat riding and cool temperatures going out and Jim and I had a good time riding and talking to the first SAG stop. We picked up Zero at the SAG and the three of us pedaled on with many sections of the ride along the Erie Canal. As we have had the canal in our sights regularly over the past few days, I have been quite amazed at the huge undertaking this was, even by today's standards. Digging this all out mostly by hand in the mid 1800's is a staggering thought. And then the canal was in use for only a relatively short amount of time before it was obsoleted by the trains.

We continue to travel toward New England and the towns and homes and old factories become more and more New English as we go. Old Inns, old brick factories, twisty roads and large wood piles are just some of the sights along the route.

By the time we got to the second SAG it was raining lightly but steadily. We ducked into the Subway there for lunch and Jim decided he would SAG on in. EDI (Every Dry Inch) has become his motto since he is only doing a partial crossing anyway. Zero and I pressed on. Suddnely we heard a loud "poof' followed by a steady "pishshshsh" I had my ninth flat. I sent Zero on because fixing flats by committee does not work well and then started the task. Soon I had it done, though I could not identify the cause at the time. As I was putting stuff back into the tool bag, another rider passed by-- but it was not one of our AbB folks since he was on a mountain bike and had panniers.

When I caught him, I struck up a conversation with him. Les was a 35 year old Hartford teacher. He had driven to Buffalo in a rental car and was now pedaling along the Erie Canal back to Hartford. We had a great time talking. Les had done a lot of traveling including a bike trip to the Yucatan and a 2 year Peace Corps stint in Cameroon. The time passed quickly and we were soon in Little Falls where Les also got off and checked into the same hotel we were staying in.

This Knights Inn is close to the bike path along the canal and so was a popular bikers rest. Several other bikers rolled in over the course of the afternoon including Dave and Gordon, who were also doing a cross country crossing. Theirs was self contained, starting in Washington State and also ending in Portsmouth. Gordon had done the trip 28 years ago and was struck by the traffic increase and the growth of the urban centers. They had each had only one flat which amazed me since they' d been on busy highways regularly as well.

At route rap Michelle and Gerard talked some more about the trip end logistics. Packing bikes, reaching the beach with police escort, the last night's festivities and such things. Most folks are becoming reflective, relieved, morose or other moods we've not had before. Only 4 riding days left. Tomorrow will be another relatively flat medium length day. Got to enjoy each one!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Day 47: Canandaigua to Liverpool -- Picturesque FIngerlakes

Pictures are here
Miles: 70
Total Miles: 3583
Time: 4:18
Average: 15.9 Max 30
Flats Today: 0; Total flats:8
Climbing: 2400' of climbing -- lots of inclines and downs all along -- nothing too steep.
Weather: Rain early, then the rain quit and the roads dried. 70's to sart and 80's in by afternoon.

Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day. It was coming down steadily when we got up, when we packed and when we loaded. Breakfast was after load at Denny's but not for me. Two Otis Spunkmeyer bran muffins and a cup of coffee at the motel and I was off into the rain. Seventy miles on modest rollers seems like a short ride with nothing much needed so I decided I would get this one over with. Besides, 3-4 hours sleep the last couple of nights and I was feeling a little fried.

After an hour or two, the rain let up, and the NY scenes started coming to life. Flowers along the road opened up. The many still bodies of water reflected what was above with remarkable clarity. The small New York towns of Geneva on Seneca Lake, Waterloo, Camillus and Seneca Falls on Lake Cayuga were full of life. The traffic had picked up and sprayed water off the puddles. I wondered on more than one occasion if drivers saw me or not as they approached Rt 5 from intersections, driveways and parking lots.

It was actually kind of nice riding alone, stopping often for pictures along the way. The only SAG stop of the day was not in place yet when I drove on through. I saw Zero and Jack once briefly when they came by at a photo op, but they soon stopped for at a convenience store and then I was by myself again until I rolled into the Clarion Inn in Liverpool.

Then it was clean the bike which was absolutely as filthy as it had been all trip with grunge in and over everything. Hopefully the wet tires did not pick up any road debris to work its way through the tire and tube and end up as a hotel flat. Tomorrow is a flat 80 mile day to Little Falls NY and another day closer to the Atlantic. And to Marcia and the kids and the grandson and Home!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Day 46 Hamburg to Canandaigua -- Best Bike Museum Ever!

Pictures are here.
Miles: 99
Total Miles: 3413
Time: 6:31
Average: 15.1
Max 35
Flats Today: 0; Total flats:8
Climbing: 3800' of climbing -- nothing steep but lots and lots of long rollers.
Weather: Sunny and pleasant. Some headwind all the way but not bad. High in 80's

Clear skies after yesterday's rain were most welcome by all of us. First stop after breakfast was the Pedaling History Bicycling Museum. Check out the link to the website. I would add that you should check out the museum if you ever get the chance, but unfortunately it appears that it will be sold and relocated by the Fall. It was an exceptional hour and a half at the start of a century long day, but worth every minute.

Carl, the owner and curator who built it up over the past 35 years is an absolute expert on every aspect of bicycling history from its origins in the early 1800's. Carl regaled us for an hour with bicycling technology, manufacturing, social acceptance, road systems, safety features and much more. He has accumulated an amazing collection of rare and unusual bikes and biking related stuff. It's an absolutely one of a kind place though its sad to think about it being relocated elsewhere.

The museum is somewhat of a complement to the Bicycle Museum of America in New Bremen Ohio which specializes more in the last 60 - 70 years. It would be kind of neat to see these two merge as it would result in a very complete picture of the growth of cycling in all its aspects.

On leaving the museum we pedaled through New York farm country with the fields and streams and woods and homes. At mile 70 there was another old time soda fountain kind of place with wonderful rootbeer floats and fantastic thin hamburgers on kaiser rolls. Absolutley delicious at reasonable prices with50's and 60's music playing on a juke box. Great fun!

On the last leg in to Canandaigua I got passed by a local rider and rode with him for a while. Kind of fun to talk to him about the family farm that he and his brother had inherited as the 4th generation and how they turned it into a glf course he now runs. Said that it has worked out exceptionally well.

At route rap tonight Michelle and Gerard started talking about ride end logisitics. Hard to believe we have only 6 days left before we dip the front wheel into the Atlantic.