Sunday, June 28, 2015

Epilogue: With a Little Help From My Friends

Friday morning, for the final departure from the hotel, the Tour Operator paired up riders and assigned us departure times so we'd all meet at the Everett town swimming pool for our last assembly. From the pool, we'd form a a two by two procession to the ocean led by one for the CrossCountry Tour Vans.

There was a lot of whooping and hollering for each departure team. Each team had picture taken with a sign for Boston before the 3. 2, 1 ...  countdown for each team's departure. A bit corny, but I suspect most everyone secretly enjoyed the moment at least just a bit.

Photo Op before take off from hotel

The final leg to Revere Beach was an enjoyable roll through suburban Boston to the Atlantic. Not sure about the others but my mind was all over the place. Believe it or not, but I had only one flat tire the entire length of the 3400 miles and was wondering if today would be my day to mess up my incredible record. I also thought of so many great small moments I had with different people along the way and how much I'd miss them. Thought of the heat in the desert along the interstate, the huge climbs and switchbacks out west... the rollers of Missouri...the gallons of V-8 and chocolate milk consumed, and the innumerable visits to DQ...

I also thought about how I'd need to trim down my calorie intake as I wouldn't be on my bike for 6-8 hours a day. That'll be the real challenge.

Before I knew it we were in Everett at the last assembly site. Luckily, some contractors who were there for some maintenance work didn't mind if we used the facilities' bathrooms. 

 Bike line-up at Swimming Pool in Everett assembly area

Last chit chat before lining up to go to beach

The final roll out began and I began to get a little tight in the throat. I chatted lightly with Will from Great Britain as we rode over the final hill to the beach at around 9:00 AM. We could hear dozens of friends and family members cheering, shouting. I picked out my sister and brother-in-law who I knew would be there but was overwhelmed when I saw my brother from Florida, and my Nephew's wife and grand-nephew from Tucson, AZ, holding posters (Congratulations "Bad-Ass" - I guess they read my blog). Two of my longtime and dearest friends from CT also showed up a little later as did Mike.

After excited hugs and greetings all around, I remembered to take my shoes and socks off and headed across the beach to the surf line with my trusty bike. Oh, the roads and conditions I put that two-wheeled machine through! It's amazing how all the parts stayed intact! Rugged little bugger.
Despite the fact that it had been a cool overcast day with with occasional sprinkles, the sand was soft and the water felt just great on my feet as lowered my wheels into the water. I made it home in one piece.

Had to get collect a bit of Atlantic sand to go with the remaining Pacific sand that will sit on my mantle for a while. I posed for a few pictures but searched out my friends to congratulate them for their achievement and to thank them for sharing their time and stories with me. A lot of smiles of astonishment as the fact that our trip was over was starting to really settle in. We were probably mingling with everyone for close to an hour, sitting for group photo's, and not wanting the moment to end until we finally loaded our bikes onto the truck and into cars before heading back to the hotel.

Around 5:30 that afternoon we gathered at the hotel's lounge for a social hour before heading into a banquet room for dinner. A slide show of the many places and faces we met along the way. My seat was such that my back was to the screen but in hindsight that really didn't really matter as I was able to stay focused on my family and friends - the most important people in my real life - sitting with me at my table.

As expected the tour operator had many nice things to say and was very gracious. One by one, she called up each of the participants and highlighted some of the remarkable achievements they had made and some amazing obstacles some of the riders had overcome just to be on the tour this year. I was privileged to ride with an exceptional group of people.

My favorite part of the evening was when Tracy invited both Matt and I up to get our certificates. She mentioned how we serenaded Maggie along the way from time to time. The room chanted for a song so without any prior arrangements, we looked at each other, swallowed hard, then did the last song we sang which was unbelievably appropriate: The Beatles. "With a Little Help From My Friends". The whole room joined in our ragged A Capella version. It was a special moment. It really told the story of the whole experience for me. We didn't do it alone. We all got through it together with a little help from our friends.

Thanks to all.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Next stop: Atlantic Ocean

From Brattleboro, VT, today to Burlington, MA had to be one of our tougher days. 5,000 ft of climbing with some rather sharp hills. Some of our steepest of the tour but not as long as other climbs.  Still a tough day.

Second dream day weather wise. Crazy number of turns to get here. Heard one rider swerved to avoid a black bear. Cool!

Just before take-off

NH state line, today.

Dinner tonight was a catered affaire with many friends and family in attendance. After discussing route protocol for the trip to the Atlantic, and after our meal we each had the chance to share some thoughts and observations on our tour. I was touched by the heartfelt expressions of thanks to all who bonded and how we all helped each other across. I'll have more on this in the following days. Need to turn in now to be ready for final ride with friends tomorrow.

MA state line 

Sign in log at last SAG...

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Holy Hogback Mountain, Batman!

Weather. Astonishingly beautiful, partly cloudy but mostly sunny day. Temps in mid 70's to mid 80's. Dry air. Riding weather made to order. Then there were the hills. Whoa. We were briefed that there would be climbing. Word! There was a 6 mile climb of some considerable intensity, with the last 3.5 miles billed as being "steeper". Indeed. Low gear, settle in, and get job done.
We did slay those hills.

Can't say I forgot about the earlier 12 mile climbs or the 7 mile climbs.  Yes we did complete those too, but this was still a bit of a pinch in the rear. What helped me through the task was this route brought me over the same roads I traveled again and again in my teenage and early adult ski life. A lot of memories were jarred loose as we cleared Wilmington. Memories of Chimney Hill, 
shredding Haystack Mountain, week after week with my brother and sister, "sick days" from high school spent with friends at Mt Snow.  Glad to see the roads have improved considerably, but those curves, hills and descents were still there.

I was really glad that the group got to see this part of Vermont in its best light. It doesn't make up for the soupy weather we had in Sedona, but it was a beautiful day despite the work we had to put in this second to last day of tour.

My good friends Matt, Cynthia and Peter doing the Pacific Sand Sprinkling ceremony at the state line 

Standard State Line Shot for Blog.

Just west of Brattleboro along Rt 9

Did get a great surprise tonight. I live about 60 miles due south of where we're staying tonight.
Mike actually drove up from home to meet me along the route and cheer me on. Unfortunately, I made a side trip to get a hot fudge sundae and smoothie, so we didn't meet along the route but we did connect at the hotel and were  able to drive downtown for some lunch. Awesome surprise.

After Mike went home, we had a "Meal on your own" night tonight. Matt and just I hoofed it to a pizza joint and on way back to hotel picked up our last bottle of Blue Powerade to start our morning ride. That's one part of the routine that has seen its last day. 

Final notes on today, had a challenging detour around a bridge that  was out. Required pedaling a fair distance ( maybe quarter mile) through some tough gravel and rocks. I'm surprised I didn't dump my bike at a couple points the way I sunk in. Phew! But I did get a shot of calf housing at the farm we were allowed to use for the detour. 

From the poetry corner, we did pass the graveyard where Robert Frost was buried in Bennington.  Let me then leave you with the obvious quote:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, 
And sorry I could not travel both 
And be one traveler, long I stood 
And looked down one as far as I could 
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 

Then took the other, as just as fair, 
And having perhaps the better claim, 
Because it was grassy and wanted wear; 
Though as for that the passing there 
Had worn them really about the same, 

And both that morning equally lay 
In leaves no step had trodden black. 
Oh, I kept the first for another day! 
Yet knowing how way leads on to way, 
I doubted if I should ever come back. 

I shall be telling this with a sigh 
Somewhere ages and ages hence: 
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— 
I took the one less traveled by, 
And that has made all the difference 
--Robert Frost

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Arrived in Albany/Latham

Need to be brief tonight. Big ride to Brattleboro tomorrow. Lot of climbing as we hug southern VT from Bennington to Brattleboro. Weather looks coolish, drier, and should be sunny skies. Doesn't get better.

It looked like we were going to get hammered today with rain and gusty winds.  Folks back home in Springfield, MA, and Hartford, CT, were under severe weather alert and were concerned we were seeing the same. Other than some light sprinkles, dank humidity, and ominous skies we escaped another round of nasty weather in our traveling bubble.

Starting to feel like we front loaded the bad weather to enjoy pretty nice traveling weather the majority of our miles...big smiles from all on tour.

Since we're closing in on the big day, we're having fun at dinner. We usually wait forever for our drinks and entrees, and it's become a point of one-upmanship as to who gets served first.  Last night, without any pre-determined plans, Matt and I found ourselves in a booth by ourselves so the waitress, at her convenience, just got us out of the way first.  Never happened before on tour when we got served before the others. Wow. Guiltily, we left the restaurant as others were just being served.

Tonight, Peter, Cynthia, Matt, and I secured a booth, and while Matt was at the salad bar, Peter convinced the waitress that it was Matt's birthday and to ask the chef if his meal could come out first. Peter is a charmer so of course Matt got his "birthday" meal first. He paled not quite understanding at first but got on board as we enjoyed his squirming.

The big surprise was as the four of us were wrapped up in post-ride discussions and opining on how the tour had been run, everyone else had finished their meals and had cleared out and headed back to the hotel. Things just average out. First last night, last back to the hotel tonight.

What about the ride?

I remember traveling to points around here for work years ago. Amsterdam Savings, Cayuga Savings, Schenectady Federal - all gone now or merge with other Banks. I loved traveling out this way because the interstate was scenic as I travelled the Mohawk valley. Funny, but traveling on secondary  roads on same track just wasn't as attractive as I thought it would be.

But it was a safe ride, I had a smoothie and sub along the way, and as I mentioned, the weather was kind to us. Didn't have time to serenade our British friend today so we'll have to do it tomorrow (...sorry, Maggie!).

Horse grazing at shop that makes Adirondack Chairs and Lighthouses 
Old power plant re-purposed as brick and cinder bloc manufacturing site

Mike, a rider on our tour, sent me picture of Kansas "Speed Bump" 
(Thanks, Mike!)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Riding Watson-Crick Style

Mr. Watson and Mr. Crick described the DNA molecule as a double-helix structure twisting in a spiral pattern. Our riding today was generally due east riding along secondary roads that crossed over the I-90 interstate highway multiple times. The route's twisting pairing with the highway reminded me of my early biology classes. 

Fairly short ride with spectacular conditions. Cool dry air that warmed to low to mid 80's with mostly sunny skies by the time our ride was through at 2:00 PM. Today's cycle time discussions ranged from the criminal justice system and jury by your "Peers" to the case for legalized intoxicants. Didn't quite solve the issues but did chew on them for a while as the miles flew by. 

As we rode we had ample opportunity to get more views of the Erie Canal, some of its old locks, and reportedly, the smallest church on earth. 

Herkimer is a convenient stopping point before heading on to Latham (greater Albany) tomorrow. Weather tomorrow may break our lucky streak. 

Discussions at Route Rap tonight started touching on logistics for riding to beach, riding back from the beach, final banquet arrangements, who will ship bikes out, who will take people to/from beach. We're starting to know this tour is winding down and it's back to our old lives. 

Let's be clear, there are some tough riding days ahead to rival any we've seen in the past. Gotta get passed those demons before we can claim victory.
Wrangling the troops for departure.

This church sits out in a duck-weed covered pond.
Like a scene from the Louisiana Bayou. 
And why the two Adirondack chairs?
Local color I guess.
Snap of the snapper.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Road to Syracuse

Not a big surprise but my legs were tired today.  Although we only had 68 miles to cover and 2,700 ft of climbing, the legs just under-performed. Simple arithmetic: race with "Dick" yesterday, stay up late to finish movie, start ride an hour later in humid conditions and the sum is sub prime.

Still, new sights, - the Erie Canal, more Finger Lakes, the birthplace of Women's Rights movement, Llamas, - new challenges closed roads, looming clouds, and New York drivers. Other than the cranky legs who just needed some discipline to bring them in line, we pedaled onward and celebrated our 3,000 mile mark at our SAG stop.  It almost didn't register as it was an ordinary riding day until I posed beside the 3K sign. Getting excited about how close the end line is and paranoid about what could possibly go wrong between here and the Atlantic. Think positive thoughts, be watchful, clean bike and chain.

Finished ride under gathering clouds but still stopped for a couple of hot dogs and root beer at a local joint "Heidi's".  Got caught in some light sprinkles but nothing like a couple days ago when it poured for a couple hours.

We're starting to talk about what happens once we all return to our homes and our former patterns. Sure, we'll rest a bit but our constitutions will still be expecting daily 85 + mile rides. Our stomachs will still be looking for massive amounts of calories. We learned that the topic will be addressed in an upcoming meeting before we finish the tour. A little reassuring.

Tomorrow we go to Herkimer. We leave an hour later again. Looking at the mileage and altitude we'll cover between Albany and Brattleboro, and again between Brattleboro and Burlington, it seems a reasonable approach to prepare for the final push.
Negotiating a closed road and rough Rail Road Tracks.
The 3,000 mile mark.
This guy was interested in the other rider taking his picture...

My first look at the Erie Canal. It was closed back in 1917.
Many towns have created public walk spaces along its old footprint.
Church where Women's rights proclamations first presented