Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Day 50 Manchester to PORTSMOUTH,NH
SIRENS AT THE SHORE
We rode in no particular formation. Fifty cyclists, all in team jerseys, were side by side on bikes in groups of 2 or 3 behind the police cruiser, its lights flashing. We could see and smell the Atlantic Ocean over the dunes along Rt 1 A. When he turned on the police siren to announce our arrival at Wallis Sands State Park we experienced all the combined emotions that accompany the end of a long journey, the rewarding completion of a goal, and reuniting with family and friends. We had successfully and safely met the challenge of crossing North America on a bicycle. The joy and pride we felt as we saw the crowd awaiting our arrival was one of life’s great moments. Fifty days across America –with all its adventures, challenges and memories–was over; we had reached the final “summit”: the beach at Portsmouth, NH.
We immediately walked or carried our bikes through the sand to the water’s edge and dunked the front tire in the surf, completing the ocean to ocean trek. Cameras worked overtime.
The 54 mile ride to the beach began in the rain on some narrow and heavily traveled roads, but it didn’t matter. It was our last day and final ride together. We stopped for coffee in Rye before forming up at a junior high school for a group photo and the ride to the beach.
Most of the group and our guests got together in the evening at Warren’s Lobster House in Kittery, ME for a cocktail party on the deck and a great lobster feast. My fraternity brother, Jim and his wife Carolyn, joined me as they had in 2004 at the completion of the Cross Country Challenge ride, along with a special guest from Florida.
Rails to Trails Conservancy, for whom I dedicated this ride, was well represented by Jennifer from the Washington, DC headquarters. She met “Team RTC” at the beach, joined us for dinner and the telling of “war stories” from the trip. In thanking the team for its efforts to raise funds, awareness, and membership in the Rails to Trails Conservancy she presented us all with new 2006 biking jerseys. Thanks to RTC. ( see www.railtrails.org)
We said our good-byes to our biking friends, hoping and even expecting that some of us will undoubtedly meet again.
It was a great group of individuals, a beautiful and challenging ride, a wonderful summer on the roads of America!
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Day 49 Brattleboro to Manchester,NH
ALMOST THERE !
We crossed the Connecticut River in the morning fog at 6;45 am and entered the State of New Hampshire. We were enroute to Manchester, 86 miles to the East, on what would be one of the most memorable biking days of the journey. It was a chilly Sunday morning in New England. We knew we were in for a long and difficult day in the mountains, in fact our computers at day’s end registered in excess of 6,000 feet of climbing. Today was considered our second most challenging climbing day of the trip. It was second only to the day to the top of the Teton Pass with its glorious descent into Jackson Hole, WY so many weeks ago.
Today’s topography chart got our ATTENTION. There were 3 separate climbs with grades in excess of 13%, including to the summit of Pitcher’s Mountain on Rt 123 near the town of Sullivan, NH. They all were challenging climbs, but slowly and confidently–with 48 days of conditioning in our favor–we cycled through.
The fog cleared quickly and soon we had a perfect summer day of weather. Clear blue skies, some puffy clouds, and comfortable temperature and humidity readings prevailed all day long. The bonus on today’s ride was the beautiful New Hampshire scenery. Postcard towns like Keene, Antrim, and Francetown were on the route. Someday I have to return to Keene, it looks “perfect” on a quiet Sunday morning in August. The rolling hills through green fields and woods made for an excellent biking experience. We were either climbing or sitting back and enjoying another downhill ride.
At the SAG in Francetown our friend Billy from the Mississippi Ride was waiting to see Dan, Joyce, and me. He was out for an afternoon ride and joined us for awhile. (He also presented us with biking socks quoting the motto of New Hampshire: “Live Free or Die”). We came to the bottom of the famous “Joe English Hill”, one of the 13% grade hills. Billy climbed it with us fearing he would be exposed in a negative way in this blog if he had turned around (as planned) at that point. He’s a great guy!
We rode into the busy city of Manchester at the end of an 8 hour biking day tired, but pleased with the kind of day we had all had. We now have only the “ceremonial” ride to the beach tomorrow and we will have successfully completed this incredible journey.
The ABB “banquet” was held this evening. The staff alternated in giving a recap–day by day– of our trek across America. We re-lived the adventures, storms, climbs and descents, cities visited, rest days, ferry and river crossings, headwinds, soaring temperatures, amazing escapades, the coming and going of segment riders etc. as they summed up our amazing ride across this immense and beautiful country. What a great story!
It was then OUR turn to speak. One by one, all of us spoke of what this trip had meant to us. To listen to the statements of fellow cyclists at the end of a journey of 3800+ miles in 50 days across America is an experience I wish I could share with all. It is heartwarming, emotional, uplifting and unforgettable. This is truly an amazing collection of people from all over the world whose common bond is cycling, and adventure, and a challenge. I am proud to be a part of it all.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Day 48 Troy, NY to Brattleboro, VT
VERMONT’S GREEN MOUNTAINS
Some say “climbing mountains builds character”. If that is true, I am a better man today–along with my cycling buddies. We climbed two major summits of the Green Mountains and 5400feet on today’s beautiful 77 mile ride across lower Vermont.
It would be hard to pick a better route than we rode today. We left Troy on Rt 2, connecting with NY Rt 7, which became VT Rt 9 as we crossed the border into the picturesque town of Old Bennington. Some stopped to climb the stairs of the Bennington Monument (which looks like the Washington Monument). You could tell we were in Vermont: the old churches, the GREEN mountains, (actually the well named Green Mountains), the dirt auxiliary roads, the tourists etc. By plan I stopped on Main St in Bennington to meet again with Joan, a sorority sister of Betty’s, on the front porch of her husband Neil’s law offices. We caught up on Tri-Delt news.
Immediately outside of town we began what the route rap sheet called, “Climb next 10 miles”. Climb we did–slowly, steadily, past Haystack Mt Ski Area , and through the Bennington National Forest, and finally over the spine of the Green Mts. The descent was terrific!
We then cycled through the tourist town of Wilmington, VT , where we stopped at the SAG and at an ice cream shop. Then we climbed again–at mostly a 6% grade–riding along side the rapids of the Deerfield River. I was riding alone, hearing only the sounds of the river unless disturbed by a motor vehicle. It was a beautiful, sunny, Saturday with temperatures in the low 80's. The descent into Brattleboro was again a fun ride. It was a pleasurable, challenging biking day.
Tonight, I’ll have dinner with friends from Naples–the Clarks and the Jeffries–along with Kirk Jeffries (brother), a fellow cyclist from Minnesota.
Friday, August 04, 2006
Day 47 Little Falls to Troy, NY
I was unable to ride today. An upsetting case of intestinal flu kept me off the bike.
The 83 mile route from Little Falls to Troy, NY is exactly the same route I rode in 2004 on the Cross Country Challenge. Therefore, this Across America-North ride remains complete--I do not have a missing segment left unridden. Of course I would have preferred to have been on the bike with the rest of the crew, but today I could not.
I took photos of : 1) the countryside outside of Fonda, NY 2) a sign on the road reminding us to ride safetly these last few days--and a tribute to Kent 3) Steve and Barb (ME) on their tandem bike.
Hoping to ride tomorrow into Vermont,
Day 46 Syracuse to Little Falls, NY
LITTLE FALLS ON THE ERIE CANAL
Our destination city today was Little Falls, NY (pop 4500), a one time manufacturing city that has unfortunately lost its base industries. It nevertheless has charm, some magnificent old buildings, and a great location along the Erie Canal, complete with an operating lock.
Exiting a city the size of Syracuse with its traffic and stop lights is never the most pleasant experience on a bike.. The ride became more enjoyable and rural as we rode parallel to the New York State Thruway through Canastota, Oneida, and Westmoreland and along the Mohawk River. The final 26 miles were on the Rt 5 Bike Route into Little Falls.
At dinner tonight our friend Kent, a fellow cyclist from Virginia, joined us after being released from the hospital for a broken collar bone injured in a fall today. We were all happy to see that he was in good spirits and will recover quickly.
But, we all wanted to arrive at the beach in New Hampshire TOGETHER, safe and sound. We all wish Kent the best. Good guy!
The entire group moves right along these days. After 46 days on the road, pedaling 80+ miles per day, we have all gotten stronger and more experienced as cyclists. We only have a few days left, and it is very clear that the group is enjoying themselves and each other on this cross country ride.
This has been a wonderful week for me . I was happy to be back in Central New York, near my hometown of Rome, NY. My family gathered to see me over the past 3 days. My Aunt Pat, Cousins Nancy and Carole and her daughter , Julie and her 6 week old baby, Anna cane to Henrietta. Chuck and Jackie, my brother and sister-in-law, visited in Syracuse for route rap and dinner. Today, my 98 year old mother, along with my sister, Ann, and Chuck and Jackie came to Little Falls for the afternoon. Nothing is better than time with your family!
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Day 45 Henrietta to Syracuse, NY
SWELTERING TO SYRACUSE
The heat index was again 110 degrees today. Some severe thunderstorms were forecast for mid-afternoon. We had good reason to get on the road early and ride quickly.
We rolled out of the hotel parking lot in Henrietta at 6:20 am–having eaten only the quick continental breakfast. Keith (IA) and I rode together the full 93 miles to Liverpool (Syracuse), NY. We immediately ran into the detours mentioned at last night’s route rap. Nevertheless, there was some confusion on the part of many riders, including myself. A passing cyclist directed us toward Pittsford where we were to pick up Rt 31 E / also named NY State Bike Route 5. Apparently not all motorists recognize the fact that the marked lane on the side of the roadway is a BIKE LANE. We were actually stopped by an angry driver who asked, “ What makes you think you guys can ride on the road?” He threatened to call the police, and I invited him to do so. Unfortunately, we do from time to time experience unfounded antagonism toward cyclists, riding within the bounds of the law and common sense. These folks are a small , but vocal minority. Share the road!
Bike Route 5 had a wider than normal bike lane with an excellent road surface. We initially had some heavy traffic to contend with in a road construction zone near the town of Palmyra, but as the miles accumulated we had a more rural setting and less traffic. Palmyra, you will recall, was made famous by John Smith, founder of the Mormon Church. He and his followers departed Palmyra heading west and eventually settled in Utah. It is the only town in America that has 4 churches at one intersection, one on each corner.
Many small towns–some quite neat and interesting in appearance–were on our route today: Lyons, Clyde, Savannah, Tyre, Montezuma among them. We passed a section of the Erie Canal, which we will see occasionally as we cross NY State.
We were in Liverpool by 12:30. The thunderstorms and rain hit later in the afternoon, soaking many riders.
My brother, Chuck and sister-in-law Jackie, visited this afternoon and evening. They attended route rap and met many of the riders. We enjoyed a good dinner together.
There is no doubt we are in the East; the traffic volume has increased significantly.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Day 44 Niagara Falls to Henrietta, NY
HOT ONE TO HENRIETTA
The August hot and humid weather was with us today on this the first day of the month. The forecasters were right on the button with their call for an “excessive heat” prediction of high nineties with winds from 15-25 mph from the SSW. We have been quick to learn that ANY wind with a WEST in it is a GOOD wind, as we are , of course, traveling East. We had some good tailwind support today on our 84 mile ride to Henrietta, NY, a suburb of Rochester.
We departed Niagara Falls this morning through an old and “tired” neighborhood and industrial area before 7:00 am. It was 85 degrees by 9:30, so we were anxious to get in the miles early. The country roads were in good condition in the agricultural and dairy farming area. The flags along a fence in Wheatland (see photo) were a reminder that we are back in the States, with our biking days in Canada now behind us.
I rode with Kirk (MN), a college professor in St Paul, for awhile this morning. He is a very interesting man, a friend of mine on the trip, and the brother of a Naples friend and neighbor. He is a “birder”, which I define as one who is interested in birds, seeks to find birds when traveling, and one who can quickly identify birds. He told me that he has identified more than 100 different birds on our cross country tour, mainly by their “calls”. In Minnesota he has a “life list” of 338 birds he has identified in the state. Yesterday he spotted 2 Peregrine Falcons over the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls. (I saw the same birds. I thought “eagle”, no, “hawk”, no, oh well “unidentifiable”. Kirk has now cleared up that question of mine.)
I took a picture of Eberhard and Anja (Germany) at the SAG stop enjoying the cookies sent to us by my sister, Ann. Those same cookies helped me get my hotel room in Niagara Falls made ready earlier than normal. I offered a the housekeeping manager a cookie during the wait for the room –she promptly gave instructions to get my room ready immediately. Keep them coming, Ann.
The heat and humidity were a bit draining during today’s ride. We kept hydrated, and requested an additional SAG stop be set up today by ABB. They complied . It was a hot and sweaty biking day in the Empire State.
I photographed the map that appears in our hotel lobby daily. It shows the black line of our completed mileage. We have watched the line move East for 44 days now: through the mountains in the West, the high plains, the farmlands of the Midwest, a section of Canada and right into central NY State. I look at the line everyday–and continue to be amazed at what we have accomplished. It is truly an unbelievable experience.
Monday, July 31, 2006
Day 43 Niagara Falls
Last night I ventured out of the hotel at 10:00 pm to see the light show at the falls–and the special Sunday night fireworks display over Niagara Falls and the Niagara River Gorge below.
We stood in the park which is level with the rapids at the top of the American Falls. The show was amazing! The falls were bathed in powerful lights of red, blue and yellow as the fireworks exploded above. Quite a sight.
This morning (on our 5th and last rest day) I joined 15 fellow cyclists for a 4 ½ hour tour of all the sights on both sides of the border. We had our own mini-bus and knowledgeable and pleasant guide to explain the area attractions to us.
We first visited the “Cave of the Winds” at the bottom of “ Bridal Veil Falls”, one of the American Falls. The energy of Niagara Falls is immense. We could feel its power–and wind and mist–as we stood at the bottom. We then entered Canada and viewed the whirlpool section of the Niagara River as it turns a corner downstream.
We stood at the top of Horseshoe Falls in the mist and 85 degree sunshine and took many photos, and then crossed back to the US side (the Customs/Immigration folks are very familiar with our biking group by now).
The highlight of the tour was our trip on the famous “Maid of the Mist” boat in the river below the falls. Dressed in our blue plastic (free) raincoats, we cruised right up to the base of the Canadian Falls in extremely turbulent waters. It was a wet and unforgettable experience.
What a great place to spend a Rest Day !