Monthly Archives: July 2014

Upstate New York

Tuesday we left Niagara Falls to start the last leg of the trip. We rode through some beautiful marsh-like areas, and had our first SAG stop overlooking a nature preserve. These areas reminded me of the wetlands near the Atlantic, except they are fresh water, so the plants look slightly different. We were able to watch Heron as we snacked and re-fueled. After that we rode through more farm land with rolling hills, and made our way to Rochester. We actually rode past Rochester Institute of Technology, Alma Mater of many of my friends in the printing business. Leaving Rochester on Wednesday, we rode along the Erie Canal for over 20 miles. The tow-path has been turned into a bike path, and it was lovely. Not only were there no cars, but we rode through lots of small villages that line the canal, they very much reminded me of Lambertville, New Jersey. One of riders said that he felt like he was riding in an Impressionist painting. It was fun to see and ride along something that was such a vital part of not only developing the western part of the USA, as it connected the Hudson River to the Great Lakes, but also cemented NYC’s spot as a center of commerce. When we left the the towpath, we entered Palmyra, where Joseph Smith had his epiphany that led to “The Book of Mormon”-NOT the show, the religion. After that the route was on roads that had a lot of activity, and was probably the least scenic segment we have had so far. We did however go past a house that had a lawn full of “assemblages” from old bicycles, there was no explanation, and it didn’t seem like a house where you would want to ring the doorbell and ask. I’ve posted a picture of another person I’ve met on the trip, Sym. He rides a classic touring bike, and definitely lives his life by his own rules. He is vegan-sort of, and has traveled and hiked all over the world, and will continue to do so. A VERY interesting person, we get along great. Last night at Rap, Pam, who is the “health person” on staff, brought up a really interesting topic. She spoke about “dialing back” the caloric intake.  After 45 days of ingesting almost anything and everything we saw, since we are using 5,000 to 6,000 calories a day on average, we will soon go back to “normal” calorie burn, but our stomach will still be looking for LOTS of food, and “plumping up” is a distinct possibility. On this trip there has hardly been an ice cream store that we have passed without someone or many people from the ride getting something, and not a small cone, If today was any indication, this will be a difficult goal to achieve. Will let you know how I do.

alan

SAG stop at the Tonandaga Wildlife Preserve

SAG stop at the Tonandaga Wildlife Preserve

Queuing up for Lunch

Queuing up for Lunch

Farm near village of Bergen in Upstate New York

Farm near village of Bergen in Upstate New York

The Erie Canal

The Erie Canal

Lock on The Erie Canal

Lock on The Erie Canal

Sym, with his Lawrence of Arabia headgear, and me

Sym, with his Lawrence of Arabia headgear, and me

Crewing on the Erie Canal

Crewing on the Erie Canal

Bikes from last year's ABB North Tour?

Bikes from last year’s ABB North Tour?

Rolling hills of Upstate New York

Rolling hills of Upstate New York

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LAST Rest Day

So, here I am on our last rest day, hard to believe. Before my musings begin, one last reminder that if you want to contribute to either The Bass Foundation, or City-Meals on Wheels, my ride is almost over, so please donate, thanks.

Emma and I did some touristy stuff, what else, in Niagara Falls today. Last night we asked the hotel concierge about “The Maid of the Mist”, he said, “the best 15 minutes of your life”, and “you are going to get wet”, when we asked whether or not they gave us ponchos, he said yes, “but it is like using a screen door on a submarine.”, wonder how many times he has used that line. Well he was half right, it was great fun, not THE best 15 minutes of our lives, and we did get WET, like being in the Splash Zone at Sea World. The boats go right up to both Falls, and just kind of sit there. It felt like the end of “A Perfect Storm” with that wall of water coming at them, except we were safe. Then we walked all over the American side, after having walked to the Canadian side last night. We had a great day, and it was wonderful of Emma to come visit me. She flies out tonight to NYC to go to work tomorrow morning, Great spending time with her. She is a Great Person, I Love Her.

Back to ride stuff. Hard to imagine that we have ridden over 3,100 miles in the 6 weeks since we left the Pacific Coast. When I think back to that day, which seems like a REALLY LONG TIME ago, I am amazed at how much physical and emotional energy the group possessed at that time. I am reading a novel, on a kindle no less, called “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein. A wonderful book where the narrator is the wise and wonderful family dog. One of the recurring themes is “that which we manifest is before us”. That sums up this ride perfectly as the ability to get up and ride almost every day, for anywhere from 5 to 9 hours, has taken that ability to visualize this trip in it’s totality, and deal with the inevitable pains, both physical and psychic, that we have all experienced along the way. The leaders have done their part by ALWAYS focusing on the positive, and thereby helping us all stay on track. The week ahead looks to have more cool weather, INCREDIBLE, a few days through New York that will be relatively flat, then the LAST 3 days of MOUNTAINS through Vermont and New Hampshire before seeing the Atlantic. My adrenaline gets going just writing about it.

alan

Emma and me by the Falls

Emma and me by the Falls

Emma and me on the Maid of the Mist observation deck

Emma and me on the Maid of the Mist observation deck

American Falls from the Maid of the Mist

American Falls from the Maid of the Mist

American Falls from the Maid of the Mist

American Falls from the Maid of the Mist

The Canadian Falls from the Maid of the Mist

The Canadian Falls from the Maid of the Mist

Emma and me in our Ponchos

Emma and me in our Maid of the Mist Ponchos

American Fall in the foreground, Canadian or Horseshoe Falls in teh background

American Fall in the foreground, Canadian or Horseshoe Falls in teh background

The Maid of the Mist in front of Canadian Falls

The Maid of the Mist in front of Canadian Falls

American Falls from Luna Island

American Falls from Luna Island

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

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Back in the USA

So we’ve left the land of Alex Trebyk, and returned to the land of Mickey D’s. The last 2 days we have scooted across the plain of Ontario, north of Lake Erie. More rolling hills, more sunny days,more tail winds, though today we encountered some VERY STEEP, but short, climbs. Yesterday’s ride took us to Brantford, Ontario, boyhood home of “The Great One”, Wayne Gretzky. In fact our hotel, which was just off of Wayne Gretzky Drive, had a little “shrine” to him, with photos and other paraphernalia in a display, including a great photo of him as a small kid, probably about 10, with Gordie Howe. On the way to Brantford we stopped at a charming fruit stand, House’s, and bought lots of stuff, which the van carted backed to the hotel for us-GREAT Blueberries. Today’s ride took us back to the USA, we are spending the night in Niagara Falls, and tomorrow is a rest day, our last. It was interesting getting in line with the cars coming across the Rainbow Bridge to go through customs. Didn’t have nearly as nice a customs agent as we did going into Canada, and we didn’t cross as a group, since customs was at the end of the day’s ride when we were all spread out, but we’re back in the “land of cheeseburgers” as Steve Miller sang. I will start posting some photos of the people I ride with, or just hang out with. Today there is a photo of Cynthia and me at loading, Also a picture of Tom in front of the American Falls. Both Cynthia and Tom are from the Bay area.

alan

House's Farm Market

House’s Farm Market

Local berries, YUM!

Local berries, YUM!

Wayne Gretzky Boulevard in Brantford, Ontario

Wayne Gretzky Boulevard in Brantford, Ontario

Cynthia and me at Loading

Cynthia and me at Loading

Something you don't see in the States, a backyard Hockey Rink

Something you don’t see in the States, a backyard Hockey Rink

Barn near Brantford

Barn near Brantford

Old barn near the US/Canadian border

Old barn near the US/Canadian border

Tom, one of the people I hang out with

Tom, one of the people I hang out with

Queuing up with the cars to go through customs

Queuing up with the cars to go through customs

Back in the USA

Back in the USA

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Into Canada….Eh!

So all the worrying that the staff did about crossing into the border turned out to be for nothing. We had a very early start, load at 6:15 so that by 6:45 we would all be queued up and ready to roll. We crossed over the the Blue Water Bridge, which crosses the St. Clair River into Ontario. The bridge is VERY busy with trucks, and they STOP TRAFFIC for us while we cross. That all went very smoothly. At the foot of the bridge is Canadian Customs, as we are now in Canada. It is sort of like coming home after a vacation overseas,, sometimes you get an agent who is a  stickler for details, and other times you get a “Jamaican Style” agent, who exudes “no problem, just go through”. In the past apparently, there have been “stickler types” who looked at EVERY Passport-all 45 of them. There is one guy on the trip, Phil, who is from New Zealand, who is ALWAYS making a joke. He was SWORN to silence until we got through customs, so as not to antagonize the Customs Agents. But, today it was simple. The agent asked us “Where are you going tonight?”, we all answered “London”, “And tomorrow night?”, we all answered “Brantford”, “And then?”, “Niagara Falls”, to which came the response, “Safe travels”. That was it, and we all pedaled out of there as quickly as possible, with Phil make comments as loudly as he could. After that we had a very lovely day, nice flat country, cool temperatures, nice farms, cute small towns, winds out of the SW, and since we were primarily headed East, it all worked out well. To understand the topography, if you have ever driven to Chicago, and noticed that Indiana and Ohio have NO hills, well we are on that same plain just further north. We did add another new crop to our repertoire,Tobacco, didn’t know it could grow this far north, and don’t know why they grow it, but there are huge fields of it.  Tomorrow we stay in Ontario, before heading into Niagara Falls on Sunday, with a day off on Monday, our LAST ONE. I am particularly excited as our daughter Emma is flying up to spend Sunday evening and Monday with me, doing the touristy stuff at the falls

alan

Queuing up to go into Canada

Queuing up to go into Canada

Canada

Canada

Farm in the early morning sun

Farm in the early morning sun

Friendly guys

Friendly guys

Tobacco growing in Canada

Tobacco growing in Canada

Small church outside Delaware, Ontario

Small church outside Mt. Brydges, Ontario

Beautiful flag and flower display,we saw them in almost every small town

Beautiful flag and flower display,we saw them in almost every small town

Ice Cream stop

Ice Cream stop

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To the Canadian Border

The last 2 days have been relatively easy, rolling hills, nice weather, with a little head wind. We’ve made our way across Michigan and are now in Port Huron ready to cross into Canada tomorrow morning. Along the way we have started to get into more populated communities, still very rural, but now we see people mowing their lawns, and doing things to their houses, something we haven’t seen in many weeks. The roads are still beautiful and we ride many miles looking at the wildflowers that line the road between us and the crops, usually corn. Yesterday we had a SAG stop at someone’s house. The couple befriended ABB a few years ago, and rather than do the SAG in a field, she opens up her backyard and house to us. Her name is Sandra Reeves and it was nice to meet and speak with her. She also has a neat old tractor on her front yard, not something uncommon in farm country. We have passed some farms that are are called “Centennial Farms”. These are farms that have been owned and operated by the same family for 100 years, pretty incredible. Rode through more of the same today to reach Port Huron. I was surprised at how “Caribbean-like” it looks, a beautiful turquoise color, can’t seem to find out why, when I asked the clerk at the front desk, she told me “I’ve never been to the Caribbean”, to which I relied that it was a very different color even from Lake Michigan, her response was “I’ve never seen Lake Michigan”. I figured I had gone as far as I should go. We are all very excited about the border crossing first thing tomorrow, the leaders are nervous, not quite sure why, hopefully I will NOT find out why.

alan

Old tractor at Sandra Reeves' farm

Old tractor at Sandra Reeves’ farm

SAG Stop at the Reeves' farm

SAG Stop at the Reeves’ farm

Centennial Farm, Owned by the SAME Family for 100 Years, Welcome to the Heartland

Centennial Farm, Owned by the SAME Family for 100 Years, Welcome to the Heartland

Wildflower #1

Wildflower #1

Typical small Michigan farm

Typical small Michigan farm

Wildflowers #2, in front of corn stalks

Wildflowers #2, in front of corn stalks

Wildflowers #3, between the road and a corn field

Wildflowers #3, between the road and a corn field

View from our SAG stop

View from one of today’s SAG stops

The Three Amigos

The Three Amigos

Looking across Lake Huron towards Canada

Looking across Lake Huron towards Canada

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First Day in Eastern Daylight Time

After a very short and un-relaxing day off (in addition to all the moving, we lost an hour due to the time change) we had a long ride today of 112 miles, that was increased to 118 because of some road work. Out here, a detour takes you 3 miles out and 3 miles back due to the lack of roads. The first 10 miles or so we were riding parallel to Lake Michigan through sand dune type areas, reminded me of riding on Eastern Long Island. The rest of the ride was very nice rolling hills, just a LOT of them. Very strong winds out of the SSW, so when we were heading east, it gave a little push, but when heading south, it produced a VERY strong head-wind. Although we are still in farm country, 2 new items were added to our repertoire, Apples and Cherries. Not as much dairy farming as in Wisconsin. We expected the roads to be horrible, as one of the riders lives near Ann Arbor, and had given us dire predictions of the roads, but they are okay. Not as good as the roads in Wisconsin, where the secondary and even the tertiary roads were all very good. The roads in Wisconsin have an odd naming convention: Primary-State roads are Numbered, Secondary-County roads are named with Letters-CR A (County Road A), Tertiary roads are named with Double Letters-CR AA, nice to be back with just numbers. So, counting today’s century, we have done 7 centuries (6 planned plus one that was 99 miles by design, but a construction detour made it 105) plus one day of 97 miles, out of 33 days of riding. The next 2 days in Michigan are relativity short, and fairly flat, before we go into Canada.

alan

Cherry Trees! they are laoded with cherries

Cherry Trees! they are loaded with cherries

nice Michigan farm

Nice Michigan farm

Big Jackson Public School, not quite one room, but...

Big Jackson Public School, not quite one room, but…

Itried to get them to turn around, but I guess they were giving me their opinion of people who ride cross country on their bikes

I tried to get them to turn around, but I guess they were giving me their opinion of people who ride cross country on their bikes

Farm with Wheat ready to harvest

Farm with wheat ready to harvest

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Ferry Across Lake Michigan

Monday was Rest Day #4, what is called a “Traveling Rest Day”. This means we took a ferry across Lake Michigan from Wisconsin to Michigan. We only biked a total of about 7 miles to and from, but it was NOT a very restful day, as we spent a lot of time waiting around, and didn’t to our hotel until close to 8:00 PM. The ferry is huge as it holds cars, trucks, and just about anything else,the last thing they loaded looked like a cylindrical vat of some kind, that was about twice as wide as the flat-bed truck it was loaded on. Apparently this ferry was built in 1953 to transport railroad cars across the lake, but no longer does that. It is powered by a coal fired steam engine, so every year the EPA tries to shut it down as the crossing uses about 2 trailer truck loads of coal, you can imagine the pollution it creates. The crossing lasted about 4 hours and we were not able to see land for close to 3 of those 4 hours. But here we are in Michigan, Eastern Daylight Time. Tomorrow is the LAST century of this trip, we are all happy about that.

Two unexpected occurrences re-enforced why one does a trip like this with a support group. Sunday at the sag stop, one of the Carbon Fiber bikes was leaning against a tree and blew over in the wind. Normally when a bike falls, the handlebars absorb the brunt of the fall, but this time, the seat tube, the upright leg of a triangle frame, hit a curb, and cracked, making it unrideable. Luckily, they carry an extra bike, which they adjusted so he could ride to the day’s hotel. He lives in the Chicago area,  so a friend was driving his “spare bike” up today. Today, my room-mate, Curt, blew out the side wall of his brand new tire, and possibly ruined his rim. Within minutes, the van was there, they fit a spare wheel with his gears, and we were back on the road. In both cases we’re not sure if the frame or the rim are salvageable. Nice to have support.

alan

The S.S.Badger entering Manitowoc Harbor

The S.S.Badger entering Manitowoc Harbor

a tanker trailer coming of the Badger

a tanker trailer coming of the Badger

all of our bikes corralled on the Badger

all of our bikes corralled on the Badger

Good-bye Wisconsin

Good-bye Wisconsin

Hello Michigan!

Hello Michigan!

On the Badger

On the Badger

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To the Shores of Lake Michigan

The last 2 days have been really pleasant riding. After leaving Wisconsin Dells we spent Saturday night in Fond du Lac, with is on the southern end of Lake Winnebago, and tonight we are in Manitowoc. It is possible that Wisconsin has been the nicest state we have ridden through. Nice roads, few long climbs, nice rolling hills, dairy farms and corn everywhere, and wildflowers almost always alongside the road. It has been a very pleasing few days. On the way to Fond du Lac we stopped at the “Best Fried Brat” stand in Wisconsin, just a photo op for me! I can also begin to understand how much the Packers are like a religion up here, their logo and colors are EVERYWHERE. Last night I dined with friends of ours, Jean and Alan Hilgeman, who we see every year in Jamaica. They live in Southern Wisconsin. Very nice of them to drive up to meet me, and we had a lot of fun at dinner and walking by the lake. Tomorrow is a rest day, though we actually have to bike to and from the ferry across Lake Michigan, so I am not sure what the plan is, and how relaxing a day it will turn out to be. I am excited about the ferry, a 4 hour ride, and for a lot of that time you are not able to sight land. We also cross back into Eastern Daylight Time, I am beginning to smell the Atlantic Ocean!

alan

Farm near Wisconsin Dells

Farm near Wisconsin Dells

Waterfall near SAG Stop in Montello, Wisconsin

Waterfall near SAG Stop in Montello, Wisconsin

Montello Movie Theater, "Planet of the Apes", really?

Montello Movie Theater, “Planet of the Apes”, really?

Welcome to Wisconsin

Welcome to Wisconsin

Full view of the Brat Fry

Full view of the Brat Fry

No doubt as to who this town roots for

No doubt as to who this town roots for

Jean and Alan Hilgeman with me on the shores of Lake Winnebago

Jean and Alan Hilgeman with me on the shores of Lake Winnebago

Lighthouse on Lake Winnebago in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

Lighthouse on Lake Winnebago in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

Our first sighting of Lake Michigan

Our first sighting of Lake Michigan

Small Wisconsin Dairy Farm. All I said was, "Say Cheese", and they all looked at me.

Small Wisconsin Dairy Farm. All I said was, “Say Cheese”, and they all looked at me.

 

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What the Heck is a Dell, Anyway?

So here we are in Wisconsin Dells, which is kind of like the the Jersey Shore, T-shirt shops, Mini Golf, Amusement Parks, lots of fast food, Water Parks, LOTS of teenagers, but NO ocean. The 2 questions of the day are: #1-what is a dell, after all, a farmer can be in one? #2-how many ears are on the average stalk of corn? answers at the end. The ride today was real interesting as we rode for 32 miles on a “Rails to Trails” bike path from Sparta to Elroy. These paths are converted rail beds, so the grade is always minimal for climbing or descending, and they go THROUGH mountains, not OVER them We walked through 3 tunnels, one of which is a mile long, the other 2 were shorter. You need to walk as they are narrow, the floor is rutted and wet from condensation, and there are NO lights, so you need to hold a flashlight or use a bike headlight. I thought they would be a bit creepy, but they were really kind of cool. The first one was just exposed UN-smoothed rock, whereas the next 2 were more finished. The trail itself is what is called “hard pack”, which is basically compressed gravel, so you can ride on it, but not that quickly. But the trail itself was lovely as we didn’t have to watch for vehicles, and we were basically riding through woods. The rest of the ride was through rolling hills, but with Glacier Cut rock outcropping popping up from time to time. Interesting how our group of riders has bonded. One of the couples has a major problem at home with one of their children, and as they were talking about possibly leaving the ride, they refereed to us as “family”, and how supportive we were for them. Pretty nice since we only met 35 days ago, but hen again, together we have climbed mountains, traversed prairies, and crossed 2/3 of the continent.                                                                                                                                                  Answers: #1-A dell is like a gorge that was cut, usually by glaciers, and has water at the bottom. #2-The average Corn stalk has 2 or 3 ears. Seems like a LOT of work for 2 or 3 ears of corn!

alan

Farm near La Crosse, Wiscoson

Farm near La Crosse, Wisconsin

Trail head near Sparta, which calls itself the Bicycle Capital of the World,

Trail head near Sparta, which calls itself the Bicycle Capital of the World,

Entrance to the First Tunnel

Entrance to the First Tunnel

Exiting from the last tunnel, with the Glacial Rock Formation, and Great Hanging Vegetation

Exiting from the last tunnel, with the Glacial Rock Formation, and Great Hanging Vegetation

Sparta to Elroy Bike Trail

Sparta to Elroy Bike Trail

Glacially Carved Rock Formation

Glacially Carved Rock Formation

Beautiful Barn and Surrounding Builings

Beautiful Barn and Surrounding Buildings

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East of the Mississippi

Wow, here I am on the EAST side of the Mississippi River. What a great day of riding; beautiful rolling hills, some very nice climbs, gorgeous scenery, great sag locations, and perfect temperatures. First, about the weather, normally the high temp for this day of riding is in the mid 90’s with high humidity, today was in the mid 70’s with moderate humidity, how lucky we are. The terrain took us through rolling ups and downs with farms, and the occasional small town. We were on a Bike Path along the Root River for about 13 miles, through heavily wooded areas, then into open fields, very nice. Near the end of the day, at mile 70, we had a mile long steep climb, but once we reached the top, we were on this plateau that looked out over beautiful valleys for about 8 miles. We then descended into the Mississippi River Valley, and crossed into Wisconsin. Even the sag locations were great, the first by a stream with a little waterfall. The second was at a cafe that made the best fruit smoothies, so even though I generally don’t eat something like that during a ride, I did have a “Triple Berry” smoothie.

There seems something monumental about crossing the Mississippi, like we have crossed the sacred waters of America. It also seems like we are clearly entering the homestretch, even though we have another 16 days of riding to go.

Thought I would mention something about the food on this trip. It has clearly been a challenge for the staff to properly feed the 3 vegetarians on the trip. Sometimes they strike out, like tonight at the “North Country Buffet”. But sometimes they really do well. Last night was catered in the hotel, we had pasta with sauce, a veggie burger on top, salad, and the best cooked broccoli I have had on this trip, not overdone so it gets that grey-green color, not sitting in hot water, but perfectly cooked, with a little oil, it was great.

lots of photos tonight, hope you enjoy

alan

first sag stop

first sag stop

second sag stop in the town of Houston, Minnesota

second sag stop in the town of Houston, Minnesota

small farm on today's route

small farm on today’s route

Church near the town of Rushford

Church near the town of Rushford, Minnesota

rolling hills

rolling hills

view looking into the valley

view looking into the valley

the Root River from the bike path

the Root River from the bike path

Wisconsin-state #6

Wisconsin-state #6

Bridge over the Mississippi River

Bridge over the Mississippi River

The Mississippi River

The Mississippi River

Sunset over the Mississippi

Sunset over the Mississippi

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