Monthly Archives: August 2014

And Now it is Time to Say Goodbye…

Time is funny. Seven weeks seemed liked an eternity. Sometimes during really tough days on the trip, or in the middle of the trip, when each day was like the day before it, the riders would all be saying “when is this going to be over?”. But now that it is, it seems like it went by in a flash. One minute we were in Oregon, full of energy and that  “we can do this” spirit, and the next we were splashing around in the Atlantic Ocean.

Some facts about the trip: Total Mileage: 3,734 miles; Hours Spent Riding (Including Stops): 302 hours; Total Vertical Feet: 127,000 Feet Climbed; Total Calories Used: 207,000 Calories; Pounds Lost: 3 Pounds-You can IMAGINE How MUCH I Ate; Personal Best Mileage for 1 Month: July-2,450 miles; Favorite Day of the Trip: The Teton Pass Day into Jackson, Wyoming; Toughest Day of the Trip: The ride from Casper to Lusk, Wyoming-106 miles and 100 degrees!; Tires Ruined on the Trip: 2; Flat Tires on the Trip: 5 ( plus some tubes ruined before I realized the tire had been destroyed); Amount of Bananas and Peanut Butter Eaten, and Gatorade Consumed: MORE THAN I COULD EVER KEEP TRACK OF. But, my Bike did great. I just came back from High Gear Cyclery and it took about 20 minutes to clean it, and that was it; NOTHING needed to be replaced, absolutely AMAZING.

So, in parting, I want to thank you all for sharing this experience with me. What started out as a way to raise funds, (which we did a LOT of) and then a way to send photos of where I was, became something that helped me remember each day in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise. The trip was everything that I could have hoped it would be – challenging, fun, a builder of new friendships, and rewarding beyond expression. I learned more about the U.S. in    52 days than I could have ever hoped for.

Things I will take away: After having  done this trip I have the sense that with enough training and planning, there is not much I can’t do if I want to. I have a better understanding of the people of the United States. I was staggered by the unbelievable Geographic diversity of America, Rain Forests of Oregon, High Desert; Plains; River Valleys, Rolling Hills, Waterfalls, Gorgeous Canyons. There were 2 women on the trip with cancer, and their grace and courage was an inspiration for me to overcome whatever aches  and pains I was experiencing and just do the ride. But mostly a sense of humility, for the chance to do the ride, for Peg who knew what this meant to me, and agreed to us being apart for 7 weeks. Mostly, how LUCKY I have been in my life.

So, again, thanks for all your caring, concern and attention.I hope You’ve enjoyed this as much as as I have, and….

See You On the Road

alan

Almost home, crossing the GWB

Almost home, crossing the GWB

Map that was in the lobby every night showing our progress

Map that was in the lobby every night showing our progress-the dark line across the top of America

What a feeling!

What a feeling!

 

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I Just Biked ACROSS America………

…and do I feel WONDERFUL! Tired, relieved, but great. A very emotional day, as you can imagine. We left Manchester early as we need to get to Rye High School by 11:30 as we we had a police escort for the last 3 miles to the beach. Since we left so early, we all stopped in Exeter, New Hampshire, the quintessential New England town, for coffee and once last pre-taper “snack”. This was after our final SAG stop no more than 8 miles prior. Anyway, we gathered at the school, had one FINAL sign-in sheet, then I said most of my good-byes as I was one of the few leaving that day.  Most of the riders had flights on Tuesday, and were staying together in New Hampshire for one last night. The police escort was great, we didn’t need to worry about stop signs or lights, and pretty much stayed together until the beach, where chaos reigned. As we turned into Wallis Sands Beach, I had trouble finding Peg due to the crowd, but we found each other, and it was great to be together again. After lots of hugs and kisses, me and 35 other riders, LOTS of family, schlepped our bikes across the sand to dip ourselves and our bikes in the Atlantic. What an indescribable feeling of accomplishment, pride, relief. It is slowly sinking in how unbelievable a trip this has been. After a while, the riders and staff had the ceremonial pouring of Pacific Ocean water into the Atlantic. We had gathered 2 bottles of water from the Pacific before we had left, and now officially, the trip was complete. I have posted lots of photos today, as every moment from the day is precious, as the people who have been my companions for the last 50 days.

A word about my roommate Curt. Getting a roommate is always somewhat of a crap shoot. There are lots of traits that could make sharing a room with a complete stranger for 50 days a real challenge. Curt was great. He was everything I could have hoped for, and I will miss him, but I am sure we will stay friends.

So my friends, the trip is over, I will do one more post as a recap, and then we will all move on, hopefully richer for the experience, I know it was incredible for me.

alan

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Last Load

Jeff, the group leader, and Mike ( with the hat) one of the mechanics, and toast writer, at the LAST SAG

Jeff, the group leader, and Mike ( with the hat) one of the mechanics, and toast writer, at the LAST SAG

Town square in Exeter, New Hamshire

Town square in Exeter, New Hampshire

All the women who did eh complete trip. 6 Riders, 3 Staff members

All the GREAT women who did the complete trip. Pam, Rebecca, Patti, Ronnie, Leslie, Cynthia, Ariyohani, Karen, Judy

On the way to the beach

On the way to the beach

The beginning of the end

The beginning of the end

Peg and me

Peg and me

7 weeks!

7 weeks!

Curt and me, unbelievable

Curt and me, unbelievable

Curt and me

Curt and me

Walking across the beach

Walking across the beach

Ariyohani and me

Ariyohani and me

Mark and me

Mark and me

Sym and me

Sym and me

Scene at the Beach

Scene at the Beach

In the Atlantic

In the Atlantic

UNBELIEVABLE!

UNBELIEVABLE!

Pacific meets Atlantic

Pacific meets Atlantic

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Darlin’ I’ll be Home Soon

Apologies to John Sebastian for butchering his verse, but by this time tomorrow, I will be HOME or close to home. After so many different beds in the last 50 days, it will feel nice to be back in my own bed, and not have to decide what clothes I am wearing by using the “sniff test”. Great day today in New Hampshire. It always surprises me how dissimilar Vermont and New Hampshire are. We spent a good deal of time on back roads today so we got a real good feeling for the terrain-LOTS of Short but STEEP hills, and the small towns-quaint and charming. Lots of streams running along the road side. We even rode past a paper mill, Monadnock Paper. This is a mill I have visited a few times in the past since in the “good old days” we used their paper for some beautiful print projects and lots of upscale Annual Reports. Tonight after Rap we are having our final dinner together, and we have all started talking about the reasons we have started and finished this trip, and what we will take away from it. Last night, Mike Petroni, who every night presented Mikey’s Minute, gave us his take on this. At the end, he gave a toast, which I present below. When he was done, there were a lot of us close to tears.

“I would like to raise a toast. To the mountains, to the plains, to blowing tail winds and passing rain, to smooth gears, to the crest of a climb, to the year of training, and to wonderful families understanding–to sweat, to salt, to challenging pain and overcoming it, to the seat of our saddles, to the meat of our thighs, to God and country…..to all the miles and men and women who are now and will forever be a part of us, may adventure live in and guide our hearts forever”

Well put Mikey!

After dinner tonight we all spoke a bit about our feelings. We all thanked the staff for their efforts. A funny story about the staff, today my rear tire was flat when I left the hotel room. We checked to make sure there was nothing in the tire, changed the tube, and I was off. EXCEPT, 20 miles later it was FLAT AGAIN. While I started the process to fix the tire by myself, Tom, who I was riding with called one of the staff. Next thing I know it was like a SWAT Team showing up, 1 van from one direction, 1 van from the opposite direction, AND 2 of the staff on their bikes, simply amazing! Jim did, finally after really working at it, find a 1/8″ piece of wire embedded in the tire, so it was good I didn’t fix it myself as I never would have found it. But we also all talked about the camaraderie, the constant caring and encouragement that we all have given each other, whether before each day’s ride, or during, that has enabled us to complete the ride. It was quite an evening.

Tomorrow is the end, on to the Atlantic to dip our bikes.

alan

Bridge across the Connecticut River into New Hampshire

Bridge across the Connecticut River into New Hampshire

Phill, the New Zealand Goat Herder

Phill, the New Zealand Goat Herder

Dan, Jay,Drew posing in front of the LAST "Welcome to.." sign

Dan, Jay,Drew posing in front of the LAST “Welcome to..” sign

Doug, John, Dave-3 VERY good riders at a SAG stop

Doug, John, Dave-3 VERY good riders at a SAG stop

Monadnock Paper Mills

Monadnock Paper Mills

Town square in Bennington, New Hampshire

Town square in Bennington, New Hampshire

Old meeting house in Francestown, New Hampshire

Old meeting house in Francestown, New Hampshire

 

 

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And the Rides Dwindle Down to a Precious Few

We crossed the Hudson River early this morning to  be, as Jesse Winchester sang “with the peaceful folk in the hills of old Vermont”. And Hills there were. We went through Bennington, then up over Hogback Mountain. When we found out that we would go past the graveyard where Robert Frost is buried, someone quipped, “maybe we should take the road less hilly”, no such luck. All the riders were pretty apprehensive about the climbing as this is the most we have done, over 5,000 vertical feet, since western South Dakota-seems like a LONG TIME AGO. But we all did fine. We were back to a climb of close to 10 miles for the first long part of the climb up Hogback Mountain. Along the way we had the constant noise of running water rushing downhill, unfortunately, it was going OPPOSITE of the way we were going. We then descended into the town of Wilmington, before the final ascent.The drop into Brattleboro was great. As expected we went through cute little towns, all with very New England style churches, and past nice farms.  And the drivers were very nice as we were on narrow roads, often in poor condition, often with no shoulder, and the drivers always gave us lots of room, with NO New York style attitude.

It is hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that I have spent close to 290 hours on my bike to go from Astoria to Brattleboro, and there are only about 10 more biking hours until I finish. Though all the riders will be sad to see it end, we are all TIRED. Despite that tiredness, we are all resolute to do what we first dreamed about many years ago, and trained all those months for, which is get to the Atlantic, having ridden EVERY MILE! Tomorrow, our last full riding day, we get to New Hampshire.

alan

The Hudson River, just north of Albany

The Hudson River, just north of Albany

Interesting barn on our way to Bennington, Vermont

Interesting barn on our way to Bennington, Vermont

One more to go!

One more to go!

Old First Church of Bennington, Vermont

Old First Church of Bennington, Vermont

Only in New England, pretty amazing

Only in New England, pretty amazing

Graveyard where Robert Frost is buried

Graveyard where Robert Frost is buried

View looking Southwest rom the summit of Hogback Mountain, approximate elevation 2,200 feet

View looking Southwest from the summit of Hogback Mountain, approximate elevation 2,200 feet

Some of our riders at the summit of Hogback Mountain. Not the ones on the left with the big engines, the ones on the right!

Some of our riders at the summit of Hogback Mountain. Not the ones on the left with the big engines, the ones on the right with those muscular legs!

 

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Almost to the Hudson River

So, here we are 4 miles west of the Hudson River which means that I am FURTHER East than most of the people reading this blog. As we approach the last great river we will cross, I think the geography of America can be defined by it’s waterways, so let me recap this trip through them.  We started this trip at the convergence of the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River, then rode in the Columbia Valley, until leaving it for the Willamette River Valley. We then left river valleys for a few days, but soon enough picked up the Snake River, which we followed for well over a week through Idaho and western Wyoming. No more rivers until the Missouri, then finally the Mississippi. Then the Great Lakes, Niagara River and Falls, the Erie Canal/Mohawk River, and tomorrow finally the Hudson. There is still the Connecticut River separating Vermont from New Hampshire,  and THEN……THE ATLANTIC OCEAN! What a ride!

We left Liverpool on Thursday morning hoping to outrace the storm that was coming in behind us, we didn’t make it. Can’t complain as it was the first rain of any significance since Western South Dakota. But it was a THUNDERSTORM, with LOTS of LIGHTNING. All the riders sought shelter, some in office buildings, some in the ABB vans, some on people’s porches, my group ended up in a service station, that had 2 bays open, and about 15 of us crowded in, put our bikes under the eaves of the building, and waited it out. The 2 guys working on the cars were a lot of fun. Sym and I left while it was still raining, but no more lightning. On the way we passed through a town called Canastota, which has, of all things, a 9/11 memorial, complete with a beam from one of the towers. I can only assume that some first responders from this area worked at the site of the World Trade Center. Thursday night we stayed in the lovely little town of Little Falls, which is along the Canal. Like a lot of the small towns in upstate New York that we have ridden through, it seems like it is struggling, with lots of vacant stores and buildings. but with beautiful old brick structures throughout the town.

Friday we left Little Falls for Latham, the weather was warmer than it has been, but as we climbed on to a ridge, we found ourselves in dense fog, not the beautiful morning sun we had at the hotel. It gave everything an otherworldly quality, but forced us to pay a little more attention to the road and traffic, as visibility was greatly reduced. In the town of Ft.Plains, I had what is a daily occurrence for us, while waiting for the light to turn green, a car pulled up and an elderly woman asked “Where did you start your ride?” I replied, “Today, in Little Falls, but originally in Oregon”, “You mean the STATE?” and we had a nice chat after that. However the converse also occurs. Yesterday one of the riders got grazed by the mirror of a passing car. Luckily, he didn’t fall, he is okay and rode today, just a little shaken. And finally, after 47 days on the road, in the state of my birth, some driver finally flipped me the bird today, because he had to slow down to “share the road” with a biker, oh well. For lunch we stopped at a crazy place called “Jumpin’ Jack’s Drive-In”. Unbelievably busy, lots of fried stuff that I wouldn’t eat, but good Coffee Milk Shakes. Tomorrow is back to climbing as we cross the Hudson River and enter Vermont.

alan

Waiting out the rain in Liverpool, New York

Waiting out the rain in Liverpool, New York

Waiting out the rain in a Service Station in Liverpool, New York

Waiting out the rain in a Service Station in Liverpool, New York

9/11 Memorial, Canastota, New York

9/11 Memorial, Canastota, New York

Old Herkimer Fort Church, Herkimer New York

Old Herkimer Fort Church, Herkimer New York, built in 1767

Mohawk River at Little Falls, NY

Mohawk River at Little Falls, NY

Erie Canal at Little Falls, NY

Erie Canal at Little Falls, NY

Erie Canal at dusk

Erie Canal at dusk

Lock number 8 on the Erie Canal, near Rotterdam Junction, NY

Lock number 8 on the Erie Canal, near Rotterdam Junction, NY

Jumpin' Jack's Drive-In, near Colonie NY

Jumpin’ Jack’s Drive-In, near Colonie NY

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