Top/bottom ten

The greatest hits and worst miseries of the tour, not necessarily in order of how good or bad they were and not necessarily ten of each:

Tour top 10:

New York week (after the first 50 miles) -Finger Lakes/wading in Lake Ontario after a cold front came through, temperature and humidity went down, tailwind all morning; up and down through the Adirondacks, beautiful day in Lake Placid. If you took away the first 50 miles and replaced them with the first 50 miles of the next week, this could be #1.867CEBD3-27F5-4014-AACC-1FC37BBC5BE8

Wisconsin week – Cannon Trail, the Great River Rd., Baraboo Bluffs/Devils Lake/Merrimac ferry, Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive. Great roads and no traffic all week. (Visits from family and friends put this one over the top, but it was already great.) 

The ride into Baraboo contained the single steepest climb of the entire trip ( a short stretch of Terrytown Road). 

The Sparta to Elroy Trail, while the first Rails-to-Trails conversion, has been surpassed by several others. It was actually the low point of the week. While the tunnels are a novelty, riding for 30+ miles on gravel is not my cup of tea and takes a toll on the bike. I know, gravel riding is the new thing, but I’d rather ride on pavement if given the choice. 

I’m almost reluctant to admit that the area I ride regularly was the high point, but it also assures me that I live in the right place.AA48B9A9-93D9-405F-B4A3-8637855C927A

Needles highway/Black Hills/Badlands – The Needles Highway was the single high point. This was a magical fairyland, otherworldly in its beauty. I am amazed that I never knew of this place. I could ride that road ten more times and still see new things. The area was phenomenal and the road was the best we rode in >4300 miles.   E2692CEC-A68A-498A-9B90-C0D7F1978AC7

The Badlands are also otherworldly. Different, in that they can be seen as bleak in broad daylight, but change minute-by-minute in early morning light. Like Needles ugh way, I wanted to ride that same road again at sunset after riding it at sunrise. 

Bike path through Grand Teton National Park, climbing Teton Pass, descending to Jackson Hole and a great bike path. The path through the park kept us away from traffic and in view of the mountains. I met Santa Claus at the foot of Teton Pass, along with a group riding from Texas to Alaska. The pass was steep and tough, getting steeper as it went. Standing at the top of the pass was a feeling of accomplishment and gave a great view of the valley below. After descending to the valley we were led on a secluded path into town. The valley is well set up for bicycles, with paths connecting the towns.

Thompson Pass – first time over the continental divide and first big pass, descent into Thompson Falls, a town mostly owned by a single family, where we saw their bar, ice cream shop, catering service, and bus service.

Devils Tower. A campground situated right at the base of the tower. The tower itself rises out of nothing. It is not part of a mountain range but, like Ayers Rock in Australia, is just there. It is no surprise that it was used as the backdrop/centerpiece of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. 9DCB1F78-14DE-4EBC-9051-1754A42439FD

The margarita party was our first real chance to sit down as a group and just hang out together. 

Smugglers Notch. A day that started with threatening weather that never fully materialized. The pass enveloped by clouds as we ascended, never really sure how high it was, on the approach or while actually climbing it. A climb that was over before I realized it; not because it was easy (it wasn’t) but because the top was invisible until we were there. The steepest descent of the trip, made hazardous by the wet pavement so we took it slowly. 

Bottom 10:

Riding 105 miles in 40° rain. The camaraderie made it tolerable. A day that I would have stayed in bed had I been on my own. 

Climbing a mountain pass in a hailstorm. Another day saved by a group – the same group. As Greg told me before the trip, the 70 degree and sunny days will all blend together, but it is the days like this that will make lasting memories. 

72 mile ride that turned into 102 mile ride, the last 1/3 into a brutal headwind, finishing with a helmet splitting crash in an endless industrial waste land. The only day that I wanted the van to stop for me. I got back on the bike and rode the final ten miles, so I did ride EFI. We stopped at a convenience store for a cold drink and found other riders draped over coolers and freezers. Misery loves company.

The first half of that day was actually really nice. 

Mile after mile of horrendous pavement,90+ degree heat, and endless headwinds across the Great Plains.

Mile after mile of flat and boring countryside in Michigan with bad highways and rude drivers.

Re-entering the US at Niagara Falls and riding 50 miles before getting into the countryside.

Bone jarring expansion cracks through Central Minnesota.

Hill City to Custer – uphill, bad headwind, relentless sun/heat, horrendous traffic, grooved pavement causing painful whining noise – and there was a reasonable alternative route nearby.

A few random thoughts:

  • had some great encounters with bikers (of the Harley persuasion) – both on-the-road salutes and chats at the roadside.
  • In the first week I waved to a Corvette behind me to acknowledge it and, as it passed, I saw a peace sign flashed out through the T-top.
  • A random motorcyclist flipped me the bird for no apparent reason.
  • A friendly bar owner brought watermelon out to us on a hot, dry, and windy day.
  • On another hot day I stopped in a coffee shop for an iced coffee and the air conditioning was so cold I just hung out for awhile. It was a day when I realized getting somewhere was only a small part of the plan.
  • When I walked into a brewpub, I was met by applause. Another rider had arrived before me and told our story and they knew I was part of that group.
  • Greg repeatedly referred to the Lake Michigan ferry crossing as “The shortest longest day”. We rode only 40 miles but got into camp with just enough time to pitch our tents before it got dark.
  • Somewhere out west (I think on the Tetons day) a Russian couple riding from Denver to Seattle stopped in and joined us for lunch.
  • On another day, in the middle of nowhere, I happened upon a scruffy-looking guy walking his bike in the opposite direction. I asked if he needed help. He said, “Is the next town about 4 miles ahead?” I agreed that it was. He thanked me and kept walking. (Only 4 miles from town it wasn’t really the middle of nowhere – it just seemed like it.)
  • The look of incredulity when I told some kids at a lemonade stand (on our last day) that I had ridden >4300 miles for that lemonade.

That’s it for now folks. Daily life is intruding on my writing time. I have a sewer line to clear and more. Posts will be a little more irregular after today. Maybe when my bike gets here I’ll look at the odometer and give you my total mileage. Maybe not. Numbers don’t really say what I want to say. Thanks for joining me on this journey. It’s been real.

I’m not going away entirely. As Phil Ochs said:

Back to work

Okay kids – fun’s over! It’s back to work today.

Hits and misses: Some things I tried for this trip were great ideas. Some, not so great. Here are a few reactions after the trip is over.

  • Hit: the new bike – it was light, responsive, held up well.
  • Hit: integrated brake/shift levers – nothing new to a lot of you, but I still use downtube shifters and being able to shift without moving my hands (a thumb or a finger only) and being able to shift while out of the saddle make a big difference in >4000 miles.
  • Hit: new sleeping pad (though, in the end, it could have been thicker)
  • Mixed: tent (it was roomy but it leaked and condensation was terrible)
  • Mixed: bringing a sleeping bag – it was usually too hot and when it was cold I could have just worn more clothes. A fleece blanket would probably have been enough.
  • Hit: full zip jerseys
  • Hit: zippered 3 gallon Hefty bags – one for jerseys and gloves, one for shorts and socks, one for rainwear, one for cold weather wear, etc. (regular clothes, too.) You can squeeze out all the air and have less bulk and keep everything dry.
  • Miss: jumbo Ziploc bags – they were hard to seal, leaked, and tore easily.
  • Hit: new zip tie-like bike locks – these were an impulse buy at a sale and were great for quick lock-ups at a coffee shop. They fit in an under-saddle bag and will at least stop impulse thieves and slow down other thieves.
  • Miss: Sigma bike computer – a switch quit for about a month mid-trip (then started working again); went through six batteries (3 each for wheel sensor and computer), complicated programming.
  • Hit: Nulaxy keyboard – this made typing way easier and faster than a phone keyboard and takes less space than a tablet (plus costs hundreds of dollars less than a tablet).
  • Hit: bringing clothesline and clothespins
  • Hit: bringing only sandals and bike shoes – I had no need for “real” shoes
  • Hit: CO2 cartridges – great for emergency on-the-road inflation after a flat (“puncture” to the Brits in the audience)
  • Hit:  snack bag as waterproof iPhone holder
  • Hit: Velcro straps under saddle bag to hold extra stuff – this was an improvisation. My sleeping pad came with straps and a nylon sack. The straps were superfluous but were great to fasten rain gear under my saddle bag, or in case of an impulse purchase.
  • Hit: Clif shot bloks – handy way to get electrolytes when I ran out of Cytomax (lighter and easier to carry, too). Before a climb I would stick one between teeth and gum and let it slowly dissolve. Also helped with dry mouth in arid regions. Sometimes it is hard to breathe and swallow at the same time (long steep climbs at altitude). These helped.
  • Miss: Gatorade – I’ve already talked about that.
  • Miss: Greg not securing Wi-Fi passwords for all overnights
  • Mixed: tools, parts, and warm clothes I didn’t need – all stuff I might bring anyway, as insurance.
  • Hit: solar charger. I usually had access to electricity to charge the phone but this sure came in handy to keep a back-up battery charged at all times. 

    Coming soon: My top ten and bottom ten lists (good days and bad, good weeks and bad). Neither list will necessarily contain ten items.

    And now, because I haven’t worked it in before, because I mentioned truffles yesterday, and because it is one of the under-appreciated Beatles songs:

     

     

     

     

Home again, home again, jiggity jog

This is it. There is no land left before us. Hi ho, hi ho, it’s back to work we go. I had lots of jokes to put in yesterday ( Stuff like, “Ahoy Captain! Ocean ho! Water sighted off the starboard bow!) but was in a hurry. I smelled the ocean before I saw it.

We had a great cruise Saturday night. We were on a whale-watching boat but didn’t see any whales. We did get out onto open water and got a little wet from both rain and spray.

The margaritas were good and it was a nice way to say goodbye to folks I’ll probably never see again; still a little hard to fathom after 9 weeks together.

The finish line. Greg, Mal, and Shala in a brewpub overlooking Gloucester harbor.

Looking at Sunday’s post at home on the computer, I can see it’s hard to tell what I’m holding in the photo. It is a map of our route with pins placed for each stopover.81CBC3CB-A25E-47EB-B247-DAA6D71CB80E

A replica of my first car, spotted in Gloucester Saturday. The last route arrow. If you see one of these in your travels, you’ll know I’ve been there.

Boston from the air. I didn’t know there were so many islands. Sitting at an emergency exit window – legroom galore!

My first stop in Madison was to be for some lunch but they were too busy so we went for ice cream first, then I had lunch; then a chocolate truffle from Gail Ambrosius. Now it is time to unpack and clean everything. The bike won’t get clean for a few days. It is coming home separately and won’t be here until Thursday. I did a quick cleanup after Saturday’s ride but the rain was pretty messy.

And yes, Ed, I rode EFI.

The Door County Century is in three weeks. Anybody want to join me?

Happy Trails

 

It’s the end of the trail. Time to say goodbye to folks I’ve been riding and living with for the past nine weeks.

It rained Friday night, but we woke up no wetter than the usual from dew and/or fog.

We had a great breakfast in the University of New Hampshire cafeteria after a great dinner there last night. They have a stirfry station, where you can choose your own vegetables and they cook them fresh for you. I ate tofu for the first time in nine weeks.

We had a slow roll through Exeter, New Hampshire, home of Phillips Exeter Academy. When I was in junior high school I was a finalist in a scholarship competition for newspaper carriers and was invited to apply for a full ride scholarship to Exeter. I didn’t get it.

I occasionally wonder (but only briefly) how my life would be different had I been a boarding school kid. Would I have been hobnobbing with W or would I have been shunned as one of the diversity program kids, poor (but still lily white) midwestern boys?

We rode through beautiful rural New England roads and small towns. Crossing the border into Massachusetts was very low-key, with a tiny sign (smaller than the usual street identification sign) informing us in simple black-on-white that we were on the state line.

There are lots of cyclists out this morning. Either we are on a very popular bicycling route or there are  just a lot of Massachusetts people that ride bikes on Saturday mornings.

We also passed within a few miles of Seabrook, New Hampshire, Ground Zero of the US anti-nuclear movement in the 1980s. The Seabrook demonstrations catapulted the group Bright Morning Star to fame. Bright Morning Star included the folksinger Charlie King, who said, “America truly is a melting pot. The scum rises to the top and those on the bottom get burned.”

I had to stop and add air to my tire four miles before the finish. Before our ceremonial trip to the ocean, I had to change it. Flat #11.

As we came into town we were met by a flag-waving cheering section. I stopped at a lemonade stand and told the kids I had ridden from Seattle for this lemonade. They didn’t believe me until I showed them my jersey.

The rain held off all day; a few sprinkles mixed with sunshine. Once we arrived in camp, a downpour came. We made our way to the shore in light rain. We have a harbor cruise scheduled this evening. We’ll see how that goes.

We made our way down to the shore with a police escort. The local waterfront festival was going on, so we had an audience (and a funk band).We performed the ceremonial dipping of the front tires. Two people dove in for a swim. I mixed the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean waters.

I expect I’ll have more to say after this sinks in.