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 Highway, 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:

Finger Lakes to Lake Ontario

Thursday, August 9. No WiFi + poor cell connection = text only today.

We were on our own for breakfast this morning.

At the bar where we ate last night, I asked a local couple for breakfast recommendations. She recommended Maria’s Café. He recommended Wade’s Diner. She couldn’t say why; he said it was because of the cinnamon raisin bread. 

I went with his recommendation. Since it was going to be 55 miles before lunch, I decided to eat heartily.

After two eggs over easy, bacon, potatoes, and cinnamon raisin toast, I had two slices of cinnamon raisin French toast with maple syrup. 

After we had finished eating, the waitress mentioned their weekday special of cinnamon swirl pancakes. Greg ordered one and insisted I eat 1/4 of it. it was 10 to 12 inches in diameter. I was glad I did.

I’m happy to say that the food lasted until the lunch stop.

Wayne’s Diner had an interesting backstory. It seems Mr. Wayne was towing a Pullman car in 1938 and was stopped by police at the edge of town. He was told he would need a permit to tow it through town. He left it at the edge of town and found that a permit would take a long time to obtain. 

During the night he acquired a team of horses and used them to tow the car to the location where it stood until 2015 when it burned down. The police asked him how the diner came to be at that location. He said he had no idea. He had not seen it there the day before and asked if anyone had seen it being moved there. Having no witnesses, the police decided to let the matter drop.

The diner was sold in the 1980s and the current owners rebuilt on the same spot after the 2015 fire.

While we were eating breakfast, the weather changed completely. It seems a cold front had blown through. The temperature had dropped slightly, humidity dropped considerably, and the wind had shifted. It was a favorable wind for most of the morning. We wound our way through forested country to the harbor at Henderson.

Lunch was at a state park on the shore of Lake Ontario. The water was great and had I been willing to ride in with wet shorts again, I would have gone swimming. Instead I contented myself with wading and walking on the sand.

Our destination for the day is only 13 miles away and is said to have nothing to do. No one is in a hurry to leave the beach; thus I am writing this at the beach.

Upon arrival at the school I unpacked all my damp clothes. With high humidity all week, none of my bike shorts are actually dry, including the pair I wore today. Today I think I will have 3-4 pair of dry shorts.

Dinner was a feast, with flowers on the tables, real cutlery, and pies – apple, cherry, pumpkin, and strawberry-rhubarb!

I began compiling a “top ten” list (and a “bottom ten” list) for this trip. Look for it at the conclusion of the trip.

Now on to the Adirondacks!

Choose your own adventure!

A light sprinkle Tuesday night turned into heavy dew and fog. We packed up wet (as usual) and headed out. 

The plan was to spend another day touring the Finger Lakes as we made our way north to Oswego, on the shore of Lake Ontario.

Photos: tandem on a climb, bike rainbow, tractor for sale.

It started to rain around mile 30. It was less rain than that the air was so saturated that it started to leak.

The sun came out during lunch at mile 50 and at about mile 65 the rain came back in earnest. 

We arrived in Oswego soaking wet. The van and trailer were nowhere in sight, having been held up by a flat tire. 

We found a spot to stop getting any wetter and stood around being wet for another hour or two. Some folks headed off to a pub. 

We finally got showers and dry clothes on about 4, after arriving around 1. I spread the tent out to dry and it started to rain again. I decided to sleep inside.

I did eventually get the tent dry. My shoes are the big concern. After holding them under the hand dryer, stuffing them with paper towels, then restuffing them after soaking through the first set, they are now in the sun. (And now they’re back inside, as the sky is darkening again.)

Now to the “choose your own adventure” part. Due to missing route markers and missing road signs, most of us took non-standard routes to get here. After I had prevented 4 others from missing turns, I missed one myself. 

 I stopped and asked a guy using a weed whacker in a ditch if the road I’d just passed was Chapman. He said no and he didn’t know where Chapman Road was.

He pulled out his phone to find it and try to find a way to get there. I said that State Highway 321 was really where I was going and Chapman was just a way to get there. 

We found a more direct route to the highway and he said, “but it’s pretty hilly.” I smiled and said, “That’s OK. I like hills.”

He offered a ride in his truck to get there and I said, “Thanks, but I’m 3700 miles into this ride. A few more is no problem.” That’s when the rain came for the first time.

I got in to lunch and there was one rider there. Others trickled in with tales of their impromptu detours. Several had gotten a tour of a nearby town that wasn’t on the route. 

Some gave up on the route all together and went for the direct route, saving about 25 miles.

Dinner tonight was in a sports bar. I learned about two new (to me) sports on ESPN – chess boxing, in which two competitors box a round, then a chess board is set up in the ring and they play chess, then return to boxing. I’m not sure how it is scored or how long they spend in each realm.

The other sport was headis – table tennis played with the head and a soccer ball.

I did not make this up.

Finger Lakes

A beautiful 95 miles through the Finger Lakes, from SUNY-Geneseo to Seneca Falls, NY.

Just my cup of tea – lots of short, steep climbs and descents. On one long descent, dropping several hundred feet of elevation, I realized we would have to earn back every one of those feet. I didn’t mind.

I did wish for another top-end gear or two. With my highest gear a 50/11, there were times I was coasting but wanted still to be pedaling.

It stayed hot all night again, but no dew. A few sprinkles at 6:30 AM dampened the pavement to keep it cool. The forecast was for thunderstorms. It stayed overcast most of the day, which also helped keep it cool.

We saw a storm passing across the north end of Seneca Lake. I was hoping we were riding slowly enough to miss it. Not quite. We had a few minutes of light rain. The entry into Seneca Falls was very bike-unfriendly, but other than that, it was a day of good roads, great scenery, great riding. Arriving at Seneca Falls, it is hot, sunny, and humid. I don’t expect my clothes to dry. My  bike needed a good cleaning.

Early in the day we rode through forests. Later it was wine country. They routed us along lake shores, so it was the scenic route – we probably doubled the distance between the two towns.

The trip took on an international flavor as we passed through Atlanta, Naples, Italy, Middlesex, and Geneva.

Seneca Falls is the birthplace of the first wave of feminism in the US, which is commemorated by a historic site.