After a great weekend in Lake Placid, we are back on the road for a final week. The day was mostly downhill and only about 60 miles, so we were into Plattsburgh before noon. We found a good coffee shop to while away the hours until it was time to show up at camp.
We rode mostly north, aiming for the ferry crossing of Lake Champlain tomorrow morning – and to take the scenic route. We rode past Whiteface Mountain early in the morning. The ambitious among us climbed it. It is reported to be 8 miles at an average grade of over 8%. The Dread Pirate Roberts rode it and said he was soaked with sweat by the top. The descent was cold. He also says he was humbled by The Hammerhead, who rode his wheel for much of the preceding 4000 miles but he couldn’t keep up with her on the climb. She is 30 years younger, which might help. Another rider called it “spectacular”. It being a toll road, I skipped it.
The person at the toll booth told folks that the road wasn’t open yet – one person said she told him it opened at 8:30, another says she told him 8:45. She could let them go early but only if they paid cash. When the riders came down there was a different person in the tollbooth, in uniform (she was not), so it sounds like someone found an illicit income source.
Our picnic was at Ausable Chasm, a spectacular gorge. They offer a walking tour for $18. I skipped it last time. Today I saw people on the tour and saw the reason for the cost as well as the reason it would not be a good idea to try in bike shoes.
We are in a dorm at SUNY-Plattsburgh. This was the worst night of the tour four years ago in a hot and stuffy room. I got very little sleep. Tonight will be better. It is cooler and there is a breeze.
Tomorrow we will cross into Vermont via ferry and causeway across Lake Champlain, then climb Smuggler’s Notch, a challenging climb and pass through the Green Mountains. Four years ago we climbed it in mist and drizzle. Tomorrow looks to be better weather.
A day off in Lake Placid, sleeping in until the sun rose. Cold walking to breakfast, warming up walking back, hot by the time laundry was done. That which didn’t dry in the dryer dried quickly in the hot sun.
A leisurely bike cleaning and lubing while doing the hard work of charging my backup battery by the sun led to a walk to lunch with two others, then a walk for ice cream and to check out the bike shop – they bought stuff, I didn’t.
The thermometer on the bank says 85º and my phone app says 72, which is much more believable. The dry mountain air (dewpoint 45º) makes it hot in the sun and cold in the shade. I almost need a fleece jacket in this breezy spot in the shade. Fifty feet away I’d be sweating, as I was this morning sitting exactly where I am now.
Tomorrow will be a short ride to Plattsburgh and Tuesday we’ll ferry across Lake Champlain to Vermont. The rest of the week will include VT, NH, ME, and MA.
Friday night was marked by another Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat. Breakfast featured both pancakes and French toast with warm syrup.
It stayed cloudy most of the night (which I know because I was up six times to pee by 1 AM – the price you pay for staying hydrated though this was worse than usual for reasons unknown), which kept the temperature above 50 degrees (10 C). It cleared up just before dawn so the temperature was dropping as we packed up and started to ride.
Ahead on the road was a thick fog bank – the road disappeared and soon, Roberto did as well. I rode into the fog and needed windshield wipers on my glasses and it was cold; much too cold and damp to want to stop and take a picture.
I came out of the fog and the sun was shining ahead, with a mountain peak just peeking out above the next fog bank. I was in the shade so, like the child detective Cam Jansen, just said “click” and the picture is in my head but not available to you.
Leg warmers and jacket stayed on until picnic at 9:30 AM or so, mile 36. After that it was warm enough in a long-sleeved jersey. There was no serious climbing, but a lot of up-and-down and gradual elevation gain toward Lake Placid. Traffic was heavy in both directions but we had a wide shoulder until Saranac Lake, when the shoulder became a parking lane and traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, was heavy. Traffic stayed thick with a narrow shoulder to Lake Placid.
We paid a visit to Placid Planet bike shop, which is still for sale after four years, if anyone wants a new career. It is a well-equipped shop with friendly staff. We keep them in business. Four years ago we bought them out of their shop jerseys (my size was gone when I got there). Today I saw two riders buying chains and having them installed, one buying cleats, another shoes and several other items. I bought a lock and cable to replace the ones I left behind yesterday and a second long-sleeved jersey in case it stays cold and the one I have doesn’t dry in time. Two spare inner tubes completed the transaction. With a new tire and tube and two new spares, I might even get lazy enough to wait until I get home to patch the leakers I have.
After the bike shop we crossed the street for chocolate malts before making our way up to the high school to camp.
We are camped immediately above the speedskating track where Eric Heiden of Madison WI swept Olympic gold in 1980. Just down the street is the arena where the “Miracle on Ice” took place, when the US hockey team (then amateurs) beat the mighty Soviet professional team.
to my Cycle America community. To jog your memories, there will be one photo from each week, none of which have appeared here before:
We have now been back in our respective real worlds for longer than we were away in our circus world. We used that metaphor during the trip because it seemed apt – we rolled into a new town every night, set up our tents, and were gone in the morning before most people were up and about. We didn’t put on much of a show, but…
It’s also timely because I spent three days of the last week in Baraboo, home of the Ringling Brothers and the Circus World Museum. It was also where, for me, the two worlds intersected. My friends, my son and his wife, and my boss all came to Baraboo when the Cycle America Circus rolled through. It was my reminder that our circus world was fleeting, that the other world beckoned. It was the best of times…
And now we’re scattered across the globe doing whatever it is we normally
do; though even that is new for some – Ally went from being a student to being a nurse during those nine weeks. Mike stayed away longer than the rest of us to ride down the west coast of the US. How’d that go, Mike?
Did anybody do a Johnny Paycheck when going back to work?
I miss that world. I missed the daily routine of riding already by the first Monday I was home. I had my day of rest and was ready to ride again. I’m still looking for anyone who wants to pay me to ride my bike. From the headwaters of the Mississippi to the delta seems like a good route. Who’ll drive sag?
But I also miss all of you. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna get all hold-hands-and-sing-Kumbaya on you. If we all lived in the same town it’s not like we’d all be hanging out every night after work (those of us who do still work) or be drinking coffee together every morning at the corner cafe (for the retired among us).
But we had a community for those nine weeks; a loose-knit one, perhaps, but we shared something I will never forget. We shared fun, we shared miseries, we shared deeply transforming moments. We found out what we were made of. Some of you, who had done this before, may have had no doubts about it. But I bet most of us had moments when we weren’t really sure what we had gotten into, weren’t really sure we could do this. But we did. And we probably knew that all along but it seemed too arrogant to say out loud, just as voicing the fears seemed too insecure to say out loud.
We ate some great food and some food that we may not have eaten had we not just ridden 80 miles. We saw the USA in a way that most people never will. We didn’t fly over flyover country. We didn’t cross the plains at 80 mph (~130 km/h for those of the metric persuasion), staring at the ribbon of pavement and ignoring all else. We did wake up sober in Nebraska (or close to it – Nebraska, I mean). Climbing mountain passes didn’t mean just stepping harder on the accelerator.
We did all that, and we did it together. I, for one, already think about a reunion. It’s entirely possible we will never see each other again. I know some of you are friends in real life and do hang out. The rest of us? Maybe we’d feel awkward, not knowing what to say. Maybe we’d need a long ride together with margaritas to follow. Maybe a short ride, but actually together as a group, like the brief stretches when we were together for ferry crossings or through construction zones.
And maybe doing it again in 2020 doesn’t sound crazy after all. (Don’t tell anyone here I said that!) If those of you with the wherewithal to do it again do it, I’ll meet you in Baraboo with a case of beer. Or we can find an Irish pub and Mike can show the bartenders the proper way to pull a pint of Guinness.