Feats don’t fail me now

And by feats I mean tires and tubes in this case. The last rainy day we had a good dozen flat tires including two of my own. Today that was not my plan.

Rain started during our meeting Wednesday night. We could hear it pounding on the school roof. This was the setting in which I wrote a review of my tent for REI four years ago today. It was raining inside the tent as I typed; seemed like as good a time as any to discuss its shortcomings.

With that memory and the forecast for a 100% chance of rain at packing up time in the morning, I decided to sleep in the gym. Why people need to set an alarm for 5 AM when sleeping in the gym, with gear loading time at 6:15, I don’t understand. Packing up a wet tent and campsite is easy in that time. With nothing but a bedroll, it seems pretty weird.

There must have been a downspout right outside the gym, as it sounded like I was camped by a stream. It was raining lightly when we broke camp and headed out to breakfast. It was still raining lightly when we left breakfast, with a temperature in the mid-50s (about 13º C).

The rain continued without letup. At 20 mph it felt a lot harder than at 10 mph. We climbed through Crawford Notch (“notch” is the New England word for “pass”). Coming down the other side it got worse. A strong crosswind kicked up and coming down a 13% grade in strong wind and hard, cold rain was not my idea of fun. Climbing I burned calories to stay warm. Descending led to stiff fingers.

At mile 33 the sun came out and the rain stopped…for 30 seconds. The rain continued and at mile 45 I saw my shadow despite the continuing rain. I passed through Conway, NH at around 11 – way too early to visit the recommended Tuckerman Brewery, which opens at 2. This was coffee weather, not beer weather. My hands and feet were too wet to be interested in stopping anyway. The new rain jacket kept me dry again. Other folks said they were soaked through.

The rain stopped for the last ten miles and, as we entered Fryeburg, ME, I decided to turn right, which appeared to be toward town, to find a coffee shop. The route went straight. Lo and behold, a coffee shop appeared at that intersection. A cortado and a donut hit the spot.

I continued to the fairgrounds and cleaned bike first, me second. Bike clothes won’t get washed today. A threatening sky makes it look unlikely that they’ll dry. They will get washed at home in a few days. With the choice of packing them dirty or packing them wet, dirty won. With a threatening sky, I will sleep indoors for the second night in a row. I guess I’m getting soft after 62 days. No photos today due to the rain. See the post from four years ago for pictures. Also no flat tires, for me anyway. I saw one person flatted at the roadside a mile before picnic.

We lost one rider today. He went home with pneumonia, two days short of the end. Our oldest rider turns 79 today (Friday). Since it’s already Friday in the Netherlands, we celebrated at dinner and toasted him after dinner, along with the Trail Boss, who is hanging up his spurs after 25 years at the helm of Cycle America (how’s that for a mixed metaphor), and Dan Brown, a long time router whose ashes have been scattered all along the route. The last bit will go in the Atlantic Ocean on our final cruise. A relative will bring the front wheel of his bike to dip in the ocean. The rear was dipped in the Pacific at the onset.

Friday we ride 90 tough miles to end at a primitive campground. Then one more day.

Work to do

Thunderstorm in Stowe gave way to a beautiful evening. The air was clear and it seemed we had weathered the storm. It turned foggy overnight and the forecast was for rain all along our route. Rain in the forecast all night and all day Thursday all along the route. It looks like we will have to earn this.

We’re on our own for breakfast. I rode into Stowe and am sitting outside a cafe waiting for it to open at 7. Riders are slowly streaming by – either because they got a convenience store breakfast or because they can ride without food. With 75 tough miles ahead, I need fuel. We’ll be on our own for dinner tonight as well. It seems things are falling apart as we near the end.

As I waited for the cafe to open, two other people stopped to wait. As other riders waved to me, one asked, “Do you know everybody?” I said, “No, just everyone who will ride by on a bike in the next ten minutes.” He shrugged, but the other guy was intrigued and began asking questions – ending with, “You did this on a bike?”

Cafe in Stowe – chocolate-pistachio torte

The Salsa Twins joined me for breakfast. It was a relief to see someone else not in a hurry.

Twelve miles in, I caught up with folks getting breakfast at a convenience store.

The ride was a hilly 75 miles – up and down all day, including a climb in the last couple of miles to town and a climb from downtown to the school. We rode through forests and farms. At picnic (10 AM) the sun peeked through. By the time we reached Littleton we were back under a cloud cover.

Arriving in town, I scouted dinner places for tonight. There is a bustling downtown so it shouldn’t be a problem. An espresso with a pumpkin scone awaited me in town before heading to the school to dry stuff out and set up for the night.

Cafe in Littleton

The forecast on my weather app calls for rain all night, with a 100% chance of rain when we are packing up and heading out. That calls for sleeping inside and for not washing today’s bike clothes, as they won’t dry. NOAA calls for a 60% chance of rain tonight, tapering to showers in the morning, with intermittent showers along the route. I like that one better. It is raining in Fryeburg (Thursday’s destination) now (Wednesday afternoon).

Yesterday’s bike clothes are drying, as is the rainfly. When the fly dries, I’ll hang the tent and ground cloth, as space is limited with all of us trying to dry things. My sleeping pad is dry – it always traps moisture underneath it overnight so it’s wet in the morning. If yesterday’s shorts and socks dry I can get through the week if it’s too wet to wash and dry any more.

Three days, three states to go.

Welcome to Michigan?

…sang no one here

We got in to Ludington late and the forecast was for thunderstorms at 5 AM. Packing up a tent in a thunderstorm is not my idea of fun. Since the probability was 80-90% on most apps and the rain was to continue for a few hours, I opted to sleep indoors.

The gym was hot and stuffy and would surely be crowded with that forecast, so I found a spot in the hallway below an open window. There was no screen, as I discovered later.

There were lights in the hall that stayed on, so I placed a bandanna over my eyes and went to sleep, past my bedtime.

At 12:40 AM, I felt something by my eye and swiped it away. I noticed the bright light so I reached for the bandanna and put it back over my eyes. Something fell on my face. As I swiped it away, I noted that it struck the floor with a distinct “click”. That got my attention and I opened my eyes fully. There were a good dozen beetles on me, about the size and color of roasted coffee beans.

I jumped up and brushed off those I could see, pulling a few out of my hair. I looked down and there were at least a couple dozen on my sheet.

A quick look around revealed hundreds swarming around the open window and my luggage. I closed the window and moved my sleeping stuff to a darker part of the hall, hoping the bugs were attracted to the light. The luggage I would deal with in the morning.

The window turned out to be merely a point of entry and the bugs dispersed from there. They crawled, they flew, and they hung out on the ceiling, sometimes letting go and falling to the floor with a “click”.

Getting back to sleep took more than an hour, as I kept hearing them land nearby, or feeling them on me. Three hours of sleep were not going to be enough for 94 miles. I know I slept because I awoke from a dream: the bugs were multiplying. The younger generation were a reddish-brown. They covered the floor until the floor was no longer visible. Everyone was awake and standing. Someone got on the phone to the Trail Boss to inform him that we were all leaving, one way or another. That’s when I woke up.

When I got up at 5:15 it was dry. There was no sign of rain past, present, or near future. We packed up and rode in the dark to a restaurant where our breakfast was scheduled. This was our first day needing lights. We arrived at the appointed time and they were not ready, telling us it would be ½ hour before we could eat. Since the rain was starting, they said we could come in to stay dry and we could drink some of the warm, pale brown water. They called it “coffee”. With ½ & ½ added, it looked like the Mississippi River. We waited for breakfast and waited out the rain.

Heading out it was dry and dark. The first half of that would soon change. We started on a busy US highway, moving to quiet back roads through mixed hardwood forest. The roads were mainly straight and flat. The wind began as a headwind, shifted to 4 o’clock, and eventually became a tailwind.We were in and out of rain all morning. We had picnic at the site of the historic Idlewild Club. (See the 2018 post for details and a photo of the historical marker.) At mile 57 we moved onto a paved bike path. (See the 2018 post for a photo of the Little Free Library along the path, seemingly in the middle of nowhere.) We stayed on that path for nearly 40 miles and will return to it tomorrow morning.

I’m not sure if the people I passed while singing this appreciated it 😉

Arriving at camp, the bike got a preliminary cleaning, the tent went up, then clothes and I got a cleaning, then the bike got finish cleaning and lube. I had to clean grit off the back of my helmet. I hope my shoes dry by morning.

I don’t care about tonight’s forecast. I will be sleeping in my tent.

Cyclocross commute

To get to work this morning, I had to dismount and carry my bike through this downed tree. That was the easy part.

The ride home was into a 20 mph headwind with a temperature of 40 degrees (32 km/h and 4.5 degrees C), with rain driven by that wind. Since last night’s ride for fun was in ideal conditions (70 degrees, low humidity, breezy), I have nothing more to say about that.

And to think that, three years ago, I did this for fun.

This is how we looked at lunchtime of a 103 mile ride in the rain at 40 degrees F. Still smiling. You can’t see the bread bags on Ally’s feet, as she didn’t have neoprene shoe covers. And, yes, Ed was crazy (or ill-prepared) enough to be riding in shorts. (Photo from CycleAmerica Facebook page.)

Speaking of fun, Cycle America will be riding coast-to-coast again in the summer of 2022. The trip leaves from Seattle on Father’s Day and arrives in Gloucester, MA on August 20. The total cost (which includes 3 meals/day on riding days, and a place to pitch your tent or a gym to lay your sleeping bag) is $7415 until June 18 (one year before departure). Meals are on your own on rest days (one per week) and you’re on your own if you stop for espresso or beer. You can stay in motels some nights if you need a bed. That costs extra. More information at CycleAmerica.com.