Day 47: The Last Day to Revere Beach, MA

Bike across the US. Check that box done. Henry Ford was right. If you think you can, you can. 3435 miles.

We started today in Burlington, MA to great fanfare being released to ride in groups of twos and threes the 14 miles to the Everett Fire Department to gather. It rained, but it was ignored. There would be no rain on this parade. Tea-K called us all in close and proceeded to extract every tear in each person's eyes and many from her own with an inspirational speech, laying on of the hands, and a rousing group cheer “Boston.” Tea-K lives for this moment where she has orchestrated everyone fulfilling a long time dream for 17 years in a row. Two by two, in a pace line we proceeded to the Atlantic Ocean for the wheel dip. Hugs, cheers, pictures, repeat. Five of us, Shark Girl, Irish Rickey, Billy Mac, Bookseller Becky and I, took a run into the ocean followed by the most emotionally and physically refreshing belly flop once the water got waste deep. A group photo. A photo of the EFI's, 8 of us (the letters E and I stand for “every” and “inch”). We were lucky not to have been waylaid by an accident, mechanical failure or unavoidable health problems that prevented some incredibly talented riders from completing every inch of the ride. More hugs, cheers and pictures. Relief, elation, joy and camaraderie danced on that beach today. Small groups of riders and family constantly readjusted their members as each rider sought to share the moment with every other.

One past rider in the CrossRoads fraternity/sorority wrote to us during the last week of the tour and said that this ride has changed you for the better and that change cannot be undone. He, like Henry, is right.

I feel a sense of gratitude that I had the good fortune and good health to complete this journey and will never take either for granted.

l feel a calmness and patience, traits that were cultivated day in and day out to accept the conditions that were dealt and that could not be changed. Actually, cultivated is the wrong word since it implies a sense of volition. There was no volition involved, it was just the calm that comes from acceptance.

I feel a satisfaction that comes from accepting a challenge bigger than I ever thought that I could accomplish and then trying anyway in a very public way–trying when I believed that I could, but still doubted the outcome. This blog was telling a story that I was living and did not know the ending. Failure was a possibility. This was life far outside my comfort zone. This trip seemed almost impossible those first few days in the desert and, in fact, in retrospect, those days still seem impossible. A handmade card sent to our group by a friend of one of the riders said: “The moment you're ready to give up is usually the moment right before the miracle happens.” That moment happened for me in Riverside, California on the first day when I was on the verge of heat stroke, wobbly and disoriented, and a good samaritan poured two bottles of water on my head to revive me. If he had not stopped, I would have had to quit. If I had quit or if I had to quit on that first day, the ride would have been a different ride. It would have been easier to quit each day thereafter. Instead, just one more mile, became 10 then 20, then two days became three of consecutive riding, then make it to the next rest day became the goal. The challenges each day got harder, but somehow each day also seemed to become more manageable.

This is a big country (actually it is a REALLY BIG country), with lots of hopes and dreams ready to be shared if you take the time to ask. The answers will surprise and inspire you. There are people out there with passions to do things that you have never heard of, but to them it is their life. This is a country with lots of good people that will touch you the way that the senior citizens of Maysville, Missouri touched me. This is a country with places to visit that will never make the Travel section of the New York Times, but yet are places to which I would like to return. This is a country with lots of small towns where the folk live with a sense of pride of the accomplishments of one of their own who achieved great things, probably because of, rather than in spite of, where they grew up. I am sure that I saw America the way that I wanted it to be, but that's OK this trip is about emotion not fact.

So I have been asked what is the next adventure? Run another marathon during the second half of 2013. The last one I completed was in 1982 and the first one in 1978. Early August, I meet with Scott Murr, one of the authors of Run Less, Run Faster, for an evaluation and customized training program. Scott, along with his co-authors, run the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training at Furman University. Then yoga certification in some exotic location.

At this point, I feel like paraphrasing the book Goodnight Moon, except I will now be saying goodbye to Dairy Queen, double scoops of ice cream, regular coke, double quarter pounders and french fries, milkshakes, chocolate milk and Payday bars. I will miss getting my Raisin Bran in the morning by turning a crank or pulling a lever. I will miss that post breakast dessert pastry that always ensured there were enough fast burn carbs/calories on board to last until the first SAG. As someone commented early on, there must be a food rehab facility for people who bike across the US, no doubt it is in California. I will really miss all my co-riders. It is quite a unique experience to take a 50 day vacation with 25 or so strangers in circumstances where you are in constant daily contact and find that you grow quite fond of all of them. No doubt our bikes will be headed in the same direction at some time in the future–maybe in Land's End on the way to John O'Groats.

Well, Dear Reader, goodbye to you as well, you are on now your own. Thank you for all of your comments and support, even if some of them came with a Circular 230 notice warning me that I should not construe the comment as tax advice. I hope I am lucky enough someday to get an invite to your blog when you pursue your dreams. All the best!

As for me, now, I am just happy to be back with my real “sweetie.”

Tea-K's Rally Speech

Brick and Chris (Real Sweetie)

Shark Girl, Irish Rickey, BillyMac, Becky Bookseller and Brick

EFIs (RobC,Irish Rickey, Roger, Shark Girl, Chris B, Becky Bookseller, Honey Bob and Brick

Some of the Best People in the World

 

 

Day 46: Brattleboro, VT to Burlington, MA

This cake is baked. Only the icing remains to be done. Today was the final big ride in this journey, 92.49 miles from Brattleboro, Vt., through New Hampshire and to Burlington, MA, just 18 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. We averaged 13.49 MPH over route that had 5250 feet of climbing, the most severe portions being earlier in the route. Tomorrow is a short ride to the ocean for a quick ceremonial wheel dip. The Garmin now reads 3417 miles ridden since our departure from Manhattan Beach. I made it the whole way.

Today started with a flat tire before I even started, which I took as an annoying omen sent by the black cat who crossed my path yesterday. We nevertheless left Brattleboro on time, crossed the Connecticut River and immediately had our first of two state crossing photo ops as we entered New Hampshire. New Hampshire competes with Vermont for the prettiest state, with roadside streams, lakes, very steep hills and green everywhere. The colors were enhanced by the mist or drizzle that pretty much stayed with us all day. We passed a covered bridge, numerous little towns, a sign for a Meat Raffle, a sign that warned that “Time flies. It's up to you to be the pilot.”, and into Massachussets and through Concord, Minute Man National Park and Lexington (with nary one of the Brits on the trip agreeing to be photographed in front of a Revolutionary War monument). On most rides, I never think about the destination and rarely compute the miles remaining. Today, Boston was all I thought about. Boston spent the whole day mentally reeling me in with a taut line that pulled me up hills at a 3 MPH pace and accelerated me down the other sides at a 32 MPH. Today the destination was the focus.

We stopped at the Fitzwilliam Fire Department in New Hampshire and asked to use the Restroom. It easily was the most distinctive of the trip with a Halloween head on the sink to watch you and Fire and Emergency Services magazines to entertain you. If I ever buy a fire truck, I think it is going to be a Ferrara.

The arrival in Boston was emotional but I will save that for tomorrow's post. Suffice it to say, my “sweetie” (my wife Chris) greeted me with a present that just perfectly brought me back to reality from my new sense of self worth gained from cycling across the country, a book entitled “Bike Snob.” The sad thing is I so can't wait to read it.

Dinner last night was at the Top of the Hill BBQ in Brattleboro which had great BBQ, outdoor dining overlooking a meadow that even impressed the Brits from Cornwall and a BYOB policy. We left to hit Fast Eddie's ice cream shop (pix included since I know you won't believe me the ice cream store is named Fast Eddie's), which closed ten minutes before we arrived. I knocked on the door and explained to the two tee age girls cleaning up that it was quite important that we get ice cream before our final big ride. If you say you are cycling across the US, it opens all kinds of door, in this case the door to Fast Eddie's. The lights went on and the soft serve flowed, in my case into one delicious Strawberry sundae.

Stay tuned for tomorrow!

Connecticut River

Concord Monument

 

Day 45: Albany, NY to Brattleboro, VT

Most of today's ride I have done hundreds of times on the way to Mount Snow, Vermont. Until today, it was always in a car, starting with a Ford Bronco and graduating over the last 30 years to increasingly more performance oriented cars proportional to my age. Today, the only performance helping me were my two legs turning out an average of 145 watts versus the 375 horsepower alternative.

Well, I can attest that riding the hills of Vermont is much easier in a car. Today's ride was 78.51 miles with 5500 feet of climbing at a hill squashing 12.46 MPH. We started in Latham, crossed the upper Hudson River into Troy, the home of Uncle Sam, and wound our way across New York to the little town of Hoosic. Hoosic is the home of the Man of Kent Tavern, one of my favorite places to eat. The MOC is a quasi-English soccer/rugby bar/restaurant in the middle of nowhere, with soccer/rugby jerseys hanging on the rafters and nailed to the ceiling. RobC pointed out to me that there is a very well maintained distinction between the Men Of Kent and Kentish men. I thought the devilish RobC was pulling the English wool over my Yankee eyes, but it appears to be very real at least according to the Internet.

Kent is traditionally divided into West Kent and East Kent by the River Medway. This division into east and west is a reflected in the term “Men of Kent” for residents east of the Medway; those from west are known as “Kentish Men”. The female equivalents are “Maid of Kent” and “Kentish Maid”.[21] These one-time traditional subdivisions of the English county of Kent, are kept alive today by the Association of the Men of Kent and Kentish Men: an organisation formed in 1913. The Association website can be found here.

With all the imagination in the world, I could not make this stuff up.

Continuing through Hoosic, we passed the Big Moose Deli and Country Store, where over the years the number of animals on the roof, under the eaves and in the parking lot seemed to have multiplied. They also seem to be buying reinforcements as well as a partially uncrated George Washington and several additional animals were in the parking lot awaiting placement.

Next was the Vermont state sign and the town of Bennington, that greets motorists with a classic New England church that also hosts the remains of Robert Frost (epitaph reads “I had a lover's quarrel with the world”), towers over Grandma Moses museum and is just up the street from the Hemmings News Auto Museum. Bennington dumped its Seward Johnson and moose sculptures and now has displayed throughout the town fiberglass Catamounts (mountain lions) decorated by artists hoping to win a prize. Next up was really up, that is a 7 mile climb up Searsburg mountain in the drizzle and in the fog. Vermonters say there is a reason the Green Mountains are called the Green Mountains and it has a lot to do with the rainfall here. The highway picture below is at 11am and there was limited visibility. Down the mountain, past Lake Whitingham, through Wilmington, back up to Hogback mountain and then a wonderful, long, sweeping, fast descent into Brattleboro. Brattleboro is a crunchy granola kind of town that also always provides a great photo op–today's being two dogs that appear to be driving a Jeep through downtown.

All in all, a tough, but really nice day of riding. Maybe I am prejudiced because I have spent so much time in Vermont, but it is the most scenic state we have passed through. Pix below.

One more killer ride of 90 miles and 5500 feet of climbing tomorrow before the 18 mile victory lap to the Atlantic on Friday. I am thinking I may have this one in the bag!

Hudson River on way to Troy, NY

Bennington, Vermont

Catamount Sculptures in Bennington

Seven Mile Climb up Searsburg Mountain

Lake Whitingham


View from Hogback Mountain

Two Dogs Driving a Jeep

 

Day 44: Little Falls to Albany, NY

Today we settled in Latham, NY, between Schnectady and Albany. It was a special day. We rode 72.82 miles at a pace of 14.99, a pace slowed signficantly by some wonderful slow pedals full of recollections discussed below. The road was mostly flat as we followed the Mohawk River through town after town that still show touches of the Mohawk Indians, the Dutch settlers and the Amish farmers. The first two I knew well, but I was surprised by the number of Amish farms heralded by two Amish buggies we passed on the highway.

Now boomers, remember the White Turkey Drive In Restaurant/Root Beer stand on the way to Erie, Pa. Now quick, think–what is the only thing that was better than a drive in restaurant. Well that would be an actual Drive In movie, which we passed in Palantine Bridge, NY–the El Rancho. How do you describe a drive in movie to your kids? Ummm, you don't. Fogged windows blocked the view of movies never watched. No white earbuds here, just that clunky speaker that hung on the inside of the window crackling the soundtrack, louder on the left side of the car than the right, and that sometimes went home with you because of teenage inadvertence. Dr. Seuss' “Oh, the stuff you will learn” was never better illustrated than a night at the drive in. Now, I find there is a website that helps you find drive ins in New York for any of you who want to recapture your youth other than by riding a bike. See here.

Yesterday at route rap I found out we were cycling through Schenectady five blocks from where I went to college at Union. I could not resist a stop and emailed Sally Webster of College Relations last night about my visit. I had been there many times recently to watch my son play soccer for Union, but I wasn't quite prepared for the emotion as I rode through the gates toward Nott Memorial this time. This time was more a life event. Lump in throat, tears in eyes, a feeling that somehow those years there, magnificent as they were, were years of deferred gratification, years of study to prepare for law school and business school to prepare for work to eventually retire. Well today there was a big old withdrawal from the deferred gratification account. I could not be more thankful for the experience that I had there then and today. The campus is even more beautiful than I used to boast about. The welcoming party could not have been more welcoming. And the slow spin around the campus brought back a range of emotions with each revolution of the pedals. I laughed to myself that I spent much of time there with a butt on a library chair that has now been replaced by a bike saddle.

Downtown Schenectady, a town which in its prime was the Corporate Headquarters for GE and the location of the Alco locomotive plant, looks to be on its way back. Downtown seemed almost festive as I passed Proctors Theater. On the way out, I passed the locomotive that recalls the town's Alco years.

When I went by Tony on the bike yesterday, he yelled out YouTube, the Crafty Cockney. With the aid of Google, I discovered that the Crafty Cockney is the Michael Jordan of the darts world and YouTube has many of his championship moments, thrills and all. An example is here. But if you want to get the real thrill of darts, watch Awesome Dart Moments–it is a fun watch once you get past the introduction–full of hoarse throated, squealing announcers repeatedly proclaiming that dart history was just made before your very eyes.

Only Two More Hard Riding Days

El Rancho Drive In

Downtown Schenectady

Nott Memorial, Union College

 

Day 43: Syracuse to Little Falls, NY

Today was a flat, easy 78.67 mile ride at 15.58 MPH from Syracuse to Little Falls, NY. The ride followed the Erie Canal and the Mohawk River Basin, with a lot of country roads for the first 40 miles or so. The most notable and numerous road signs the last fews days warn motorists not to kill motorcyclists. See below. They are everywhere. We passed by what is claimed to be the smallest chapel in the world, which apparently is available for very small weddings, and by shocking pink garbage cans (which the irreverent Brits attribute to women's lib).

As I went to do laundry in Little Falls, I noticed a magnificent building sitting on top of the hill. I asked the lady at the Post Office what it was. The picture is below. It was the former Masonic Temple, bought by a woman from Connecticut who moved here. It serves as her home and pottery studio. If you have a dream of buying a big old building and restoring it, she is leaving your dream. Article about her is here. Many of these small towns have significant and ornate old houses that just invite speculation of the wealth, power and pride that created them at a time when the town was booming, And this town at one time boomed. It was a major Erie Canal town, with woolen mill. The area was a major producer of cheese until the 1920s when refrigerated trucks made it more profitable to send the milk to New York City than use it to produce cheese. It still claims to be a major supplier of milk to the “New York New Jersey milkshed”. All in all, a very interesting town that is making the most of its history.

DocOllie circulated the video below of Danny MacKaskill, a patient of his with a repaired broken clavicle by DocOllie. This video is GREAT CYCLING video, straight out of the movie Toys! There are some out takes as well at the end of the video. WATCH IT. IT IS VERY COOL.!

http://youtu.be/Sv3xVOs7_No.

I have been riding everyday pretty much exclusively with C-Suite. Over the course of 40 or so days, the pack very accurately sorts out into ride groups of similar ability, with an occasional strong day by one or weak day by another to break the cycle. At this point, over a distance of 60 or greater miles, you pretty much know who will finish where and it is always a surprise to be passed by or pass somebody outside the predictable order. C-Suite originally retired in 2007 and decided to walk across the country, East to West. He got as far as the Mississippi and decided that the other half might not be as much fun as doing it on a bicycle. He pretty much now gets newspapers ready for sale, after a long career managing newspapers, some in the large towns we have passed nearby. He grew up in Missouri, journalism degree from the University of Missouri (which I understand is one of the top, if not the top, journalism school in the US), capped off with a Harvard MBA. His experiences enable him to see things differently than I do. He can tell soybeans from wheat from corn at the earliest stages. He knows how many ears of sweet corn grow on a stalk. See here. I will see a young man walking down a country road and conclude that he is out for exercise; his journalistic background tells him the dude has lost his license and the lunch bag indicates that he is walking to work. He sees a prison built on a state line and knows politically why it was put there.

At dinner last night with DocOllie, I continued my new found obsession with the differences in burial practices between the US and Great Britain. He confirmed that cremation is definitely “in” in the UK. Mum was cremated and tossed with some flowers off the London Bridge (perhaps not lawful, but it was awfully close to where she grew up) and Dad is still under the stairs, with the family decision of his ultimate fate pending. He continued with advice on how to toss ashes off a boat without having them stick to the side, apparently a problem that many do not anticipate. The newest craze is to get the cremated remains encased in a ceramic brick. Now I thought about the potential of that alternative that I might have with a simple epitaph that would read “Brick”, but I suspect it would eventually be sold at a garage sale in Northeast Georgia for 45 cents and end up as part of someone's home constructed backyard barbecue. I must say DocOllie and C-Suite know a whole lot more practical stuff that just doesn't come across the desk of a lawyer working in New York.

Based on my emails, I must say I am shocked by the number of you who googled sky burial images in spite of my warning not to.

 

Smallest Chapel in the World

Smallest Chapel in the World

Barge Canal

Lock 20 on the Erie Canal in Little Falls, NY

Home and Studio of TIPS pottery in Little Falls, NY

House in Little Falls, NY