Friday, September 18, 2015

Final Stats

At over $13,000 (and closing on $14,000), we have exceeded our stated goal by over 30%.   Thank you all for your incredible generosity and support of AFI.  There are many lives that you are impacting.   Thank you so very much.

Some Final Cycling Stats
  • 119,600+ feet climbed
  • 3,989 miles (with the "off Strava" cycling miles that were added at the end of the days, with your permission, I am calling it 4,000 miles)
  • 318 hours of cycling
  • 73+ miles per day average
  • 60 sunrises
  • 54 cycling days
  • 14 states
  • 9 dog chases
  • 6 flat tires
  • 4 ferry rides
  • 2 countries
  • 1 hawk attack
  • 0 gallons of gas
Not one moose, but one incredible adventure.  Thank you for all your support

Monday, September 14, 2015

Day 57. Bar Harbor, ME

In the 2004 Stanley Cup Final, the Tampa Bay Lightning had a grueling and stunning game 6 victory in Calgary to force the winner-take-all final Game 7 at the St Pete Times Forum.  In that game, the Lightning open the 3rd period with a two goal lead, both off the stick of Ruslan Fedetenko,  and are just 20 minutes away from raising the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history.    They just need to finish.  At 9:21 of the third, Craig Conroy scores a power play goal to pull the Flames within one. From our perspective in sections 316 row G, the next 10 minutes took an achingly and excruciatingly long 2 hours.  Time stood still.  

There is no comparison to the grueling intensity of the playoffs and riding a bicycle everyday.  The boys on the ice win that one.   But I can tell you that the last day of a relatively short 62 miles to finish the trip took a similarly achingly long time. The day starts with a sourdough Belgian waffle and great conversation with our Inn host.  Our primary topic turns to our only children... adventurous and independent girls.  Theirs is a 33 year-old hot spot firefighter in California and ours a 23 year-old Rhino keeper recently from South Africa.  However, it does not take long for me to get antsy to get on the road.  It is the final day.  Soon the bike is packed and off to Bar Harbor.
Headwinds and rain in the morning are my escorts along route 3.  It feels like I have covered about 40 miles when a honk forces me to glance to my left at a blue Subaru to spot 80 year old mom and dad passing me on the road.  I just top the climb and I see them parked on the left and unadvisedly crossing the busy highway to greet me. I would shout to stop them, but I am out of breath and more specifically very happy to see them.  Our greeting is fantastic, but short-lived as there is pedaling to be done.  At that point I note that the progress has only been about 26 miles.  Tick.  Tock. 

The rain ceases about noon to allow me to drop the rain gear.  The ham sandwich from a general store is quickly eaten to keep the day moving.  Still 30 miles to go.  Tick.  Tock. 

I must admit that I note very little of the scenery today, with the exception of the wild blueberry fields passed along route 176.  They lie low across the landscape in stark contrast to the rocks and forest.  

Ellsworth is just 23 miles from Bar Harbor and it is downhill to Trenton and then back up hill just after Mount Desert.  Now one more climb and 8 more miles.

With minutes left, Nikolai Khabibulin, the Lightning goalie, deflects a shot across ice into the path of an on-rushing Flame who sees an open net and the puck on his stick.  Khabibulin is flying across the crease as the shot goes off and is later quoted as thinking "please hit me, please hit me...".  

The climb is slow, but the speedy downhill past Cadillac Mountain puts me 1/2 mile out at last check.  I say to my intimate friend and trusty steed that has carried me almost 4000 miles.  "Just get me home...."

To quote Khabibulin,  "..and it did."

I arrive on the tip of Bar Harbor to whistles, cheers and photos from my parents, brother Blake and my wife Brenda.  There is a banner that had been signed by family and friends at AFI.  Typically preferring to be more under the radar, I admittedly relish the moment.  After I FaceTime with my daughter to share the joy, we actually hangout for a minute and talk with a small crowd who has gathered to investigate and several of whom have given donations.  Two of them have adult children facing special challenges and share in the energy.  It is the perfect ending. 

We have raised over $12k dollars and it is not over yet.  There is a bit more to come in and I will be entering the road donations over the next few days.  Thanks to all for your support and generosity.  Wish you could have ridden along, it was awesome. 

I am going to blog for a couple more days with stats and other tidbits I want to memorialize.  So those of you that are reading these will know to look for them. For now, I am going to celebrate by resting. 

Moose Search:   Clean sheet.  Zip

Song in my head.  Kool and The Gang; Celebration.  

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Day 56. Bath, ME to Belfast, ME

The actual date has often been evasive to me, much less the day of the week.  For the past two months it has been "where today is", not "what today is." However, it seems easier to sense the weekend.  Today was no exception.  There is a different vibe in the air, more people out enjoying activities and events, less rush in the air.

It was a good thing people near Bath, Maine were not in a rush this morning as I was greeted by intervals of a parade of old Model A and Model T cars, (or similar), going counter to my route.  There were old topless jalopies (probably not the right term, but it is what came to mind for me) with men and women in driving gloves and hats of the period riding some of the back roads of Maine.  They looked to be on a specific road race type route, as often there was a co-pilot reading from sheets that seem to be maps or directions.  These cars were pristine and smooth running machines.  Cool to see.

The antique automobile drivers had a great day for driving.  The rains left yesterday and today was an absolutely gorgeous cool day.  The fauna seemed to enjoy it as the daily sighting of deer and turkey were prolific.  Literally spotted over two dozen turkey today.  Most right along the side of the road.  It struck me that with all the roadkill that I have had the unfortunate need to avoid including; deer, skunk, porcupine, ground hog, snakes, hawks, larks, swallows, chipmunks and myriads of others........not one turkey.  Perhaps they are smarter than given credit.

The deer are enjoying the day, especially two that prance and leap high above the tall field grass like a synchronized circus act.  Impressive to watch.

This part of the country is absolutely spectacular.  Mr. Wyman, I can certainly understand why you live up the summer.  Still working on why you live here in the winter.  It has incredible bay views, mountain and lake vistas, all laid out among rolling hills and forest.  Add in the architecture of the Inns and Farmhouses and you understand why US 1 is so busy with traffic and people trying to enjoy the area.

My route keeps me off US 1, for the most part, but I do combine it with back roads and byways.  The highways are typically wide-shouldered, but that benefit is off-set by the traffic and the road trash that takes concentration to avoid.  I do a poor job of the latter as I pick up a rusty sharp metal shard that cuts my front tire.  After little road-side mechanic work that was supervised by two young fellas who stopped to offer help, I was off to meet Brenda for lunch.

In Rockport, we lucked upon a great little farm market and deli that set high on a cliff overlooking a harbor full of sailboats swaying amongst the silver glitter of the rippled water.  The wind coming off the bay was refreshing and crisp, on the verge of cold as Brenda ate a zucchini hot dog (yes, zucchini hot dog) and I devoured my egg salad sandwich.  We could not resist the molasses cookie on our way out and before we parted ways again.

A couple of hours and a total of 4300 feet of climbing later, the pedaling was done for the day as I reached the town of Belfast.  We are staying tonight at a turreted bed and breakfast with antiques and collectibles around every nook and cranny.   We enjoy sitting on the veranda as if in a time past, just resting and talking at tea-time.  A pleasant evening, indeed. It is certainly a far cry from camping in some sketchy city parks of the earlier weeks.

Sunday is a big day.  It is the first weekend of the NFL season and the 'Fins enter the year with hopes of being above mediocre.   They kick off the season in a battle with Washington.  Tottenham also takes on Sunderland in the EPL, hoping to stay above the relegation zone and put Chelsea in that place.  I will probably skip both of those contest as I have a project that needs to be finished.  I can smell the salt water from here.  ("Mainely" because Belfast sits on the Belfast Bay, but you know what I mean.....).

Bar Harbor or Bust.

Moose Search: Nil

Song in my head:  Norah Jones; Creepin' In. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Day 55. Lovell, ME to Bath, ME

Sandi and Pete were the host at the Old Saco Inn where I spent last evening.  They are from Cape Town, South Africa and we commiserated over their homeland for a bit.  My daughter lived in Limpopo, South Africa  over the past three years working at a Rhino Orphanage, so I skated on her coat tails in that conversation.  

Shortly after arrival, Sandi offers to do my laundry.   She chuckles, explaining that they don't offer personal laundry services for guest in cars, only those on bicycles.  Although I am appreciative of the offer, I also don't want to be an inconvenience and am about to "hem and haw" a polite decline when she says "No, I insist".  Much in the same manner someone urges you to take the breath mint they just offered.  On cue, I accept her generosity, excited about starting the day in fresh gear.  

Often rewards first come with challenges.  Today's reward is that I am reunited with my wife Brenda by day's end.  The events of the day do not make it easy.  Brenda has her wallet lost or stolen, so has no drivers license beyond the normal concern over lost credit cards, etc.  Needless to say she is upset.  She was wise enough to have taken her passport, a credit card and a spot of cash separately in her purse, so she can still navigate the air transportation world. Navigating the ground transportation world is another problem.  She can fly anywhere she wants in this land, but can't get a rental car.  Seems odd.  

We initiate plan B, which we just made up.  I am now going to cycle into destination, then rent a car and drive up to the airport and get her.  Ironically, this works out perfectly.   First, because I am renting the car, the free National rental days I have acquired over the years can be used.  Now the rental cost me $14 bucks, total.  Second, we get to take some scenic back roads back to Bath, ME and I get to show her what some of my routes typically look like.    What is more, is that Brenda gets to know all 8 employees at the Bangor Airport while waiting on me for three hours.  Good times.  

Oh, the other obstacles to the day.  Rain, wind, closed roads, detours on steep gravel alternate roads.  None of it mattered.  The reunion was so much fun catching up and having dinner together. Joyous. 

Next to last leg finishes in Belfast, ME today.  I get to have lunch with Brenda along the way, so this should be fun.  

Moose sightings: 0

Song in my head.  Cat Stevens; Wild World.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Day 54. North Haverhill, VT to Lovell, ME

The overnight rains that were predicted came showering through the trees about 8pm.  With sunset at about 7:30, I had ample time to get the campsite set properly.  I am in site 23 at Wildwood National Forest campground.  It is primitive site, but does have cold, fresh water.  I choose this site because of the layout of trees and picnic table.  My tent has become less sea-worthy over the past two months and its double decade old age is starting to show.  The taped seams and other water-proofing issues needs some attention I cannot give it at the moment.  These have been discovered the hard way in the past weeks.    So I have a plan to use my emergency tarp to cover the exposed areas, extending out to cover my bike and create a bit of a canopy over the tent entrance.  It actually looks hideous, but works well.  The rains come blowing through, but I am perfectly dry with my impromptu breeze ways creating a fine shelter.  The rains drain the sky for a couple of hours and the tarp has a tin roof effect with the rain and I am soon forced to check my eyelids for holes.

The morning breaks to the enjoyment of some instant coffee with maple and brown sugar oatmeal. I feel a bit melancholy that this is my last day of camping for the trip.  I am at hotels and Inns for the remainder.  I have truly enjoyed the camping experiences and just sit and enjoy the cool quiet morning in the forest, reflecting on the various places I have stayed.   As I stuff my wet and gritty tent and tarp into their compression sacks, put on my damp cycling clothes again and  have some schmeg from the tree fall into my coffee, the feeling quickly evaporates, like the morning fog.   Time to move on.  
My tent and its owner is not the only thing that appears to be wearing out on this trip.  My well-documented shoe repairs, along with my main cycling socks are disintegrating.   My cycling gloves that I bought on this trip are worn and have tears in them.  The handlebar tape is seeing its last days.  Yesterday, my back pannier needed "field" repairs to keep on the bike.  The cyclometer has not worked for weeks and the heart monitor is intermittently active.  Both battery issues, I presume.  This will be the third battery on the cyclometer, but I am not going to change it out.  All in all, not bad really, but normal wear and tear is showing its ugly head.

Kancamangus pass was the highest climb of the last week and on the elevation profile, looked daunting.  Yes, it was the highest and longest climb of the week, but comparatively turned out to be the easiest.  The grade was gradual and steady for the 12 miles of climbing.  The weather was perfect, overcast and cool, giving the sensation that this pass could be climbed all day.  Where the earlier climbs had 10 and 12 percent grades, this climb and descent was about 7% at the worst and made both up and down hill exhilarating.  I hardly had to tap my breaks on the way down except for the roughest spots on the road.  On the earlier mountain descents I was burning some break pads.  The views and the Pemigewasset River cascading over the abundance of rocks and stones made this a top 3 ride of the trip.  I have discovered of all the landscape features that have been encountered, I have enjoyed the creeks, rivers and falls the most.  This ride will not top the 94 mile climb in Idaho, but it will compete for a podium finish for sure. Loved this ride today.

Early in the day, I crossed the Appalachian trail and met some hikers by the road.  They were trying to hitch hike into Lincoln for supplies.  Three of the hikers were mid twenties, but one was about age with full dreadlocks that just did not quite fit.  He had recently hooked up with this team, but had actually started his hike in Key West.  They eventually catch a lift and pass me.  I run into them again in Lincoln where they holler out and I whip in a parking lot to chat a second.  The 50 year old is massaging his gnarled feet while holding court on some hiking philosophy.  At that very moment I decide that bike touring across the country beats hiking the Appalachian Trail.

As I leave Lincoln there is an adventure store that's

advertising Moose tours, 97% sightings.  I remain hopeful.

I have seen some gorgeous sights on this trip, but tomorrow will be the best sight I have seen.  My wife, Brenda, meets me for the final two days and when I stop pedaling tomorrow she will be there.  I cannot express how excited I am.  No, she will not be cycling with me.  She will spend the day sightseeing while I am doing the same from the comfort of my bike saddle.  Can't wait.

Moose Search: 0

Song in my head:  Etta James; At Last

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Day 53. Royalton, VT to North Haverhill, NH

If you woke up this morning and won an award, how would you feel?  Coffee, blueberry muffins and an award is a pretty good start to the day.  Add a scrambled egg, sausage and cantaloupe and you have the beginning of my day today.  The breakfast was provided by Jim and Gerie, whose farmhouse in Royalton, VT I stayed in for the night.  They are former dairy farmers and have quite the modern home with many antiques throughout.   Oh, the award?   Quietest guest they have ever had.  That was the greeting and acknowledgement that I received this morning as I entered the kitchen for breakfast.  I like it.   We talked quite a while over breakfast on a variety of topics and I had them laughing over a few of my escapades, even when I was not trying to be funny, unfortunately.  

A light fog was resting over their farm, but it was clear on the roads, as they said it would be.  Within 6 miles of my start, the Vermont Law School emerges from the trees.  The corner that occupies many of the buildings and supporting shops is bustling with students apparently heading toward class with a cross between confidence and concern that can dictate the first days of school.  The campus, especially being a law school, seemed a bit out of place, remote perhaps. But that is probably unfair simply because I happen upon if from a backroad.  

There are three big climbs today and the first starts just as I pass Sharon, VT, then Thetford Hill, and finally the last climb was in the White mountains just past North Haverhill, NH.  I don't have the stats on them, as I have no service while I am typing this and cannot pull up Strava.  They are all a workout for sure.  I take them incredibly slow and just find a gear and grind.  True to my previous Intel, they are not as steep as the first climb.  I actually enjoy these climbs, the challenge, the views and the easier descents.  I am definitely tired tonight, but it was a good ride.  

Beyond the morning encouragement of my award,  (Yes, I choose to look at it as an achievement to have been the quietest) today was filled with more.  On my initial ascent, a silver-bearded gentleman in a jeep slows to my turtle pace and ask me if I am headed to Maine.  I affirm that is my destination.  He ask if I started in Oregon or Washington and I reply Astoria, Oregon was the beginning of the trek.  As a car pulls up behind him, he gives a fist pump and shouts encouragement and something about his butt hurting just thinking about it.  I notice his yellow flashing light on top of the jeep and realize he is a rural route mail carrier.  He passes me several times in the road, each time with me simply plodding along.    Some time later, I turn left past a general store and he is out front talking to someone as he spots me and yells, "there he is."  They both shout encouragement as I pass and wave back.  

I stop for lunch at a general store and deli in Piermont, NH. (Pop. 709).  There I meet Rob Elder.  I have taken my cranberry chicken salad sandwich with jalapeños and banana peppers to a picnic bench behind the store.  Rob walks up and introduces himself and we talk about my journey and other adventures his family has been on.  As I explain about creating awareness and raising money for AFI, he generously reaches into his pocket and hands me cash as a donation.  (Adding it to the road donations I will total at the end). He grew up in the area and moved back after living in New York for many decades.  His son passed away six years ago and he said he dedicated Friday's to waving and encouraging people in town every Friday.  He goes on to say that he eventually gave that up..... and simply does it everyday.   Apparently true to his commitment, today he was out delivering food to some of the elders in the community.  I finish my lunch after he leaves and set out on my way. Shortly up the hill we meet again and he pulls over to share two thoughts that will give me a slice of New Hampshire. One is that there are two 80+ year old men who grew up in the area and now live up the road together in one of only two brick houses in Piermont.    He gives me a brief version of their varied and colorful history and encourages me to stop by for a minute or wave if I don't have the time.  The other was that he volunteered to come get me some 20 miles up the road at my campsite and take me to dinner, since it was predicting rain for the night.  I politely decline the latter generosity, but find my way to the old brick house where I spend several minutes talking to Ron and Albert, colorful indeed. Ron is "an old 'Sailah'" who served in Korea.  He does not drive, but still rides his bike around the area.  He tells me he put over 1800 miles on his bike one 'summah'.  Albert is dairy farmer that "all the kids used to work for", but had watered down his milk back in '87 and could not dairy farm since then.   As I speak to some of you, I will tell you more about them.  They got in their dented and hard worn old Chevy truck, that seemed to fit right in with the rest of the residence, to head to town.  As I peddle off, Ron yells, "see ya in the funny 'papahs'".  Cool.  

After a bit, I pedal forth and am drawn in by a farm stand, as I often am.   The Indian Corn Mill farm stand specializes in Apples and Apple cider.  I inquire if I could buy just two apples, one for now and one for my camp tonight.  The proprietor says no, but that she will give me two.  She selects of her finest and throws in a glass of apple cider since I had to cycle in the heat.  She explains that they are known for their cider and that it get better in October with the different varieties of apples she uses.  I must admit, with zero exaggeration that it was the finest apple cider I have ever tasted, even if it was just September.  I agree to take her gift, but explain that I will add the value of it to the donations I have received on road.  She bids me safe travel and I am off again. 

Ultimately, I settle into the Wildwood National Forest campsite and prep my tent and tarps for the pending rain, cooking a quick dinner before it gets here.  Behind the rain is supposed to be cooler weather to offset this recent heatwave they have had here.  I will gladly welcome its arrival.  

Oh yeah.  Did I mention I made it to New Hampshire, the penultimate state on the tour.  

Moose sighting: wait for it ---- 0.  But the road side moose crossing signs are increasing.  

Song in my head:  Stevie Wonder; Higher Ground.  

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Stats update - Just a few days to go

We are on the homestretch and have  exceeded our initial stated goal of $10,000.  Frank Lyons doubled his generosity and put us over the top a few weeks back and we have continued to build on it.  What amazing support for an amazing organization. As we finish this week, let's continue to create awareness among our friends and co-workers about the opportunity that they can help create through their donations to Alliance for Independence.  A reminder, if your company has a matching program, please take the time to process the paperwork to make your donation go further.  

We sit at $10,950 as of this writing.  I think we can break $12,000 this week.  

Thanks again for your incredible generosity and for taking the time to read the blog.  

Cycling Stats. 

100,214 feet climbed 
3,654 miles
286 hours in the saddle.  
57 days
51 riding days 
12 states
8 dog chases
5 flats
4 ferry rides
3 time zones
2 countries 
0 moose