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

Day 52. Shoreham, VT to Royalton, VT

I creaked my way downstairs on wooden floors that have been treaded upon for over 200 years.  Molly, the host brings breakfast of warm banana bread and an English breakfast of potatoes and poached eggs.  A spot of coffee and orange juice rounded out the morning meal and I feel a bit spoiled, frankly.  Certainly beats the camp breakfast options of the earlier weeks. 

The big meal should be the ticket to begin the assault on the final miles through the mountains.  I am less than 500 miles from the finish and ready to start the grind over a few steep peaks.  

The ride starts with what I can expect each day, lots of ups and downs with a variety of grades.  The early part of the route is through farms of apples, dairy and maple stands.  The surrounding mountains are just getting the first brush strokes of autumn with initial shades of yellow, tawny, and a hints of rust or red just beginning to emerge like a breaking sunrise.  Rivers and creeks are my roadside companions today and I prefer them when we are flowing the same direction.  The water seems unusually low and that seems to be confirmed by a few of the local people.  It is always low this time of year, but they have not had rain for some time.  

I go upstream for the early part of the ride today and face the first of the big climbs.  As a matter of fact, it is the second highest summit I will cross in the final days.  My maps from Adventure Cycling show the elevation profile of this final week.  Broadloaf, the big climb of the day looks intimidating, so I start the the trek with some concern.  Shortly after passing through the college town of Middlebury, the climb starts just before I cross the Middlebury River where I see a sign the says Ripton 4 miles and Broadloaf 7 miles.  Knowing the peak is a couple miles past the town of Broadloaf, I hit the bailout gear and start up the hill in earnest.  In short order,  my legs and lungs are on fire.  A pair of walkers speak greetings and encouragement and I only have enough air to mutter a grunt of acknowledgement.  The thought that I might not be able to do this for seven miles sets in.  I am struggling and about the time that I know I will not be able to do this for the next 7 miles there is a slight relief in the grade.  My legs are still on fire hauling the heavy bike and gear up the mountain, but my breathing is easier with the relief in pitch.  In a bit less than two miles the road eases to a reasonable climb and I am encouraged that I can find the cadence to grind it out.  At the 4 mile mark of the climb there is a roadside general store in Ripton.  This jewel of a store offers a nice break.  While paying for a drink and protein bar, the shopkeeper tells me that I just cleared the steepest grade on the entire route. -- the entire route across the country.  I am skeptical, but elated as I want that to be true.  Annoyingly, I ask clarifying questions to be sure and even a local shopper jumps into the conversation to offer his confirmation.  

I finish my snack and return to the saddle in great spirits and hope that my new found Intel proves accurate.  Indeed the ride turns easier and a much more manageable ascent.  I feel good as I pedal on, which frankly could have as much to do with the Bit O Honey chew I also had at the break.  I love those little guys.  There is one more hard turn of the wheel during the final scale of Broadloaf that have the legs screaming again, but it was not quite as bad as before.  Close, but not quite.   As I discover on a road sign, some of the grade was 12%.  

The ascent quickly becomes history as the descent starts.  The roads are incredibly rough and I burn some breaks diving down the mountain. There was a time that I would throw caution to the wind and see how fast I could manage. Not today, I am conservative on the downhill.  I have ridden too far to do dumb now.  

My lunch stop is Rochester at a place Robert Frost often came on hot days to the soda fountain that was in the general store.  Today, it is a cafe with a couple of tables on the sidewalk where lunch is enjoyed and finished off with a Maple shake.  Yep. Maple shake.  Delicious.  

Cycling on, there is a warning roadside sign that cautions the road warriors to "Stay Alert" "Moose Crossing".  I have been alert for a thousand miles.  We are getting close.  

Weeks ago many of the towns and villages that were passed through were established in the late 1800's.  In this part of the country, the towns were chartered in the late 1700's.  Tonight I am in Royalton, chartered in 1769.  

Moose Search: 0. 

Song in my head:  The Proclaimers; I'm gonna be (500 Miles)

Day 51. North Creek, NY to Shoreham, VT

I enjoyed great rest days with my brother and nephew in North Creek, NY.  We relaxed on a train ride down and back the Hudson River, played some spirited games of Frisbee Golf (Chase, my nephew is really a good driver, I stink out loud), and a steep hike up Crane Mountain with incredible payoff views at the peak.  The hike included climbs up rocky faces and trail-built wooden ladders to scale two granite facings.  The vista at the top of the Adirondacks and multiple mountain lakes were stunning. One of our best day hikes in our history of trekking.  

We had intended on fly-fishing and white water rafting, but neither worked out.  The fishing had many obstacles and the local guide said the best bets were float fishing, but they were long distance trips that we did not have the time to do.  The whitewater trip was actually cancelled after we sat by the launch area for several hours waiting on the dam gears to be fixed.  Yes. I spelled that correctly, the dam release is what the rafters count on for the whitewater run.  One of the gears stripped and after multiple updates that it would be only a "short while", the rafting guides had to call it off because it was getting too late to make it down the river.  

We took advantage of that time to just chill, get the laundry done and crank up a great fire for roasting hot dogs. Sometimes you forget just how good fully roasted hot dogs can be.  

After another round of frisbee golf on the side of Gore Mountain the next morning, it was time to get back on the bike and finish the final leg of the trip.  A relatively short ride today to Ticonderoga, NY to catch one more small ferry ride into Vermont, home of the Green Mountains.  

The ride was beautiful with the mountains starting to get steeper and the banks of the lake becoming more sheer.  The traffic seemed light for a Labor Day weekend which made for a relaxing run, especially on a long, fast 2 mile descent into Ticonderoga.  That was certainly fun, but the cross winds had me feathering the brakes several times to keep a steady ride.  Of course that just means that the climbs on the other side of the river are going to have a price that must be paid.  

It is unseasonably hot here with temps reaching 95 degrees in Shoreham when the highs this time of year usually barely break into the 70s.  There is constant grumbling by the locals, and I must admit, I was certainly hoping for cooler temps as well. There are a couple of rain days ahead of me that should bring cooler temps behind it.  

I only have one more camping night this final week, as I am staying in several inns along the way.  Tonight I am in 200 year old Shoreham Inn that has a small restaurant and pub downstairs.  Great place to stay and other than being a Manchester United fan,  the owners are fantastic.  He was born and raised in Manchester, so that certainly trumps my remote fandom of Tottenham.

We start climbing the Green and White Mountains over the next three days.  I am told I am in for some beautiful cycling as I end this journey.  Tomorrow is on to South Royalton, VT

Moose Search: 0. 

Song in my head:  Aerosmith; Back in the Saddle.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Day 50. Eighth Lake Campground, NY to North Creek, NY

The campsite last evening had a view of the lake and was a short walk through an open common grassy area to its bank.  As the sun was setting behind me, I just sat at a bench under a hemlock tree and simply watched a loon fish in the middle of the lake and mallards along its edge.  Of many lessons I have learned on this trip, one of the most enjoyable and rewarding is just to settle down and savor the moment in front of you.  I have not always been good at just "sitting" and relaxing.    As dusk approaches, in vain, I keep an eye out for the moose to grandiosely make an appearance at the edge of the lake.  

The moose never appears, but the stars make a brilliant showing in the early moonless sky.  The clear sky and calm lake create a gorgeous picture that I could not capture on film.  Framed by heavy hemlock limbs and edged by the deep dark sloping hillside, the spectacle of the stars reflecting off the lake like hundreds of fireflies is striking.  So I sit and savor.  

My hopes of an early morning moose sighting are quickly dashed by the heavy fog on the lake.  It is a short, 50 mile day into North Creek, so I am certainly in no rush, especially after yesterday.  I break camp and head out to the ranger stand to better get a gauge of the weather.  The fog is lighter today and I am off in short order.  There are still patches along the route, but it is light and the road has a nice wide, but rough, shoulder.  
The mountains, lakes and towns of Central Adirondacks make for a splendid ride.  You certainly understand why this is a favorite destination of many vacationers.  I have climbed about 10,000 feet in the last few days, but they do not fell arduous with the payoff of the scenery.  

The towns along the route such as Old Gorge, Inlet and Indian Lake are all preparing for the last big summer push of tourist to their towns this Labor Day weekend.  I am preparing as well.  My brother Blake and my nephew Chase will be meeting me here in North Creek for a weekend in the mountains for fishing and white water rafting.  Over the past several years, we have been backpacking on this weekend.  We kept the tradition going this year, sans the backcountry backpacking.  We will probably take an easy hike or two, however.

It has been 21 days and over 1500 miles since my last full day off the bicycle.  I am looking forward to this weekend before we saddle up and finish the trip next Sunday, if all goes well. 

Moose sighting:   0.  Although deer and turkey are still in abundance.  

Song in my head.  Dave Brubeck; Take Five

Day 49. Osceola, NY to Eighth Lake, NY

The cross-country ski cabin was a super place to stay.  The cabin is well- worn and with a distinctive slope towards the front door, but that creates more of the ambience and indeed the comfort of the place.  

After coffee and oatmeal, I wait for the heavy morning fog to lift.   It is humid and there is no wind, so it has set in for quite a while.  After it somewhat of an impatient wait, it appeared to lighten enough, so I decide to pedal forth.  It takes me the next two hours to cover just 15 miles.  The fog had not lifted and is in fact thicker and heavier in patches along the way.  There is no shoulder on this road and although I have my flashing taillight and my yellow cycling vest on, I am afraid they do little to penetrate the density.  In fact, I hear some cars before I can finally see their headlights dimly emerge at what is essentially the last second.  I pedal slowly and every time I hear or think I hear a car I get off the road as far as I can. I am a bit unnerved by my mistake to leave and often hear cars that never transform.   Where the gravel edge of the road it rideable, I stay off the road as much as I can.  This has been a very bad choice.   The moisture is so heavy that my helmet is literally dripping wet and my arms and legs look like spiderwebs in the early morning dew.  Finally, the sun starts to break through the abyss and melt the fog.  About this time I come upon a small town where I plan to find a place to eat something and wait until it is crystal clear.  There is a small market up the road, so I get a bottle of milk and a snack and wait it out.  

I have found the people of Upstate New York to be exceptionally friendly and generous.  As I enter the town and check my map, a lady pulls alongside to make sure that I have everything I need and ensure I know my way.  At the market, several different men coming and going ask me about the adventure.  They stop and ask many earnest questions, one offers me a ride, since he is "going that way".  Another buys me protein bars and all give encouragement and respect.  As a matter fact, the previous day, I decided I did not want ramen noodles for dinner, so I biked a short way to town to the bar and grill.  After many questions and banter from the locals, a couple bought my dinner.  Earlier that same day, at a break two motorcyclist, Vinny and Chris in their full Andrew Dice Clay accents come over and talk for 10 minutes.   They were hilarious and yet earnest in their inquiries.  The store apparently specialized in fudge and they treated me to some of the finest.  

(I am keeping all the direct donations and "free meals" to make a total donation from my friends from the road at the conclusion of the ride). 

Finally the sun breaks through completely and it is time to get rolling.  The hills today ensure that I do, in fact, roll up and down the Adirondacks.   It went from a mistake of a start to a truly glorious ride.  I spend most of my day on Moose River Road.  Yes, Moose my hopes have risen again for Moose sighting.  I was warned that this road was hilly and windy by some folks at lunch yesterday, but their alternate suggestion of "just up the road you can take Woodgate road and it is straighter" added about 10 miles to the route.  That is another lesson of the road, be careful who you ask.  Most people give directions with driving in mind.  "Just up the road" can be miles.  Ask follow up questions such as "would you walk it"?...."it is uphill?"   Etc.  As it turns out I loved riding this road.  It was narrow, unlined, and winding, but beautiful with light traffic.  Rustic cabins and homes set in the Adirondacks. You might think that road such as this would cause safety concerns.  These do not bother me as people traveling here are paying attention to the road, usually with a higher level of intensity.  Even those that speed around like they are on a slalom course, are intent on the road and pass me with a wide berth.  

At lunch I am told there have been Moose sighted in the area.  I am hopeful.  I am staying on Eighth Lake tonight and will be up early in case one is spotted.  My neighbor in the adjacent site tonight has a high end Bushnell scope on a tripod pointed out over the lake for such sightings.  

Tomorrow to North Creek, NY.  

Moose Search: 0

Song in my head:   Van Morrison; Into the Mystic

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Day 48. Sterling, NY to Osceola, NY

Today (Wednesday) is the last day riding with Brian.  We sink washed out cycling clothes the night before and hung them out on the porch of the cabin to attempt to dry overnight.  They do not.  The heavy dew and fog have ensured that the day starts with wet cycling kits.  Except for the initial moments, it isn't really that uncomfortable, as we have some big hills to climb to start the morning and we will be wet in due time. 

There is light fog and high haze during the morning ride and the upcoming sun is a shrouded deep orange ball as it rises above the trees. We ride together for the first 17 miles to Fulton, NY and have breakfast at a roadside diner and skating rink.  Then we cycle over the bridge and part ways, Brian to the south to Syracuse and I turn north.  Brian makes Syracuse in good time and takes his bike to the local shop for disassembly and shipping back home.  He has time to relax at the airport before he returns home.  It was a great week of riding.  

My cyclometer has quit working and my cycling shoes are coming apart in different sections.  I make three different stops to fix both, only to have success in finding shoe goop to apply overnight to keep them together for another 11 days before they are permanently retired.   Cyclometer still not working.  

The route turning north is increasing in climbs, a prelude to the mountains in front of me for the finishing 1 1/2.  The towns and hamlets are becoming smaller and further apart in this part of northern NY.  We have enjoyed various roadside wildflowers the last few days, but here the late summer high grasses have choked out the remaking sparse blooms.  I cycle in heavy overcast skies past areas that appear to be seasonal shacks and cottages.   Many of them are in various states of structural stability.  The darker skies, thick woods and cabins in disrepair give off the feeling that this is the area that New Yorkers tell stories about around the campfire.  

Pulaski is a town along the route and it has that All-American Main Street feel, with a well-adorned Central Park.  In another 10 miles stop in the small town of Orwell at the Village Restaurant.  Literally, the only place to eat.  As I select a seat, as often happens, I am a bit of a novelty in the smaller communities.  Teresa, the owner, is welcoming everyone that enters by their first name and makes me feel welcome as well.  As I am asked about my trip, I am asked where I reside.  As it turn out, Teresa was born and raised in the Combee area of Lakeland.  Small world indeed.  

I finish the days trek covering some more rolling hills and stay at a cross-country ski cabin in Osceola.  A terrific place and concept.  It is a place that skiers can come for a holiday, and ski the local trails.  It has a loft with beds and a full kitchen, communal room and a dryer, so I can finally get my gear dry.  In the springtime, the owner has installed two 18 hole frisbee golf courses along the ski trails that have at least 10 visitors come through while I am here.  I try my hand at one of the courses, playing basically a round of bogey+ frisbee golf.  It was a great change of pace and a nice walk through the wooded trails. 

I end the day with a bit of bike maintenance before I enjoy just sitting on the couch and reading for a bit.  Tomorrow is on to my campsite at eighth lake campground.  

Moose search:  zip

Music in my head:  The Band: Up on Cripple Creek.

Day 47. Rochester, NY to Sterling, NY

A good nights rest in Rochester allowed Brian and I to get started early on our quest to Sterling, NY.  

We needed a good nights rest to recoup from not only the previous day's ride, but to settle our nerves from the closest call I have had the entire trip.  The day before we were riding along the Erie Canal trail and had to be routed up on the road as the trail switched banks.  As Brian and I were crossing the road, a driver coming out of opposite side cross street, accelerates into our lane directly at Brian.  A slam of the breaks and evasive maneuver by Brian avoided any contact, but it was certainly unnerving.  After of check of pulses and apologies from the driver, we got out of the road and continued on our way.  The adrenaline rush pushed us on to our destination. 

The early part of this day's ride we return to the Erie Canal trail for a repeat of the previous riding style for about the first 20 miles.  After that we are back on the country roads that are now small farms and orchards of apples, peaches and pears. We stop at several roadside stands along the way to sample the enticing fruit, along with delicious  maple coated peanuts.  At one particular stop, an intimidating but beautiful Great Dane kept a loud barking vigilant watch over us until we departed.  We are grateful he was obedient to the invisible fence because he could have overtaken us in two gallops. The second stand we stopped at the owner must have thought we looked haggard and just simply gave us the fruit to eat.  These stops are a favorite part of my day.  

We had grown accustomed to the flat route by the canal and had to mentally and physically adjust our cycling style to manage the 2400 feet of climbing. 

By the time we stop for lunch, we don't want to venture far from the route to save the miles, so we eat at a small, sparse marina diner near Sodus Point  for lunch.  As is typical, people often strike up conversations about the journey.  Two of men who are fishing a weeklong tournament hold our conversation as we devour our sandwiches.  As it turns out, they have been fishing this tournament for 18 years and the previous day was the first time they had large fish of the day.  A 28lb King Salmon that earned them $500 for the day.  

Our destination for the night is a one room, primitive cabin at the Sterling Campground.  It has a nice porch that we enjoy just relaxing after the ride.  That is typically priority number one, relax and recover.  We crank up the JetBoil for some Raman noodles, soup and leftover sandwiches from lunch.  

Deb, who runs the park has literally left the light on for us so we know what cabin to use.  She has worked all day and has a birthday party for her 80 year old mom that evening.  She mentioned earlier that she would be around about 8:30 to settle up.  Indeed her cart eases up in front of the cabin and we step outside to pay.  We talk about the ride, the adventure and that I am raising money for AFI.  We talk about AFI for a few minutes, she gets out of her cart and generously hands us back the money for the cabin and tells us to make it a donation.  What an incredible gesture.  She is amazing.  

We turn in for the evening and prepare for Brian's last day.  

Moose Search: Nada

Song in my head:   Joe Cocker; a little help from my friends.  

Day 46. Niagara Falls, Canada to Rochester, NY

God has smiled on us with great biking weather.  Today the winds are very helpful and ease the burden of the 94 miles we put in for the day.  

We leave our Hostel and get a quick breakfast at a local bakery and then work our way around the Niagara River towards US customs.   Along the way, we stop and gawk at the massive natural whirlpool created by the erosion of the Niagara Escarpment.  We literally are in awe of this, almost as much as the falls themselves.   Incredible.  

We have to do a bit of climbing when to reach the border where we navigate through the tolls and the auto lanes to the customs agent.  There are "back ways" that cyclist are directed to skip the bridge toll, but we wait in the car lanes to clear customs, just like everyone else.  We pass through with ease and are back in the States and headed to Rochester. 

Most of the rest of the route is on the Erie Canalway trail.  We follow that for 60 to 70 miles, a simple slip and fall away from the banks of the Erie Canal.  After some slight trouble finding the start, we cruise down the bank only to realize that this is an un-paved trail with fine gray gravel and and hard packed substrate.  At first we are very concerned about the miles we must endure the "off-road" path.  Especially Brian who is on much thinner tires than I.  At is turns out, this route is fantastic.  It is smoother than most of the roads we were on in Ohio for sure.  Not even close.  The winds are behind us, the deck is firm and it is flat.  With the extra friction, it is certainly slower than a smooth road, but we make pretty good time.  We also make a big mess.  Our bikes, bags and ourselves are coated with the dirt kicked up by the road. We are a sight to see as we arrive in Rochester.  

It is still a long day and we turn in early get some rest for the ride to Sterling the next day. 

Moose Search:   Real 0. Large fake carving 1.  

Music in my head:   The Allman Brothers Band; Ramblin' Man