Friday, July 25, 2008

Manchester to Portsmouth - The Finish!

Last evening we had a last meal together. It included Barbecue chicken, pork, and pork ribs with coleslaw and baked beans. Pat, Allison, and Mark were there to enjoy his event with me, as were family members and friends of others riders.

There was a full agenda for the final evening together starting with introduction of the guests who were present, then proceeding with Route RAP and instructions for the ride to the Atlantic, dinner, Individual rider statements and reflections of the experience, and finally ending after awards and a small gift were made by the ABB staff to each rider. It was a nice wrap-up to the experience and preparation for the climax of this event.

It was very different last night as I shared a room with my wife Pat and this morning when I woke at 5:45 AM to prepare for the final ride. Sharing the room with three others as I did on this tour was a logistical challenge that required patience and flexibility.

Rick and I left the hotel together this morning as we did on many mornings of the tour. We soon caught up with others that had left before us. Everyone was riding at a relaxed comfortable pace. As we pedaled along the route we collected more and more of our fellow bikers. It was like a school of fish as we worked our way toward the Atlantic. We made a few wrong turns on the route. Everyone was just following the bikers who were at the front. As we went through the small town of Exeter, my family caught up to us in the jeep and took pictures of us as they passed, and then stopped ahead and took more photos as we passed them. It was a real thrill knowing that we were about to accomplish our goal, and that my family was here to share the final day, and to take me back to my home base.

All of the bikers had been instructed to gather at Rye school where we would wait until all had arrived. We had a final group photo taken before we formed up into a parade group to be escorted by local police the final 3 miles to the ocean. We were arranged in groups of four with our honorary leader Shuresh Kurjah in front with Steve Foley who he always rode with. Next to them were Jose Campos, and John Douglas the most mature of this group of teenagers at 69 years young. The rest of us filled out the the formation. I was on the third row back on the right side and next to me was Rick Tangard my roommate and frequent riding partner. Next to him was Piet and Hetty Meurs the couple from Netherlands.

We all followed close behind the police car traveling at a slow pace of maybe 10 or 12 mph and taking up one lane of the road and extending maybe 100 to 150 feet long. Another police car brought up the rear. As we proceeded toward the Atlantic I began to smell the salt air of the ocean even before I could see the ocean. As we neared the planned arrival point at Wallis Sands State Beach the police sirens walled. Chills swept over my body as I was feeling the enormous undertaking that we were about to complete.

As we rode into the parking area an explosion of celebration began. It was like the cork had just been released from a bottle of champagne and the bubbles were overflowing from the bottle. Riders were being hugged by their family and friends. I was so happy that some of my family could be there with me. Riders were dashing through the sand with their bicycles to get to the water for the traditional wheel dipping. I took my bike and walked into the water with my bike shoes on and dipped my wheel over and over. I let the waves surge over my feet and my bikes wheels. I was feeling the enormity of what we had just completed. One of the bikers jumped into an incoming wave still wearing his helmet. It was an ecstatic feeling of completion.


We had said our goodbyes and wished each other well starting last evening and continuing through today’s ride and arrival at the Atlantic. I was ready to go home.

After a few final photos with the ABB staff, I rode back toward the hotel to get a shower, change into clean dry clothes and depart with my family for home.

There is no doubt that this cross country tour has impacted me in many ways, some of which I don’t fully understand. Off and on I have felt overwhelmed with emotion. I plan to take some time to re-acclimate to my home environment and then I will post final reflections of the tour entry.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Brattleborro, Vermont to Manchester New Hampshire

Today was another damp start to the day. It rained quite a lot after we arrived yesterday and the roads were wet and the air heavy with moisture. The clouds were low and threatening.

I left the hotel with Rick, Amy and John and rode with them until we encountered the really significant hills, some with double digit grades. My GPS showed 18% at one point. The name of the road was Sullivan road, it should have been called heart break hills road. I went for it, and was the 4rth person to arrive at the first SAG stop at 27 miles. These miles were extremely difficult because of the steep ups and downs. We had one section of dirt road that was very steep mostly down hill. My friend Jim had warned me about this since it’s apparently the same section he rode in 2005. As I was refueling people started arriving, some looking to be on the edge of exhaustion. It was a two banana stop, I usually only have one banana at SAG stops but today required a little extra. We still had 60 miles to go.

I grabbed a couple of trail bars and I was off, Alan had left just before me. I don’t think he was feeling well because I don’t usually keep up with him. When we came to more climbing I passed him. All the time I thought some of the faster riders will soon pass me.

After another 35 miles I arrived at the second SAG stop and was the 3rd person to check in. They had fresh blueberries in cups. I gobbled down two cups, they were delicious and sweet. I ate some salty fritos, topped off my water supply, grabbed a bag of fig newtons and was off. All I could think about was that maybe Pat, Allison and Mark would be t the hotel when I arrived. I was very eager for this reunion. I pushed on to finish the last 25 miles. It has been a cool day with light rain off and on.

Surprisingly I was the third rider to arrive at the hotel. George and Larry from Colorado are always the first to arrive. As I was turning into the hotel lot I could see Pat and Allison standing there waiting for my arrival.

What a wonderful reunion. After hugs and kisses they asked me if I would like some pizza. You know what the answer was.

I also met my buddy Rick’s family. His Wife, Father, Brother and Niece were awaiting his arrival. We hung out and welcomed other riders as they arrived.

The riders that I talked to agreed that this was one of the more difficult days because of the steep climbing. My GPS indicated a cumulative climb figure of 6,475 feet.

Tonight we will have the last meal together as a group of riders. Family members will be joining us for this meal. It will be a time to share our reflections of the tour with our fellow riders and their families.

Tomorrow we will ride the final 62 miles to Portsmouth and the Atlantic Ocean. Then it’s over.
Here's the remaining result of my crash back in Kansas. Might have to have that looked at by John Bowman when I get home.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Latham, New York to Brattleboro, Vermont

For breakfast this morning I had orange juice, coffee, scrambled eggs, bacon, two egos, and a bowl of wheaties with half a banana. That should be enough to get me over the mountains and into Brattleboro, or at least to the second SAG stop where there was promise of a hot dog stand. At route rap last eve we got the route sheet and there was concern by some of the riders about the mountains we would be climbing over.

As I got ready to roll my Bike out of the room this morning, I looked out and it was raining. Bummer! It was not forecasted. I had been a little slow getting around this morning so I had the distinction of being the last rider to leave. That’s the first time on this trip. No problem, I planned to set a comfortable pace for myself and enjoy the day.

I decided against putting a jacket on because the temperature was 72 degrees. Even if I got rained on I would still be warm, and it didn’t look like a all day type of rain. It was the right choice because it stopped raining shortly after I left. As I was riding along by myself still in Latham, I saw a sign, “Steck for Congress”. Do you have any relatives in Latham New York Randy? I continued on and began catching riders who had left not long before me. I crossed the bridge over the Hudson River. The clouds remained and the air was heavy with moisture.

The first SAG stop was at a Dunkin donut store. A couple of donuts would be good with a cup of coffee but I’m not sure how well they would ride in my stomach as I started climbing up the promised mountains. So I got a banana and some salty pretzels and topped of my water supply. When I get home I’m going to go to the donut shop and get a couple of donuts to enjoy with a cup of coffee!

We cycled into Vermont at mile 31. I got the obligatory state line pictures and proceeded on. One of the first towns we rode through after entering Vermont was Bennigton. It was a very attractive town with interesting church buildings and other buildings with a unique architecture. The town center had many interesting restaurants and cafes. It had a distinct New England flavor. Here’s another town that I would love to come back and explore.

Shortly after leaving Benngiton we began the climb that reportedly would be about 8 miles to the highest point. The grades weren’t too steep at first but eventually we came to some 8 and 9% grades. Groups usually disperse when getting into the steep climbs because everyone has their own pace for grinding up steep grades. I was feeling good today so off I went. Soon I was cycling alone with my thoughts as the miles accumulated. It wasn’t as difficult as it had been built up to be. After arriving at the second SAG stop at 58 miles and checking in, I decided to go for a hot dog. Rick, John, Amy and I went to little hot dog stand and got a dog and a drink.

Soon I was back on the road again. I caught up to Jerry Griswold at the Hogback mountain overlook and got him to take a picture of me, and I took one of him. We departed together to enjoy our decent. I maxed out just over 40MPH twice and I was braking to hold the speed down. Jerry said he let it go and almost made 50. That’s crazy! I talked about Jerry in my previous post. He is a very good rider and I decided if I could keep up with him to the finish that I was doing pretty good. I did, and we arrive d at the hotel at 1:30 PM after a 80 mile day. I felt the best riding today than I have felt since we left Erie, PA. My saddle sore issues have become non-issues, so I can pedal and not think about my pain. A&D did it for me. Thanks to Larry from Colorado for suggesting the routine of application. Also, I think taking it slower for a while helped.

To the readers of my web log, I have appreciated your interest, and many times your encouraging words gave me the boost I needed to have a brighter outlook.

I do not expect to post a log entry for tomorrow, or the last day until I get home. Tomorrow evening Pat, Allison, and Mark will be joining me when I arrive in Manchester. Tomorrow evening we will be having a last meal together as a group and we will have time to share reflections of the trip and say our formal farewells. The last Day, Tuesday we will ride to the Atlantic for the traditional wheel dipping and then all go our separate ways.

I just can’t see spending an hour or two posting a blog entry with all that going on. I know you will understand. I will post the final two days entries and final thoughts on the trip when I arrive home.

Response to comments on previous post:

Wow! I'm so honored to have 10 comments. I think that may be a record . What can I say? Thank you sooo much!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Little Falls to Latham

Today as I left the hotel in Little Falls, the air was heavy with moisture. We rode in the mist of the morning’s cool foggy air. It was very pleasant conditions during the morning, but got pretty hot and humid after noon.

We followed route 5 which mostly followed the train track which followed the Mohawk River. The route took a path mostly through the valleys of the increasing foothills. Most of the hills were gradual grades. We went through the small town of Fonda where I took a photo of an interesting building. Then we went through Amsterdam which I’m sure has no resemblance to the original version in Netherlands. I’ll have to check with Piet and Hetty.

I got into the zone and missed a turn at 50 miles and didn’t discover it until I was two miles past. I had to retrace my path back to the intersection where I should have turned. This added 4 miles to my day. Once back on route I went through the small town of Rotterdam and then was directed to a bike path which ran along the Mohawk River. I stopped to take a picture of some pleasure boats I noticed on the river. While I was getting the picture I notice a bush along the path with little round red berries, they looked like they would be tasty, I think you can see them if you click on the photo. Also, while taking the photo a snake slithered across the trail. I didn't get at pic of that.

I finally made it to the second SAG stop at Jumpin Jacks Drivein. It was located on the river front just outside the city of Schenectady. I remember that a former work associate at Dominion, Don Chapman was from Schenectady. The drivein was a welcome stop since it had gotten quite hot and was about 12:30 PM, a good time to get a hot dog and a large iced drink.

After getting refreshed I continued on my way to complete the 20 miles to the hotel. The majority of this was on the bike path. I caught up to John from Seattle again. This must have been about the 5th or 6th time of the day that our paths had crossed. I would catch up to him and pass him and then I would stop at a convenience store or miss a turn and he would be ahead of me again. This time he was stopped at the end of the bike path when I rode up. The directions didn’t synch with our mileage. A home owner drove in there driveway so I asked for directions. Sure enough we had gotten off the bike path and were on a neighborhood path. Together we retraced our paths a short distance to get back on track.

I finished my day at the hotel at 1:50 PM. I had added 4 miles to the mileage with my miss-cues for a total of 80 miles for the day.

Roomate Rick at work on his blog.

While riding today I went through a range of emotions as I thought about the end of the ride being near with only three more days after today. The experiences that I‘ve had are amazing and probably life changing. The new friends that I’ve made have enriched my life. I’ve mentioned before how I’ve missed my family, and friends. I look forward to reconnecting with all, including our pet Shih Tzu Bailey. I’m looking forward to returning to Glen Allen, VA. and reestablishing my daily routine. But first there are three more days of challenging riding to complete!

Response to Previous Comments:

Brother in-law Dennis from Alaska. Thanks for your kind words. Glad to here you are tuned in and find it interesting.

Karen and Sherri from DC, thanks for the encouragement, nothing can stop me now!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Liverpool to Little Falls

Rick and I had breakfast this morning at 6:15 at Denny’s. We shared the meal with John and Amy from New York and Kip and Carol Jean from Florida. A nice older lady waited on us. She seemed a little flustered at first and said she had worked late last evening and that they had called her in early this morning because of the bike riding group. We conversed with her and put her at ease. As we were leaving the restaurant we were approached by a young guy who wanted to know where we were going to and coming from. It was another “Oh Wow” Moment.

I left the hotel at 7:30 AM. Kip and I were riding together and as time went by I could see another rider in my mirror. When we stopped to change the map to the next page I saw that it was Jerry Griswold from CA.

Jerry has toured all over the world and frequently does tours self contained staying in hotels. I ate dinner with him last evening and got to talk to him some about his touring experience and how he prepares when he goes to a foreign country. One interesting technique he uses is to get someone to write the location of his next planned stop in the language so he can ask directions if he get’s off course. I asked him if the language has been a problem and he said, “I can’t hear anyone anyway so it’s no different than here”. Jerry is extremely hard of hearing so it’s a little difficult to communicate with him in a loud restaurant. Jerry is 64 years young, is from California and had a career as a barber. His wife is not into bike riding, but she is supportive of his adventuresome spirit.

Kip, Jerry and I rode together until we arrived at the first SAG stop at 24 miles. The ABB vans were parked next to the Erie Canal. From the first SAG stop the route took us along the canal on Canal Road. I followed Skip, Don, and Jose until they decided to get on the canal trail. I continued on Canal Road.

The ride today was not as hilly as some of our recent days. The attractive features were the Erie Canal and some nice farms along the way. The total distance was 78 miles. The air was heavy, just like at home. It looked like we could get another shower but we were spared.

As I was riding the last 25 miles by myself, I decided to stop and verify that I was on the right road and get a cookie from my onboard snack bag. After I saw that I was on route and was preparing to continue, a group of four riders passed me and asked if I was ok. It was Wayne from Wales, Steve from Australia, and John and Gary both from CA. They usually maintain a pretty fast pace. As I got underway they invited me to join them. I rode the last 25 miles with them. The pace was faster than I had been riding but was not difficult to keep since I was in their wind shadow. We arrived at the hotel in Little Falls at 1:15 PM.

My energy level has been good the last four days. I am eating more throughout the day. I had a strawberry milkshake and Big Mac when I arrived today. I'm trying to eat every hour during the ride. I am riding a little slower than I had been and smelling the roses a little more.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Canandiagua to Liverpool

Today I left the hotel at 7:30. The temperature was low 70’s.

I navigated a series of mildly rolling hills through farmland and small towns. This is the Finger Lakes area and we are riding across New York at the North end of some of the lakes. As I entered the town of Geneva I came into sight of Seneca Lake. It is a large body of water with much boating business visible with marinas and boat sales establishments. Also, there were a fair amount of nice hotels for vacationers to stay near the lake. This would be an interesting place to explore more. Unfortunately I’m just passing through on my way to Liverpool which is near Syracuse. Many times on this cross country bicycle tour I have seen places that I would like to return to and spend several days exploring. Part of the route today followed the Erie Canal.

At the only SAG stop of the day I noticed dark clouds to the north and west. I decided to get on the road so I would have a chance of getting to the hotel before any wet weather developed. As I rode it got darker and darker. It was eerily still and muggy as just before a rain. Finally at 43 miles it began raining so I stopped to put my phone, camera and wallet in a water proof baggy. I continued on for several miles and it rained more as I went. Apparently this system was following the same directional course that I was. I had seen Kip and CJ ahead before I stopped to protect my phone and camera so I kept an eye open to see if they had stopped to take shelter. I notice a gas station convenience store on my left and as I approached I saw two bicycles and then heard Kip’s shrill whistle as they motioned for me to join them. I quickly accepted the invite. I got a cup of coffee and an old fashioned donut, and they ordered a sub sandwich. We sat at the protected picnic tables and enjoyed our food as it rained gently. By the time we were finished the rain had let up and the sky was brighter. We resumed our journey and although we were wet the temperature was still above 70 so we were not cold. Since the roads were wet we got a good shower every time a big truck passed us.

Eventually the roads dried, and we caught up to some other riders who had stopped at the Erie Canal Park to take photos. Now we were part of a group of about ten riders who finished out the last ten miles together. We arrived at the hotel to complete our 69 mile day at 1:00 PM.

They are having a major classic car show in this town this weekend and throughout the day we saw many nicely restored and some customized cars on their way to this town. One old custom car passed me in the rain today. It had no windows, so the driver was getting wet. After arriving in Liverpool they seem to be everywhere. Several are parked in the hotel where we are staying.

After two days of getting rain showers the bikes was very dirty. The hotel had a bike cleaning station setup at the end of the hotel and I took advantage of it. I wiped down the bike frame and wheels with a damp rag, then degreased the chain and cassette before applying fresh lube.

I am savoring these last days of the tour. There will be more challenges ahead with the mountains of Vermont. It will be over in just five more days.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hamburg to Canandiagua

Today a Bicycle museum a short distance off our route was on the agenda. This is a private bicycle collection and it was impressive. The owner had been contacted by the ABB staff and agreed to open at 7:30 AM for a guided tour. Most of the bike group took advantage of this opportunity.

The owner had been collecting bikes for over 35 years. He had a copy of the first bicycle which was made in Europe (Germany, I believe) and many other bicycles that showed the evolution of the design and engineering of this alternative to the horse and precursor to the car.

The bicycle that we often see with the large front wheel was infamous for dumping the rider off headfirst if the wheel hit a rock or rut. This resulted in an accident called a header. I can imagine the damage that could result since the rider sat so high on the bike and I guess helmets were not worn. All of my photos for the day are from the bike museum. If you ever visit this area a visit to the museum would be well worth your time. Here is the web address

The Museum visit took about an hour and I was itching to resume pedaling since this was going to be another long day of 97 miles. Again I decided to reduce my pace and go for the comfort zone and rode by myself most of the day. After riding about 25 miles I could see dark clouds in the North which was the direction that we were headed for the first part of the route. Soon I saw numerous bolts of lightening and heard thunder closing in on my path. I hadn’t taken a jacket today since I hadn’t heard any forecast for rain. As the thunder got closer I also thought of my cell phone, wallet, and camera which were unprotected if it started to rain. I also thought of my safety and comfort from lightening and rain. I was about two miles from the first SAG stop at 33 miles when it started raining. There was a group of about 6 riders a ways ahead of me. I saw a restaurant with a covered porch opening which would fit a bike and me so I turned into the parking lot and went into the sheltered area. I quickly placed my cell phone, camera, wallet and watch in a baggy that I carry in my fanny pack for an occasion like this. It was a fast moving storm and was heading east, which was the way I would be heading after the next turn. In a few minutes it let up slightly so I continued on to the SAG stop which was located in a gas/convenience store lot. Other bicyclers were already there with bikes parked under the roof overhang of the convenience store. I used the store’s facilities, then refilled water bottles and got food to refill the fuel tank and extras to take with me.

After 10 or 15 minutes the storm had moved east and skies were looking brighter. Gradually groups of riders headed out. I finally left as well. Eventually the roads dried and the sun came out. It was quite humid. I eventually came up on John and Amy working on a flat tire. Later I came up on the group that Rick was riding with, two of the riders were fixing flats. Rick was helping Skip fix his first flat of the trip. Skip had a total of three flats today. I guess he making up for earlier missed opportunities.

I arrive and checked in at the hotel in Canandaigua at about 3:00 PM. My total mileage for the day was 97. This town is in the Finger Lakes area of New York and is located next to Canandaigua Lake. The Finger Lakes support a lot of pleasure boating.

I am encouraged by some improvement in the saddle soreness. I was relatively comfortable until the last 15 miles which had more hills. The combination of the treatments and the reduced riding pace seem to be effective. I will continue with this approach.

Response to comments:

It’s so good to hear from all of you. For my family and friends I look forward to a personal reunion when I return. To those that I have never met, I’m happy to share my journey with you. If chance allows us to meet in person at some future time, I would be delighted.