Friday, July 27, 2007

Home Again! Day 53

The top photo was taken on July 24, 2007, as I dipped my front tire into the Atlantic Ocean at Rye Beach, New Hampshire. We had travelled about 3,900 miles since the second photo was taken. That was on our start on June 3, 2007 as I dipped my rear wheel into the Pacific Ocean at San Francisco, New Hampshire.

And the final photo was taken this morning, June 27th, my second day back at the office. Yup, it's "back to the real world". Pictured are Jaime, Steph, Missy, Nichole, and Maria, plus the big guy in the background. Laura couldn't be in the photo, and my partner, Andy and our office manager, Diane, both took vacation when I came back!

The ladies made a lovely "Welcome Home" banner, with many photos on it that they printed from this blog. Cool, huh? Fortunately, I didn't forget too much about "doctoring" during the ride, and we got through the first two days back without a hitch. Everyone has been great, welcoming me home.

About the bike--I bought seven tires on the trip: two lost to "tar", and several with too many pieces of glass or wire in them. I also used a new chain, after the halfway point. And Gerard, our mechanic, replaced my rear derailleur cable twice. But the bike held up very well, despite travelling 3,912 miles on the trip.

We only travelled through 13 of the 48 continental United States (although many of the riders rode into Maine after we dipped our wheels, to add a 14th state). It's a pretty big country, and we saw only a tiny fraction of it in our travels. If you double click on the map at the top of the page 51 entry, you'll see that our route was anything but straight! But it was wonderful.

I thoroughly enjoyed the ride, and owe thanks again to our great AbB staff. They worked hard to care for the riders, and I'd love to ride with them again. I was able to "smell the roses" every day, and took over a a thousand photos from the trip. Because I got stronger (and faster) as the ride progressed, I was able to ride with all the cross country riders, even those who preferred to ride by themselves for most of the time. There was an interesting dynamic, as the faster (driven) riders and the slower (and happy to stop frequently) riders each seemed to feel that their method was the best. Having ridden much with both types of riders, I think each group did what was best for them.

Since I rode across the United States to raise money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, I want to (again) mention a special rider. I probably rode with Howie more than anyone else on this trip (no offense to all the other great people I rode with). We both rode at similar paces (esp. after I "sped up" a little), but loved to stop, take photos, chat with others, etc..... As I've noted, Howie is a cancer survivor, and is a phenomenal mixture of tough and kind. He battled lymphoma for nine years, and for the last three years has not needed any further treatments.

Just like Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor and phenomenal rider, Howie is dedicated to the fight against cancer. He also raised money to fight cancer while he rode. He, like me, wore a Livestrong bracelet during the ride (just check our wrists in the photos), and he even gave me a few extra Livestrong bracelets that he had. I know he would join me in asking all concerned people who've enjoyed following our rides to make a tax deduct able donation to the Lance Armstrong Foundation. To do so, please visit my web page at

To the many people who have donated or will donate, I say again "Thanks".

It's been a great ride, and I already miss it! But it's also great to be back home! I encourage all of you to find something that you love, and challenge yourselves like my fellow riders did. Combining exercise, travel, and learning, this trip was a perfect challenge for me. I hope you find, and enjoy, yours as I have.

Please feel free to contact me at

to discuss the trip, this blog, or the Lance Armstrong Foundation. And thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

To the Atlantic Ocean--EFI Day 52

Well, that looks like the Atlantic Ocean behind Carol and me, so that means--we made it! What a great experience!
We rode 58 miles to the beach this morning, and all riders took a little time to enjoy the ride. Howie and I missed two turns in a row, so we got extra mileage again. It was the only time we were not riding with several other people, and we just weren't paying attention to our "Clue" sheets.
As you can see the weather was lovely. The top photo was taken just after I dipped my front tire into the Atlantic Ocean at Rye Beach, just south of Portsmouth, NH. The middle photo was taken at a school in Rye, and shows the 24 cross country riders who finished the ride, the 4 AbB staff members, and a few other riders who joined (or , in Jay's case) rejoined us fro the final leg from Erie, PA to the ocean.
After that photo was taken, we rode as a group to the beach, with a police escort in front. Septuagenarians Herb, Robert, and Cliff, as well as 67 year old Arlene were given the honor of riding up front, just behind the police car, while the AbB staff rode at the back. As a second police car was not available to trail us, Carol drove our minivan at the rear of the peleton, with her flashers on.
The funniest part was hearing the AbB staffers who rode with us (Andy, Michelle, Gerard, and Christine) talking. Whenever they drove by during the cross country ride, they would admonish any rider who was riding too far out in the road to "move over to the right". But during the police escort, they yelled "Get back in the middle of the road. Why are you riding on the side of the road?"
I had two major goals during this ride, apart from raising money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. They were as follows.
First, enjoy every day! That turned out to be easier than I had imagined. We had a great group of riders, a great AbB support staff, and rode a great route. Sure, we had some rain, and plenty of headwinds, as well as snow in the Sierras. But we never had the unbearably hot weather we had anticipated, and most road conditions were good to excellent (with several notable exceptions). There was never a day I didn't feel like riding--though there were certainly times where we had 20 miles to go and I wished the hotel were around the next corner! We all had to "dig deep" at different times, but people were very supportive of one another.
Since I love riding my bike, it was easy to wake up every morning and get on the bicycle. I was lucky enough (and experienced enough) to avoid any major soreness during the long ride. And that leads to may second major goal for the trip, which was to ride EFI.
EFI stands, of course, for "Every Fantastic Inch", or something like that. Early in the ride, I learned this term. It meant that a rider rode the entire route under his/her own power. Sure, we carried our bikes over the sand to dip our wheels, and we occasionally carried our bikes around obstacles (missing bridges, roads so thick with hot tar and stones that the wheels wouldn't turn), but we did every fantastic inch by ourselves, without riding in the SAG van.
About 16 riders (~60% of the cross country riders) rode EFI, and we were very proud of it. Almost half of the EFI riders are posing at the beach in the lower picture. It took luck, as well as lots of effort, to ride EFI. Avoiding illness, injury, and bicycle problems were always in the back of my mind. Our oldest (Herb) and youngest (Erin) riders each rode EFI, and I know they both had some really tough days--pretty amazing. Several riders had to SAG at one or more times due to illness, fatigue, injury, or a bike that was beyond the considerable ability of Gerard, our mechanic, to do roadside repairs on. (Remember that old bit about never ending a sentence with a preposition? I hope that's become passe, because ending sentences with prepositions is something I'm very comfortable with.)
I'll post some final thoughts on A "Wrap Up" page soon. Of course, it's time to get back to work in "the real world". It's been a great ride!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Over the Hills of New Hampshire Day 51

Today was our penultimate ride, and it was memorable. We left the hotel and soon crossed the Connecticut River, entering New Hamphshire--our final state. The forcast was for headwinds (which were not bad) and rain as the day progressed.

Continuing our eastward trek over the Green Mountains (actually, just really big hills--they are what is left of the Appalachian Mountains which were so very much higher before hundreds of thousands of years eroded them to their present size), we had over 6,000 feet of climb. This was our second highest climbing total, ranking behind the day up Donner Pass in the Sierra Nevadas. Of course, we also had about 6,000 feet of descending, which never lasts nearly as long as the climbing!

I think that if you put a ball on the road, onjust about any part of our ride today, the ball would roll forward or backward--there just weren't any "flat" areas. I probably shifted gears as much today as any day. There were no really long climbs (like yesterday's), but there were many steep climbs--among the steepest we've ridden.

The third photo was taken just before climbing the steep hill on Joe English road, about 72 miles into the ride. You can see the sense of humor of the artist (my money is on Mike Munk, of the AbB staff), who notes that the AB (for America by Bicycle) route goes to the left, and will leave your tongue dragging! Another clever sign I saw (up above) just before climbing a very steep part of a hill said, "O SHIFT!" (This photo was taken by Mike Monk on last year's ride).

Carol has joined us this evening for our final dinner together here in Manchester--a banquet! It's nice to see the riders greet her by name, with a smile. She had ridden on an AbB bike tour with me in the past (the Fall Foliage Tour--on our tandem bicycle). That ride averaged 45 miles a day, and Carol said that was "too much". She admires all who cycle across the country, but has no desire to ride that kind of mileage herself.

The map has been updated as you can see below. We're almost at Portsmouth, NH. Only a 50 plus mile ride tomorrow, and we'll dip our front wheels into the Atlantic Ocean. Hard to believe it!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Climbing in the Green Mountain State Day 50

We are riding over the Appalachian mountain range today and tomorrow. As soon as we left our hotel in Troy, NY (on the east bank of the Hudson River, we started to climb. After entering Vermont (see above), we really started to climb. The terrain was lovely, the weather nice (and not too hot), and we did several sustained climbs. Unlike our climbing in the Rocky
Mountains, we were surrounded by beautiful streams and creeks, and lots of greenery. The Green Mountains are aptly named. The second photo was taken in a valley, and you can see the mountains in the distance.
When we entered the town of Bennington, Vermont, Howie, Pete and did an additional mile plus climb to the cemetery where Howie's brother and sister-in-law are buried. They were killed in a car crash 4 years ago. The tombstone was topped by a sculpture of a man and woman embracing--Howie's brother had sculpted it himself. It was beautiful, and there was an engraving on the stone that said "Together Forever". It was very touching.
The second SAG was set up after the longest climb of the day. We then had a nice descent, followed by another climb to the eastern peak of Hogback Mountain. The lower photo shows Howie celebrating as we reached the top of the climb. We chatted with several motorcyclists at the mountain top (called the hundred mile view). While we envied their ability to get up the mountains easily, they were camping every night. With the rains that were here until about 48 hours ago, they had to deal with some difficult conditions.
Of course, we were rewarded with a lovely descent into Brattleboro, Vermont (just west of the Connecticut River, which is the Vermont-New Hampshire border), where we're staying tonight.
Riders all felt the effort in their legs today, and we will do more, even harder climbing tomorrow. Since tomorrow night Banquet, and get a chance to tell stories. Carol will be driving up to share the evening (she's made a great impression on many of the riders), and several other spouses will be here as well. It should be fun.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Conquering Troy--New York Day 49

We finally had some wonderful weather for our 83 mile ride today. We're in Troy, NY, having just crossed the Hudson River. We continued along the Mohawk River (and waterway system) today, with lots of nice scenery. Above is "Lock #9", looking downriver on the Mohawk. The water level is at the upstream (behind the camera) height, and will be lowered to the downstream height (about 15 feet) and vice verse, to allow small and mid-sized boats to go down or upstream.
We had lunch at another outdoor drive-in. Christine is pictured with several of our bikes, but she is looking at the kids' cycles. She and Bill were just married a month ago at Monarch Pass. What could she be thinking?........
Tonight, after dinner, 12 of our cyclists engaged in a "Tee Shirt Swap". Each cyclist brought a tee shirt which they then exchanged. It was done by a "lottery" system, and riders were able to "steal" each others' "picks". It was very funny watching the "double dealing" going on, and we had lots of laughs. Pictured below are the riders with their new tee shirts.
Sorry the blog is somewhat shorter today, but "Harry Potter and the Deathly Harrows" was released today, and there was a bookstore about 4 blocks from the hotel that had unsold copies, and.........

Friday, July 20, 2007

79 miles on the Erie Canal Day 48

We cycled along the New York State Canal System today, which first started as the Erie Canal in 1825. Tonight, we're in Little Falls, New York. We had a fair amount of rain today again, but it looks like the storm systems will be moving on now.
The Erie Canal opened in 1825. Originally it ran 363 miles, from Buffalo, on the eastern shore of Lake Erie, to Albany, on the Hudson River. At an initial cost of seven million dollars, it was one of the engineering marvels of the nineteenth century. It allowed easy travel from western New York to New York City by waterway, much cheaper than horse drawn carriages on dusty or muddy roads. Within 15 years of the canal's opening, New York was the busiest port in America (supplanting Boston and Philadelphia). And with the exception of Binghampton and Elmira, every major city in New York lies along the trade route established by the Erie Canal. This includes Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Schenectady, Albany, and NYC. Today, 80% of the population of upstate New York lies within 25 miles of the canal.
The initial canal was 40 feet wide and 4 feet deep (see top photo). It was dug by the muscle power of men and horses. Between 1835 and 1900, the Erie Canal "system" which came to include other New York State canals, was enlarged twice to accomadate larger barges. Between 1905 and 1918, the canals were enlarged yet again. Photo #2 shows the "barge canal", which is much larger. If you look very carefully, you can see that the "captain" of the boat is steering with one hand, while he hugs his "honey" with the other. He gave us a rather sheepish grin when we hailed him.
The third photo was taken after dinner, at the canal here in Little Falls, along the Mohawk River (which is just to the right, off camera). Much of the original canal has been abandoned, and engineers have "canalized" several rivers, such as the Mohawk, which flows into the Hudson River near Albany. Pleasure boats ride the canal system now, but there are plans to bring corn via the canal system to an ethanol plan downriver. Folks are still not sure if it's economically feasible--we'll see.
Tomorrow, we'll continue some more along the canal. Then we'll spend a few days crossing the mountains before we make our way to the Atlantic. As of today, I've ridden 3, 607 miles since leaving San Francisco on June 3rd. Hard to believe......

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Rain, Rain Go Away Day 47

You may have noticed that there are no pictures of bike riders or the terrain we travelled today. As you may have guessed by the title of today's blog, we had lots of rain today. Starting with light drizzle, then heavier rain, and a real drenching downpour midday, we had lots of wet today. After the ride, almost every rider was washing his/her bike, to remove the debris, mud, filth, etc.. that get on the bikes when it rains.
I put my camera in a waterproof bag this AM, and didn't remove it until we reached the hotel here in Liverpool, near Syracuse, NY. Too bad, because we passed several of the finger lakes, rode through Waterloo (the birthplace of Memorial Day) and Seneca Falls (the birthplace of "Women's rights/voting"), and saw other interesting sites as well. Several folks had their cameras ruined in the rain today, and one rider says her (that narrows it down a little, doesn't it, Erin?) third camera of the trip was ruined!
On top of that, we rode over thousands of pieces of glass, and riders had more than thirty flat tires today. One rider had four while another had six! I had a flat tire early myself. Pictured above is a group of riders at "route rap" who raised their hands when asked if they had a flat tire today. Lots of hands are raised.
On the bright side, I was given permission by Arlene to tell a story about her. Arlene, pictured in the middle with Jay, suffered a fall off her bike about three weeks ago. She sustained multiple lacerations to her face and hand, and had non-displaced fractures of her nose and "pinky" finger! She wore a splint on her hand/finger, and had many sutures. Arlene also had bruises on her face and looked very sore! She rode in the SAG van for about a week, asking me about every other day if she could ride yet. After a week, we started to remove some of her sutures. Then, on the rest day in Indianapolis she rode around the 2 1/2 mile track. The next day she rode about thirty miles, and within a few days she was riding the full day's mileage, which she has continued to do. She feels much better, and is riding strongly. We are so impressed with her! Her stitches are all out, her bruises are healing--and, as you can see, she looks great!
We have had several riders leave the trip this summer. Two have left after falling off their bikes, and another left early after fighting bronchitis. I haven't reported any details on this blog because I haven't asked their permission to do so, and because I don't want to emphasize any "negatives". The AbB staff says that perhaps 10% of riders don't finish the Cross Country Challenge each year, and with three riders gone out of about 25, I guess we're just over that average as we approach the Atlantic Ocean. The ride certainly is challenging, and some of our riders have really suffered at times. But they are all strong and courageous.
Another rider who deserves special mention in this regard is Robert (pronounced Ro BARE), from France. Robert will turn 73 in a few days, and he is pictured below at a birthday celebration held this evening after dinner, where we (appropriately) had wine in his honor. The wines were from the local wineries, but Robert enjoyed them nonetheless! Robert, who is our second oldest rider (Herb is 75), had fought bronchitis for well over a week. He took antibiotics and continued to ride every day, going a little slower until he felt better. He feels well now, and is riding as strong as ever. Amazing!
Joyeaus anniversair, Robert!