Day 32 – I am where? It can’t be the end…

Day 32 – Wednesday, August 17, Gardner, MA to Peabody MA – 74.2 miles 1,660′ and another 6 miles to the hotel.

It is now Sunday, August 21, as I write this (and Day 31’s post).  I arrived home late Wednesday night only to be faced on Thursday with a myriad of domestic issues that have occupied me since. My air conditioning system died, and was replaced on Friday; the installation of which required a new circuit breaker that couldn’t be found (it as an old brand); the hot water wasn’t hot, so had to wait for the plumber; and a friend came yesterday to  help with the breaker and a few electrical issues that should have taken half an hour but took almost three!!  Not because he didn’t know what he was doing, but because it was just the karma of the day.  I was as exhausted from all of that running around as I was from riding!

I did go out yesterday morning for a ride with friends and again this morning.  It was good to stretch my legs and catch up with people, but I think I need a few more days of recovery as I couldn’t turn the pedals very quickly.

Back to the last day of riding, Wednesday.  The beginning of the day was quite good.  I was surprised that I had some pep left in me legs.  We were on roads that I knew through several towns, which seemed so strange after weeks of not knowing exactly where I was or what to expect.

Everyone seemed to be having a good time and I was feeling so peppy that when the fast “guys” came by I couldn’t resist. I jumped on Louise’s wheel and chased with them up a hill, waving at the others as I passed by…”see how fast I am!”  Of course, I only lasted several yards probably and wore my legs in the process.  I can never learn.  But it was worth the effort.

We were then on endless, heavily trafficked roads as we headed northeast toward Peabody, a lovely North Shore city about 18 miles from Boston.  We had to go through some not so pretty, industrial areas and contend with Boston drivers, but I could finally smell the sea air (well sort of) and we entered Winter Island Park.

There was a lovely small beach in which we all waded…oooh that cold Atlantic water felt so good.  We did lots of hugging and congratulations, then the obligatory group photo followed by our last lovely, delicious PAC Tour lunch.

I found one of the hardest parts of the day’s route was the 6 miles to the hotel.  It was a bit confusing finding the right way to go, it was terribly hot and there were more upticks!  Ouch, my legs and quads just screamed at me on every pedal stroke.

So there we were at the end.  Most of the others had to spend the next hour or so packing up their bikes in their box or other carrier of choice and getting them ready to be shipped home.  Oh, joy.  I didn’t have to.  I had a hotel room as I my original plan was to stay through Thursday, which was the official travel home day. I had a wonderful shower and a leisurely rest of the afternoon.  I was joined by my brother, John, and three friends for the celebratory dinner.

The dinner was wonderful. Susan put together an almost hour long slide show that brought back so many memories and/or reminded us of places we had been that we (at least me) had almost forgotten.  We laughed and maybe even cried a little at all the pictures of each of us in the various stages of the incredible journey we all experienced together.

To top off the celebration, Susan presented each of us a plaque commemorating the trip with a picture of us attached.  She captured each person’s personality and experience on the trip so perfectly.  There was great applause given and shared for every one.  When she got to me, she bemoaned the fact that my effort climbing up the Big Horn wouldn’t be “officially” record setting because I didn’t do the whole day. I think we both said simultaneously that I’d be back! (Well, we’ll see.)

At the moment I can’t adequately sum up the whole experience.  There is just so much to process.  Time will put it all in place.  In the meantime, it is the end of a magnificent, astounding ride. What I have learned about parts of this vast country and from the people with whom I shared the journey are priceless.

Thank you, too, to all of you who have followed along with me and shared your thoughts and comments as I progressed literally and figuratively on a physical journey that turned out to be so much more!

What I have learned about the power of my own body, feelings and emotions, even needs, has been totally unexpected and will be transformative as I look toward my life before me…on and off my bike!

— C’est fini — for the moment any way.

At some point I will put together a post with lot’s of pictures that I wasn’t able to post along the way, but here are just a few from the last day.

Here’s the mad packing scene at the hotel.

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Here’s one of my great riding partners, Jeff Rogers, contemplating his next move.

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This is my heroine, Louise Comar, celebrating the fact that I am in front of her.  And that is my other riding powerhouse partner, Drew Carlson, behind us.

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This is the path we took!

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Here, too, is one of the other few women on the trip and new friend, Kathleen Kirk, as we walked to the beach.

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Day 31 – Amazing climbing day….so close to home

Day 31 – Tuesday, August 16 –  Bennington, VT to Gardner, MA – 98.2 miles, 6651 feet of climbing!

What a day.  We just climbed, and climbed and climbed some more.  It was one of the most feet we’d climbed since way back out west.  And we were right in my back yard.

We entered MA at about mile 12 just before Williamstown,  one of the prettiest towns in MA.  My friend Bill Woodward, who has a house there, was planning to be there and wave as I rode by, but no sign of him in town.

I followed Drew most of the day and his cadence and pacing kept me going.  I thought I’d be leg sore and tired after yesterday, but somehow I motored along, thanks to Drew’s example I think.  Just outside of Williamstown there was a huge , steep 4+ mile climb over a ridge to the first water stop. Once again I just sat back and focused on the job of getting up the hill, keeping body and mind relaxed.  There was a nasty hairpin turn about a mile from the summit and our water stop.  There was Bill to wave me up.  I stopped for a minute and then inched up the last incline to the stop, where we visited for a few minutes.

After that there was a great downhill and several more ups and downs as we wended our way east through the MA.  For miles at a time we had the Connecticut River for company and lovely views.

One difficult stretch was 12 miles on Route 2, which is a major route through the northern tier of MA.  Parts of it are only a four lane road, but other parts of it are bigger with more lanes. I have ridden on it many times in many different sections with a fairly wide, nice shoulder. This stretch is a narrow, divided highway like portion with a not so good shoulder. We had to pass four exits before we reached the one to lead us to Gardner. The traffic was pretty horrible and  I thought we’d never get there. Just as we turned on to our exit,  a police car coming in the other direction turned on its light and crossed the barrier right toward us.  He yelled out the window and said if we didn’t get off the highways, he’d arrest us!  What a surprise!

We learned later that the police harassed others and even stopped the last person and they escorted him to Route 2A that sort of parallels Route 2 and he found his way to the hotel.  The only thing I could figure out was that if that section is classified as a divided highway then biking wasn’t allowed, but none of us saw a sign.

A bit later, I got through a red light before Ken and Drew only to discover that someone put a motor in my bike. I was able to move quite swiftly along and up the seemingly ever ending upticks by myself toward the hotel.  I was also racing to beat a rain squall heading right at us.  It started to rain just as I turned into the driveway and once again I made it to shelter before the deluge really hit.  It was all over in 20 minutes and the sun came out!

 

Such an amazing day.  I focused on getting up the next hill and pushed myself to just about my limit, which I doubted I could do after some 30 days of riding.

It was also an astounding day because I was only 19 miles from my front door!  Boylston, where I live, is just south of Gardner and is pretty much a downhill route passed one side of Mt. Wachusett, a wonderful 2000′ mountain with a wonderful ski area and with steep climbs for us bicyclists to enjoy and train on.   I ride around that area a lot!

It was a bit breathtaking to think about how far I had come mentally, physically and geographically to be so close to home and just hours away from the end of the journey.

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Day 30 – Back in quad busting territory

Day 30, Monday, August 15 – Little Falls, NY to Bennington, VT – 108 miles, 5455′

Another hard day, but it was overcast most of the day so it was much more pleasant than if it had been sunny and hot.

We encountered the first hill of the day right outside of Little Falls. It did warm up our legs.  Throughout the route the hills kept coming. There were a couple stretches with series of rollers that you could motor up the other side because of momentum.  However, a good part of the day we were faced with what I call quad buster hills…they aren’t terribly long climbs but the grades are high and they kill my quads.  That is typical New England terrain in a sharp contrast to the longer distances but easier grades than the hills west of here.

We spent slot of time on this route on heavily trafficked roads with only two lanes. Apparently the first one was a major route across NY and I think every truck in NY was using it.   Most of the time there was a good, wide shoulder but a few times there wan’t.  It was pretty hair raising a few times.

However we were also on some wonderfully New Englandish, tree lined roads with lots of things to look at..trees, rivers, quaint houses, lots of green fields and soft looking hills.

We went through very busy Saratoga.  It was bigger and more bustling than I remember it.  We went through and waited at more traffic lights than I have seen Thein a month.

The first water stop was scheduled to be at mile 25, but all of a sudden there is was at mile 16.  We all thought something was wrong with our navigation devices.  Rather the Caravan had tire trouble of something so it stopped where it could, and the crew had it set up waiting to serve us.  We then had to get to the second water stop at mile 41.  A bit longer between stops but it wasn’t a problem.

Later in the day when the Caravan is usually at the last water stop, it wasn’t. The crew had another SUV that belongs to one of the riders gerry-rigged with as much of the usual water stop equipment as they could, principally water and food.  The only thing we didn’t have were the bike racks that are usually set up.  The crew is very adept at “emergency” situations as this.

This was also Cliff Rigby’s last day.  He is one of the “boys” I have ridden with a lot in the last month and he will be missed.  He isn’t going to stop riding though, as he and some friends are riding south on another journey.

The quad busters wore me out and I kind of limped in, but I had something to look forward to as two friends, Kayo de Olivera and Peter Brooks, planned to meet me here.  They didn’t seem to be here when I arrived and I was disappointed.  But there was a electronic communication problem and they finally found me just after I sat down in the Pizza Hut across the street. It was so good to see them and I was so appreciative of their making the effort to great me.

Next up, our second to last riding day.  We will ride through Williamstown where another friend will greet and visit with me on the road.

 

 

Day 29 — NY- Oooh, so green…and hilly!

Day 29 – August 14, Geneva, NY to Little Falls, NY – 131 miles, 7,700′

Today was one of the longest and hardest, as in the amount of climbing, on the trip. But the New York countryside was green and magnificent. Perhaps it is because I am from this neck of the wood, I love the greenery.  So many times today we’d get to a crest of a hill and fly down the other side,  there in front of us where an expanse of rolling green, tree covered hills that are the signature of New England.  Wow, I am home…well almost.

I was hesitant about today and whether I could  handle the climbing. I headed out with Drew, one of the Sacramento boys and who has never been to the East Coast.  The first many miles were relatively flat and we motored along quite nicely.

There were rain storms around us all day and a couple of downpours, but it just rained a little in the morning.  The overcast skies and the water it showered on everyone was a welcome respite from the heat and humidity.

I was quite surprised that I well on the first hills we encountered and was going to title today’s post as …she is a climber…oe climb, baby, climb. Not so fast.  I did go up some 4-6 percenters pretty easily in a bigger gear than i thought I could.  Along the way, I have watched the really strong riders go up hill and they don’t rush or clamber up them.  They just maintain and even steady pace.  Of course, their pace is faster than mine, but that is the best way to get up.

The group seemed more together, perhaps anticipating the most climbing between the second water stop at lunch, including one hill over a mile at 10+%.  I found myself among some of the faster people and not only was I keeping up a bit, I even passed a few!  Wow, ain’t she a hot ticket.

Oops.  We encountered a really long hill, a mile or so I think, that was 8 and 9% most of the way as reported by someone whose computer showed the grade.  Well, that put the breaks on my claims of climbsmenship. I made it up, but it took the wind out of my sails.

Because of the amount and grades of the climbs after the second water stop, Susan had suggested that was a section to skip…so I did.  I was “bumped” (a new technical term I just learned instead of “sagging) from that stop to lunch.  As we waited for all the riders to come through before heading on, there was another deluge.  God just dumped the bucket on us once again.  We huddled under the van awning, but the people on the road got drenched.

I was damp, tired and a bit chilly as I ate lunch and was going to call it a day.  But in the end decide to ride the last 28 miles from the last water stop to the hotel.  My legs were a bit tired at first, but did regain some energy. I ended up with 85 miles for the day and 5,212′ of climbing.

It was lovely riding into Little Falls, which was also a stop on the transcontinental I did in 1999.  We are in the Finger Lakes region and on top of the Eerie Canal, which has always astounded me.

Once, again we descended en masse on an Italian restaurant a block or so from the hotel.  They did a great job tending to us all and other diners were intrigued by the spirit and carmeradery we were enjoying.  Over the last month we have gotten to know each other pretty well and relish in the company.

I am not even gong to try post pictures as I know it will take too long and I need to get dressed for breakfast.

Tomorrow (or today as it is early Monday morning) is going to be another hard climbing one, but only 5,000′ and 100 miles.  Piece of cake.

 

 

 

Day 28 – Rain, Mud, Humidity…more rain

Day 28 – Saturday, August 13 – Niagara Falls, Can to Geneva, NY – 128 miles, 3468 miles

The day started out with mumbling, rumbling and fumbling. It started to rain just before we were to head out at 6:30 for another long day. I put on my rain jacket, but knew right away that it would be too hot, so opted not to wear it. And the rain stopped for the moment.

I scrambled to catch up to everyone to wend our way out of the city. A much nicer place that early and empty of people. We went over a bridge to the USA side and had a fabulous view of the falls and I actually got a pretty good picture of them. It took as awhile to get through customs because at that hour they only had two lanes open. Oh, well, I was welcomed back into the country.

I found myself riding with Drew again, but at more moderate pace than yesterday and it was just fine. It sprinkled at a bit but nothing serious. No one was rushing it as there was a headwind and there were several railroad tracks that we had to be extra careful going over because they are so slippery when wet.

At one point, we encountered a road that was closed because of bridge repair. We could walk around it….except it was a field of deep, soft mud. That is not what you willingly walk through because your cleats get clogged up and is very hard to get the mud out. Luckily I had cleat covers with me! My shoes and I did get muddy, but I didn’t have to spend a long time digging the mud out the way the others did.

The terrain is looking more like New England every mile we move forward. Forests or woods along the road and two story houses (it is amazing how must of the small towns we have been through have only one story houses). Some fields with crops, but not many and certainly not as big and dramatic as we have seen.

I road by myself for awhile as Drew stopped to fix something. I picked the pace up a bit, but was just enjoying myself. And then it got beastly hot. I didn’t want to know what the temperature was as it would have made it worse. It was stifling.

I had decided last night to see how I was riding and feeling  at the lunch stop at the 81 mile mark as tomorrow, Sunday, was going to be a long hard ride.  Turns out I developed another little sore spot of chaffed skin on my butt, so decided it was time to stop.  Good planning…it started to rain as the last riders headed out and then the heavens opened up again. By that time I was in a car waiting to drive to the hotel!

About rain…when the temperatures are warm, it is easier to not worry about jackets and other gear.  Once you get wet, your are wet and can be comfortably warm because of the exertion.  Most people follow the “rule” that jackets are only for when you get cold.

It poured again about 7:30 tonight as I was catching up here. And rain is predicted for the next several days as we head into three days of pretty serious climbing here at the end of the trip.

It is hard to believe that we only have four more days of riding. I don’t even want to think about the end.

And about pictures.  It is most likely operator error, but I tried to post some  again and they just won’t load into WordPress with any ease at all.  I may end up posting a whole bunch later.

 

Day 27 – Oh…flat…Canada

Day 27, Friday, August 12 – St Thomas, Ont to Niagars Falls, Ont – 130 miles, 1222′

It is actually Saturday, the 13th as I write this.  We are in a stretch of  rainy days and it looks like it will continue through Tuesday.  There have been a series of strong thunder and lightening storms that whip through and then it clears quite nicely. But it is very warm, actually hot and humid, which I do not like at all.

Friday  morning it was warm and very humid at 6:00 a.m.  I headed out with Kathleen, Drew and Ken  and basically road with them all day.  And what a day it was.

I brought enough butt repair “stuff” to take care of everyone’s on the trip and put it all too good use.  I was nice and comfortable on my saddle all day.

The first road we were on was terrible…no shoulder and lots of traffic. Once we turned off it, it was great.  And flat with a pretty strong tail wind.  Whee..what fun. We averaged 18 mph for the day with little or no effort.  There were some ups, but nothing serious and we just flew along.

We were still among vast farmland with huge cultivated areas.  In one stretch, there was an elaborate netting system over a low growing crop.  We think they were raspberries.  The netting stretched over expansive fields.  It intrigued me as to how the heck the nets were installed.  Never saw anything like it.

There was a threat of rain in the morning, but it didn’t happen. We did get a bit confused as we road through Boston on our way to the second water stop.  Then Hartford.  Huh, are we going around in circles?

A highlight of the day was another personal best time for 100 miles. This one I did in 5 hours and 40 minutes!  I don’t often ride at 18 mph and it may not happen again.

I road the whole 131 miles of the day’s route.  The last several were pure agony.  I was hot and tired and we could see a huge storm over Niagara Falls. We were pushing hard hoping to get to the hotel before the rain.  But there were interminable turns and twists in the downtown streets.  As we pulled into the hotel driveway it started to rain and just as I got my bike and me under a canopy, the heavens opened.  Actually, they crashed with thunder and lightening.  It was all over in about 20 minutes and the sun came out!

I had never been to Niagara Falls and was surprised to see that the town was a mini Las Vegas…all lights, neon, horrible tourist shops of every description and flooded with  people. I don’t know what I was expecting but I thought the falls would be in a lovely rural setting……..not surrounding by commercial  junk.

Our hotel was literally blocks from the falls.  I walked down with Jeff and Mark before we went to get something to eat.  There was a bit of park, but I thought the spectacle of the falls themselves was ruined by all the commercial establishments that were there.  I am such a carmuggin when it comes to being a tourist.u

The hotel was a nuisance too because the portion of it that I was in didn’t have internet connection.  It’s a long story why and I won’t bore you with it, but suffice it to say, it ruined my day as I couldn’t communicate with anyone. Perhaps it wasn’t a truly bad thing, because we didn’t get back from dinner until late and I had nothing to do but to go to sleep.  And isn’t a long distance cyclist supposed to get lots of sleep?

Any way, it was a good ride and I don’t ever have to go to Niagara Falls again.

 

 

Day 26 – Oh, Canada….heat and rain!

Day 26 — Thursday, August 11, Imlay, MI to St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada – 140 miles, 1600′

The highlights of the day:

  • Hot and muggy from the get go
  • No dramatic scenery
  • Ferry ride from USA to Canada
  • Bad bike path
  • 4 – 5 mile detour on gravel road
  • Torrential down pour at lunch
  • Sagged in from lunch
  • Sore butt…first time this whole trip.

Same drill this morning…out at the dot of departure time. Saw a very red sun come up.  Then saw fog hovering just below tree top level. It then just got hot and very muggy.

I thought I’d fixed my computer last night, but no, not working. However, my phone and RWGPS were fine. I first road with Kathleen, Ken, Drew, et al, but did climb on to the boys train as they road by. I wasn’t comfortable though.  Not only weren’t my legs warmed up, but for the first time since this ride started, I have a sore on my bum and it was aggravated when I road too fast. So I stayed back with the others.

Before the second water stop we went on another bike path.  This one was horrible, though. It crossed many streets and had terrible bumpy curbs.

At about mile 50, we took a little ferry across to Canada.  I can’t remember the name of the body of water we crossed, but it was gorgeous.  It was in a town that looked like most water-side tourist areas. Getting through customs was quite easy.  Just showed our passports, etc.  Two people, one Chinese and the other Peruvian, didn’t have visas to go to Canada and back into the US, so Susan is driving them around for two days and will meet us in New York on Sat.

Because the route was so flat, there were over 40 miles from the second water stop to lunch.  We were all getting hotter and hotter and pretty depleted when we spotted Lon with the luggage van at about mile 60.  Whew, what a welcome unplanned stop.  We filled everything we had with ice and snacked a bit.  He alerted us to a detour we had to take around a closed road.  The detour was on a gravel road, but the surface wasn’t bad.  It wasn’t very loose gravel, but it did take us 4 or 5 miles out of our way.  And it seemed to take for ever as I felt the skin on my rear cheeks getting chaffed.

Then we saw a storm ahead of us.  Dark clouds, rolling thunder. Yuk. Just as we pulled into the lunch stop, the storm rolled through.  Torrential downpour and thunder and lightening.  We all huddled under canopies and the awnings on the vans in a vain attempt to stay dry. No one did, of course.

I had already planned to sag after lunch and hoped into the luggage van with Lon to head to the hotel some 50 miles away.  We hadn’t gotten too far down the road when the skies cleared!  So at least the riders didn’t have to ride in the rain all that way.  It was very hot and muggy again when we got to St. Thomas.

The Canadian country side reminds me of New England. Some of the towns and residential areas we went through looked like parts of Framingham and the outer western suburbs.

We are in a hotel several miles outside of St. Thomas, which was lined with stores and restaurants, but none where we are. One or two of the vans were going to shuttle people up to a nearby mall, but I walked half a mile to a Canadian chain called Tom Horten’s, sort of a cross between Dunkin Donuts and Subway.  I walked back happily eating/drinking their version of  a nice cold frosty thing.

Again, this internet connection isn’t the best.  It takes too long to download the pictures and it is late.  More another day.

I am leery of all the rain predicted for the next several days.  We have been so lucky up until now, so I suppose it was to be expected at some point. But it is such a nuisance and will spoil the introduction of New England to everyone.  We’ll see.