Read Journal HereNumber of Journal Entries online: 8
|Day 45: Tuesday July 15th, 2008 - Erie PA to Hamburg NY - 82 miles
|Conversation in the breakfast room this morning seemed to center around how people spent yesterdays off day. Several riders chipped in on rental cars and headed east to witness the splendor of Niagara Falls, others went for a mid-morning ride to the beaches of Presqu�isle, while some were content to pass a lazy day in the hotel. Room curtains that absolutely blocked out the daylight and showers that delivered endless hot water with pressure that would make firefighters proud go along way to achieving a rested state. Gary C was all set to get back on the road after a brief hiatus and was expecting great things after his day got off to a magical start. Moments earlier he had put on a fresh clean jersey he hadn�t worn for a long time and found a crisp $20 bill in one of the pockets. What better way to start �The Eastern States Tour�
While loading luggage the weather was ideal: 65F, light winds from the west, and bright skies free of clouds. As the day wore on the weather got even better, ending up with temperatures close to 80F. We began the day working our way out of the city, but by mile 10 we were back out on the open road with acre upon acre of vineyards on the right and impressive homes with large flat lots that stretched back to the lakeshore on the left. Just before reaching the 20mile mark we crossed the state line in to New York, where Gerard was perched atop the white van taking photos of riders in front of the welcome sign.
As the first and only SAG stop was not until mile 47, quite a few riders pulled off the road for an impromptu stop (mile 30) by the Daniel Reed Memorial Peer in the Town of Barcelona. By this point route 5 was running right alongside Lake Erie. Those who had never seen the Great Lakes before marveled at how ocean-like they looked. John and Amy live in Buffalo and commented on how odd it felt to see road signs with the names of familiar towns after six and a half weeks of being in unfamiliar territory. While co-riders finished off cans of soda from a vending machine John and Amy filled them in on local details.
Under a natural canopy of maple branches, by the marina in the town of Dunkirk at mile 47, riders found today�s SAG stop. Often the only thing people hear about Buffalo and the surrounding area is horror stories about winter storms that can dump 3 feet of snow on the ground overnight, so it was refreshing to have a group of broad-based travelers see the magnificent summer-side of Western New York as well.
After the town of Silver Creek we merged on to Route 20 and rode along the most generous stretch of paved shoulder we have seen to date. It was every bit as wide as the widest Interstate shoulders we have been on, but there were no rumble strips and it was clear that debris is cleaned up on a regular basis. Not all roads in NY have shoulders like this road, but more and more of them appear each year. After crossing over the New York State Throughway a couple of times we made a left turn onto Commerce Place and arrived at the Comfort Inn in Hamburg, just on the edge of the City of Buffalo.
Gathering in the lobby before shuttling to dinner at The Kings Buffet, we were formally introduced to Winston and Cary, two new riders from Trinidad who are also friends of Sarge. To these guys 70F is on the cold side of the comfort zone so they stood out on the road earlier in the day, dressed with long tights, long sleeves, and jackets. Also introduced were several visitors that would be joining us for dinner: John and Amy�s daughter Megan, John�s sister and brother-in-law, along with several friends that CJ and Kip winter with in Florida. Everyone was a little bit humbled when Kip mentioned that one of their visitors � Ernie � ran across the USA a few years ago. He didn�t just ride across the country, he ran!
Pictured above is Fred Bradshaw, who has joined the Cross Country Challenge from Atlanta GA. While each day has brought new memories, the fact that he is riding with several friends from a 2002 cross country ride � Alan, Deb, and Brian � part of each day has also involved reliving past memories. He has ridden on many organized rides, including those that have been set up by Alan as 2002 reunion events.
Not long ago Fred and his wife celebrated their 32nd Wedding Anniversary. They have three children, the youngest of which just graduated from college in Santa Barbara last month. Not wanting to miss this day, Fred took a temporary leave of absence from the ride and rejoined the group in Crawfordsville. As an alumnus of Wabash College, Fred paid a quick trip to the campus while in Crawfordsville and was surprised to find that an employee in the admissions office was a guy that had recently worked for Fred in the retail wine store business.
These days Fred spends a lot of his spare time riding. However he also loves sailing, having competitively raced 17� Thistles for 25 years.
Sailing and Cycling� talk about two sports that live for tailwinds!
posted 2008-07-17 | 07:00:59 | article number: 1
|Day 46: Wednesday July 16th, 2008 - Hamburg NY to Canadaigua NY - 94 miles
|By all indicators it looked like we were in store for another day of ideal conditions as we picked our way through the outskirts of Buffalo to the village of Orchard Park. At the 7-mile mark 27 riders opted to make an educational stop at �Pedaling History � Burgwardt Bicycle Museum�. The owner/curator was on hand to open-up early for us AND to give us a personal tour through a huge display of bicycles and related equipment that recalled the evolution of the bicycle from the pedal-less wooden walk-about, through the highwheelers, the balloon-tired classics, all the way to the high-tech lightweight racers. Many were surprised to learn that many inventions required for the automobile were originally created for the bicycle.
Once we left the museum we found ourselves back on the wide shoulders of route 20, riding through the heart of East Aurora which served as a transition between the suburban part of the route and our arrival back in the open countryside. Shortly after 9AM dark storm clouds began to appear and riders instinctively reached to their jersey pockets to see if they had remembered to pack a rain jacket. By the time the really loud thunder started most had made it to the first SAG stop, located at a Sunoco station in the town of Alden, at mile 31. As the heavy rain began to fall riders were able to stay dry under the eaves of the store or the canopy covering the fuel pumps. Resuming the adventure under much lighter precipitation a glad to still be dry Skip turned to Andy and said �Thanks for setting-up the SAG here, the location was perfect�.
For the next 39 miles we pedaled toward the second SAG stop in the Hamlet of Avon. By 11:20AM the road had just about finished drying off as the terrain began to list and roll into a series of long gentle highway hills separated by speed fostering descents and flats. These were not Missouri style rollers and they were definitely not Colorado style mountain passes. They were actually quite an enjoyable way to pass the miles.
Set-up on the edge of the town square, complete with a huge monument to Civil War Soldiers, Christine was visited by interested passers-by as she waited for riders to flow past the SAG stop. The first guy was surprised to see an �America by Bicycle� support vehicle having just heard about the company earlier in the day when he read a sidebar article in the July 21st edition of Newsweek. The second fellow was the publisher of the Genesee Sun (www.geneseesun.com), who spent about twenty minutes talking to staff and riders in anticipation of writing an article about the 2008 Cross Country Challenge that he expects to appear in print and on-line with the July 30th edition. Although our very own Sarge was no passer-by, he took great delight in posing for a photo in front of a store named �The Graceful Moose.� Sarge rides with a little stuffed moose on his bike rack and has been known to exclaim �The Moose is Loose� when he gets his Cannondale into high gear.
With 25 miles left to go riders ventured back on to route 20 and made their way through the towns of Lima and East Bloomfield as Bristol Mountain and the surrounding hills of the Finger Lakes Region approached. Around 3:15PM the storm clouds we left in the morning tracked us down again and made their presence known with periods of thunder, lightning, and heavy rain alternating with period s of outright sunshine. Two-thirds of the riders had already made it in by then while the others did their best to dodge the rain as they continued on.
Tonight we are staying at a Super 8 Motel and having dinner at Ponderosa. As many riders are making their first visit to the Finger Lakes, the location, a block away from the municipal beach and waterfront of Canadaigua Lake, could not be any better. Riders resolved to savor the remaining five days of riding, as Route Rap turned slightly melancholic as Michelle began to review some of the necessary preparations for the end of the ride in New Hampshire.
Pictured above, in the Avon Town Square, is John Crone who lives on the south side of Los Angeles in La Mirada CA. During the off-season he teaches Computer Arts at the high school level, in addition to acting as the yearbook advisor and web site designer.
During the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984 John and a friend did not have tickets for any events but managed to see some archery action through an ivy-covered fence. Motivated by the spirit of the games, they each went out and bought a bicycle after watching cycling events on TV. Since then he has been inspired to ride swifter, higher, and stronger by his Father who competes as a triathlete.
John has ridden �Pedal the Peaks� through Colorado on three separate occasions, he has completed the �California Triple Crown� which involves riding three double centuries in the same year, and he has done �Ride Around the Bear� which rewards riders with a 40 mile downhill following a 60 mile climb.
Sounds like John should be well prepared for the closing climbs in New Hampshire and Vermont.
posted 2008-07-18 | 06:04:08 | article number: 2
|Day 47: Thursday July 17th, 2008 - Canadaigua NY to Liverpool NY - 69 miles
|Like most others Richard was expecting today�s route to be a quick and painless seventy mile affair over relatively flat terrain. Nonetheless he was taking nothing for granted and made the decision to take his rear tire out of service and replace it with a new one. He left his original front tire in place allowing his fellow cyclists to witness a �Before and After� comparison between the look of a brand new tire and the exact same model with 3000+ miles on it. There must not have been much of the old tire left as he claims to have completely removed it by simply pulling at just one of the many loose threads!
Continuing along conjoined routes 20 and 5 the weather was OK � 72F, humid, with partial cloud cover � but most riders had their fingers crossed with a sense that yesterday�s rain might still be holding something in reserve. With gentle rollers and smooth wide shoulders the early miles clicked by effortlessly as we passed by a series of dairy farms, vineyards, and fresh-fruit stands. At mile 12 a sign welcomed us into the �Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.� Opened in 1825 the canal provided the first all-water link between the Atlantic Seaboard and the Great Lakes. It quickly shaped and strengthened the Empire State and made New York City the pre-eminent port in the nation.
By connecting people, places, and ideas the Erie Canal also played a role in social reform. At mile 21 we passed through Waterloo NY, where the Memorial Day tradition of honoring the nation�s patriotic dead began in 1866. Moments later we rode along the main street of Seneca Falls, where Elizabeth Cady Stanton presented her �Declaration of Sentiments� at the first women's rights convention in 1848. Riders were reminded of Seneca Falls� status as the birthplace of the women�s rights movement by seeing: t-shirts reading �Well behaved women seldom make history� for sale, a store called �Women Made Products�, and a main street museum with a collection of old photographs appearing under a banner that stated �A Woman�s Work is Never Done�. Immediately south of the main street the Seneca River serves as a reminder of the towns industrial heritage.
Today�s SAG stop was set up on a large grassy knoll outside of a Nice �N Easy service station. Although the grass was an ideal spot to stretch out for a rest, it also positioned riders looking backwards to dark clouds that were creeping in behind us at about 9:40AM. Driving off at shift�s end a store employee rolled down the window of her rusty old station wagon and waved as she announced �You�re gonna� get wet !� Steve Quinn may have heard her warning, but he was not able to see her. Steve needed his cleats adjusted and looked like a workhorse with his leg in the skillful hands of Gerard who tightened the bolts and applied a fresh layer of wax. Somewhere from the grass a voice could be heard slowly citing Longfellow�� Under a spreading chestnut tree, the Village Smithy stands�..�
Most decided to head on and take their chances with the rain, while a few held back to wait for the clouds to clear. By 10:30 the rain had caught all but the earliest riders and kept them wet for about an hour. Two hours later the roads were once again dry as we snuck into Liverpool through the backstreets of Syracuse. The Super 8 staff must have been watching the weather as they had a bike wash station and a clothesline for drying laundry set up outside. Inside they had bananas and Propel Fitness Water on ice waiting. By mid-afternoon it was over 90F as a collection of riders sat around a picnic table an enjoyed a cold beer as they waited for their jerseys to dry. Shooting the breeze, as though they had known each other forever someone stated that �This is the best afternoon I have had so far�. Sometime around 3:30PM the riders who waited for the clouds to pass rolled in, happy to have stayed dry all day.
While all this was going on Richard, of Tipperary Ireland, was off visiting Tipperary Hill on the west side of Syracuse. When the city first installed traffic lights they put one at a major intersection on Tipperary Hill. Some Irish youths were so incensed that anyone would dare to put the "British" red above the "Irish" green, they broke the light. The city replaced it but the Irish broke the replacement. After a few rounds of this the city decided that if they wanted a light at that intersection, they had better put the signal up inverted, and so they did. Richard nearly fell off his bike when he rode through the intersection this afternoon.
Pictured above is the cross-generational team of Joe Williams and his grandson Dan Curhan who have been part of the group since crossing the Missouri River. Joe is an Investment Counselor in the Boston/Cape Cod area, and rode the Cross Country Challenge back in 1999. Dan lives in Sarasota FL where he will be a high school senior next year; he celebrated his 17th birthday while on the road this summer.
Joe has enjoyed the challenge of riding self-supported throughout England, France, and Scotland. While living in Tokyo for a period of time he took on the added challenge of riding through rural areas of Japan where his limited Japanese vocabulary and the locals� broken English made for some interesting moments. Recognizing that much has changed since 1999 Joe welcomed this ride as an opportunity to witness the effect that several waves of economic expansion have had on the people, the buildings, and businesses east of the Mississippi.
During the school year Dan is active in athletics as a member of the cross-country running team and the swim team, as well as being a triathlete. He decided that a summer of long distance riding would be the perfect way to stay in shape and see the country up close, all at the same time. It�s hard to travel with a drum set so Dan is anxious to get back home and resume making music � he plays guitar, bass, and drums � with two bands outside of school. A year from now he hopes to be preparing for his freshman year in Mechanical Engineering at Tufts University in Boston.
Joe now rides a recumbent, but this has not always been the case. At one time he injured himself when he was thrown over the handlebars of his traditional bike and ended up missing work for a few days. His boss wasn�t too impressed and gave and told him �If you are in another crash like that you�ll be fired�.
Knowing that it is tough to be thrown over the bars of a recumbent Joe outsmarted her by visiting a bike shop, and protecting his future cash flows by picking out a low-rider.
posted 2008-07-19 | 23:16:41 | article number: 3
|Day 48: Friday July 18th, 2008 - Liverpool NY to Little Falls NY - 79 miles
|Quite often we are the only early morning attention-getter in hotel parking lot as we prep our bikes and prepare for another day of riding. Today however we had some competition from a couple of cars in town for the 2008 Syracuse Nationals � a show with close to 7000 vintage automobiles on display at the New York State Fairgrounds. Just beyond the luggage van was a light green Pontiac station wagon from the early sixties that was dressed up to look like a west coast beach car. To bring it line with the Ontario license plates the owners had replaced the customary surf boards with a couple of toboggans.
By mile 10 we were headed east along North Manlius Road on straight flat pavement. Getting there however was a bit of a challenge. Riders may have felt like airline pilots taxiing towards the runway along a 9 mile series of circuitous city streets where no two roads seemed to run parallel. Well beyond the city limits there was little traffic and only a couple of stop signs as we made our way to the first SAG stop at mile 25, alongside the Erie Canal, in the town of Canastota. While we were assembled there a couple of women rode in from the east, just a couple days into a self-supported ride from Brooklyn NY to Seattle WA. Their bikes were still clean and their panniers were still in showroom condition as they headed off. No one said anything but most of us silently wondered if they knew what they were getting themselves into.
Back in the saddle the cue sheet guided us further along the canal, crossing back and forth over the New York State Thruway. On the left side of Mason Road, at the 33 mile mark we rode beside a small pond with a tiny chapel in the middle of the water, officially known as �Cross Island Chapel � The World�s Smallest Church.� Yet another example of things you just don�t see from the Interstate! After another 90 minutes of roads that had flat stretches and the occasional hill we arrived at the second SAG stop, setup outside of a Subway franchise in Whitesboro, at mile 52.
Shortly after, the route would make one last right turn before settling in beside the Mohawk River for the final 25 miles of the day. Ever since leaving Syracuse the hills on either side of the valley had been gradually increasing in scale. Somewhere along the final leg into Little Falls, with the southern edge of the Adirondack State Park only a few miles to the north, it became apparent that we were headed into the mountains once again. No one seemed too concerned about the big climbs that would present themselves over the last few days; instead they focused on the scenery that was offered by day 48.
A long descent past the Salada Tea Plant marked our arrival into the snug, unassuming town of Little Falls, nestled in a deep gorge of the Mohawk River Valley. Stately old houses, many in remarkably preserved conditions, were once home to the entrepreneurs and managers of booming shops and factories that located here to take advantage of readily available water power and easy access to rail and canal transportation. Most of these manufacturers have long since moved out, but reminders of the boom days are still evident. New York Lock 17, with a vertical lift of 40 feet, was located a short walk from the Knight�s Inn. Until recently this great lock, which replaced three locks of the 1825 Erie Canal, was the highest lift lock in the world.
Notwithstanding its history and natural beauty, Little Falls is most often remembered by America by Bicycle clients for the Valley Laundromat. With dozens of washers and dryers right across from the hotel, riders were able to leisurely look after their laundry, not needing to worry about whether or not there were available machines.
Pictured above, from left to right, are Winston Boodram and Cary Agge, who are visiting from Trinidad. They are both friends of Sarge and have joined him for the �Eastern States� leg of the 2008 Cross Country Challenge. Cary started riding in 2001 and now wishes he �had discovered cycling years ago�. That same year Winston returned to serious cycling after a lengthy hiatus. Both hope to continue riding well into their nineties.
Winston, Cary and Sarge started out riding together on mountain bikes, but became roadies when another friend, Deo, established the �T&T; Riding Group�. Now ten in number, the group is gaining momentum and becoming increasingly well known on the island roads of Trinidad and Tobago. Last year they set and achieved their goal of riding one century in each of the 12 months. With a future goal of promoting distance riding at home, they will have many stories to tell upon completion of their current ride.
With broad smiles and conviction, Winston and Cary describe the trail from Erie as a �Great Tour� that wont be their last.
posted 2008-07-20 | 09:56:50 | article number: 4
|Day 49: Saturday July 19th 2008 - Little Falls NY to Latham NY - 76 miles
|Yesterday the afternoon DJ at WOUR 96.9 in Utica -�The Rock of Central New York�- predicted that today would be hot, hazy, and humid. Just after 7AM it was sunny and comfortable as we prepared to leave Little Falls, but before long his prediction bore out as the sun disappeared behind overcast skies and the building moisture made things feel warmer than the actual temperature that surpassed 90�F by mid-afternoon.
Having ridden along the Erie Canal and Mohawk Valley for most of the past four days, we have avoided most of New York�s big climbs. However, by the time we were approaching St Johnsville at the 10 mile mark it was time to reacquaint ourselves with our lower gears as we began the transition towards Vermont-like terrain.
Two miles down river several riders took a side trip into the National Historic Landmark of Fort Klock. The 30 acre complex, initially constructed in 1750, includes original colonial farm structures, a 19th century schoolhouse and blacksmith shop, and a fortified stone house structure of the style that was widely used in the Mohawk Valley by settlers as a place of refuge during the French and Indian War, and later on, the War of Independence. The massive stone walls, nearly two feet thick, rest on a foundation of solid rock. The walls were constructed in two layers, separated by loose rubble that served as a crude form of insulation against the winter cold. From the stone floor in the cellar a spring, that provided occupants with a constant supply of fresh water without exposing them to outside dangers, still bubbles. The walls are heavily loop holed on every side of the house so that muskets could be fired from the inside. At one time there were a total of 24 such posts guarding the Mohawk Valley.
Nestled between green hills, the Mohawk River, and railway tracks we carried on through the towns of Nelliston and Fonda before beginning a 2 mile climb to the day�s first SAG stop at mile 34. High atop a ridge we were able to overlook hillside farms, the New York State Thruway, and scattered communities. Just before we crossed the river on route 103 we passed through the city of Amsterdam. Notwithstanding the fact that this Amsterdam doesn�t compare with the �original� Amsterdam, Piet and Hetty almost felt at home. The only red lights we saw were at the traffic signals but several riders kept their eyes peeled, just in case.
At mile 52 the route took us on to a bike path that we would end up following for most of the days remaining 24 miles. Twisting and turning with the contours of the river we had a chance to see a couple sets of Erie Canal locks up close, and to see remnants of the manufacturing industry that � not so long ago � was the economic engine of the area. The second SAG stop of the day was next to �Jumpin Jacks Drive In� at mile 59, where riders overflowed the bike rack as many stopped in for lunch. Back in Ohio Sarge developed a taste for Root Beer Floats; today he mixed things up a bit by ordering a Coke Float.
After returning to the road for three miles we returned to the bike path, which with the exception of a brief 15% grade, provided a relaxing close to the day as it dropped us off within 4 short miles of the Holiday Inn Express in Latham. Although we were still in New York, the heavy accent of one of the guys at the front desk served as a reminder that we had just about made it to New England.
Pictured above, next to the guy with the curly red hair, is Gerard Boisse who is enjoying his sixth ride as a Mechanic with America by Bicycle. In addition he has worked on rides in France as well as on regional tours in his home state of California.
While studying music at Citrus College near his present day home in Glendora CA, Gerard got to know Phil Jordan of the musical group �No Doubt� and took over on saxophone after the departure of Eric Carpenter. While he was with the band he played a series of shows and can be heard on several tracks from the album �Tragic Kingdom� as well as on the mid 90s recording of �Dog House.� In 1994, looking for a change from the music business, he took a job at a local bike shop and been active in the bicycle industry - in several shops and with manufacturers Santana and Dahon - ever since. He still takes the stage with a cover band �on weekends� when he is not on tour with cyclists.
To complement his cross-country summer involvement with America by Bicycle Gerard and his fianc�e Angie have set up their own touring company � lukemanohans.com � specializing in shorter California based events. They launched the company in January 2008 with a weekend tour to Palm Springs. Filling out his west coast life are his two dogs Charlie and Coffee.
Gerard�s ability to fix just about anything, on and off the bike, combined with his quick wit and sense of humor make him an asset to whatever ride he happens to be on. If you say the name of his company � Luke Manohan�s - fast enough his sense of humor is apparent:
Look Ma�No Hands!
posted 2008-07-20 | 12:57:49 | article number: 5
|Day 50: Sunday July 20th 2008 - Latham NY to Brattleboro VT - 76 miles
|With just under 5000 feet of climbing over a 76 mile route the famous �Holiday Inn Express Cinnamon Buns� were disappearing as quickly as they were being set out in the breakfast room this morning. Moments later as the luggage was being loaded the skies opened up and the rain poured down. Many shrugged and hopped on their bikes while some waited for 10 minutes until the precipitation downgraded itself to a drizzle.
By the time riders had toured through the neighboring city of Troy � a town that is no longer what it used to be � the rain had stopped but the roads were still wet as the first climb of the day presented itself at mile 5. The first stretch of route 7E was relatively flat but, as we neared the first SAG at a Dunkin� Donuts just past mile 27, rolling hills started that were more intense than any we have seen since Missouri.Four miles later we were welcomed into the Green Mountain State of Vermont by a big green sign AND newly paved roads that would be present for many of the remaining miles along 9E.
Dominating the town of Bennington was the Bennington Battle Monument. Built in the late 1880's, this monument is a dedication to the famous Battle of Bennington that took place during the Revolutionary war in 1777. In past years many street corners in Bennington have been decorated with wildly colored, life size Moose sculptures. These are now gone, replaced by life size sculpture of real looking people reading newspapers, sitting on benches, and waiting for buses. No trip to Vermont would be complete without visiting a Covered Bridge, so several people took a side-trip from Bennington to see such a structure and validate their passage through the State.
Departing Bennington riders readied themselves for the 10mile climb that was scheduled to start at mile 39. At climbs� end it all seemed worthwhile as we then enjoyed a steep 2mile plunge towards the town of Wilmington.
July is peak season in Downtown Wilmington so it was not surprising to find the two main streets congested with traffic. There was no shortage of places to go for lunch, but many ended up sitting outside at Jezebel�s along the right of our route. While there Sue noticed that the �Longest Covered Bridge in Vermont� was less than an inch away on the map Christine was holding. As much as she wanted to ride across it she changed her mind when the scale suggested that it would be at least 5 miles in each direction.Those choosing to ride on without stopping were able to refuel at the second SAG stop, set up at the Post Office just beyond town, at mile 55. Michelle spent several hours at this spot and was surprised to see how many people were stopping by to use the drop box, even though being a Sunday meant the Post Office was closed.
Exiting Wilmington the Vermont experience was made even more complete as we began a 4 mile climb to the summit of Hogback Mountain that operated as a ski resort from 1946 � 1986. At present the Hogback Mountain Conservation Alliance is working hard to purchase the land and preserve it from development. Clouds and hazy skies curtailed visibility this afternoon, but on clear days it is possible to see for 100 miles from the elevation of 2100 feet. Except for a couple of minimal inclines that lay ahead, the climbing was done for the day as riders launched their way towards a 13 mile descent that would end at a �T� in the heart of Brattleboro.
With an amenable downtown shopping area that included bike shops, sporting goods stores, book stores, coffee shops, ice cream parlors, and restaurants, many browsed around for the better part of an hour before pushing on to a traffic circle three miles north that took a hard left just before the New Hampshire border and delivered us to the Red Roof Inn. Not long after most riders had checked in, heavy rain moved in and prompted one creature of comforter to exclaim how glad he was to NOT be camping.
Following dinner at the 99 Restaurant a huge thunderstorm erupted, causing riders to wonder what they might have to contend with as they enter the �Final State� tomorrow morning.
Pictured above is Christine, First Lady of the 2008 Challenge Ride SAG Stops. This ride is the fourth time she has been part of the Challenge Ride, and the ninth time she has participated in a coast-to-coast adventure as either a rider or as a member of the support team. Standing beside her atop the Royal Gorge in Colorado is me; also known as �Christine�s husband Bill.� For a couple of days in the Rockies and several days in the East I was fortunate enough to ride along with the group. The rest of the time I have stayed in touch by gathering details about daily happenings and composing the text for that day�s journal entry.
In the off season Christine stays busy as an Elementary School Counselor. A year ago she moved to Kingston Ontario from Pennsylvania, and she recently became certified to teach in her new jurisdiction. When she returns home in a few days she will be preparing for a new job where she hopes to continue having free time in the summer. She looks forward to returning home and enjoying the luxury of going for bike rides that start and finish from her very own garage!
Christine and Bill first met in September 2004, when they each showed up in Huntington Beach for the Fast South Ride. When they decided to get married in 2007 they opted for a �Titanium Engagement Tandem� instead of the traditional diamond ring. Earlier this year they returned to their common roots and rode their tandem from Los Angeles to Savannah GA as part of Fast South 2008.
�Diamonds may be the hardest substance on earth, and they may be able to cut glass, but none will ever be able to be ridden down a screaming New Mexico downhill approaching 60 mph!!! �
posted 2008-07-21 | 10:02:26 | article number: 6
|Day 51: Monday July 21st 2008 - Brattleboro VT - Manchester NH - 86 miles
|Not so long ago the Cross Country Challenge was laid out in front of us and it seemed like it would go on forever. Now on the second last day, we find ourselves right down to the wire. Ready to head out, with a steady drizzle enveloping us, there was little time to think about our accomplishments to date because we were about to ride the first mile of what might be the toughest day of the entire ride; 86 miles and 6100 feet of New Hampshire Style Climbing. We had big climbing days in the West, but usually they evolved long climbs over inclines that had typically been graded to a slope of about 7%. Here, under the cover of thick trees the climbs are much shorter but often top out at 15%.
Less than a mile out we crossed over the Connecticut River and found ourselves in New Hampshire and began ascending almost immediately. Although we ended up going up and down all day, the majority of our climbing was on three challenging hills...two before the first SAG and the last one, Joe English hill, about 10 miles from the end. Perhaps the most difficult uphill was Pitcher Mountain - a long 9% grade that plateaued for about a mile before ramping up to a 12% final stage. A few weeks back some may have opted for a van ride, but today this was out of the question.
As for the rain�it never really stopped, and actually got heavier as the day went on. Earlier on we might have called this a �Character Building� day, but at this point it was more of a �Character Redemption� day where the ability to cope that we have collectively built over the past 50 days allowed us to soldier on like seasoned veterans.
Although the cue sheet suggested a daily total of 86 miles, Kip ended up with over a hundred miles. He was all smiles as he described what happened, �I missed a turn and put on extra miles on the longest day of the ride, I missed a turn and put on extra miles on the shortest day of the ride, and today I missed a turn and put on extra miles on the HARDEST day of the ride !�
Even though we have one more day of riding before we arrive at the Atlantic, tonight would be our last chance to have dinner as a group so it was �done-up� a little bit special. The BBQ menu was provided by a local caterer, Gary C. had arranged to have a couple of cases of wine shipped in from his winemaking operation, two large decorated cakes sat waiting for dessert, and we were joined by a collection of guests that included siblings, and fathers, and daughters, and sons, and neighbors, and friends of riders. As dinner was finishing Gerard displayed a slide show of pictures he had taken with his long-lensed camera, which provided a chronological overview of all that we had seen and heard and experienced since we left San Francisco on the first of June. Immediately following, the Support Staff opened up a huge bag of �Dollar Store Merchandise� and presented each rider with an award that reflected some aspect of his or her cross country experience.
The highlight of the evening unfolded as each rider took a moment to reflect on our time together and share these thoughts with their peers. Each person had a unique perspective on their own experience, but common themes - Thanks, People, Keeping In Touch, Future Adventures, and Superlative Life Experience � developed.
EXPESSIONS OF THANKS:
RICK began his remarks by thanking the Support Staff and initiating a standing ovation that visibly touched the hearts of Andy, Christine, Gerard, and Michelle.
BILL expressed his thanks for the strong support he received from his wife.
REFLECTIONS ON PEOPLE
FOREST felt that the people involved are what make the trip memorable
CJ observed that �Everyone needs Everyone�
JOS� remarked that everyone was very helpful
STEVE F claims that somewhere along the way he lost track of the ride�s �plot� � the names of the roads and the towns � but was always aligned with the people, the happenings, and the on-road conversation.
JOHN S recalled how he came on the ride with one of his best friends and will be leaving with 40+ new friends
TOM cited the communal repair of flats as he described how riders have been very generous to each other; he also mentioned the goodness of people in Middle America
GEORGE explained how he continues to be in awe of Sarge�s individual loyalty to everyone in the group, as each and every head in the room nodded in agreement.
STEVE Q found that everyone was determined, kind, and courageous
SUE looked out across the tables and declared that �All of you will be in my heart forever�
GARY C explained that when he chose what wine to bring for dinner he brought�.the best for the best.
CARY recalled how everyone gave him such a warm welcome in Erie.
KEEPING IN TOUCH
GARY N extended an invitation to drop in, with or without their bikes whenever anyone finds themselves in Chicago. �If you come with your bike� he continued �DEB will go for a ride with you�
PIET described The Netherlands as a great place to ride and invited riders to �Please come visit � but just don�t all come at the same time!�
HETTY concurred that The Netherlands is a great place to ride. �It�s flat and I�m glad it�s flat�
SKIP echoed these sentiments saying �If you�re ever in Vegas come by; you�re more than welcome to stay at DON�S house !�
ALAN invited everyone on his next ride; a Tour of Ireland in 2009.
WAYNE sounded every inch The Terminator as he announced �I�ll be back!�
DAN took a page from his Grandfather�s book and promised that �When I retire I�ll come back and do a ride� (Dan turned 17 on the ride, so look for him on the 2043 Cross Country Challenge)
JOE reminded everyone that you can come back and do it again, seeing what you missed the first time, and seeing what has changed.
WINSTON wants to do more and will do more
FRED compared likened riding schedule to the TV show �Chasing Amy� � but he �Chases Alan�. His next ride will be wherever Alan is going
RICHARD reminded everyone that he will not be done when we arrive at the beach. He still has a few days of riding left before he arrives in Providence RI with the help of two friends providing support. He asked that we think of him as he continues on
AL is going to fly to Europe but will spend an additional five days riding to Munich once he lands
SUPERLATIVE LIFE EXPERIENCE
AUDREY, one of the youngest riders claimed that this ride has been the best experience of her life
JOHN D, leading the group in birthdays celebrated, described the adventure as the highlight of his life
KIP felt that somewhere along the route �it was no longer about where we were coming from, but about where we were going�
JAY stated that it truly was an amazing journey
LARRY claimed without hesitation that �this was the best birthday gift ever�
AL made mention of riding past a sign outside a church that read �Open your eyes, the world is a beautiful place�
JOHN C recalled that he signed up for �a ride� that would start in Indianapolis. What he didn�t realize was that he was going to be swept up by an �ABB Train� that was already going at full speed, where everyone knew each other as family, and all were happy to welcome him aboard.
AMY reminded us in the room that �All good things must come to an end; and this has been a good
When the final rider had been heard from Gerard presented a �Bouquet of Flat Tires� to Deb and �Crowns of Dead Tubes� to Allen and Gary N as the respective Flat Tire Queen and co-Flat Tire Kings of the ride. With one day left to go Allen and Gary are tied at 17 flats each. Will a victor emerge tomorrow?
As we have made our way from the West Coast, we have carried a map of the United States of America with us to keep the scope of our goal in mind. Each afternoon we extended a black line across the page to mirror our eastward progress. Tonight this map was presented to Shuresh �Sarge� Kurjah as a memento of the 2008 Cross Country Challenge. Earlier in the evening George had described what an attribute Sarge has been to our adventure, and judging by the applause as the map was presented, those sentiments are unanimous. Sarge never stopped spreading enthusiasm, never hesitated to help others first and worry about himself later, and drew from a bottomless sense of humor to keep spirits high.
The closing �Journal Spotlight� features Co-Ride Leaders Michelle Sahli and Andy Hiroshima, pictured above. Michelle first became involved with America by Bicycle as a Challenge Rider in 2000; looking back she recalls not �missing a single Caf� on that outing�. This year marks the fifth year she has staffed this ride, but she has also been involved in the North Ride, the East Ride, and the West Ride.
At home in New York City Michelle is kept busy a full time Graduate School student and a mother of two sons, the youngest of which is headed to College in Oswego later in the summer. Waiting for a little extra attention when she gets home will be her cat Sparky.
Andy first encountered the Cross Country Challenge as a rider in 1999. That year he figures he put on at least 200 extra miles due to unscheduled exploring, which judging by his eyes as he said it, may actually have meant getting lost. If it seems like he knows the route inside-out, he likely does having now completed his eighth crossing along this route. To see how the rest of the country lives he has also experienced the North Ride, the Mississippi Ride, and the West Ride.
In the rare quiet moment Andy can sometimes be spotted doing preliminary work on wooden Caricature Carvings that often win awards after he finishes them off at home. At other times he can be heard making music at hotels that have pianos in the lobby.
Andy retired 3 years ago and is happy to have 2 �great sons� living close to his home in Sacramento. With three grandchildren dropping in and out to see Grandpa, Andy occasionally finds himself looking after the kids when he might otherwise be out riding.
Having lead the ride so many times together, they make it look easy. Asked why they keep coming back they replied together that every ride allows them �to meet wonderful people from all over the world, and that alone enriches our lives�
posted 2008-07-25 | 12:45:06 | article number: 7
|Day 52 :( Tuesday July 22nd 2008 - Manchester NH to Portsmouth NH - 62 miles
|It�s a shame that Greg Marx could not have been outside the hotel this morning. He is a civilian meteorologist who works for the US Air Force, and he rode with the 2008 Challenge Ride from Pueblo Colorado to Richmond Indiana. We were all wearing our red, white, and blue America By Bicycle jerseys; some friends and family members had assembled to see us off on our last morning departure; but the weather was threatening to ruin the moment with cool air, overcast skies, and pending rain. However, as we slowly began to roll out the conditions began to clear, as though our collective will simply pushed the clouds out of the way and ushered in the sun that would be waiting for us at the beach. It would have been interesting to see if Greg could have come up with an alternate explanation for the phenomenon.
On our way to the closing SAG of the campaign sights that may have gone un-noticed on previous days took on heightened significance. Riding along Lakeshore Rd in Rockingham, the sight of the sun peeking through the vanishing clouds and shining upon a collection of boats moored just off the shore of the lake was enough to prompt well over half of our cameras to get into action.
For years the Kingston Village Market has hosted us for our final rest stop at mile 31, offering congratulations AND their restrooms to all. America By Bicycle President, Doug Torosion, was impressed by the energy of the group he met at last night�s dinner in Manchester and took a moment to come out and visit us again before our final push to the coast. He has vivid memories of the first time he rode across the country with his Father and seems to be recharged each time he shares a moment with a cyclist closing in on a dream. Many riders joked that after 52 days the granola bar or banana they were about to eat might be the last one they would ever have; or�well� at least until their next big ride.
Staying on schedule this morning meant having to be assembled at Rye Junior High School by 11:30AM. Arriving in the town of Exeter many found themselves ahead of schedule and decided to stretch the day out by stopping at a coffee shop to bask in the �sprit du corps for just a while longer, or by making one last side trip, this time to the campus of Phillips Exeter Academy, a nationally renowned and influential prep school. In contrast to traditional classrooms with rows of desks, students and teachers at Phillips sit around one giant oval table.
As much as we didn�t want the adventure to come to an end, energy was running high as we assembled at Rye Junior High to have one last photo of the entire Challenge Family taken before we arrived at the beach and splintered into a bunch of screaming, laughing, cheering, and teary eyed spandex-clad revelers. It took a while but eventually at least one shot was captured on just about every camera. At 12 noon our escorts from the local Police Force arrived as we were lining up in a formation not unlike something you would see at the start of the Indy 500. Endorsed by all, Sarge, Steve, John D, and Jos� took the front row as symbols of fellowship, perseverance, commitment, and endurance.
With lights flashing and sirens periodically sounding we were cheered on by neighborhood residents who gathered at the ends of their driveways as we started off on the final four miles. Falling in behind were our Support Staff, all four riding together for the first time in 52 days; Andy, Michelle, Gerard and Christine. We had been able to smell the ocean for the last day or so, but at this point we could nearly taste it. As we prepared to make the left turn that would bring us into full view of the ocean cheers erupted and clenched fists shot into the air.
After a short stretch paralleling the beach we made our final right turn into the Wallace Sands Beach and were �welcomed home� by a contingent of family and friends waving signs, shouting and hollering, and searching for the loved one they had not seen for nearly two months. Aussie Steve knew his wife and children would be there, but that did little to prepare him for the emotion of the moment. As riders ditched their bikes and sprinted their way through a beach full of vacationers and area residents who were a little overwhelmed, but still able to cheer and applaud, those who didn�t get wet voluntarily where lovingly tossed in by their colleagues. Despite being so boisterous, on the whole we were speechless.
When Piet and Hetty arrived they were surprised to see two �strangers� holding up a Welcome Sign in Dutch. It turns out they were not strangers at all; they were two previous ABB riders that Piet and Hetty and been in e-contact with when they were in the process of deciding if the Challenge Ride was a good fit for them. As the cyclists lived near by they decided to drop by to hear Piet and Hetty�s accounts of the ride first hand over dinner!
Before heading back to meet the luggage van and begin travel preparations at the Best Inn, quite a few riders road 3 extra miles to cross into Maine so that they might carve one more notch in their handlebars for another state visited. Although several riders had flights to catch later in the evening, many were staying overnight in Portsmouth and had arranged a �Post Prom� dinner at Warren�s Lobster House before saying goodbye and heading off to their pre-ride lives across the country and around the world.
Those that have ridden with America By Bicycle before are quick to point out that they have established lifelong friendships while pedaling across the country � this ride will be no exception. With this in mind we should not mourn the end of our time together;
�The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be the beginning.� (Ivy Baker Priest)
posted 2008-07-26 | 01:00:19 | article number: 8