Saturday, June 27, 2009

Boston, Massachusetts to Hermosa Beach, California

3,500 miles, 5:45 hours of flying, 25,000 feet of climbing, ZERO Calories

I'm safely home. Deborah met me at LAX and I'm catching up on hugs and kisses that I missed. It took seven weeks to ride my bike from Los Angeles to Boston; it took less than six hours to fly back. I had a window seat on the plane and could look down on the approximate route that we took riding our bicycles the other way. Wow, is the U.S. of A. big! I'm suffering a little separation anxiety - my trusty bicycle is en route and won't be here for a week, but it's good to be home.

Final thoughts

If you decide that you, too, want to ride your bicycle across the United States, I offer the following suggestions and comments:

Go with Cross Roads Cycling Adventures! Tracy and her crew will take care of you. They have years of experience, are highly organized and efficient. All you have to do is ride your bicycle from hotel to hotel and CR will take care of all the rest.

Don't take stuff you don't need. At a minimum, all you really need, in addition to the stuff you will carry on your bicycle, is: bike shorts (1), jersey (1), bike socks (2 pair), arm coolers, street shorts (1), street shirt (1), windbreaker, sandals or Crocs, and a toothbrush. [You will need a camelback or equivalent for the desert crossings - send it home after.] Everything else is optional.

Wash your bicycle clothing in the motel sink each night. Cross Roads provides detergent. After washing, roll the wet clothes in a towel to pre-dry them, hang them up, and they will be dry in the morning. [Tom R. suggested a ShamWow or equivalent in place of the towel]

Get trip insurance. Riding a bicycle is potentially dangerous. You've paid a lot of money to take this trip. Get trip insurance.

Take a digital camera and get a "bento box" for your bike. It's much easier to get to your camera when it's in the bento box.

Buy a good quality road bike from a professional bike shop. Do not spend less than $1,500 for your bike. [Carbon frames are softer rides than Aluminum, steel, or Titanium.]

Get a bike fitting from a professional bike shop. Pay special attention to the five points where you come in contact with your bike: bottom, feet, and hands. Buy good quality shoes, padded shorts, and padded bike gloves.

Use tire liners; gatorskins or armadillo tires won't protect you from getting flats caused by wires on freeway shoulders. Trust me, I know.

A bandana is handy. It keeps the sun off your neck and can be moistened for cooling.

Instead of a "head sweat," bring a bicycle cap to wear under your helmet. The visor helps keep the sun off your face and the rain off your glasses.

Go on line and check your cell phone provider's coverage (especially in the western states).

Wireless internet connection is available at all hotels. Start a blog and either use the hotels' terminals or bring a netbook (they only weigh about two pounds).

Do EVERYTHING that Tracy tells you to do in her pre-ride emails. After years and years of taking intrepid cyclists across the U.S., she knows best. Do EVERYTHING she suggests you do. Trust me.

In preparation for the trip, the LONG training rides are more important than the short ones. Yes, you need to be in shape, but the long rides will tell you where you need to make changes in your shoes, gloves, shorts, etc. You don't want to discover that your saddle isn't comfortable between Riverside and Wickenburg! You will find out how to "go long." Oh, yes, wear your camelback (full) on your long training rides.

Chamois butter is not optional! Use it.

You, too, can ride your bike across the country! Just do it!

And, finally, support our troops. Make a donation to the USO. I thank you.

RSRO (ride safely, ride often),

Friday, June 26, 2009

Burlington to Revere Beach, Massachusetts

19 miles, 1.:35 riding time, 447 feet of climb, 904 Calories

It's still hard to accept, but today was our final ride together. We are here, Boston, finally, after seven weeks of riding. It was a short 19 miles from the hotel to Revere Beach. We paused at mile 14 to regroup and ride to the shore together. The mood was festive, riders waved to everyone on the street, and got a big cheer from some school kids. There was a lot of joking, singing, and shouting.

When we rounded the turn to the beach, a cheer went up from family and friends who had gathered to witness our triumphant arrival. My youngest son and his wife had driven down from Connecticut as representatives of my clan.

Although the tide was out, riders carried their faithful bikes across the sand to dip the front wheel in the Atlantic Ocean. We posed for our group picture and the bikes were loaded onto the trucks to be transported back to the hotel. This afternoon, we will pack up the bikes for shipment home. The banquet is tonight.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Brattleboro, Vermont to Burlington, Massachusetts

93 miles, 6:03 riding time, 4,380 feet climbing, 4,826 Calories

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world. (Emerson)

Almost there!

No rain, partly cloudy skies, and mild winds (no, still not out of the west), made for a perfect day to ride from Vermont into the outskirts of Boston. We crossed two state lines today, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The New Hampshire border came shortly after leaving the hotel. We crossed the Connecticut River and followed the river for a while before joining Route 119. Cross Roads saved the steepest hills for today; my Garmin measured slopes of 12% on a couple of long climbs! It was such a beautiful day, I left Al and Peter for a bit and rode ahead of them, up and down the mountains, into the first SAG stop. My buddies soon caught up with me at the SAG and we rode the rest of the day together. About half way thought the ride, we began a long descent, losing a thousand feet of elevation over a few miles. The second SAG stop was our last SAG stop of the trip; it was located next to a nice hot dog stand that served fresh squeezed lemonade. The rest of the day was spent riding up and down over rolling hills through the forest. Ron, one of last year's riders met us in Carlisle and led us in to the hotel - this was much appreciated as the route was very windy with many turns to navigate. We stopped briefly to photograph the statue of the Minuteman in Lexington, rolled into the hotel, gave each other a high five, and collapsed.

Today was our last, full day of riding! Unbelievable. Tomorrow, we ride the final eighteen miles to Revere Beach to complete our coast to coast bicycle trip.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Albany, NY to Brattleboro, Vermont

80 miles, 5:34 riding time, 5,119 feet climbing, 4,013 Calories

Rain! Headwinds! Climbs! The gorgeous Green Mountains of Vermont.

The forecast was for 40% chance of rain and winds from out of the north. I pocketed my wind breaker, just in case, and headed out of the motel parking lot. We navigated the city streets, with potholes, impatient traffic, and even a tunnel. Inside the tunnel were some potholes big enough to swallow a bicyclist, but we safely navigated our way around them. Eventually, we turned onto Route 7 and entered the forest. Thirty-one miles from Albany we crossed the Vermont State line, pausing to take pictures and sprinkle some of our CA sand.

Painted moose structures appear to be all the rage in Vermont; I especially like this gold one. We stopped at the Bennington Battle Monument - the tallest manmade structure in Vermont. The monument commemorates a battle during the Revolution; unfortunately, the actual battle site is some ten miles away in the state of New York, but don't tell anyone.

Coming out of Bennington, we started a 7 mile climb. Near the top, the grade was 8 & 9% for a couple of miles. In fact, the entire day was spent climbing or descending. As we neared the top, it began to sprinkle and then to rain in earnest. We donned our jackets for the descent. It rained, off and on, all the way to the hotel. This wasn't as bad as the rain we had riding from Erie to Canandaigua, but my left shoe was full of water at the end and everything was covered in mud.

It's too bad the rain detracted from a wonderful ride in the Green Mountains. There were streams and rivers, lots of trees and steep hills, a perfect mix for a perfect day of bicycling through Vermont.

Brattleboro is the oldest town in Vermont. It's situated in a deep valley next to the Connecticut River. Since Vermont doesn't have any regulations against public nudity - it's usually so cold here, no one would think of going outside with no clothes on - Brattleboro is the home of the Vermont World Naked Bike Ride. Unfortunately, the ride was two weeks ago, on June 13, so we missed it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Little Falls to Albany, NY

72 miles, 4:29 riding time, 1,862 feet climbing, 3,647 Calories

This morning, we delayed our start by one hour, sleeping in, having a leisurely breakfast and then signing out at 8:15. The usual group of Peter, Al, Willie, and I started down Route 5 which parallels the Mohawk River below Little Falls. It was a glorious day, with blue skies and puffy white clouds. Al spotted a red fox hunting beside the road! A few miles down the road, we stopped to visit Fort Klock, a fortified house built in 1750. The house has gun slits next to the windows for firing at raiding Indians. The Mohawk valley was the gateway to the west from the coastal communities in the Colonies and some of the old houses still exist.

Although heavily wooded, we were often able to catch a glimpse of the river and surrounding farmland. In Amsterdam, the railroad station is right next to the river. Peter looked at the schedule and said he could take the train home to New York City from there; he opted to continue riding with us instead. Peter is going to ride his bike home from Boston at the end of our trip!

As we were rolling down one long hill, I spotted two Cross Roads riders sitting with their bikes beside the road. I knew they were CR riders because they were wearing CR jerseys and one had his orange flag on his bike. I was confused however, because I knew they weren't with our group; everyone in our group was behind us. We stopped and met Don and Barbara, Cross Roads alumni from last year's ride. They live in the Albany area and Don volunteered to ride in with us.

Eventually, we left the beautiful countryside behind us and rolled into Schenectady - lots of traffic and bad pavement! We must have stopped at every traffic signal in town. Finally, we turned into the suburbs where it was a little quieter, but the streets were narrow and the road surface was in need of repair. Don said the last few miles of the CR route were dangerous and under construction; did we want him to take us to the hotel by a safer and more scenic route? Peter and I opted to go with Don, but Al said he wanted to stick with the route sheet. We followed Don down to the Mohawk River and rode a very nice bike path for several miles before climbing up the hotel. Later, Al said we had made the right choice, that the road he was on was not safe to bicycle.

We have two more days of riding left, plus the short ride into Revere Beach on Friday. Where has the time gone?

Little Falls, New York

Yesterday, we got into Little Falls early enough for me to wander around a little bit. At one time, LF was a thriving industrial town on the Mohawk River and the Erie Canal. With plentiful water power, access to barge and rail transportation east/west, the town became very prosperous. Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever and the industries faded or went elsewhere as railroads, interstates, and cheap labor eroded the economic base. LF is one of the smallest towns we have stayed in on our cross-country adventure, but is undergoing a revival of sorts. They are renovating the factories and derelict buildings, for antique shops, restaurants, etc. Tourism may be the next boom business for LF.

The NY Barge Canal is 40.5 feet higher than the Mohawk River in Little Falls. There used to be three locks to lift barges from the river to the canal and back down; they were replaced by a single lock, making it one of the greatest lifts in the world. While commercial barge traffic is a thing of the past, the canal is still used by pleasure boats.

I met the man on duty at the lock and he gave me a quick tour. Can you say, "cool job?" In the picture of the lock, you can see how big it is by comparison to the van parked on the left.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Syracuse to Little Falls, New York

78 miles, 4:40 riding time, 1,591 feet climbing, 4,452 Calories

I can see clearly now the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me down
It's gonna be a bright, bright, bright, bright sun shiny day
It's gonna be a bright, bright, bright, bright sun shiny day
(Johnny Nash)

Woo hoo! No rain today. We even had sun and blue skies! We left Syracuse at the normal time; riding for almost ten miles just getting out of town. But once we were past the city, we were treated to a very nice, deserted country road - Al said this road was what he imagined most of the ride across America was going to be like…well, sort of, if you ignore the Interstate highways, the desert, the wheat fields of Kansas, and a few other things.

Chris didn't ride today - he has injured the tendons in his shin and is taking some time off the bike. So, it was just Big Al, Peter, Willie, and me, riding through the countryside. Once in a while Al would break out into song. "Good morning, America, how are ya?" seemed to be a favorite. Each day, shortly into the ride, Al says, "Hey, Jim. Guess what!" "What Al?" "We're riding across America!" Al is easily amused.

In Canastota, we turned down Canal Street and rode along a portion of the Erie Canal for several miles. This part of the old canal is a park, with a trail along the old tow path, how neat is that?

We made great time (the road was flat) into the SAG stop, under partly cloudy skies and warm conditions. After the SAG, we continued on country roads for a while before paralleling the highway and eventually turning into the quaint town of Little Falls. Al and I joined Willie at the fire station to talk to some of the first responders. In the old fire house is a four story fireman's pole; it's in sections; the firemen would drop down one section of the pole and then swing over to the next, to get from the top floor down to the truck bay.

Factoid of the day: Little Falls is on the Mohawk River; there's a bigger falls up the river, hence the name. On the barge canal at Little Falls, is a 40.5 foot lock, one of the highest in the world.