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!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Look at Our Routines Day 46

So what 's a typical day like? We wake early, pack our bags, get our bikes ready, and then (if we're lucky) we eat breakfast before we load our luggage into the trailer that's towed by "Gold" to the next motel. The early birds look "bright eyed and bushy tailed", and the night owls still have sleep in their eyes. Most riders love coffee (never had a cup myself). Breakfast may be at the hotel, or at a nearby restaurant.
At the designated "load time", the trailer is opened, and Gerard and Andy (top picture, with newer rider Andrew from Las Vegas on the right, outside the van) hop on. The valuable bike pumps are handed out, and Herb is always lined up, calling "I get the pink pump first". (Don't ask!)
We hand our bags up to Andy and Gerard, then sign the "load sheet". Riders are then free to depart. Some folks always ride together, some folks always ride alone, but most cyclists ride with several others. I've tried to ride with every other cyclist on this trip, though I haven't always been able to ride with the folks who just travel a week or so with us. I've ridden and chatted with all the "cross country" riders, some for minutes here and there, most for much longer periods of time.
At the SAG stops we sign in, wash our hands, then feed, tell stories, refill water bottles and tend to other needs. On longer days, like today (95 miles with plenty of hills) most of us also stop for lunch somewhere. Unlike SAG food, we pay for our own lunches. Today I had a club sandwich--the ladies at my office will be astonished!
Then we continue the ride until we reach the hotel. Today we travelled east (of course) through western New York, and are staying in Canandaigua, in the finger lake region. The scenery was nice--but again, not that different from home (see middle photo).
Folks arrive at the next motel on a staggered schedule. The "harder" the day, in general, the longer between the earliest and latest arrivals. Today it was about 4 to 5 hours, I think. Several riders like to ride quickly to the next motel, and are usually in early. Others stop often, whether they ride quickly or slowly. I've been with the first group to the hotel and also with the last group (several times each) on this trip. It's nice to experience variety!
After a shower, and tending to other needs (bike adjustments, laundry, email, blogs,...) we meet for "Route Rap" and discuss the next day's ride. Pictured at bottom is a portion of the group at today's route rap. It was held outside because of the nice weather and the lake. Goose droppings were the only down side to this location. Notice how folks are studying the "cue sheet" while Andy (standing, left of the tree) talks.
BTW, we have a few pet names for the "cue sheets". These have typewritten instructions, telling us how far to ride until the next turn, SAG stop, or other direction. They are usually clear----however, occasionally they are confusing, esp. if there has been road work done since last year's Cross Country Challenge. One clever wag first dubbed them the "clue sheets", then, after getting particularly confused, changed them to the "haven't got a clue sheets" (alright, it was me again)!
Just kidding--mostly. We love our cue sheets, and can always find our way to the next turn. And when we don't, AbB is gracious enough not to charge us extra for the extra miles we rode while lost or confused!
After route rap, it's off to dinner which is enjoyed with good fellowship. Most folks then turn in early, but a few (esp. the younger riders, but some guys who are starting to look at middle age in the rear view mirror) go to a bar some evenings. Even the "night owls" are usually in bed by eleven. Then it's go to sleep, then wake up and do it again!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A New York State of Mind Day 45

We're in Hamburg, New York, after an 82 mile ride today. I thoroughly cleaned my bike yesterday, so naturally it rained! Fortunately, the rain was brief and mild, and the ride was enjoyable. Pictured at the State sign are Howie, Pete, Philippe, Jeff and me, starting at the left. After only riding about 40 miles in Pennsylvania since we left Ohio, we were in New York. Who thought you could cross PA that quickly?
We passed many vinyards on our ride along Lake Erie, as shown on the second photo. The grapes are looking good to my untrained eye, at least. While we saw signs directing us to several wineries, none had distances listed, and we didn't actually ride by any wineries. And since we were riding bicycles, we decided against doing any wine tasting. Rats!--oops, I hope that doesn't sound like sour grapes! We also had many views of Lake Erie to our left, including at our SAG stops.
After arriving at the hotel, seven of us hired a "taxi van" and were driven to the "Pedaling History Bicycle Museum in Orchard Park. There we spent an hour looking at hundreds of old bicycles--by far the largest collection any of us had seen. From the first "Ordinary Bicycles" (called the penny farthing in England) with the large front wheel, we saw how the development of rubber tires, then pneumatic tires, as well as the chain and cassette (which allows gear changing) affected the bicycle. The automobile and airplanes used many bicycle innovations, including ball bearings, rack & pinion steering, differential drives and wire spoked wheels. It's a great museum!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Resting in Erie Day 44

We enjoyed a day off the bikes in Erie, PA today. Carol, Bekki and I were able to walk down to the lake last night and climb a fairly high observation tower (on the elevator). Behind them is Presque Isle, a peninsula that forms and protects Presque Bay, which is responsible for the location of the town of Erie. The peninsula hosts the largest state park in PA, with many miles of beaches and 3.5 million visitors a year. Lake Erie can be seen behind the "isle".
The second photo shows the town of Erie as seen from the tower. At its largest, the city had 400,000 people. It's population now is perhaps 140,000 (or less). Here's hoping the city's turn around goes well.
We ran errands today, with Pete and brothers Tim and Jeff. Trips to Walmart and the bike shop were made. I also did the obligatory bike cleaning (a thorough job this time). At least the trip to the laundromat was more fun, with the help I had! I was sorry to see my ladies go, but they had to return to Gettysburg this evening. I love you two, and thanks for the visit!
We start our last stage of the Cross Country Challenge tomorrow, riding eight more days across New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire. It's also one of the last times for me to say a few words about the Lance Armstrong Foundation, for whom I'm riding. Money donated to the foundation not only goes to research and treatment, but also is used to help people make decisions re: treatment, and for support for cancer patients and their loved ones.
If you'd like to make a tax deductible donation, please visit my web page at
To all of you who have donated, I say "Thanks Again"! It's been great riding across the country, and I'm looking forward to this next week.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

It's an Erie Feeling Day 43

If you double click on the top photo, you can see how far we've come! Carol and Bekki drove from Gettysburg (about 5 hours) to visit, and it's great to see them! Bekki's pointing to Erie, PA, where we're staying tonight and tomorrow.
Our 97 mile bike ride took us almost due north from Youngstown, Ohio, for the first 70 miles. The terrain flattened, though a few hills remained. When we reached the town of Conneaut, Ohio, we had lunch at an old fashioned outdoor "drive in", where Phillipe, Rick, and David posed with me. Root beer floats were the specialty, and Rick's was huge! All the riders seemed to enjoy it, and dozens of "locals" came there for lunch as well.
Shortly after leaving the drive in, we entered Pennsylvania (our 10th state). Rick is obviously thinking about that root beer float, and considering going back for another one!
We then rode another 25 miles to reach the city of Erie, which developed as a major port in the eastern United States. After dinner, where everyone got to meet Bekki, we walked about 12 blocks to the lake and played "tourist" for awhile. Tomorrow should be fun--it's our last "rest day", before our final 8 day ride to the Atlantic Ocean. After riding over 400 miles in the last four days, the riders are welcoming a day off the bike.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

What's with these Ohio bridges? Day 42

Happy Bastille Day. In 1789, the "Shot Heard Round the World" (the initial firing by Americans at the British soldiers at the Old North Bridge in Concord, Mass. on April 19, 1775) was finally "heard" in Paris, France. On July 14th, 1789 a Paris "mob" stormed the Bastille, a prison where people were held by the government--many unjustly. It heralded the French Revolution, with a (temporary) end to aristocracy. But this included the "Reign of Terror" (think guillotines) and the rise of Napoleon, who would claim himself Emperor. It took the French many decades to develop a democracy, but I guess they feel it started on "quatorze juillet" (July 14), so they celebrate today as we do the 4th of July.
We're in Youngstown, in northeast Ohio. Our 90 mile ride was a little less hilly, the wind was friendly, and riders were happy to have a somewhat easier day. The route was pretty, with lots of back roads again, and few towns. I rode most of the day with Greg (a former cross country rider who is riding about a week with us, en route to visiting his son in upstate New York), Pete and Howie (from left to right, above). This photo was taken as the longest train I've ever seen was passing behind me. Doesn't Pete look like he's waiting patiently?
Just before the second SAG at 71 miles, Michelle pulled up in the van to tell us the bridge ahead was closed, and she was looking for a detour. That's three bridges in three days! Undaunted (OK, maybe we were a little daunted) we rode ahead. A worker at the bridge site (middle photo) asked that we turn around, but one of us kindly asked if we could please possibly cross by foot, as we were out of water, had ridden 71 miles and were going to the store just on the other side of the stream (OK, it was me!). The fellow took pity and jovially replied "Go ahead, but the water's contaminated!"
While scouting out the remnants of the bridge, we saw a way to cross. Carrying our bikes over dirt mounds, we reached the cement buttresses that crossed the creek. They were about 4 feet apart, and a few wooden planks were laid across all but the last two. Balancing our bikes carefully, we were able to cross without falling into the "contaminated water". I would have loved to stop for a photo, but with the workers watching, the precarious footing, and the bikes in our arms I elected to skip it.
As you can see in the bottom photo, Pete, Greg and I made it safely across. Howie took a detour on his bike, and probably got to the other side as quickly as we did. But his story isn't as fun to tell!
Because of the late arrival of some riders yesterday evening, the fifth poker card won't be given out until this evening. If I remember, I'll post the winner.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Beautiful Ohio Day 41

The riders are tired this evening. The bottom picture, taken at dinner, shows a typical evening scene. Cyclists refuel for the calories expended today, and the ones we'll burn tomorrow. While almost everyone loses weight on a ride like this, it's a fine balance to maintain. Eat too little, and you'll lose more weight, but be more tired and slow on the bike. Eat too much, and you'll have to use that additional energy to carry those extra pounds that are leaving too slowly!
We rode 107 hilly miles today--I got 2 extra miles at 109 (don't ask.....lucky me!) We're working our way across northern Ohio, and are staying in Wooster. Many riders said that some of today's hills were amongst the toughest we've climbed. No hill rose more than a few hundred feet (and most rose far less), but many were steep, and they came in waves. We had 4,450 "feet of climb" today, which is more than we had several days in the Rocky Mountains. Up, then down, repeat until done...
As I've gotten stronger on this ride, I particularly notice the improvement on the climbs. For me, the trick is to never "race" up a hill, but to maintain momentum whenever possible. I personally find days like today much easier than climbing the Rocky Mountains, or the Sierras--instead of those "sustained climbs" that go on for miles at a time, these climbs take seconds to minutes, and coasting downhill can get me partway up the next.
The top photo shows some of the typical scenery we passed today. We were on mostly back roads, rarely passing through any towns. The scenery looks like "home"--with all the hills, think northern Adam County, minus the orchards.
Pictured in the middle is the second SAG stop, where Christine, Greg, David, and Howie are showing their cards (or bananas, for the man from Massachusetts). At breakfast, each SAG stop, and at dinner we were given a card each, with the final card to come tonight. High hand wins--it cost $1.00 to enter. Winner take all. My hand doesn't look promising.....

Riding through Gettysburg...Ohio? Day 40

After riding on the “National Highway” (i.e. Rte 40, which is now paralled by Rte 70, and which runs to Washington D.C.), we travelled more rural roads through western Ohio today. I had read that Indianapolis (and Indiana) had the most polite drivers in the country, and my experiences confirm this. We rarely heard a car honk, or had a car or truck drive closely to the cyclists because they were irritated that we were on the side of the road.
We reached the “Welcome to Ohio” marker just 2 ½ miles into our ride. Pictured are Rick, Howie, me Philippe, and Tom. The scheduled route was 105 miles, but all riders got to go even further today! A bridge was out about 78 miles into the ride, and it required a few tries for some of us to find our way around. The second photo was taken when the “first detour” took us back to the missing bridge (on the “wrong side”. Road crews were busily at work there. As you can see, the stream is not wide, but the water was fast moving and was over 5 feet deep in the middle. The crew member I spoke with said that there was no way to walk across within at least a thousand feet of the road, on either side. So we took a second, longer, detour and finally got around that missing bridge. We had good maps provided by AbB—there were just no nearby stream crossings. The two detours added over 10 miles to my trip, so I ended up with 116 miles today. Fortunately we had a strong tailwind, so I reached the hotel by mid afternoon with some of my fellow riders. However, it will probably be a few more hours until all the riders get in today. We heard that some folks missed a turn earlier in the day and rode several additional miles. Should be some good stories at (our late) dinner tonight!
We passed through what was supposed to be “Gettysburg, Ohio” today as well. There is no town, and no clear collection of houses. Several roads with names like “Gettysburg-South Eastern Rd” and “Covington-Gettysburg” road converged near the sign shown above, so apparently at one time that area was called “Gettysburg”.
We continued to see lots of corn and soy beans today. The soy beans in Ohio are much less further along than the ones we saw further west. The corn height varies tremendously, just as it does in Adams County, depending on when it’s planted, how much rain falls, etc… A few weeks ago TIME magazine ran an article which reported that 90.5 million acres of corn have been planted in the U.S. this year—up 15% from last year. No one on this Cross Country Challenge ride would disagree!
As we’ve ridden east, we notice that the farms are smaller and closer together. There are also many more dogs along the roads, and several times they have run out when the riders go by. It is always a concern, since a bike which hits a dog can throw the rider. Several cyclists have a real fear of dogs along the road for this reason. Hopefully we’ll get to New Hampshire without any “dog trouble”.
Tomorrow is another 100 plus mile day, and the hills of eastern Ohio come into our route. It should be fun and challenging.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Eastern Indiana Day 39

Pictured above is "Boston Greg", at a Dairy Queen near Richmond, Indiana, where we're staying tonight. Wayne, Greg, and I had all had a little ice cream before reaching our hotel (after a lovely 73 mile ride), and Greg wanted some cold water available for the last few miles into the hotel. He waited patiently for someone to come to the window--then he waited less patiently. This photo was taken just as he decided to launch himself through the window, to get the water himself.......Watch your head, Greg!
After arriving at the hotel, we had a nice visit from Bill, who is in the middle of the middle photo. Bill, Cliff, and I rode "Down the East" coast last summer with AbB. Cliff (on the left) is riding the AbB Cross Country Challenge this year for the third time--"'til I get it right". He has also ridden the "North Ride" across the continent, and the "Fast Ride" across, so this is his fifth crossing with AbB in the last ten years or so! He says his wife feels that, at age 70, this should be his last long bike trip. We'll see.
Bill has also ridden the Cross Country Challenge with AbB, in 2003. He gave me lots of great advice for this trip, including the laptop I'm typing on now, certain software choices (he's a real "technology fan"), and lots of hints on how to prepare for the ride. Bill lives in Cincinnati, and drove up to spend the afternoon and evening with us. It was great seeing him, sharing stories, etc... Bill got to meet many of our riders, and they all enjoyed the visit. Great to see you, Bill, and Thanks again!
Pictured third is a photo of our AbB staff--from left to right are Andy, Gerard, Michelle and Christine. I've written about all these fine people, but haven't shown a photo of them together before now. They are all strong riders, and work hard to make sure the cyclists have a great trip and remain as safe as possible. Andy is either the slowest eater, or is on his third plate of food!
In the next 4 days, we are scheduled to ride almost 400 miles, so today's shorter ride was appreciated by many. We are near the Ohio border already.
Oh, and before I forget, we celebrated Brian's 40th birthday today! There are two great photos of Brian on yesterday's "blog" below. He told us about his birthday when the ride started, and seemed surprised that we remembered it! He had cake, cards and lots of laughs.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Day 38

We had our 4th "rest day" here in Indianapolis. I've ridden 2794 miles in the last 5+ weeks, and we have another 2 weeks to go, with 13 more days of cycling.
We had a special treat thanks to Wayne's connections here. He arranged for us to ride the track at the Indianapolis speedway, and about 1/2 of the riders rode to the track. After a six mile ride through Indianapolis, we met Wayne (who drove his car, which his wife, Karen, drove from Lexington). Now Brian, from Manchester, England, has been collecting old license plates from the states through which we've cycled, and any other states as well. He plans to put them on the wall in his garage at home (which he pronounces "GARE-ij"). I don't think Wayne appreciated Brian's subtle try for a "not so old" Kentucky license plate!
Unfortunately things were a little hectic, so we couldn't get a photo of all the riders who rode the track. Pictured in the middle are most of the cyclists. This photo was taken by Bob's wife, who is visiting from the D.C. area.
The lower photo again shows Wayne and Brian with me inside the speedway. Notice I had to keep them far apart after Brian's attempted heist! BTW, don't you think that orange bike on the far left is sharp looking?
Once on the track, we had lots of fun. It is 2 1/2 miles long. The surface is really smooth, and the four turns are banked, but not nearly at the angle that the much shorter velodrome was banked yesterday. We had a "hoot" riding around the track (I took over 25 photos, and wish I could post more), going up and down the curves. The Indy cars reach speeds of about 270 miles on the straightaways. Not sure what the big deal is--I reached well over 10 % of that speed on my bike!
The rest of the day was spent on the usual "rest day" chores--I caught another movie as well. Downtown Indianapolis has been fun to explore. It's another of the many places I'd like to return to with my family in the future.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Racing in Indianapolis Day 37

Today we cycled to Indianapolis, the state capitol. Although we were less than 40 miles from our destination when we awoke, a combination of side trips increased my total day's mileage to 67 miles.
Our first stop was at the Roark factory, where titanium is made into components for the aerospace industry--and they also make titanium bicycles. Jim, pictured above, guided us through the factory. We saw bicycle frames in various stages of preparation. All bikes are made to order, and they are excellent, and expensive. The bike in front of Jim has an aerodynamic down tube and seat tube (they are "flared" in the back, not round), with a "cut-out" in the lower, posterior portion of the seat tube to accommodate the front portion of the rear tire. Way cool! That bike will be shipped to its new owner, perhaps today.
On entering the city, we took a side trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It's huge! We were allowed to walk on the track, but elected to wait for a possible chance to ride our bikes on the track tomorrow. We'll see if that can get done.
Later we stopped at the Major Taylor Velodrome. This is an outdoor bicycle "arena", with sharply banked curves. When you ride at a high speed, you can turn sharply. None of the riders in our group had much trouble getting "up" on the curves, but we all agreed it felt weird, and that after riding several laps at high speed we felt tired. Pictured is Howie, coming into the curve. He rode very well there, and "got the hang of it" much more quickly than Pete or I did. We also had a visit with Tom and his wife. Tom, an Indiana native, was on the AbB staff for the first two legs of our trip. He had raced at the velodrome in the past and told us some funny stories. While it sounded interesting, we agreed it's a sport that might be more fun to watch than race, at our ages!
After navigating through the heart of the city (with the obligatory picture of the State Capitol building), we found our hotel.. We're staying near the heart of downtown for a change, instead of on the city outskirts. We've ridden about 630 miles in the past seven days, and tomorrow is a "rest day".