Saturday, July 8, 2017

Final Thoughts

I've been home for two weeks.  I'm avoiding Dairy Queens.  My bicycle arrived at the bike shop yesterday and is being overhauled In the interim, I'm riding my older Colnago.  It's time to reflect on XC17.

From riding across the country in 2009 I knew what would make this ride special would be the other riders.  When you spend seven weeks as a group pursuing a common goal, you bond in a unique way.  It was fantastic that many of this year's riders are veterans of my last cross country tour.  Over the past eight years, we had often proposed a repeat of LA to Boston but life somehow got in the way.  Finally, I looked ahead and realized that I'm not getting any younger (yes, I'm shocked, too) and it was time to act.  I sent in my deposit to CrossRoads and sent an email to the group that the ride was "on."  Happily, a bunch of 09ers couldn't resist and signed up to join me.  Willie and Harry would go "all the way;" Peter from LA to Santa Fe; and Tom, Darrell, Champ, and Jack would join us in Champaign for the final push to Boston.  That doesn't include cameo appearances by Al and Chris during the ride and Karen, Ike, and Mike seeing us off in Manhattan Beach.  Although some of us had not seen each other for eight years, we simply picked up where we had left off in '09!

CrossRoads normally has twenty some odd riders doing the whole ride across the country with a dozen or so completing only part of the route.  This year was unusual in that we had ten people signed up to ride all the way to Boston and twenty-two riding shorter segments.  There were also a significant number of foreign riders, United Kingdom (6), Germany (3), and Israel (1).  It's hard to imagine a more diverse bunch of bicycle riders.

I could write pages and pages about each of my companions.  XC09 was so wonderful, I was afraid XC17 would pale in comparison; I should have known better.  What a great group of people; a privilege to know all of you.

This was supposed to be the "smell the roses" tour, but somehow I couldn't reign in my need for speed.  My competitive nature was dampened somewhat by the presence of several Iron Men and Women.  Add to that the presence of Willie, Dan K, and Mike R who often raced me into the hotel each day.  We were fortunate in the cool desert crossing, dry weather, and many tailwinds.

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.

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.  Take lots of photos of your fellow riders; you will cherish those pictures much more than ones of the passing countryside.

Buy a good quality road bike from a professional bike shop. Do not spend less than $2,000 for your bike.

Get a bike fit 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 like Mr. Tuffy’s; even Gatorskin tires won't protect you from getting flats caused by wires on freeway shoulders. Trust me, I know.  In the desert, every time you stop, check your tires for wires, glass, and cuts.  Doing so might just save you from one or more flats.  Practice changing inner-tubes before you start.

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.

Wireless internet connection is available at all hotels. Start a blog and either use the hotels' terminals or bring a tablet, pad, or netbook (they only weigh about two pounds).  Send me the URL to your blog.

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, LONG training rides are more important than 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 Blythe and Wickenburg! You will find out how to "go long." Oh, yes, wear your camelback (full) on your long training rides.  The better shape you are in when you leave Los Angeles, the more fun you will have.

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.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Burlington to Revere Beach, MA

We made it!  This morning we rode the final 17 miles to the Atlantic Ocean in Revere Beach to complete our cross country bike trip.  At 7:00 AM morning, we assembled in groups of three and departed at three-minute intervals to a rendezvous point where CrossRoads assembled everyone and escorted them to the beach with vans leading and following the riders.  As we turned the final corner, friends and relatives hooted and hollered.

Wheels were ceremoniously dipped in the Atlantic Ocean, pictures were taken, and hugs were given all around.  At that point, the bikes were loaded up for the return trip to the hotel in Burlington and riders were driven back in various vehicles.

1:17; 17 miles; 519' climb; 742 Calories.

Los Angeles to Boston, 3,400 miles.
 My bicyle.
 The group of nine who completed the entire trip from LA to Boston.  Back row (L-R) Mike R, Tony, Dan, me, Howard, Chris.  Front row (L-R) Harry, Mike S, and Willie.
 What a motley looking crew.  Mike S, Mike R, Dan, Tom, Willie, Howard, Jack, Harry, Tony, Champ, Bob, Chris, Barry, Beth, and Howard.
 Final pep talk from our supreme leader, Tracy
 Riding to the beach together.
 Wheel dip in the ocean.  Me, Mike S, Tony, Willie, Harry, Howard, Chris, and Dan.  (note:  my bicycle is not in the picture)
 The final group:  from the front, L/R:  Mike R, Chris, Howard, Tony with Harry in front, Beth, Willie, Mike S, Dan, Jack, Barry, Peter, me, Tom R, Champ, and Tom.
 The group of nine with Tracy:  front (L/R): Mike R, Chris, Tracy, Howard, Tony (Harry in front), back row:  Willie, Mike S, Dan, and me.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Brattleboro, VT to Burlington, MA

BOSTON!  Well, close enough; we're in Burlington, MA, and ride to Revere Beach tomorrow morning to complete our seven week journey across this big and beautiful country.  Partly cloudy skies and cool temperatures marked our departure from Vermont.  We hadn't gone far when we crossed the state line into New Hampshire.  From there we paralleled the river for many miles before beginning the major portion of our climbing for the day.  Grades of 12 and 13% were recorded on some long climbs; nothing this group can't handle after riding their bicycles from Los Angeles.  Eventually, we crossed over into Massachusetts.  We evenly divided our day between country roads and the suburbs.  Lots of traffic on some roads and essentially none on others.  Lots of turns kept everyone busy navigating their way into town.

6:20; 93 miles; 5,275' climb; 4,841 Calories.

The British are coming!  The British are coming!  Tony, Harry, Howard, Mike R, Howard, and Chris.

Jack at the state line.

Abandoned factory on the river.

$5 fine for crossing the bridge at more than a walk speed.

Llamas on the village green in Fitzwilliam.

Ho hum, another state line.  WAIT!  It's Massachusetts; we're almost there.

The last SAG stop.  Dan graciously offered to ride in together, but given traffic conditions, I felt we would be safer riding alone.  I should have taken him up on his suggestion as I wound up with a couple of "bonus" miles.

Isn't this redundant?

Someone has too much time on their hands.

The last chocolate milkshake!  No DQ, but a McDonalds just before the hotel.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Albany, NY to Brattleboro, VT

We crossed another state line - into Vermont.  Lots of climbing, one hill went on for 6.3 miles of up to 10% grade.  We climbed up to Hogback Mtn and then had a long, glorious descent into Brattleboro.

Great weather today - partly cloudy skies and cool temperatures in the mountains.  Lots of pictures to share.

5:18; 76 miles; 5,408' climb; 3,904 Cal.

Today's road.

Leaving Albany, riding into the sun.

Willie's 60 birthday today.  He's now officially an old dog.

Deborah, I can send the other horse back if you would prefer this one.

or maybe a moose?

Adirondack chairs are all the rage.

Vermont state line.  Bob, Beth, Jack, Willie (aka birthday boy), Dan, and Mike R.


It's all about Willie.

Robert Frost is buried in Bennington, VT. 

The Road Less Traveled

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

 Hogback Mountain.  You can supposedly see 100 miles on a clear day like today.

I had lunch with Jack.  The other customers didn't seem to notice Nessie in the river. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Herkimer to Albany, NY

"I can see clearly now, the rain is gone..."

It rained during the night and streets were still wet when we left the hotel, but we had partly cloudy conditions, blue skies, and no rain today.  Our ride took us down the beautiful Mohawk Valley.  SR 5 parallels the railroad tracks beside the Mohawk River - lots of downhill and a little uphill to balance the ride.

Don, who I rode with on the East Coast ride in 2011, met me at the SAG stop and led me into Albany off route on the Mohawk bike trail to avoid traffic on the major streets.  Thanks, Don.

4:46; 80 miles; 2,231' climb; 3,996 Calories.

Waiting for departure: Mike R, Howard (CR staff), Willie, Barry, and Bob.

Today's ride.

Don and me at the SAG stop.

More of the beautiful Mohawk Valley

At one of the locks on the Mohawk beside the bike path Don took me on.

Looking back the other way at the river and the bike path.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Syracuse to Herkimer, NY

The streets were wet from last night's rain.  Light rain continued off and on as we rode to Herkimer, NY, from Syracuse.  I wore a rain jacket, and a shower cap over my helmet.  Air temperatures were in the seventies, so it was a warm rain.  All in all, it could have been much worse.  We've been really lucky and not had much precipitation during the past six and a half weeks of riding across the country.

Leaving Syracuse, we were treated to a short, steep hill, but after that, the road leveled off until after the SAG stop and we got gentle rollers into Herkimer.

We crossed the Erie Canal and I rode for a little on the tow path.  Of course, when the canal was in use, there were no trees along the tow path which was used by horses & mules to tow the barges up stream.

Herkimer is famous for doubly terminated quartz crystals called, "Herkimer diamonds."  The town is named after a Revolutionary War General.

4:36; 71 miles; 270' climb; 3,447 Calories.

Yes, I grabbed a chocolate shake and a cheese burger when I got to the hotel.

Wet road under cloudy skies.

The Erie Canal.

Here's the tow path.

I'm not too sure about the green water.

Everything looks green and wonderful until you realize the flags on the fire hydrants are so the firemen can find them under the snow.

Barge canal.

I'll bet you could rent this place for not much money.

Out in farm country, there are "honor boxes" where firewood, vegetables, eggs, and fruit are for sale by the road.  You drop the money in the box and take what you have bought.  In Los Angels, not only would they take the money and all the produce, but would steal the box, too.