Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Day 50 - Manchester to Portsmouth NH - THE END!

Day – 50 Manchester NH to Portsmouth NH – THE END!
A Celebration, parade, surprise and party.

Euphoria Meter (1-10): 10
If you have ever done something crazy that took 3 years to plan, 6 months to train for, 50 days to actually do, expanded your mind and your physical capabilities while simultaneously generating relationships with 75 neat new people that you can now call close friends and then have it all come to an end, you know what today was like for me.

Ride Stats:
Distance: 63 miles
Riding Time: 3:55
Max Speed: 34.9 mph
Average Speed: 17 mph while with Gerard to the beach
Total Miles traveled: 3,629
Miles to go: 0!

Our luck did not run out. 50 consecutive days without rain on this ride. For riding a bicycle, this was a perfect day. It was cool, the clouds were definitely laden with moisture. However, we made it to the beach and I ended up riding to the hotel with Marianne and Barry (got lost on the way for the first time…nothing serious) and get to the hotel without getting rained upon. I was able to unload the truck, pack Mariah in my sister Lisa’s bike case outside. Just after I carried the bike up to my room in the case, all hell breaks loose with the weather and it pours as heavey as you can imagine. When we drive to lunch you can barely see the front of the car despite the wipers going full blast.

Incidents and Rider Report
Everyone riding makes it in and to the beach without a problem or a flat. By the way, I have been very reluctant to discuss the subject of flats in this blog or in person. Rich had zero. I only had one. The one I had was with 3 miles to go into Troy NY. The armadillo’s did not give in or let me down. We found the leak under the stem of my tire tube. It just gave way with the heat of that day and the length of the trip I guess. I was fortunate and so was Rich. Most people had plenty of flat tires. Gerard also had zero.

Those great Armadillo's!

How I Feel (1-10): 10
My legs are a little sore on this day from riding hard through the mountains the last two days. However, when I need them and after I warmed up they really felt great.

Stuff that happened:
The ride emotionally ended yesterday. However we do still have to finish the ride by going to the beach and Portsmouth today. Another 62 miles has to be peddled. Today we are all in uniform, the ABB jerseys, dew rags, caps, socks and shorts. It is quite a sight.
Rich is up early, 5am. I am slow to get up this morning. Load is from 6:15 to 6:45. That sounds like 6:45 to me. I get up with just enough time to load at 6:45. Then I think about the Comfort Inn’s self-serve breakfast. As I enter the room just before 7 everyone has left and is riding, except Gerard, Steve Bennet and John Hubert. These are the guys who are usually gone. Today, there is plenty of time and the faster riders are not in a hurry. We have to be at the Rye Junior High at 11:30. If we leave at 7:30 we can cover the distance easily if we average 10 mph. We are now cocky enough to not worry about it. The four of us enjoy a leisurely, non-hurried, no elbowing for chow breakfast. Nice.
The other three have to go to their rooms for the bikes. I brought Mariah down with my bags at load time. So I am now in the parking lot, waiting with Mariah all by myself. It is a weird, melancholy moment. The beginning of the last day. The allegory of life. Slowly I reach for my first glove and look at it. 50 days ago it was brand new and sparkly. Today, if it hadn’t been through so much with me and if it wasn’t so well padded and needed by my hands, I would be eager to toss it in the trash. But, I gently put the gloves on and press the Velcro straps together, for the last time of this ride. Wow. It starts to sink in for me. It really is over.
The ride itself was much more hilly than it was billed at rap last night. Both Gerard and I groaned a number of times as we had to hit inclines with more energy than we expected. This is a very social ride today. We do need to get there, but no one is in a hurry. At one point, near mile 50, in spray paint on the road is an ABB “sign” or cue that says “Last Hill” with a smilly face painted next to it. Gerard and I look at each other and I ask him if he believes it. He says, in his dry Dutch way, “Nooo”. Sure enough we have a few more. Even one with a note apologizing for the incorrect cue.
The Governator and his two boddy guards, me and Mike Heitz.

At 11:15 Gerard and I pull into the Junior High. Half the people are already there, the other half come quickly after us. The group had several stops at nice bakeries and the one SAG we did have today. Lot’s of photo’s today, hugs, a few tears and much in the way of “whooping” and “hollering”.
After a big group photo we fall in line behind a police escort that takes us the last three miles in a large pelaton to the beach. This is something. It really gets attention from passing cars and the vacationers in the beach homes we pass. It is ending.
At the beach I get another surprise. At the entrance, as I turn in from the parking lot, out of the corner of my eye what do I spy? With big smiles on their faces, I see my dad holding up a big sign and my mom with tears on her face. The Simpson daughters made these big signs welcoming “Rich and Ralph” to the finish of their ride across America at the beach! No stopping the tears now. Joining mom and dad was Cindy, Marisa, Lindsay and Andrew along with The Simpson clan and many other families welcoming their loved ones in from the Pacific Coast. We all get off our bikes, big sweaty hugs and kisses all around.
After we settle down, it is off with our shoes and the walk to the water for the tire dipping. I carry Mariah this time. She’s all cleaned up and I don’t want to get sand all over her again like I did on the West Coast. Tires are dipped. Photo’s snapped. Goodbyes to as many as possible. Especially Rich and Gerard.
Gerard and I in the Atlantic.

Janette Heitz pours the bottle of water we’ve carried from the Pacific to the Atlantic into the Atlantic Ocean. The EPA undoubtedly would not approve. It is now officially over.
You might check Mike Munk’s website http://www.bamacyclist.com/Journal2007/North07/07north.htm out for his great photo’s. Give him a day or two to post them. He’s really busy. He asked us to keep our camera’s packed. He had all of his staff and himself strategically placed along the final 3 miles of the route and at the beach .
Bill Patchett takes his damaged rear wheel to the dipping.
From left to right at Radici's in Portsmouth, Dad, Mom, Lindsay, Cindy, Lenny, Mark, Joel, John, Jessie, Max, Marisa, Andrew, Me.

That night we have a nice meal at Radici’s with the Mendelshon’s, Joel and Lenny. It was a great way to unwind and start our transition back to normal life. No “Old Country Buffet”. If you haven’t seen their blog, it was voted #1 trip blog by a landslide. Very creative father – son talk show type format. Quick and easy to view. See http://acrossamericainfiftydays.blogspot.com/ .

Thank You’s

For protecting me and all of my fellow riders, for the unbelievable weather and for giving me the strength, energy and courage to be able to pull this amazing adventure off.

Mom and Dad
For having me, for buying me a bike and teaching me how to use it at an early age! For always being my cheerleaders and for loving me.

Cindy, Lindsay, Andrew and Marisa.
For making it easy for me to go do this and for giving me something wonderful to come back to. Cindy especially, thank you honey, I love you very much.

Rich Simpson
For being the spark that made this happen and for being such a great roommate and time disciplinarian. I would have slept in plenty and been in trouble if it wasn’t for you! We had an awful lot of fun together in these past 50 days.

All my clients and staff
For giving me the confidence to be able to take such a break from my “normal” working life, encouraging me, and giving me a working life to look forward to coming back to!

Chris Carabini
For introducing me to Bob Parlee who made the wonderful bicycle we called Mariah that made it flawlessly across America. And for the great bicycle clothing from your bike team “Monex”. It fit great, looked good and was fun and very comfortable to wear. Manufactured by Parantini for any of you interested in nice bike clothing.

Bob Duncan
Bob your outstanding fit and design of the Parlee made this ride much more enjoyable that it would have been on other equipment, I am sure! Also your tips and coaching, putting together my training bike for St. John in short order, etc. etc. were all very instrumental in making this a superb riding experience.

My sister Lisa:
For being such an inspirational rider and keeping the flame of bicycling alive in our family while I took 15 years off. AND for lending me her treasured, fabulous bike hard case. It made to Portland OR and Portsmouth NH, now I will try to take good care of it and bring back to Columbus. Thanks again!

The ABB Staff
Mike Munk, Barb Munk, Jim Benson, Jeff and Sondra, Karen and Debbie. You all worked as a seamless team to keep us well organized, on schedule, well fed and having fun. This would have been a lot harder to do without you or with a less capable crew.

My fellow riders:
Riding across America is a unique and special challenge. Particularly the Northern Route. Doing this with you made a difficult, challenging thing energizing and a great deal of fun. Getting to know you and share this experience with you was truly the highlight of the experience. Thank you each and every one of you. Particularly Gerard for being such a good riding buddy in so many ways and Rich Simpson for his upbeat positive nature and sharing all of the off riding time we had together.


Sunday, August 5, 2007

Day 49 - Brattleboro to Manchester NH

Day – 49 – Brattleboro VT to Manchester, NH
A Cusp day… One that marks the beginning of a change. We now all have to change back into some version of our selves and leave this fantasy experience behind. This day was a good way to start that change.

Euphoria Meter (1-10): 12+
It is now almost 11pm. I am typing this up in the bathroom so my roommate can sleep. What a day. It was such a day that I won’t be able to go to sleep without memorializing it somehow and this blob will be my means of downloading and getting one last good night of sleep before this amazing journey comes to its conclusion.

Ride Stats:
Distance: 86 Add Image
Riding Time: 4:15
Max Speed: 46.4
Average Speed: 18.0
Total Miles traveled: 3,567
Miles to go: 62
Climb 5,800’

You guessed it, another great day. As a matter of fact, no matter how hard you might look at the day we had today, you could not find anything wrong with the weather, or anything else for that matter. But, for the weather it started cool. In the mountains Steve Bennett’s on board thermometer read 59 degrees F. However that is a perfect temperature for doing long challenging climbs. By the time we reached Manchester it was quite pleasantly warm, not humid and not hot. Did I mention tailwinds? Wind isn’t quite as big a deal in the mountains, but it is always appreciated when it is at your back. And, like so many good things in life, you don’t always appreciate it when it is there!

Incidents and Rider Report:
I am happy to report that all were present and accounted for. Everyone finished today without incident; tri-motor, Marilyn and all that are still on the ride. Bill Patchett looks a lot better.

How I Feel (1-10): Am I allowed to feel 12 on the 1 to 10 scale? The way I feel has to be off the scale. It is probably illegal but I’m going to enjoy it while I can. Daily doses of endorphins, fresh air, solid sleep, lots of food and the company of wonderful people must be a good recipe for feeling good because I really really do. I think I want to stay up late today because I’d like this day to never end.

Stuff that happened:
Let me try to digest this wonderful day. If I could sing like Oliver twist to you I would, “Who will buy this wonderful feeling? I’m so high I swear I could fly. Me oh my I don’t want to lose it…
Who will buy this wonderful morning, such a sky you never did see, who will tie it up with a ribbon and put it in a box for me?”
Ok, maybe you get the idea, maybe you don’t, but the day started out perfect and got better. The skies were crystal clear blue. I woke up before Rich by 15 minutes or so. Breakfast, load and all of departure goes like clockwork. Gerard, Steve Bennett and I have breakfast together and head out to cross the river into New Hampshire.
The river is glistening with the early morning low sun on it and a pattern of three foot high little twists of fog dotting it in a perfect pattern like an upside down stippled ceiling. It was really pretty.
This is really our last ride. Tomorrow is almost ceremonial. Today Gerard, Steve Bennett and I all say nothing, but our actions show that we are interested in having a great bicycle ride. Gerard and I are off just slightly ahead of Mr. Bennett. We stop at the “Welcome to New Hampshire” sign and Mr. Bennett, with his hard nosed game face on roars past us up the hill with no time for being a tourist at that moment. We take pictures of each other, and others who join us at this traditional photo opp point of our journey, a new state.
Afterwards we continue up this 3 mile climb. This is not a friendly way to start the day. Talking is stifled, but people still manage to say good morning, smile and call you by name as we see one another along the way. Janet Heitz asks why I am in such a hurry as I pass her Southern charm and grace. There wasn’t time to explain that my good friends Ray and Nancy were meeting me at the hotel for lunch and Ray is always punctual and I did not want to be late.
You warm up quickly, like or not on a big climb. I set the pace initially and Gerard is patient with me. It doesn’t take us too long to catch up with Steve. He’s very strong on the hills but I outweigh him by a bunch and on the downhills Gerard and I as a team gain on him. When we close the gap I get on Steve’s wheel with Gerard right next to my right hip.. It doesn’t take Steve too long to figure this out and he stops peddling to try and make us pass him. He wants us to now pull him so he can take off from us on the next uphill. I won’t take the bait. As he slows down I ride my brakes. Soon he starts tapping his brakes. We are on a long, nice descent and braking. I turn to look at Gerard’s face and he has the biggest grin I’ve ever seen on his face. We were having fun with this cat and mouse game early in the morning. The pace gets so slow we have trouble keeping our balance, but I won’t get in front of Steve and neither will Gerard. After a half mile or so of this we all give it up and start riding together.
For the first 35 miles to the first SAG all of us seem to be peddling for all we are worth, at least I am. The two of them do most of the uphill pulling and I try some of the downhill and level stretches to give them some break. The three of us eventually catch up with Super Cindy who had started out ahead of all of us and is very difficult to catch, especially in the hills like we had today. I believe the only way we caught her was by riding as a team and not individuals, at least the only I was able to catch her.
The four of us have a nice time at the SAG. The scenery is very very intoxicating. The berm is wide and smooth. The traffic on this Sunday morning is very light. The few drivers out are very courteous. Most all of our riding is through large pine treed forests that cast off both shade and a wonderful aroma. Those of you that are riders understand that when you ride hard for extended periods of time your body releases excessive amounts of endorphins. I admit it. I am an endorphin freak. I love the feeling and energy that comes with this phenomenon.
We get back on the bikes in due order, all four of us. No one else has showed up yet. Cindy drops back to ride by herself. She misses badly her riding parther Bud. She continues to sign him in at the stops even though he went home from Niagara falls. The three of us now keep the pace up to the second SAG stop. The stop is there, but no SAG wagon. We have beat them to the spot. Steve decides he wants to tour Francestown on his own. Gerard and I continue on without refueling because we have dates to meet. His wife is coming to Manchester for lunch as well!
We have about 30 miles to go now and I’d swear Gerard found a piece of French Silk pie somewhere last night without telling me. He is boosted with some abnormal energy, like the day he went on a rampage and pulled a group of ten or so of us at almost 30 mph for 30 miles. He has found that energy again today. I can’t seem to relieve him or give him a break at all. Gerard sets a warp like pace that I work hard to keep up with. It was a lot of fun. There were only a few moments when I could just ride along side of him. He wouldn’t let me pull. I think for fear it might slow us down. An 18 mph average through 5,800 feet of climbing, city streets, stopping and starting over and over again is a great feat. I don’t know how he did it, but it was lots of fun and I appreciate him allowing me to be a part of it.
At 11:33 we pull into the hotel. I told Ray I would probably arrive between 11:30 and 12:30. When we pull up I give him a call and he tells me he will be there in about a half hour. Great, that gives me time to shower and wash and partially out my bike clothes (since the box won’t be here for a while) to be presentable for hugs and lunch.
On my cell phone I notice a message from my wife that says her plans have changed and she thinks she can make it to the dinner tonight. I am elated, but wonder if Barb can fit her, Andrew and Lindsay into the plans. Turns out she can!! I couldn’t be happier but wonder what went wrong with the party Lindsay had planed for Cindy tonight. Cindy explains that not enough of their friends could make it to be worthwhile so they decide they’ll go with plan B and come see me. Lucky me! Cindy says they can’t come over until time for dinner.

Nancy, Ray Sansouci and yours truly at Fratello's in Manchester. We all highly recommend it!

Meanwhile, Ray and Nancy show up and we find a really nice Italian Restaurant, Fratello’s along the river with alfresco dining. Gerard and his wife Nan join us for nice food and conversation. Eventually Ray and Nancy need to get going and Nan has to hustle to make it back to her brother’s concert in Maine. Ray and Nancy showing up added enormously to the “cuspness” of this day. It meant a great deal to me for them to go out of their way to come and visit me like this. Thanks you two! It was great fun being with you.

Gerard and wife Nan at lunch.

Next, I join a bike-washing party. Everyone wants their equipment to look spiffy for our police escorted parade to the beach tomorrow. Mariah now looks good. Rich has shined Peaches up as well.
Time for dinner. At a quarter after six (15 minutes early) I show up to try and reserve enough seats together. Much to my surprise I am the first ABB biker to show up at the dining room. The catering company is setting up the buffet. I sit at a table and wait. Much to my surprise the next folks to show up are Cindy, Lindsay and Andrew! I give them all big hugs. No husband/father has ever been happier to see their family then I was at that moment. If only Marisa was in the area and could have made it.
These tricksters. The very next person to walk in, after I had finished my hugs and welcomes to Cindy, Lindsay and Andrew, is you know who…Marisa. How much better can one day get!!! They all set me up for this. What a happy ending. I wasn’t sure what all would happen tonight at this farewell banquet, but being able to share it with my immediate family made the evening even more special for me. Bill and Jim had been giving me grief for weeks about not having my wife signed up for this evening. I didn’t understand why they were so interested in her coming until I sat through their skit.
Cindy, me, Lindsay, Marisa and Andrew. There was no happier dad in the world!

After dinner three groups did little skits for our entertainment and then we all received a package, which I still haven’t opened, that I believe contains a certificate of completion of some sort and well all had a few moments to say goodbye to the group, at our “last supper”.
The first skit was a clever song put together by Mike Miller and Joel Paine to the tune of “Homeward Bound”. They had the audience in stitches and sing their special chorus with them.
Next was another song and this time a dance routine by Cindy, Colleen and Jean. Very clever as well. They wrote a digest ballad of the entire trip. I’d love to have the words to it.
Finally, Bill and Marianne do their skit that I’ve been hearing rumors about but know very little about, other than I am involved somehow. It starts with Marianne picking up a phone call. She answers the phone with “This is Lois Lane of the Worthington Daily Globe, circulation of 30”. On the other end is a caller who has told her that cross country bicyclers are coming to town. She rushes down to interview the first rider.
In walks Bill Patchett who introduces himself as “Ralph Antolino, Jr.”. He has TWO helmet cams on and another camera in his hands. I have never seen my wife and daughters laugh so hard in my life. As a matter of fact, I thought I might have to call 911 for Cindy she was so doubled over. My family claims they’ve never seen me imitated better. Ouch!! The skit was really funny. They mocked the interview I had in Minnesota. The two of them were hilarious together. Marianne is very punny and Bill plays off her humor. No videos or digests, it is too hard for me to take.
Lois Lane and infamous biker dude Ralph Antolino.

The rest of the evening was dedicated to 75 people standing up one at a time saying goodbye to the group in their own ways. Everyone was very respectful and moved by each person. It is fascinating how we have all bonded on this 50 day experience.
There is a lot I could write about this evening, but let me digest it by saying that this bicycling experience truly has been a fantasy experience that I believe everyone one of the participants and staff will treasure for the rest of their lives. I know I will.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Day 48 - Troy to Brattleboro, VT

Day – 48 – Troy to Brattleboro, VT
Perhaps the 2nd best ride of the trip. Vermont rules for riding.

Euphoria Meter (1-10): 11 + (off the chart)
Day 48 didn’t start out much different than many of our other days. However, it wasn’t long after we started that we entered Vermont on Route 9. What I am about to say sounds pretty prejudiced, but so far our experience riding in Vermont has been dramatically nicer than NY and perhaps any other state we’ve visited. Here are a few reasons why… 1) less traffic maybe, 2) Great scenery, 3) Great Terrain, 4) More courteous treatment from drivers, 5) Better berms (5-10’ wide in places with no debris for tire damage). 6) My first extended ride with the Heritages was in Vermont and was a wonderful experience…BAckroads “Otter Valley Wonderer” for a week. 7) My son in law and his family are from Vermont, 8) Our wonderful mechanic Jim Benson is from Vermont. Take my word for it, this is a great place to road bike.

Ride Stats:
Distance: 78.8 miles
Riding Time: 4:10 hours
Max Speed: 52.9 mph…for a long wild time
Average Speed: 17.8 mph
Total Miles traveled: 3,481
Miles to go: 148

The profile of today's ride. The elevation scale is 0 to 2,400 feet. We climbed a total of 5,180 today. Tomorrow we have 5,800 scheduled and some optional stuff we might do. After that a day on parade and we are finished!

Most of the ride was a version of this.

I wish I could make this stuff happen. Wow, another perfect riding day. Foggy, cool, humid morning. The sun burns the fog off by 9:30 or so. The hills mask a lot of the wind, but the wind we could feel was at our backs out of the south west at 10 mph per the weather channel. No rain. The only way I’ve gotten wet on this ride has been sprinklers, my own sweat (I did literally pour it out of my shoes today) and the spray from Niagara Falls.
Steeple in Brattleboro hit by lightening and being dismanteled.

Incidents and Rider Report
A perfect day from everything I’ve heard today. No rider incidents to report. Everyone made it in safely.

How I Feel (1-10): 10+
This ought to be illegal to feel this good. I’m not doping, honest.

Stuff that happened:
I think for a ride to be euphoric for me, there has to be a challenge to the ride, some nice scenery, curvy roads that involve good climbs and good descents. The hills of Southern Ohio are like that. Mount Rushmore is like that. And what we experienced in Vermont today was like that. Everyone seemed to really love the ride today.
There’s really not much to report about the ride except that I hung with Gerard again. We started out probably in the top third of the group. There was a long climb for about 2 miles out of Troy and I we thought we were at the front of the pack by then.
Cindy scooted up the hill ahead of us, but we drop like rocks and on the first little descent we caught up with her. She is quite the climber.
Little did we know however that Steve Bennett had jumped out of the shoot early today. A few miles from the Vermont border we catch up with him and pass him on an incline. He stays with us for a while and then claims that he just wants to sight see today and doesn’t want to ride with us. When Gerard and I stop for some photo’s at the “Welcome to Vermont” sign guess who blows by with his game face on, peddling for all he’s worth? All three of us end up ahead of the first SAG who is not where they are supposed to be. We just keep riding.
At the second SAG stop Jeff is just setting up when Gerard and I arrive. He tells us we are a mile or two ahead of Steve. Both of us are surprised. After we’ve filled our bottles and had some bananas and cookies, here comes Steve. Somehow he fills his bottles and signs in and I don’t think he even got off his bike. Gerard and I look at each other, shrug our shoulders and laugh. Steve gets about five minutes out ahead of us and we never see him again until the hotel. Gerard and I stop for a few more pictures and sight seeing. All in all it was a grand ride and a grand day.
Tomorrow even more hills. We may decide to take a side trip to a very long, steep hill that Mike has cut out of the trip because he’s worried that someone will have a heart attack trying to do it. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Day 47 - Little Falls to Troy NY -

Day – 47 – Little Falls NY to Troy NY
Peaches and Mariah take some hits

Euphoria Meter (1-10): 9
Despite minor hits today was still a very fun ride. I also caught up on all of the nice comments left on the blog. Thanks again Ray, Catherine, Russ, mom, tt and others. Ray I am really looking forward to seeing you and Nancy in Manchester!

Ride Stats:
Distance: 82.73
Riding Time: 4:25 hours
Max Speed: 32.3
Average Speed: 18.7
Total Miles traveled: 3,404
Miles to go: 225

Well, today thunderstorms threatened us, but did not hit us. We heard word that some riders called and asked to be picked up because they heard thunder. Build ups were out there. We seemed to be racing it in all morning, someone probably got wet today but Gerard and I were high and dry again. Rich said his group did the same and he didn’t hear of anyone getting wet either. Temperatures were not quite as high today, but still warm. The day started out quite muggy and humid. Fog was present for the first hour or so. We watched the sun rise, set, rise again and set again then disappear through the fog. It was really interesting. We traveled route 5 for the first half or so and then a bike path along the Erie Canal again into Troy. With big hills/mountains off on the side of the valley we stayed in the sun literally rose and set several times as it peaked over the tops of the hills when we climbed and then set as we descended further into the valleys. Eventually the sun burned all the fog away, but the humidity and lift index were triggering cumulo nimbus clouds and resulting thunderstorms on a pop up basis in front of a mild cold front that we avoided. The front is expected to move through this afternoon and evening with great high pressure weather for the area through the weekend and beyond. Like we would expect anything different!

We spend a lot of our day still riding along the Erie canal with views like this one.

Incidents and Rider Report:
Today Rich and I make the news in this category. First Rich…

He was coming in with his new, post-Niagara riding group that has developed into its own little pelaton. Rich has found a new riding home with Marv, Fred, Russ, (all from SanDiego), Joel Paine (from Bexley originally now Chicago) and our new recumbent rider from Boston, Larry Schwarz. I have watched this group over the last week develop and Rich has commanded a true leadership role in it. He has become a biker dude. Rich pulls them, musters them together, sets the pace and has his great “get ‘er done” smile on all the while. This ride has transformed him into a new man. In any event, today, when they all cross the island bridge into Troy over the Hudson river, apparently Russ gets excited about a photo opportunity half way over the bridge, stops abruptly with Rich behind him. Rich hits the breaks quick and Joel, who is behind Rich doesn’t hit them quite quick enough. As a result, Joel slams into Rich’s rear tire, bending it way out of true and mangeling one of his spokes badly. Fortunately Rich has spare spokes and only had two blocks left in today’s ride. We are going to take a break now and go to maintenance to see if super mechanic Jim Benson can straighten Peaches’ wheel back to performance standards or not. Rich leaves the wheel with Jim who believes he can straighten it out nicely, may not even need a new spoke. So Rich shouldn’t have any excuses for not riding tomorrow and doing well
Mariah and I also took a hit today. Mike Munk stresses the dangers of bike paths over and over again. He claims they have most of their problems on bike paths. How prophetic today for me. Gerard and I were riding just in front of Mike Munk and Karen (assistant leader) who were “bumped” out to the first sag and then riding ahead of the group to paint arrows on the roads and bike paths helping our riders find their way through the more confusing sections of the path and roads around the area. Shortly after we pass them we come upon a fairly large crew of tree trimmers. Two big trucks and about eight guys blocking the bike path. To get around the first truck we get off the bikes and walk carefully around the debris spewn all over the place. Gerard gets back on his bike quickly and darts around the second truck that is also blocking the path. Coming the other way and before I can get around the truck a group of about 12 senior citizens on city cruiser type bikes come the other way and I wait patiently while Gerard continues down ahead leaving me further and further behind. After the last rider goes around the truck I get on Mariah and start around the narrow edge of the bike path that is not occupied by the truck. I try to avoid the grass and all the debris laying in it but in my attempts to do so I graze the edge of the truck that has some sharp edges sticking out. I hit it with my left shoulder, loose my balance and go down in the grass and sticks. Right in front of Mike Munk and Karen who are watching me about 20 yards behind. They get a big kick out of it. I get a scrape on my shoulder and a cut on my hand. Mariah needs a little adjusting of the computer pick ups but otherwise seems ok. Gerard is no where in sight now. I adjust the cadence meter that got pushed over by a stick. Everything else seems fine. I hop on the bike and go chasing again after Gerard. He eventually figured out I wasn’t behind him and waited at the next intersection for me.

How I Feel (1-10): 9.5
I would be a 10 but with the cut on my left thumb and the bumps I took on my left shoulder (the same one I separated badly in December) that now is a little sore I got downgraded .5. The rest of me feels great, legs, spirit, energy and enthusiasm for riding and getting this finished so I can be with my honey once again!

Stuff that happened:
The ride today was nicer than the last few days. Gently rolling hills following rivers and canals from Little Falls to Troy. The early morning fog was something to behold as we rode in it and rose above it of and on. The towns we pass through are all old, quaint river/mill types of towns. None of them appear prosperous today. Rich had a tour yesterday with the laundry matt owner who told him the population of Troy had dropped from 30,000 to 5,000 over his lifetime and there is not much going on there now except retirees. He said there ws no way to make money there, just to spend it.
This morning we had reveille at 5:15. Rich is really good at reveille. Breakfast was at 6:00. I made it down there by 5:55 and was last, yes very last in line. It was a better than average buffet at the hotel. I had fruit for the first time in a long time. Eggs, French toast that was actually good, some corn flakes and orange juice. I am pretty good at gobbeling food (always have been) but I’m even better now. I had no problem catching up with the mob to load. Load was at 6:29. Mike changed the time from 6:30 to 6:29 in order to try and change the incidents of out – of – the hotel car/bike accidents. He knows what he’s doing. It worked today, no such incidents.
As I load my bags, put Gatorade in my bottle I look up and Gerard is gloved, helmeted, straddling his fine Ridley bicycle and just staring at me. I get the message and move quickly. Gerard is not a man of many words. As I pull up to him I say, “It looks like you really want to ride today.” Without even looking at me, as he hops on his Ridley. As he pulls away from the parking lot with me along side him he says slowly, deliberately and very quietly…, “Yes”.
It is amazing how 83 miles now just flies by. We left that parking lot a little before 7am. Probably half of the group was in front of us. We ride side by side. Very little traffic in Little Falls. A much more pleasant morning experience than the last few days. We slowly move by Dot and Jim on their tandem with Sue in tow. The three of them are all from Indiana and are almost always together. We pass the Delaware threesome turned four with the addition of their friend Mike a few days ago. Today is Mikes’ last day and they are on a mission to get him in early to catch a flight back home.

Gerard and Denise on our early morning ride out of Troy.

Eventually we catch up with Denise who is always out front and early. She is normally accompanied by Tucson Debbie but there is no Debbie today. Denise takes advantage of the opportunity and picks up her pace to follow closely behind Gerard and I who are riding side by side and warming up in the cool, moist morning air. We start up a long gradual climb and then enjoy little ups and downs along this river and canal. Denise is smiling, has no trouble keeping up. We talk about what we’re going to do after this is over. She is going home to visit a bicycling racing friend who had a spinal injury four weeks ago and is recovering. Denise’s husband Jim will be at one of his Walleye tournaments. She asks Gerard and I about our plans and we have this nice conversation.
The first sag stop is 35 miles out today. We are within five miles of it and are now no longer side by side. The road has narrowed. Gerard and I trade places leading with Denise enjoying our draft. When Gerard relieves me of my pull I look behind me for Denise and she’s gone! No where in sight. Apparently she had a flat tire and stopped without saying anything to Gerard or myself. We felt terrible. However, the whole group was coming up and we later learn from Cindy who came upon her next that she fixed it quickly by herself and was on her way in no time. As Russel from Delaware says, “no cry babies” and Denise is not one of them. The women on this ride are especially tough and independent. We loved having you with us Denise!
As we come to the first SAG stop we are greeted by not one ABB support person, but eight non riders with cameras flashing. It turns out the Miller family is from this area and they have orchestrated some sort of family reunion at the SAG stop. Bernice’s sister, Mike’s sister, their kids and friends are all anxiously awaiting their arrival. They really went out of their way with baked goods and special treats they brought for all of the riders. We were very grateful and thanked them profusely.
Off in the distance we now hear thunder. Barbara who is tending the first SAG gets a call from a rider who wants picked up for fear the lightening may strike them. Gerard and I look at the sky and decide we better get going. The race between us and the weather is on.
We have about 30 miles to the next SAG stop. It is a little more of a navigational challenge. Residential streets, bike path entrances that are hidden, detours all confront us. But, we are seasoned veterans now and figure it all out. We make it to the next stop in short order but no one is there. We look around the park. We wait for a while. We listen to more thunder and see dark clouds looming and decide to continue. We run out of water but don’t stop to ask anyone for some because we’ve now only 15 miles to go and we’d like to preserve our no rain ride record.

The Hudson River Bridge is too much of a photo opp to not stop for. There we snap a few pictures and make it to the hotel just as Barbara and “the box” are pulling in. She’s surprised by our early arrival. We shower, wash and dry our bike clothes, stretch and go to have a nice lunch with Steve Bennett and John Hubert at a local pub recommended by the Best Western Concierge called Holmes and Watson. There we have great Ruben and Merlot followed up with Stewart Ice Cream shakes. I had Coconut Brownie Avalanche, a flavor I especially liked.

Marilyn proudly introduces off her two sons at dinner. She's done every inch that ABB would let her do! We are all proud of her and her fortitude. Unlike most of us she did very little training or preparation, bought a bike and just showed up. Despite having the odds against her, she is making it happen and having a good time. She gets stronger and better every day.
At dinner I was able to pass out a few copies of "Bon Voyage" to some of the fellow riders as a little gift from me. The folks who've had a chance to look at it seem to appreciate and enjoy it. It is a fun thing to be able to share with others.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Day 46 - Liverpool to Little Falls NY - 2 more car hits

Day – 46 – Liverpool to Little Falls, NY
Derek and Penny get hit by cars L

Euphoria Meter (1-10): 7
Despite witnessing and hearing of two car-biker incidents, the ride itself was exhilarating. New York drivers go to the bottom of the list of biker friendly folks.

Ride Stats:
Distance: 85 miles
Riding Time: 4:30
Max Speed: 34.7
Average Speed: 18.7mph
Total Miles traveled: 3,321
Miles to go: 308

Severe clear and getting hot hot hot. It was 95 degrees and very humid at the end. No wind early and slight head wind for last third of the ride.

Incidents and Rider Report:
More biker-car incidents, only one I was involved with, but despite these I still had a great ride.
I started with a nice breakfast with Jim Emshoff. He reported calling Bill Patchett last night along with Janna and that Bill is doing a-ok. Jim also reported that Bill’s helmet was completely off of him somehow when he hit. The lesson for all of us bikers is to keep that thing snug on our heads and the chin strap tight as well. Bill’s head took a big hit that we wonder if it might have been less severe if his helmet had worked properly.
Today’s big story starts again, right after breakfast. Gerard and I hook up and quickly catch the Miller boys (without mom and dad) climbing up a fairly steep hill we have early in the ride to get out of town. They of course stay with us, not letting us pass them significantly on the hill. Both are good climbers and like to ride at a good clip. However, they are also good family kids and hang with mom and dad for the majority of each of our daily rides. The last few days I think Bernice and Mike senior have taken off earlier and let the kids sleep in a bit. Shortly after the four of us are together, we are riding 2 by 2. Gerard in front of me on the left and Mike in front of Derek on the right. So if you get the picture, Derek and I are side by side just behind Gerard and Mike. We had just come over the hill and are riding slowly through city streets, early morning (rush hour in NY) and are trying to find our way in unfamiliar territory.
Gerard and Mike cross a small intersection where on our right is a blue car stopped at a stop sign, waiting to turn left. As Gerard and Mike pass just by the car it begins to pull out. Derek and I assume they are just creeping up, but no. The car proceeds to accelerate and as I move left the car hits Derek in his rear wheel. Derek is now coming at me side ways! He is being pushed by this car. Fortunately Derek maintained his poise and somehow stays upright on the bike and is uninjured. He pulls over, upset, throws his bike down and runs over to explain traffic laws to this poor lady. We were very lucky. No one was hurt, a bent rear wheel and an apologetic woman who wrote Derek a check based on Mike Munk’s estimate to replace the wheel. ($150). Cell phones were deployed. Mike Munk came and exchanged the rear wheel out and we went on our way again. Gerard and I are now on a mission to “deliver” the young bucks back to mom and dad. They trail behind us and draft as we forge ahead. Eventually we catch up with Mike and Bernice and tell the story again. All is well that ends well. I love happy endings.
The other incident was one of the San Francisco treats, Penny. She went down as a truck pulled in front of the rider in front of her (Barry) who hit his brakes quickly and Penny didn’t have time to react. Another close call, but she wasn’t really hurt badly, just a scrape on her knee and the bike was ok.
After the ride we all agree that it may not be the “last week” as much as it is New York. No offense New Yorkers, but as a group we have been yelled at, flipped off, horns blaring, cussed out for no apparent reasons more than we have anywhere else along the ride.

How I Feel (1-10): 10

One of Bill's injuries

Our hotel buffet diner

Bill Patchett stops to assist with the accident victims.

Bill the day after, still smiling.
Bill's worse side....ouch
Derek's steed gets a new rear wheel.
Penny after getting hit.
Penny's knee injury. Wait til tomorrow and see how it feels.

Day 45 - Henrietta to Liverpool NY - Sobering Sunrise

Day – 45 – Henrietta to Liverpool (Syracuse) NY
A sobering sunrise incident

Euphoria Meter (1-10): 3…Very hard to feel euphoric when one of your buddies goes down and is badly hurt.

Ride Stats:
Distance: 108 (Gerard and I did some extra)
Riding Time: 6:00 hrs
Max Speed: 34 mph
Average Speed: 18.2 mph
Total Miles traveled: 3,236
Miles to go: 393

Weather: God continues to smile on us in this category. Blue skies. Tail and cross and some head winds. No sign of rain or clouds.

Incidents and Rider Report:
Today my thoughts are very different than they have been previously. I am focused on something we all know can happen and hope and pray does not. These thoughts, like your own mortality, occupy typically a small portion of your thoughts, but occasionally rise to dominate them through various life events. Today one of those events happened.
But before that, let me take you back to day 0 for a minute. The very first “Rap” session we had in the hotel in Astoria, OR now seems like a faded dream of the past. Rich and I had spent the morning touring Oregon with his friends Nancy and Dennis. We arrive at the appointed time (which we now know as code for 30 minutes earlier) and are basically nearly the last ones to assemble our bicycles and ride to the Pacific and dip our front wheels in the Ocean. When we come back to the hotel the group has assembled for the first “RAP” session where Mike Munk is laying down the procedures, safety rules and expectations for having a smooth trip.
This meeting is like Church, when you come late there is always room up front. Rich and I end up sitting right next to our new preacher, Mike Munk. The way I happen to be seated I am facing the “congregation” of 75 strangers. The seat I have was interesting because as Mike was talking, I was able to both look at him and watch the various reactions of all of these people who I did not know at all and who did not know me either. Funny how you can do what my dad calls “Mental Gymnastics”…jump to conclusions, just by looking at someone’s face. There was one particular person in the audience who seemed especially serious, studious and concerned about following Mike’s wisdom that sticks out in my mind. Today’s story is mostly about this man. I didn’t know his name then or anything about him, but he did make that impression on me. Over the last 45 days he has become someone I have had the pleasure of getting to know and respect a great deal.
Now, on day 45 these 75 strangers have become what feel like intimate, close friends. We share this very unusual experience of sweating together for over 300 hours together. My good friend Rita Heritage 20 years ago on my first week long bicycle trip said, “You really get to know someone when you sweat together with them.” Her words ring very true this morning. This morning starts off early. Rich Simpson, my roommate refers to wake up time as “reveille” which seems appropriate given the military feel of Mike Munk’s organizational style, which works very well on this “forced march” we’ve all signed up for. Anyway reveille is set daily by Rich and it comes early this morning at 5:30 am. We go through our normal routines. I get up, drink a bicycle water bottle of water first thing, go to the bathroom, shower (I like to start clean), apply seat lubricant (body glide now is working well), sun tan lotion, get my outfit of the day on (my map of Idaho shirt and Cannondale shorts), put my dried out wash in the bag, pack my toiletries, throw my big bag on my back, pick up my computer bag with one hand and Mariah with the other and go down to sign in and load my stuff in the box. It is now 6:15 am and I am nearly last out of the chute to load.
Today we had the option to eat the snack food provided at the hotel or have a real breakfast 1 mile backwards on our route at a local diner called “Peppermints”, or go to McDonalds. You could have eaten at 6:00 am at the hotel, earlier at McDonalds, or wait until 6:30 for Peppermints. Rich opted for the quick departure and has coffee and cereal at the hotel before I left the room. I am now on my bicycle headed to Peppermints by myself. On the hotel parking lot at this time the group is somewhat disoriented. Most are turning left onto this wide, five – lane road that goes up hill and into the sun as you turn east or left. Peppermints is to the right. On my way out I talk briefly with Janna (“Yanna”) who is waiting for her riding buddies Jim Emshoff and Bill Patchett. During the last few weeks I have come to know these folks a little more intimately through pre-dinner drinks at the bar and sitting next to them at some of our more leisurely meals. This group has opted for the early breakfast and is on their way. I say good morning and goodbye for now to Janna and head west to Peppermints.
Arriving at 6:30 at Peppermints about 9 others have already arrived and been seated. The restaurant has only one server for our group but she turns out to be interested in serving us and knows the ABB drill. She has served the group for the past three years and apparently understands that 6:30 NEVER means 6:30. Her attitude and friendliness are really appreciated by our eager bunch. I join big Mike, his wife Janette, Lenny, Gerard, Steve Flowers at a six top. We joke about how the big tables that are seated first are always served last at breakfast. Not many riders choose the “full breakfast” option like we have because of the time it takes. The other thing we’ve learned now is not to ask for much off menu from the waitresses because that adds more delay to the service. Everyone at our table stays with the program and orders the “slammer” which is two eggs, pancakes, bacon and sausage or oatmeal instead of the meat. Everyone but Gerard orders the oatmeal. He doesn’t like oatmeal or peanut butter and I mean he REALLY doesn’t like them. That’s another story.
So we are telling jokes, laughing loudly, enjoying each other’s company on the gorgeous early morning. The other table of riders (John Knapp, Jean, Colleen and Marilyn) are laughing hysterically at something and we stop to try and find out what. Just then, Dr. Rich the elbow-pad wearing dentist from Seattle walks in awkwardly. He struggles over to the empty seat across from me on the six top table and he is shaking like a leaf. He looks as if the weather outside was 15 degrees with 40 knot winds and he was riding for an hour without a jacket. He’s white, not in the same mood as us and can’t stop shaking. As he sits down across from he looks at me and shakes his head back and forth. I ask, “Rich, what’s going on?” He looks down the table at everyone and all eyes are on him. No one is laughing now, we can tell something is not right and Rich begins…
He explains that he was about to pull out of the hotel, taking the right turn West towards Peppermints as he witnessed one of our riders get violently hit from behind by a speeding motorcycle. He wasn’t sure who the rider was. He watched the motorcycle hit one of our comrades and cause him to fly 15 feet through the air off the bicycle and land face first on the pavement and not get up. Dr. Rich further explains that twenty others quickly pulled out cell phones and went into action and that he did not feel he could add any value to the situation and came over to get his breakfast. His witnessing of this tragedy shook him badly and now we were all shaken as well. I am still shaken as I write this in the early morning (after being awakened by prank phone callers twice and not being able to go back to sleep, thinking about this situation).
We sit.
We stare at one another.
No one now feels like laughing or saying anything.
I wonder did Rich Simpson make it out ok? Who is it? What has really happened? Are they alive? How badly hurt are they? What is this going to do to our ride? The questions popping into my head seem endless. The silence is almost deafening. The waitress finally interrupts with our food and it is excellent. We play with our food. Our voracious appetites seem to have left the building.
A few more minutes go by and Rich Schwartz, the new rider from Boston comes in, pulls up a chair to our six top and makes it seven. He has more news on the event, having just left the scene of the accident he recants what Rich has already told us. He adds a few more facts, lots and lots of blood. Pools of it. The motorcyclist also went down, his pants were stripped off and apparently he is scraped up too, but not as bad as our rider. He also is able to identify our downed rider as Bill Patchett.
I sigh. The last few days he and Jim Emshoff have been a big part of my free, non riding time. Bill and Jim were both Corporate executives who chose to retire to Chapel Hill NC in the same community. I have learned that Bill is on this ride due to Jim’s encouragement and prodding. Jim had emergency heart by-pass surgery a year ago and wanted to do this ride. Jim’s cardiologist begged him not to do this. Jim believes that the ride, the training and the conditioning will strengthen his heart. Jim is heavily medicated and struggles to keep his pace near Jim’s. His medication Jim explains is designed to keep his heart rate low and as a result his muscles do not get the oxygen they’d like to go at the pace he would like. Jim and Bill are neighbors. I have learned that Bill is on this ride to be Jim’s guardian angle, watch over him, make sure he’s ok. Not once in the last 45 days have I seen Jim without Bill on this ride.
Day 0 flashes back in my mind. I see Bill Patchett in the audience, a stranger, not the close friend he’s become. He is the one that seems to be paying the closest attention. Taking copious notes, asking good questions. Bill has taken this ride very seriously. It can’t be Bill of all people that has been whisked away on a stretcher, not moving at all. After all it was his good buddy Jim he was worried about, not so much himself. Bill was the stronger rider. Every time Gerard and I would see them out on the road it was always strong Bill leading Jim and usually several others. Sometimes big Mike, lately Janna and anyone else who wanted to travel at his steady, good natured pace. Of all the riders we’ve talked to, to my knowledge Jim and Bill were the only two who meticulously followed the training guide sent to us. It required mileage that was at the pace of the ride and huge time commitment. These two took every bit of the advice seriously and have had 44 straight days of very positive experience as a result. Today was their exception.
Breakfast just wasn’t much fun. We eat anyway. We are on a mission. The phrase, stolen from the blues brothers, “A mission from God!” doesn’t seem funny now, but it is still the case. We must go on. At this point I’m not sure why other than it was the decision I made and stopping now just would not be right. Bill wouldn’t want that, I don’t want that and no one said it, but I don’t believe any one in our breakfast bunch wanted it either. Ernst, the governator, later shares with me that Alfredo was so shook up by the event that he chose not to ride today.
Let me break this story up a bit and share a quick side note about Ernst. I love the guy. He’s 67, fit as a prime racing horse, enthusiastic, talks and acts like Arnold Schwartzneger does in his movies. He’s just great. At rap last night Bob Frame announced his departure. Bob explained why he was leaving…his nieces wedding. He went on to explain that he was really sad to leave, wanted badly to finish the ride, but that this was the plan. Ernst, not shy, interrupts Bob saying, in his very best Arnold imitation (which is not really an imitation but is the way Ernst is) says, “Booob, dis is naught a prawblem, juiced dell dem to kansell da wedding”. He seemed serious. Bob picks his cell phone out of his pocket and pretends to make the call to cancel the wedding. We all got a kick out of it.
Back to day 45.
We get up slowly, on to our steeds. The ride today from our breakfast takes us back to where we started, past the front of our hotel. No one really knows what the status of Bill is. I am with Gerard. We ride single file down this busy, rush hour street. As the hotel comes up on our left I see two drying puddles of liquid about two feet in diameter with trails running towards the side of the road. For some reason there are two 3” x 5” rolls of gauze partially unrolled and now that I’m closer I can see are soaked in blood. No one says a word. I have trouble seeing clearly as my eyes well up. I swallow hard, take a deep breath and peddle just a little bit faster. I look once again at my cue sheet for the next turn and how far away it is. All my attention all the time. I can’t forget and it is no guarantee.
Someone once told me that if an extra curricular activity had no chance of serious injury it couldn’t be any fun. I think of that comment as I peddle on. Life is not without risk. This event is truly an “Allegory of life” and today that point comes home from a very different angle.
We peddle on. All business, no chatting, high alert attitudes about traffic, signals, cues, etc.
The first 25 miles of the ride today are very pretty. We spend these miles on a beautiful bike path that follows the Erie Canal. There are historical markers and information along the way that we stop periodically and read. The early morning sun on the water combined with the shade of the tree lined water way make for a very nice setting to peddle through. This IS what we signed up for. It has been delivered to most of us today. Bill would have enjoyed this.
It takes a lot longer to do miles on a bike path. Our first sag stop is not until about 35 miles out today. Gerard and I catch up with Marianne and Barry, Big Mike, the Delaware contingent of Jen, Brett, Russ and now their new Mike who I haven’t really spent time with yet (lots of Mikes on this trip). No one knows any more than we do about Bill. We keep riding.
Eventually we get to the SAG and it is Barb Munk’s tour of duty to set up sag one. Today for some reason people seem to keep forgetting to take off their gloves before grabbing for food. She doesn’t let them forget for long. Barb takes her job very seriously and our continued good health and germ reduction is important to her. We are grateful for that Barb. She has some special treats for us today. A custom that seems to occur on this ride is that friends and previous riders like to stop at the SAG stops periodically and bring unexpected goodies. We had doughnuts in Wisconsin, fantastic Oatmeal cookies in Boise and today at SAG one a nice lady named Kathy has brought some of the best tasting brownies this group has ever had. They are a welcome respite from the daily stand issue of bananas, sugar cookies, crackers and gatoraid. We all know we have to eat these things but after 45 straight days of stuffing these into our systems we no longer get enthused about it, we just quietly do it. Today the brownies are especially appreciated. People seem unusually concerned that other riders behind us don’t get left out of this special treat and they do not take seconds.
It’s good to see Rich Simpson at the SAG. I hadn’t seen him since reveille and was wondering about him. No one seems in any hurry to leave the stop today. It’s 10 am and we are parked in front of an ice cream store. Ice cream seems to be one of the big things that the group looks for every day and does get excited about. A number of folks get this comfort food early today. Not lots of joviality. Even the Millers are quiet today. Gerard and I move slowly. John Knapp takes off. He is on his own. Others follow his lead and get going again as well. Out of the corner of my eye I notice Barb on her cell phone, head down talking quietly off to the side, away from the group. I can hear bits and pieces of the conversation. I wonder if she’s getting news about Bill.
She is. I walk closer to her and it now sounds like she is actually talking to Bill himself! I am elated. The conversation seems to be going well. Barb is telling him to stay put (Jim went with him to the hospital) and that they will be sending a van out to get them. She’s about to hang up and I interrupt her asking if I can talk to Bill. She tells him to hang on and hands the phone to me.
The first words out of my mouth are, “Bill,…. On a scale of 1 to 10 how are you?” His reply….warm, friendly, you’d never know he was injured, “How are you Ralph!?” It is the real Bill. He’s more worried about my problems than his own (one of the secrets of the Ultra Happy). I won’t take the bait. “Bill” I say, “seriously, how are you”. He then explains that he has stitches in his forehead where he bled profusely. He remembers nothing of the accident (kind of like my college biking accident where I was found in a pool of blood). He feels good. He’s standing outside the hospital in an unusual outfit, his spandex and a hospital gown (they cut off his biking jersey and threw it away). They gave him some Tylenol and discharged him.
By now there is a crowd around me. Everyone wants the phone. Rich takes it next, followed by Marianne and others. Barb tries to end this, but someone says “he’s just waiting outside for you guys to get to him, what else does he have to do?”
You can’t imagine how elated we all are. Our buddy has obviously dodged a major bullet and we could not be happier. Not giddy mind you, still very serious. This is the wake up call Mike warned us about. It feels a little like what the 911 experience. Initially you were worried about your loved ones and if you were able to reconnect with them you were comforted, felt better but you were still upset and concerned about the future.
We are better riders. We are in better shape and condition. We have more experience, but this is still not easy and it is still not over and we do want to finish. This is not a group of cry babies or quitters. As a matter of fact, Delaware Russel’s bike has painted on the top tube, “no cry babies”. Everyone here wants to finish what they’ve started. It seems to be a habit they all have in their lives. If we can help it, this ride will be no exception.
We leave the sag stop in a much better mood than we arrived. Bill is going to be ok. Nothing is broken. He is banged up but seems to be ok.
Now we are off the bike path and on a nice smooth rolling road with a reasonable berm. Gerard and I start to get into the “second half” pace we seem to do. The speed picks up. He pulls, I pull, we help each other. We pass Max and Mark Mendleshon. Mark tells Max to go ride with us. Max hops on.
Max had zero road bike experience before this ride. He did it as a tribute to his dad, a father son sort of thing. If you haven’t checked out their blog you really should, it’s the top dog of the trip blogs. See http://acrossamericainfiftydays.blogspot.com/, it is well worth it. You will get a sense of their creativity and Max’s computer skills. Anyway Max’s biking skills have improved a lot. He is much steadier. Very strong. Good cadence. At the beginning of the ride his only biking experience was mountain biking. His legs flailed all over like a toddler learning to walk fast. Having him in your pace line was uncomfortable early on because you never knew quite what to expect from Max. He’d be on your left side, your right side, he’s speed up quick, slow down, have his camera on you, be off the road, in the road and everywhere. Today was different. Max has learned the skills and rides like a champion. He even slowly pulls out in front of Gerard, taking the lead from the Dutch wonder and picks the pace up just a little bit and holds it nicely there. Now, with a nice tail wind and this good news about our friend, our riding spirits have been boosted. Gerard won’t leave Max out front for long. He knows that Max’s enthusiasm will get the best of him and he risks being dropped if he stays out front too long. Max will figure out his capacity and today Gerard decides won’t be the day and Gerard takes back the lead. I relieve Gerard after a bit and he and I go back and forth with Max in tow. After about 40 minutes of this Max announces he’s going to ride with Denise and Debbie who we are coming up on and we say goodbye for now. It was fun having him along.
I ask Gerard why he doesn’t have a rear view mirror, as experienced a cyclist as he is. He explains that in Holland you can’t get them and no one rides with them. We don’t discuss it any further. A little while later he asks if I’d like to go to a bike shop with him. There is one that is off route ten miles or so and I agree. It turns out he’s decided to get a rear view mirror. They don’t have one like mine and he wants one that is flexibly attrached to the helmet like mine. I get my chain replaced (my third one for this trip) and the bike cleaned up a bit. Today has been the dirtiest day we’ve ridden. Lots of dust on the canal bike path.
We work our way back to town and catch up with Joel Paine, Wisconsin Gary, Denise, Debbie, Alan and others. Joel asks me where to have lunch saying I have the reputation of finding the nice lunch spots. I’m not sure. I ask one local who didn’t give me good answers. I notice we’re near a law firm office and decide to walk in. Three ladies at their desks look up at my sweaty (it’s 90 out) self and ask if they can help me. I ask where is the best place for lunch? They reply “The retreat”. Then I ask do they have good milkshakes (the group’s favorite recovery drink). In unison they all reply “Go to Heides”. The small mob takes their advice. We enjoy a great lunch at The Retreat and smaller group, Gerard, Gary and I go to Heides for ice cream. It turns out Heides was established in 1886, has been remodeled a few times and is quite the hot spot in Liverpool NY.
Afterwards Gary heads back to the hotel and I join Gerard for a beer hunt. He has a special beer he wants to treat Lenny to that is brewed in Montreal and is called something like “La Du Font”. It is 9% alcohol. It takes quite a few miles, a stop at a liquor store (which can’t sell beer in NY) and three grocery stores to find it. He buys a six pack and carries it under his right arm for our 5 mile journey back to the hotel.
I spy a hair salon and decide it is time to begin my re-entry back into society. I say goodbye to Gerard for now and stop to see if they can take me. The one woman in the place is busy and says she’s booked. Oh well, I go on. A few blocks later I find another hair place and walk in. I think I scared this people and probably they lady before. Picture me now, scraggly beard, unkempt hair, sweaty and sweat stained in spandex, bike shoes, sorts, helmet and sunglasses. Not their usual customer I guess. After a little coaxing Phyllis decides to take a chance and work on me. Exactly what she did will not be revealed just yet. I want to keep that as a secret for now.
After my session with Phyllis I travel back to the hotel finishing off m 108 miler. A little different than the scheduled 80 miles for the day, but I feel like I could go much further. It is amazing to me how my body has adapted and seems to enjoy this daily dose of exercise, sunshine, sweat, cookies, bananas and endorphins. I’ve noticed the same things in Rich, Gerard and others.
The stop for ice cream with my dirty Mariah.

At the hotel I join Mark, Jan, Brett and Jen who are all cleaning their bikes. Janette is keeping them company, the consummate Southern Belle. Always smiling, good natured and something pleasant to say. Everyone seems happy that Bill is among the living and all things considered, “OK”.
Rap is a late time, 7pm but as usual, starts exactly at 7pm with folks lined up way ahead of this time. Everyone but Bill and Jim are in attendance. Mike Munk starts out with “I know you all get tired of hearing me rant about these safety issues, but unfortunately today you found out how quickly things can and will happen. You can’t be careful enough. I am at the counter, paying the breakfast bill and I get the call, “rider down”. There is no placing of blame here, these things can and do happen. Now maybe you understand a little better why I am so anal about these issues.”
I don’t think anyone ever questioned Mike’s motivation or his intentions. We all appreciate them and frankly I am in awe of them. It’s easy to understand why he was a successful military leader. He has your best interest in mind and he’s tough and dedicated to that. He’s not a “cruise director” or an entertainer. He is a “get ‘er done” leader and this ride needs that in my opinion.
Mike goes on through his routine, explaining tomorrow’s route and our various meeting times. As he wraps up, Bill walks up behind the crowd assembled on the shaded grassy area next to our ABB selected Super 8 of the night (triple A rated but I couldn’t find the rating anywhere). All heads turn and simultaneously begin to clap. Through his bruised face and stitches he manages a smile very close to the one we are all used to enjoying. We all know what happened to him could have happened to us. He’s out for the remainder of the ride, but has decided to continue to travel with us and meet his wife and Jim’s wife in Manchester. These two are the ones who really wanted me to encourage my wife Cindy to join them at our “last supper” in Manchester.
Jim and Marianne have been cooking up some sort of skit for this event. They both pulled me aside about a week ago and warned me about it. Apparently my “character” has some role in this that they wanted to prepare me for, but they would not tell me any more. Cindy has told me she can’t quite make it however and I will miss her. Maybe she’ll avoid some sort of embarrassment by not being there.
After rap is over I get my first chance to talk in detail with Jim. He’s concerned about Bill of course, but Jim is committed to finish the ride. He shares with me that Jim wants to do the skit badly and continue on with the group to the end, even if doctor’s orders say he can’t ride due to his stage 3 concussion. Privately many of us hope that Bill is at least able to ride or be pushed somehow at the end on a bicycle to dip his front wheel into the Ocean with the rest of us.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Day 44 - We ride again... Niagara Falls to Henrietta NY

Day – 44 Niagara Falls to Henrietta (Rochester NY suburb)
Richard Pauls takes a hit.

Euphoria Meter (1-10): 10
Tailwinds joined the blue skies, 67 degree temperature, my fresh legs and the French Silk pie (Gerard's recipie for fast legs) to make this as perfect a bicycling day as you could imagine.

I still have never kissed a camel, but this one came close. I couldn't get him to say "I-O" after my "O-H", but I tried.

Ride Stats:
Distance: 86.1
Riding Time: 4:05
Max Speed: 35
Average Speed: 20.3 J
Total Miles traveled: 3,153
Miles to go: 476 J

Perfect…Honest to God perfect. I could not script better weather. I have tolerated some pretty good headwinds in exchange for no rain and nice temperatures, but today we finally get tailwinds to join our beloved blue skies and nice temps!

Incidents and Rider Report
Richard Pauls, the wonderful chemist from Oklahoma took himself out of the ride today. Unbeknownst to me, when he peddled in to Niagara Falls his knee was hurting badly. He spent the rest day nursing it. Mike Munk said Richard couldn’t sleep and it didn’t feel any better today either. He was unwilling to take a day and ride in the SAG Wagon. I am sure Richard was committed to “ride every inch”. We all miss him. You may recall, he was the good Samaritan who stopped to assist me when three others would not. (I think the others didn’t hear me right or didn’t feel they could really help and were just being nice by asking). I guess this morning he at breakfast today in his civilian clothing. Not many people knew he was leaving. Richard we miss you, best of luck with the knee and a speedy recovery! L
Also today Bob Frame departs on a planned departure. His neice is getting married in Rochester and his wife is coming in tomorrow. Rich and I along with all the others will miss Bob too.
Mike Munk reported tonight we’ve lost seven riders. Three to injuries and four others to planned early departures. Today we added four new ones. Larry and Rick Schwartz of Boston MA (no relation to one another), a new fellow named Mike from Delaware who is friends of Russell, Jen and Brett. Barry is here chasing Marianne and rode today for the first time. He expects to finish the ride. Marianne said she wants him to ride a few days with Gerard and I, but if I was Barry I wouldn’t even think about it. I think it would be tough to join in this group at this stage, but we seem to be a pretty welcoming group and I’m sure they’ll all have fun.

I did do a little better leading this group in an Ohio State cheer. Pretty good eh? From left to right, Janet, me, Barry and Marianne. This is actually Steve Flowers Yoga class, but I got you thinking didn't I?

How I Feel (1-10): 10
Physically I don’t think I am capable of feeling any better without medication. Emotionally I long for my wife, family and friends.
Stuff that happened:
Basically a great bicycle ride. Started slow and social with Bob Frame, then Ma and Pa Miller (Mike and Bernice). After that Larry and Rick Schwartz kept me company a bit. I sort of expected to see Gerard but he got delayed at breakfast. Steve Bennett and John Knapp roar by after the first 12 or 15 miles and I hop on their tail to the sag stop. Shortly thereafter Gerard shows up with Daco. The second half I ride pretty hard with Steve Bennett and Gerard. We end up first at the hotel after just barely catching Cindy. Her daily riding pal was Bud. The three of us notice that without him Cindy seems to have picked up the pace a bit. She’s a strong rider, but did not want to play in our pace line. Shortly behind her were Montana Denise and Tucson Debbie. They also ride along at a brisk pace.

When you get to the hotel early (11:30 today) you beat the box and all your clothes. We decided to take a quick shower and get some lunch at the best place we can find. We end up at a very crowded diner called “Margies”. Behind us is a table of twelve and we need to scoot a few of them around to get our table of five seated. One thing leads to another and we find out that this is a group of “Guardian Angels” who at first describe themselves as a motorcycle group, but then confess to being a prayer group. They are dining at Margies to honor Sister Barbara, who is dressed in civilian clothes. When they find out that we are riding our bicycles across America they can’t believe it, but promise to pray for us. I assured them that I could use all the prayers they were willing to offer and I do appreciate those.

Rich told me today that he rode with Marvin of San Diego. Marv rides a recumbent bicycle really well. I guess today Marv came very close to getting wiped out by a pick ‘em up truck. Gerard and I saw Marv and Fred almost get taken out by another frustrated driver early one morning when we were leaving the hotel. There were two lanes of traffic going their direction. Fred and Marv were single file on the far right side. A car pulls up behind them, changes to the left lane while another car traveling fast in the left lane changes abruptly, swerves way to the right to speed around the first car, just in time to almost clobber Fred and Marv. One other time when I was with them in Portland (I didn’t tell you this one on purpose mom, but now turn up the prayers to the next level) the three of us were about to go through an intersection where the traffic light had been green for a while. Fred saw it first. The intersection involved two five-lane roads. On our left was a stopped line of traffic in the right hand lane. The left hand lane (again on our left) that also had the red light was open. However, this driver of an 18 wheeler felt the need to put the peddle to the metal and blast through the intersection without touching the brake peddle or the down shifting. This truck runs the light, right in front of us at a speed I would estimate to be at least 55 mph. Thanks to Fred we were all able to hit our brakes quickly enough to avoid him. We all count our blessings and pray we finish this ride as successfully as we’ve done it so far.