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.


Russ Morgan said...

Congratulations. It sounds like you were the star of the trip. No surprise. Next...reality. See you soon.

Anonymous said...

Ralph, Congratulations on completing your amazing adventure! I will miss reading about your travels.
Tom Bullock

Anonymous said...

Ralphie, thanks for making my summer more interesting. Loved following your tour via words and pictures. Today will be lots of fun with your family there to cheer you at the end. Wish I could have been there too.


nancy said...

ralph...after reading your last blog, it makes me want to train and do the ride myself! it was wonderful to meet you in portland and we had a great time hearing about your trip east. if you're ever out this way again, look us up. have a wonderful reunion with your family and may you ease back into the reality of life.

nancy worzniak

tt said...

You've grown again. Go Ralphie. NEXT!

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