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Done and done! We finished the Cross Country Challenge today. For me it amounted to 3609 miles. The folks who rode every mile ended up with over 3900 miles. The 4 days I had to take off were necessary but it does mean that I didn’t ride every mile across the country. I’m going to call it a full ride because I’m not going back to Nevada and ride across it by myself!

Breakfast this morning was a bit weird. It was our last meal together so most of us were running around taking pictures. Same thing happened was we loaded our luggage and checked our bikes.

Fueling up for the big day!

It looks like this every morning.

As I mentioned yesterday, today’s ride was pretty short and mostly level. There were a few hills at first but given we had 4 ½ hours to ride 50 miles to the rendezvous point I wasn’t too worried. Of course I took a wrong turn and ended up riding an extra 6 miles.

After we met we all had our pictures taken and then rode the last couple of miles to the beach with a police escort. 

At the beach we all walked down to the water for the traditional wheel dipping ceremony. I’m not quite sure why this is important but I went along with it.

Litespeed Pony wanted to dip her hoofs in the ocean so I obliged. A lot of the riders had family and friends meet them there so we had a large crowd cheering us when we got there. And that was the official end of the ride.

Of course we had to get to the hotel after that. It was another 7 miles of riding to get there. We were on our own but they did give us a cue sheet so it was just a matter of following it. Once we all got here those of us that are shipping our bikes home were shuttled down to a bike shop to take care of that. Now all there is left is to catch the shuttle to the airport first thing tomorrow morning.

All in all this was a wonderful experience. Some folks claim that it was life changing. I can’t make that claim but still, I had a lot of fun. I found that the things I liked most were 1) riding my bike and 2) absorbing the country side as I rode through it. And I do mean country side, mountains, hills, plains, rivers and definitely not cities. It really became apparent to me that I’m just a country boy that loves mountains. I always knew that but thought I had become a little more cosmopolitan. I guess not.

The question everyone is asking is: Would you do it again. I think most of the riders would. In my case it would take some serious negotiation with my wife. I’d want her to come along, at least part of the way. Not so sure how she’d go for that, but I’ll be talking to her.

So my blog about this trip is coming to an end. I’ve really enjoyed writing each night and hope you enjoyed reading it. Thanks to all of you for your interest.

Whew! If that’s the penultimate day I’m not sure I can handle the ultimate day!

We crossed the rest of the Green Mountains, I think, and are now in Manchester, New Hampshire.

The Green Mountains are beautiful but the route today took us over some real nasty roads. Yesterday was supposed to be our last day in the mountains but there was plenty of climbing none the less.

Oooh, one handed ;-)

We crossed into New Hampshire right on the outskirts of Brattleboro and bang the climbing started immediately. None of them were terribly long but several were very steep. About 15 miles into the ride we went through the city of Keene and hit the first steep one. +10 % for ½ mile. Okay, not too bad… Then we hit another +10 % grade and it seemed to go on for ever, okay maybe 3 miles. The guy with the inclinometer said it hit 15% at least once. And we did hit a nice downhill it was dirt for a couple of miles!

Dirty, dirty road!

Overall, there was about 10 miles of heavy climbing. After that it mellowed out. There were several 3 mile climbs but none of them were more than 4 or 5 % so it was more a matter of spinning up the grade.

Once we got to the 60 mile mark the route took us along a very pretty river. We were finally heading downstream so I was able to just enjoy the scenery. Then of course I hit the city and it’s just another city.

New Hampshire seems to be very much like Vermont, hilly and heavily treed. Every once in a while I’d see an old stone wall along the road in the trees. I assume that 3 or 4 hundred years ago they cleared the land and tried to farm it. I can see why they gave up. There are huge glacial boulders everywhere. I guess the old saying is true. The best crop in New England is rocks.

It’s hard to believe but tomorrow is the last day. It’ll be about 60 miles total, 53 to the beach and another 7 to the hotel. We’ll hold a brief wheel dipping ceremony at the beach, it matches the one we had in the Pacific back in San Francisco, and the tour will be officially over. I got a sneak peek at the route sheet for tomorrow and it’s going to be a relaxing day. They want all of us at the rendezvous by 11:30 and several riders will need all of that to get there unless it’s all downhill. That means the rest of us will most likely just mosey along. After the ceremony some riders with family and/or friends at the beach will leave from there. I’m going on the hotel so I can ship my bike home and get ready to leave. It’s going to be strange to not get a route sheet, I guess that’ll tell me it’s really over.

Ahh, that’s good riding, you gotta love those mountains! This was the last day of mountain climbing on the tour, or at least that’s what we were told. We left New York today and rode over the Green Mountains of Vermont, 80 miles of green. But first we had to get across the Hudson River. We crossed just south of the confluence of the Hudson and the Mohawk rivers. It’s quite impressive. After that we climbed out of the river valley, about a mile to the top and headed to Bennington, Vermont.

Check out Litespeed Pony! She likes Vermont!

We hit the Vermont border at mile 32 and were already climbing into the mountains. In fact there wasn’t much flat all day. As soon as we left Bennington the road turned up, 8 miles of climbing through the Bennington National Forest. It was a nice climb. It made me feel like home. It reminded me of Route 410 heading up to Mt. Rainier park. For the most part it was about 4% except for a mile section in the middle where it kicked up. One of the other riders with an inclinometer claims it was over 10% but I’m thinking it was no more than 7%. It was just a nice climb. I shifted down into granny and spun up it as I took the forest in. The trees are quite thick here and it’s very dark and shaded under them. There’s even moss and ferns!

After the climb we dropped down into a small town and then up a shorter 3 ½ mile climb that was also relatively easy, 4 to 6 % again. At the top there was a viewpoint where you could see for a hundred miles, or at least that’s what the sign said.

A hundred miles?

The top was about 2200 ft in elevation and Brattleboro is at 500 ft so once I started down it was down, and down, and a little up, and down….

Tomorrow we ride to Manchester, New Hampshire. We weren’t in Vermont long. It’s supposed to have some more climbs, steeper but shorter than today’s. It will be the last day of really riding. Tuesday we ride 60 miles but it’s pretty much down hill and the plan is to ride slowly so all of us reach the beach at the same time.

Had a wonderful day today. We rode from Little Falls down the Mohawk River to a suburb of Albany, Latham.

We got on New York highway 5E right at the hotel and rode along it for 50 miles without having to worry about any turns at all. It was a nice change from all the wiggling around on back roads. And the highway had a 12 foot wide shoulder.

I discovered that we’ve been riding across the Allegheny plateau the last few days. Today we left it and entered the Hudson River drainage. From hill on the highway I took a shot of the countryside.

A view of the Allegheny Plateau.
I really like this part of the country. If fact, for the first time since Colorado we passed a cliff along side of the road. It makes no sense but knowing a cliff or a hill/mountain near me just makes me feel more complete.

At the 50 miles mark we crossed the river and got on a bike path that was perfect! We followed it for the next 22 miles. It followed the bank of the river so we alternated riding along the bank with great views of it with riding through leafy groves of trees. That’s probably my most favorite type of trail! I more or less coasted along enjoying the day.

Look! It's Mohawk Pony! I mean Litespeed Pony, checking out the Mohawk River.

The Mohawk River itself is quite large, probably ¼ mile across right here and obviously quite deep. That and the treed banks makes for a beautiful setting for a bike ride.

We’re passing pieces of American history as we ride. Today we passed an old fortified farm that was built around 1750. Unfortunately, it was  pretty early in the day so I wasn’t able to check it out in detail.

Fort Klock....

Tomorrow we leave New York and ride to Battleboro, Vermont. It’s our last day of climbing! There’s an 8 mile climb that rises about 1800 feet and another one of 3 ½ miles a little further along. Weather permitting it should be a really cool day.

It was another wet day today. The route more or less followed first the Erie Canal and then the Mohawk River so it was about as flat as it can get. That is, other than the first couple of miles where we were trying to get out of town.

As I mentioned, it was wet, the roads at least. Actually we were lucky. It sprinkled off and on all day but never did rain hard enough to bother us. It did make a mess of the bikes however.

We’re getting close to the end so the tour company is starting to talk to us about the last day, shipping the bikes and getting to the airport and such. I guess it really is coming to a close.

Tomorrow we have another fairly easy day, 83 miles, and we’ll end up near Albany, New York. Sunday we’ll get to Vermont and the mountains.

It was a short day today, only 71 miles. On the schedule it shows 69 miles but I always get a couple more because of detours and wrong turns and such.

The route went across the top of the finger lakes and then turned north to Syracuse. We’re in Liverpool, near there, right now.

The country is still rolling hills, most of which only rise maybe a hundred feet. I’m able to pop up them by standing up for a few revs if I want to. We rode along the tops of the ridges quite a bit today so I could see out across the country. It looks exactly like the pictures I’ve seen of this part of the country. I keep wondering about what it looked like before the Europeans arrived. Every once in a while I see patches of woods that seem to be natural. I would really like to know if that’s true or just my desires fooling me.

The countryside!

The weather here in the northeast is not what I expected. It’s been raining on and off for the last few days and according to the reports it’s going to be that way for at least another week. We got lucky today. It was pouring when we left the hotel for breakfast but by the time we finished it had quit. It dried out after that so it turned out to be a nice day.

We crossed the Erie Canal at about the 60 mile mark. It’s pretty cool except it doesn’t go through any more. The road we were on ran across it and instead of a bridge so you could walk under the road and along the canal there was just a culvert. Just down the canal they were working on an aqueduct. It ran across a small stream. I’ve not seen a canal over a stream before.

Tomorrow we head towards Albany. We’ll be staying in Little Falls. It’ll be another relatively easy day, 79 miles and a bit flatter than today. We only have 5 more days and we’ll be in Portmouth. Hard to believe but we’re 90% of the way there.

We’re in Canadaigua, New York tonight. Don’t ask me how to pronounce that ‘cause I can’t. It’s on the north end of one of the finger lakes. The country is more to my liking than the mid-west. There are more hills and looking across the lake I can see some highlands to the south, very nice.

The ridges run north/south through here and we’re traveling almost due east so as you would expect, we had a day of rollers. With one exception early on that was around 12% most of the hills ran between 3 and 5%. The distance between the ridge crests was usually between 1 to 2 miles. That, coupled with the valley’s being rather shallow, made it a case of using the small chain ring about half way up a lot of the hills.

I took it pretty easy today, as I’m doing most days. At this point in the trip I want to get to the hotel without blowing up. I’m feeling pretty good physically and want to keep it that way.

Today was the last day of 90+ miles. From here on out they range from 62 to 86. I believe that’s because we’re approaching the Appalachian mountains and will be climbing. Wow, only 6 more days of riding! I’m sure they’ll be fun, I like mountains even if I can’t climb very well, so I’m really looking forward to them.

I past several more rivers today with the stair steppy look from the slate river beds, very cool.

Canuga Creek....

I notice a lot of what are called creeks back here would be rivers out west. You can tell I’m originally from an arid part of the country.

Tomorrow we head a bit north and east to Liverpool. It’s only 69 miles so unless there’s a lot of hills between here and there it should be a short day.  

I’m confused! I thought it’s July in New York. Apparently I’m back in Seattle in the spring!
We woke up this morning in Erie to wet streets. We’re on a schedule so we pulled out the rain coats and got on the bikes. It started raining almost immediately and didn’t really let up all day, 81 miles of slop. Still, I’m from Seattle so I should be used to that. At least it was fairly warm with temperatures in the 60’s.

Other than that the day was relatively easy. We rode along highway 5 which parallels the shore of Lake Erie. I could see it from time to time and once in a while the road ran right by parks on the shore. It looked like a big lake with rain coming down on it. The road was pretty much level with an occasional dip and climb for a river. The rivers were interesting. The river beds were made from slate so they all had a stair step look to them.

Erie is in a small section of Pennsylvania that runs along the shore of the lake. We rode about 20 miles Sunday and 20 miles today in that state. Then we hit the New York border.

Litespeed Pony is climbing the sign just above Dan's head!

The highway had broad shoulders all the way which was nice. Riding through Erie was a bit of work during rush hour. No shoulders so you would ride in the lane.

Because of the wet many of us had flat tires. I had one about 10 miles before the SAG stop so when I pulled in I grabbed a new inner tube. When I went to leave I discovered I had another flat. At least I was by the van with a floor pump. I bought another inner tube and fixed it up. A couple of other riders had the same experience.

Tomorrow we ride to Canadaigua, New York. I can’t even begin to pronounce that one. It’s 94 miles and it looks like rain again.

We crossed the state line today. I’ve officially left Ohio behind and am in Pennsylvania. It was a longer day than I thought it was going to be, 98 miles, but there wasn’t a lot of climbing involved.

Litespeed, one of us needs glasses!

The terrain in northeastern Ohio has lots of river valleys running northward towards Lake Erie. And of course there are hills between the river valleys. Once we wiggled our way out of Youngstown we climbed up to the top of a hill. It was only a ¼ mile to the top and then we turned north and basically rode along the hilltop for 70 miles.

About the only break in the action in those miles was a couple of country bridges that were being replaced. We had to carry the bikes across the gap where the bridges are incomplete. It was something different anyway.

After those 70 miles we came down off the hill, it was only a couple hundred feet high so it wasn’t a big thrill, and paralleled the lake shore. We couldn’t see the lake, I believe it was a couple of miles away from the highway. A couple of miles up the highway was the state border, another state come and gone.

I liked Ohio. It had lots of roads for riding and most of them were in good condition. You would have to avoid the beat up roads and the ones with heavy traffic. Onc of the riders is from Ohio and he tells me that traffic in the country is heaviest on Saturday. I sure noticed that yesterday. Today was much quieter, especially once we got away from the city. I’m sure that the local riders know which roads to ride and which ones to avoid.

There was a cross wind today, coming out of the northwest. Because the first 70 miles were straight north we had to deal with it for quite a while. Fortunately, it wasn’t all that strong so I just putzed along singing my mindless little ditties until I got to the lake shore.

Once there, we turned to the east and the wind was more at our backs than anything. So the last 28 miles where just riding along a mostly flat road with the wind at our back. Now if all these people in cars would just go away! It was busier today than normal. Apparently there was a big biker gathering this weekend. I know I saw all sorts of Harley’s  running around town.

We won’t be in Pennsylvania long. It was 27 miles from the state border to Erie and will be another 20 miles to the New York border on Tuesday. We’ll be on the same highway that we rode today so I know it’ll be mostly flat. It’ll be interesting to see what New York brings us.


Dahy 42: Wooster, Ohio to Youngstown, Ohio

It was another day of wandering over the hills of northeastern Ohio. They weren’t nearly as steep as yesterday’s once we got a few miles from Wooster. So it was just a case of following the cue sheet so I didn’t get lost. The cue sheets that provide directions are getting much more detailed now we’re in the east. Back in the west we’d get directions like turn left onto highway from hotel, ride 80 miles and then turn right into next hotel. Now we rarely go more than 7 or 8 miles without turning.

I still like the roads through Ohio but todays were quite rough in many places. It seems they need to do a lot of work on them. In some cases I had to drop down to my small chain ring on hills just because it was beating me to death to push up them in the big one. In other places the side of the road was patched for miles so the ride was extremely rough. That, coupled with the heavy traffic, made us work for the miles.

I was very surprised at the amount of traffic given the small country roads we took. It seemed that every person in Ohio had somewhere to go today.

We did get a break near the end of the day. We were routed onto a real live bike path. It was recently paved and straight and level for about 3 miles. I was able to just ride along and enjoy the trees along the side of the path. It gave me the enthusiasm to take on the last few miles.

I saw several deer today, both on the road and at the first SAG stop. It was at a city park with a baseball field. A couple of fawns bounced out of the woods on the other side of the field and ran around for a few minutes. They seemed quite interested in our group, they were just a few weeks old and probably haven’t seen such different looking people.

Tomorrow we ride to Erie, Pennsylvania. The route takes us straight north from here to Lake Erie while we’re still in Ohio, then we’ll ride along the lake for about 27 miles to the city. From the route profile it looks to be one of the easier days, almost all down hill, so hopefully we can take it easy and more or less coast the 97 miles.