Thursday, September 11, 2014

THE BIG FINISH! Days 62 - 67: Auburn, NY to Rockport, Massachusetts and the Atlantic Ocean

The Last Week of the Journey

AT LAST!  Although I've already posted some Atlantic Ocean arrival photos I still need to fill in the final days of the journey from my hometown in Auburn, NY to the finish in the Gloucester and Rockport, Massachusetts area at the Atlantic Ocean shore.  It's hard to believe it's all over.  It seems like it was long journey sometimes but at other times it seems like it went by fast considering the distance covered.  I'll post a few summary stats here but will do a closing blog with some thank yous, reflections, comments, observations and general thoughts about the whole experience in the next blog post.

(NOTE: Reminder - You can click on the photos to enlarge them and then scroll through them with the arrow keys or the mouse clicker.)

Summary of TransContinental Bike Ride

Click on this link to see a point to point route map of my TransContinental Ride:

Note:  The mileage on the Ride With GPS map differs from my bike computer because it only is counting the point to point/city to city miles, not all the side trips, detours, backtracking, getting lost, going to dinner, etc.

Total Mileage pedaled (according to bike computer):  3,827 miles
Ave mileage/day ride:  72.2 miles/day
Total duration of journey:  67 days (June 15 - August 20, 2014
Total days riding:  53 days
Number of century ride days (100 miles or more):  6 days
Longest ride:  113 miles (Fergus Falls, MN to Bowlus, MN, mostly on paved bike path)
Number of riding days with rain:  8 days; only one of those was severe thunderstorm weather
Number of flat tires:  5
Number of tires used on this ride: 5
Number of times I felt like quitting:  0

Highlights of this section are:
  • Having Cathy, and Ed Gee rejoin me for the final stretch
  • Traversing NY State along the Erie Canal for a good bit of distance
  • Meeting up with my old college friend George Cipperly in Schenectady and enjoying the hospitality of his parents in Troy
  • Crossing the scenic and at sometimes trying Green Mountain area of Vermont and the steep inclines of New Hampshire
  • Meeting up with friends Rich and Cindy Vengroff in Lowell, Massachusetts and riding with Ed, Rich Calnan and Bob (from the Finger Lakes Tour last year) for the final day from Lowell to the Atlantic Ocean
  • Spending time with friends Rich and Rita in Rockport
  • The satisfaction of reaching the Atlantic Ocean and the culmination of the journey
  • Unexpectedly seeing an old Peace Corps friend Terry Danizio and her daughter and grandson in Massachusetts
  • Getting back home and spending time with my wife (not on a bike)

Day 62:  August 15 - Auburn to Rome, NY
Day's Mileage:  73.7 miles 

After a great 2 day/3 night stay with brother Al and wife Cindy in Auburn it was time to get back on the road again.  We had a great time, as always, at my brother's place and it affords us an opportunity to visit most of my siblings and nephews and nieces that are in the area.

Ed, Me, Cathy, Cindy (and dog Allie) and my brother Al.
 We welcomed Ed Gee back to the ride and the support of Cathy in our Subaru, riding along for the final stretch to provide support along the way as needed.  It was good to have the company again after riding alone from Helena, Montana (July 8th) until arriving in Auburn, a total of 36 days solo.  

Ed getting ready to ride.
Off we go in the rain.
We said goodbye to my brother Al and made our first stop to be in Skaneatelas, 8 miles to the east, to have a second breakfast with Cathy, Ed, Ed's wife Brenda, my sister Linda and sister-in-law Cindy.  Ed and I pedaled out there and the rest of the crew drove out.  We chose the Bluewater Grill as the place to be and the breakfast did not disappoint. It's always good to have an extra load of carbs and protein and caffeine to start the ride.  We said goodbye to all but Cathy and Brenda would join up with us in Rome, NY.

Linda, Me, Brenda, Cindy, Cathy and Ed at the Bluewater Grill, Skaneatelas, NY.
After a stretch of high-volume traffic around Syracuse we finally rejoined the Erie Canal Heritage Trail east of Syracuse.  This trail would be our predominant path for most of the trek the next three days, although various parts of it are not connected and you're forced to go out onto roads and highways for various stretches.

Many of the locks along the canal are still functioning and there is some boat traffic that continues, mostly recreational.  The lock fees are a bit steep we're told ($25) so many boaters minimize their passages through the locks and boat in certain sections only.

Ed and me at one of the Erie Canal lock gates that we had to traverse.  

 The trail maintenance and signage was highly variable and the closer we got to our destination of Rome, NY, the worse the trail became, with a lot of standing water from the morning's rain and in one spot a large tree had fallen across the path.  We had to get off the bikes and hand carry each bike over the obstacle, while the ubiquitous mosquitoes enjoyed feasting on us.

Don't know why I'm smiling here.  I must be delirious.
Now, Ed and I were both delirious as we started taking photos of each other taking photos.

The signage on the trail itself was non-existent toward the end.  When we exited off the canal trail we came out through this section here in the photo.  It was then we saw this sign: "No Trespassing. Road Closed. City of Rome."  Oh well...

We finally reached our destination of Rome, NY and met up with Cathy and Brenda at our lodging, The Inn at the Beeches.  It was a very nice facility and grounds, with a restaurant and conference and banquet facilities.  We had a very nice meal there and the huge facility also had a wedding party, an anniversary party and a 90th birthday party all going on at once.  Quite the busy place!

Cathy and me entering the dining and banquet facility at the Inn

Ed, Brenda, Cathy and me after a great dinner.

Day 63:  August 16 - Rome to Canajoharie, NY
Day's Mileage:  61.1 miles 

It was cool and overcast as we arose that day to face the day's ride.  We did have to say goodbye to Brenda who was driving back to Virginia that day.  Cathy continued on supporting us with the Subaru and met up with us at different locations, which turned out to be more challenging than in the West, as we had inadequate maps (not the Adventure Cycling Maps we had out West), there was a lot more traffic and a lot more roads, many of them poorly marked or unexpected road construction detours.

Ed and I leaving the Inn.

Again we were able to pick up on the Erie Canal Trail most of the way, with intermittent stretches back on the roads and also to meet up with Cathy along the way.

Erie Canal Heritage Trail Marker and map along the way.

One of the restored models of the canal lock boats.

Ed making an on the fly adjustment.
A wetlands area near Utica, NY.  Note the prolific purple loosestrife plant, an invasive species spreading throughout North America currently.
 We continued to meet many interesting people along the way.  The gentleman in the photo below, named Ronnie, had a motorized Schwinn bicycle and was full of useful tips and information on the canal and trail.  He knew where to camp for free, where the artesian spring well water was, and the distances to different sites.  He obviously spent a lot of time on the trail or may actually live on the trail.
Trail expert Ronnie and his motorized Schwinn bike.
We also met a young man named Daniel from Boston who was biking solo from Seattle to Boston.  He had just graduated from college and was doing this cross-country bike tour before beginning a new job in Boston in December. He was primarily camping and did follow Ronnie's advice and find the free camping spot near the Fort Plain marker in the photo below.

Me and Daniel 
The canal trail again was inconsistent in its quality and signage but this just added to the adventure.  Along the way we did go through a beautiful stretch in a small canyon near Little Falls, NY.

 A really beautiful part of the ride near Little Falls, NY.

We arrived safe and sound at our dumpy motel, the Budget Inn in Canajoharie, NY.  We had a hard time finding a place to stay in the area as most hotels/motels were full due to many scheduled weekend events in the area.  We virtually got the last two rooms in Canajoharie.  We opted against camping as there were heavy rainstorms predicted for the night.  So the Budget Inn it was.

Arriving at the Budget Inn in Canajoharie.  You can tell by the look on my face I'm not overly impressed.
We had dinner at an Italian restaurant in town and then returned to the motel for the evening.  Ed's motel neighbors were a bit loud so he did not sleep that well.

Day 64:  August 17 - Canajoharie to Troy, NY
Day's Mileage:  64.7 miles 

We arose the next morning again with overcast skies and showers predicted.  After a hearty breakfast in town, we returned to the motel to pack up and go.  Not someplace we'll come back to any time soon, I'm sure.

You can see the nice paint job on the door at the Budget Inn.

Why are these men smiling?  Because they're leaving and getting back on the road!

Although it was rainy and overcast much of the morning it did finally clear up and turned into a beautiful day.  This would be our last day following along on the Erie Canal Trail in NY so it was nice to see it and ride in nice weather.  Today, also we would meet up with my Cornell classmate George Cipperly who was going to meet us in Schenectady at the Boathouse and ride with us the rest of the way to his parents' home in Troy, NY (Eagle Mills area).

A beautiful day along the Mohawk River.
It is very hard to see the iPad screen in the sun.

Our primary lunch meet up spot was at the Boathouse in Schenectady where we met up with Cathy who had driven ahead with the supplies, and George who came from Troy to ride with us back to his parents home.

My wonderful wife Cathy on the shores of the Mohawk River, with all our provisions for lunch.

Lunch and relaxation point.

At our lunch spot along the Mohawk River.

The Mohawk River

Cathy and the Oarsmen.

We continue on our ride with George along the trail and heading toward Troy and his parents home.  Along the Mohawk River.

A bridge across the Mohawk River.

We crossed the Hudson River between Schenectady and Troy.  We stopped on the bridge to take a few photos.

A view of Troy from the bridge over the Hudson.  Although you can't appreciate it from this view, those trees in the background constitute a very steep hill we had to climb in Troy.  Amongst the steepest grades on my journey thus far.  Fortunately they are not very long.

Happy on the Hudson.
We successfully navigated through Troy and on to George's parents home in Eagle Mills.  I had last been here in Summer 1975 when George and I did a 450+ mile bike tour through eastern NYS along the Hudson, Connecticut, Long Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and southern/central NYS.

Arriving at George's parents' home in Eagle Mills, NY.  That's their dog  Sammie  welcoming us.

Obviously, Sammie is excited to have company.

George's parents Bob and Becky were just absolutely wonderful, inviting us into their home, preparing a full sit-down dinner for us (roast beef, green beans from the garden, mashed potatoes and gravy, salad), and for desert Becky made not one but TWO pies:  1 cherry pie and 1 rhubarb pie!  From scratch and they were fantastic!  Their hospitality was truly wonderful and well-appreciated.  When I'm in my 80s I hope to have as much strength, patience and energy as this young at heart couple does. We slept well in warm comfortable beds, too.

Day 65:  August 18 - Troy, NY to Brattleboro, Vermont
Day's Mileage:  70.3 miles 

We would liked to have stayed longer, but we had a bike to catch and an ocean to meet.  So we said goodbye to Mr and Mrs Cipperly and gathered up our trusty steeds.  George accompanied us across the Vermont border in order to get us on our way but unfortunately had to return back home in Pennsylvania (driving from Troy) to attend to pressing work deadlines.  Damn that work!

Saying goodbye to our wonderful hosts, the Becky and Bob Cipperly.

"On the road again, I can't wait to get on the road again..."

In front of the Brunswick Township Historical Society in Eagle Mills. 
We pedaled off through western NYS rolling hills and rural roads to the Vermont border.  George accompanied Ed and me (and Cathy in the car) about 20 miles to the border before he had to turn around back to Troy and ultimately back home to Pennsylvania.  It was great reuniting with George and getting to ride together again after 39 years!  We promised to find a ride in the future that we could do together.

Three amigos.  This is where we said our goodbyes to George before continuing on the Molly Stark Byway (Rte 9) through southern Vermont and on to Brattleboro, our day's destination.
Crossing from New York State into Vermont.

In Bennington, Vermont we stopped for lunch in front of a fire station and made a new friend with their mascot.

The route through southern Vermont was very scenic, with lush forests and rolling hills and mountains. Near Marlboro, Vermont we pedaled to the top of Hogback Mountain to a location called the "100 Mile View" where you can see the mountains of Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

View from the "100 Mile View".

Cathy, her ice cream cone and me at the top of the Hogback Mountain.
Leaving the summit we had 10 mile descent (Wheeeeeeeee!) as we continued on our way down the Molly Stark Byway to Brattleboro, Vermont.  This was well worth the extra traffic we may have faced on this segment as opposed to the route Google Maps and Ride with GPS was trying to send us on.

Arriving in Brattleboro, in eastern Vermont on the New Hampshire border.

Road signs in Brattleboro.  This reminds me very much of the road signs in Italy.  Too many to feasibly comprehend at one intersection.

Brattleboro was a neat little town known as an arts and cultural center in the state.  The motel we stayed in was infinitely better than the one in Canajoharie, although Ed's smoke detector started chirping every 5 minutes in the middle of the night and kept him awake all night.  He opened it up to take out the dying battery (which is what the chirping sound should indicate) but found that the smoke detector was in fact hard-wired to the electrical system.  Why it was chirping?  Who knows.

Day 66:  August 19 - Brattleboro, Vermont through New Hampshire to Lowell, Massachusetts
Day's Mileage:  80.7 miles

We left after having the motel's continental  breakfast and headed through town to the New Hampshire border.  The Connecticut River forms the border between the two states.

Setting out from the motel.
Crossing into New Hampshire after crossing the Connecticut River.
We arrive in Hinsdale, New Hampshire.  In time for our 2nd breakfast.

Main street in Hinsdale.
New Hampshire, although we were only in in it for 3 or 4 hours, proved to be quite challenging in terms of the steep hills and the very, very bad roads.  I climbed the steepest grade of the ride so far near Richmond, NH.  I'm not sure what percentage grade it was but when I got to the top I was huffing and puffing for a good 5 minutes just trying to catch my breath still.

Here I am cresting at the top of what may just be the steepest grade hill I faced on the whole cross-country tour. This was near Richmond, New Hampshire.  I am totally out of breath here.

It was here also that I also reached the 6,000 kilometer milestone.

Reaching the 6,000 km mark at the top of this hill in New Hampshire.

Another NH steep climb.  That red dot up ahead on the hill is Ed.

One of several covered bridges we rode by in New England.

As mentioned earlier, the roads in New Hampshire were terrible and passed Michigan for the worst and most dangerous (due to pavement failure) roads on my entire cross-continent bike tour. They were especially difficult when they had parallel seams or cracks in areas with mottled shade from the trees that made them hard to see.

Typical road in New Hampshire.  Actually this was a good road.

Fortunately we didn't have to ride on them very long as we soon crossed into Massachusetts. The nice thing about the Northeastern states is that they're small.  Today we started in Vermont, crossed NH and arrived in Massachusetts.  It took me 7 days to get through North Dakota.

We did however have the new challenge of riding in high volume traffic in a suburban setting during afternoon rush hour on narrow roads with no shoulders.

Although the traffic was treacherous in much of Massachusetts that afternoon there still were some lovely sites.

A Quaker Meeting House in Groton, Mass. 

We survived our rush hour ride into Lowell, Massachusetts our destination for the evening.  Within 2 miles of our destination I had what was my first close call, coming close to having an accident/collision with a car.  On a very busy Lowell street a car approaching in the opposing lane started to turn left in front of me.  Ed saw it before I did and shouted loudly.  I believe the driver heard him as he slammed on his brakes thus averting the accident.  If he continued across I would have smashed into the side of him and gone flying over the car.  It's hard to believe I traveled over 3700+ miles and 66 days to this point and this was the first time I came close to having an accident really.  One day before arriving at the Atlantic Ocean.  I feel very fortunate that I have

We finally arrived at our destination for the evening where we stayed with our good friends Rich and Cindy in their lovely home in a converted, renovated textile mill. In the Lowell used to be a major manufacturing and textile town but had become economically depressed with the closing of many businesses and factories over the course of many years.  It is now seeing a rebirth with renovation of these historical buildings and canals in the commercial district and conversion to residential housing and rejuvenated downtown area with many shops and restaurants.

After getting cleaned up, we walked along the canals to a nearby Thai restaurant for dinner.

Day 67:  The Big Finish!  August 20 - Lowell to Gloucester and Rockport, Massachusetts
Day's Mileage:  44.2 miles

This was the big day!  The final push to the Atlantic Ocean and the culmination of the big journey.
Ed, Rich and I along the one of the canals in Lowell.

Team Golf!

One of the restored buildings along the historic canal district in Lowell.

Our breakfast destination in Lowell.

Breakfast at the Owl Diner.

One of the interesting points of the diner.  Whiteboard list of specials, an old-time booth jukebox with the flip pages of music to choose from and someone selling used golf clubs.  
My friend Bob (from the Finger Lakes Ride last year), Ed and me preparing to hit the road again, from Lowell to the coast.  Bob came up from Foxboro to join us in the last day's ride to the ocean.

Arriving at the halfway point in Topsfield, Massachusetts, about 22 miles from Lowell.  Another beautiful day.

Topsfield Town Hall

It's nice to have riding company!  Rich Calnan (left) came up from Rockport to ride with us and guide us the rest of the way. Along with me, Ed and Bob.  Only another 22 miles or so to go.

Arriving in Gloucester.


Here we are at the famous "Fisherman at the Wheel" sculpture in Gloucester, Massachusetts.  Before the ceremonial dipping of the tires in the Atlantic Ocean. With Bob, Ed and Rich.
With my sweetheart, without whose support I would not have been able to do this ride!

The big moment!  Heading to the water at Long Beach, along the Rockport and Gloucester shoreline.

A big shout of exuberance!

It's official!  From the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean!  3,827 miles (6,159 km)!  67 days!  

We did it!

And now for a little celebration time!  Rich and Rita pouring the champagne!

Bob and his wife, Val.

The beautiful Gloucester and Rockport coastline at late afternoon.

The culmination of a great voyage.  A great seafood (lobster roll) dinner with my wife and great friends.

Cathy and Ed enjoying dinner.
Sunset on the bay in Gloucester.

The Day After:  August 21 - A Day of Rest and Relaxation in Rockport

The next day we took the day off before driving back west to tour around Rockport, the lovely coastal New England town where Rich and Rita live.  A beautiful place to visit and enjoy.

Local fire station.

A framed view of Pigeon Cove in Rockport.

Morning fog, Rockport.

Most of the establishments have a nautical theme for obvious reasons.

Local arts and crafts with a nautical theme.


Good to know.

Local humor.

No, not real elephant ears.  Some kind of big pastry.

Ed, Rich, Cathy and me enjoying the day.

Me with my good friends Gumby and Pokey in Rockport.
 The end of the day was capped off with a wonderful family-style dinner prepared by Rita for us.  I am especially grateful to Rich and Rita for hosting us for the finale of the big ride and making it a wonderful finish to an amazing journey.  And especiallly thank them for hosting an unplanned visit of my good friend Terry whom I served with in Burkina Faso in Peace Corps in the late 1970s, and her daughter Leslie and grandson Robin.  It was great to see them again and we were fortunate as she just returned that morning from a trip to Vietnam and her daughter/grandson just arrived from Burkina Faso as well!  Timing is everything!   And a very big thanks to Rich and Rita for allowing them to join us unexpectedly for dinner.

Terry with her daughter Leslie, and her grandson Robin.

The Day After the Day After:  August 22 - Driving from Rockport back to Madison (through Pittsburgh)

Well, the transcontinental bike adventure is officially over as we start the drive back west, through Pittsburgh quickly to visit my Best Man and long-time friend (since 1966) Mike for his 60th birthday celebration.  Another nice event of many on this trip!  And it will be good to get home, too.

Cathy and I on the road again, this time in the car and heading to Madison, eventually.

It was a long way to go to get this hat!  But it was all worth it.

Thanks to all who supported me and Cathy and everyone who contributed to making this an unbelievable, unforgettable trip and experience of a lifetime.   I will have one more blog post to specifically thank people and capture some general observations and thoughts I have following this trip.