Friday, August 21, 2009

Day 4 - 66 miles to Glimmerglass State Park

Ok, so I am here to update you all on our trip, which is now over of course. I know there are many of you who have been eagerly awaiting the next installment in this adventure, so I won't delay. Here we go! Day 4. This day looked as though it would be a fairly easy day. Only 59 miles over what we thought was fairly flat terrain. As we got going, however, and by the time we stopped for coffee at a truck stop diner (see photo) we noticed that there was something about this highway we were on... something hilly-er about it.

  It turns out the terrain was not as flat as we had assumed. We had begun to cross the foot hills of the Catskills to the south. And, where a normal highway will veer north and south in order to created a more gentle terrain, this "scenic byway" simply cut due west across these hills like a laser. By the time 11:30 rolled around, at which point we had gone about 30 miles (a blazing 8 mph average), we were really struggling. I wish we had taken photographs to convey the hillyness of this section. As it was we were to tired to stop and get the camera out. It was very hilly. Up hill for one mile, down the next and so on. Mind you all this wasn't as steep or as difficult as crossing the green mountains, but you have to remember that in our minds this was to be an easy day. This was to be our rest day. When we headed out that morning I had foolishly thought that, figuring for a conservative 14 miles an hour average, we could arrive at camp before 1:00 pm. Luckily I didn't say this out loud to Alison, otherwise she may have beaten me to death with her bicycle pump by the end of the day.
Lunch. Being hungry and tired and it being 11:30 this is what we began to think about. I suggested that at the top of the next hill we stop and eat some of the snacks we had brought and check the map. Before we had left I had marked out all of the grocery stores that we would pass on our route. Well as it turns out, there was nothing on the map for at least another 20 miles. don't worry, don't worry, it must have been a mistake, anyways we had seen a sign for vegetables for sale up the road. The vegetables turned out to be cucumbers being sold by a toothless farm boy named Sammy (see photo), six for a dollar; pickling cucumbers that had grown too big to sell to Price Chopper. Sammy's mother Therese came out and informed us that we were not mistaken, that there was not so much as a corner store for at least another 20 miles. It looked for a moment that Alison and I would each be eating 6 large pickling cucumbers each for lunch. Then Therese offered to feed us! If you are reading this, Therese, thank you again! You are an angel. They turned out to be a very nice family (I am sorry, I can't remember the name of Therese's daughter). We ate well. Sammy took me to see the animals: goats, geese and pigs, then we were on our way again. Sammy asked us to come back again next time we passed that way again. 

The rest of the day was again as hard as the first part, but we did make it into the park by 4 pm. Of course the moment we rolled in we realized again that even though we had decided against it while riding through town, we really did want beer. Alison ended up asking our neighbor John (see photo). John however had suffered a heart attack earlier in life and had no beer to offer us. We did end up talking to him for a while and learning a bit about his life and left with a non-alcoholic beer. Not a complete failure; we met a friendly neighbor and got a cold bubbly beer-like drink. However John was not satisfied. A few minutes later he came back and gave us dinner. And when we went back to thank him and get a photo for our blog he and his wife Janet invited us back for bloody marys after dinner. By the way, John and Janet, if you are reading this, we lost your email address! please let us know what it is. And, we are serious about joining you in the white mountains for dinner when you visit!.
Anyways, dinner was great, drinks were great (Alison was taken by their chairs which "had real backs"), and John and Janet even advised us on our route. They had just come from the direction that we were going and they said that the hills only got worse (they had just barely made it in their RV). Using their maps, we mapped out an alternate route. The next day we would head north to Lake Ontario and ride west along it. 

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Day 3 - 69 miles to Thompson's Lake State Park

Ahh, to bike downhill again! Those signs with the trucks going down triangles were beautiful sights to us, and for the first part of the day there were a few of them. So, we ended up flying out of the green mountains in no time. A note on the previous day which Alison neglected to mention: she ended up riding my bike for a short period of time and in that time managed to break the cable to my front de-railer. I was not able to fix it untill our last day of the trip. So, I crossed most of New York with only 5 gears. 

When we got to Bennington we decided to stop at a coffee shop that our good friend Jill had taken us to the last time we were there. Jill went to school in Bennington and now lives in California. We almost called her when we were at the cafe, but then realized it would be 5:30 am there. We were thinking of you Jill! Recognize that couch? 


Anyway, we had to decide where we would stay that night. We had heard from a couple of sources that it was supposed to thunder storm that day and we had an alternative campsite we could stay at if the weather was sour, but we couldn't check the internet untill the library in Bennington opened at 11:00. That was too late so we decided to just head out and play it by ear. A good decision because the day was clear and warm. The landscape was beautiful as well; Alison's favorite part of the trip.

The view outside of Bennington

Then we came to New York and slightly flatter terrain. We didn't noticed it until then, but the wind was to become quite a factor. Up until that point we were either going up very large hills or down them. Once it flattened out a bit we assumed it would be easy going, but we were wrong as the wind slowed us down considerably. All things considered, however, this day was a fairly easy day... until the last three miles. We had to scale 12oo feet in the last 3 miles in order to get to our campsite. 

For lunch, we figured we would stop somewhere in Troy, NY as it looked like a fairly big city from the map. It was, but what the map did not show was how depressed Troy was. In biking through the city I felt like Will Smith in "I am Legend." There was almost nothing open and hardly a soul on the street. Most shop front were boarded up. We finally did find one very nice sandwich shop that was open and had  good lunch. But it was a very strange feeling to go through such a large city with no one on the streets.

Alison at the one open restaurant in the Almost Empty City

I'm cookin' dinner!

When we did get to camp we realized that, despite thinking it wasn't necessary when we were near a liquor store earlier in the day, we did really want some beer. Spying some guys who we thought looked like they were beer drinkers, we decided to have Alison try to procure some beer from them. They loved her, calling her "babe" about 12 times and giving her 4 beers. Way to go Alison!

It rained again that night, but after we went to bed and it stopped before we got up the next morning.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Day 2 of 8: Mt Monadnock to Woodford State Park, VT (~68mi)

Going into today we knew it would be the hardest day of our trip, seeing that we were staying at the highest state park in Vermont in the Green Mountains but we really didn't know how hard it was going to be. We also decided not to carry anything to make coffee with and hoped we would be able to stop in local coffee shops along the way and for the most part we found great ones. The first was called Jitter Beans with internet and computers available to the public, good coffee and lots of great seating and even a bookshelf filled with different books to read while you enjoy your coffee. At lunch time we were still thoroughly enjoying ourselves, the wonderful weather, the pretty straightforward terrain however we were so naive to what was to come.Soon after lunch we hit the Green Mountains, riding up hill at a steep 6-8% incline for 16mi straight, no flats, no downhills, and lots of false peaks! It was physically exhausting and mentally one of the hardest things to just keep goingBut eventually WE MADE IT and found out we had just climbed Hogback Mountain, with an elevation of 2350ft and we were both so excited because Woodford State Park (where we were staying) was only a couple hundred more feet compared at 2,500ft.
Well we found out from the nice lady working at the gift shop that yes Woodford State Park was only a couple hundred feet higher but we first had to bike down into the valley loosing most of the elevation we had just gained and then gain it all back and more. What horrible news, we were both exhausted and new we had a lot more to do before the end of the day. We rode down the west side of Hogback probably in 10min flat (what took us 2hrs to ride up) and while grocery shopping actually tried to find someone with a pickup truck to drive us the last 10mile. Looking back on it we were thankful no one offered because we did eventually make it, it was exhausting, we walked our bikes at times, David actually said at one point "I don't even have enough weight to push my pedal and make my bike move forward." David was carrying at least 50lbs on his bike and being a racing bike it's not set up for big climbs so he doesn't have a tiny gear in front to allow him to pedal quickly and gain slowly, he really had to pump hard to get up these hills. It was intense, but we took our time, even if it meant stopping every quarter mile.

After a very long and difficult day of pedaling we made it to Woodford State Park around 6:30pm, cooked up a great meal of veggie sausage in beans and rice, enjoyed a hot shower, set up our little tent and slept safe and dry as it poured outside again for the second night in a row!! What an incredible day!Lessons learned on day 2:
1. Even if not in incredible physical condition your body can do way more than you expect
2. Eating regularly and a lot is key to keeping up your energy
3. Taking regular breaks and walking your bike is not a shameful thing
4. God is blessing us with incredible weather and keeping us safe on this great adventure of ours

Day 1 of 8: camping at Mt Monadnock, NH

Well we have quite a lot of catching up to do which I will not do all today for the sake of time but let me start at the beginning. As many of you know David and I have been planning this trip for months and if finally came and now is done! Incredible. Day 1, my sister Colleen and her boyfriend Kerrick drove and camped with us at Mt Monadnock so that David and I would have a buffer for our trip depending on weather. Getting over 500mi in on bikes in 7 days without an extra day seemed a little nerve racking. So Friday July 24th we camped and when we went to bed it was clear skies filled with stars and around midnight we woke not just to rain but to a down pour that sounded more like we set up the tent under a waterfall. It was deafening and we couldn't even talk to each other, laying only inches from each other. It was crazy and a little nerve racking to start our trip, but we woke up to sun and assured ourselves that it was going to be awesome.Our tent in the distance at Mt Monadnock

Lessons for Day 1:
1. Always set up the tent fully even if it looks like it's going to be beautiful out
2. Always get a up to date weather report

Packing List:
4 pairs of socks and underwear
2 pairs of bike shorts
2 athletic shirts
1 set of pj's
cooking gear
2 sleeping bags
2 sleeping pads
passports (you now need one to get into Canada, crazy right)
first aid kit
cellphone & charger
camera & extra battery
extra tubes
extra tire
bike tools
bike pumps
2 bikes

More to come later!!!! If you have any questions feel free to ask :-)