Week Nine: New England August 10 - 16
Click here to read Matt's newsletter from this week!
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I start in Lake Placid and enjoy a rolling first-day descent, then ferry across Lake Champlain to Burlington, Vermont, a quaint college town. Continuing my ride to Stowe, I'll stop at Ben & Jerry's flagship factory and enjoy some Cherry Garcia ice cream. In historic Vermont and New Hampshire, I'll visit charming towns with old-fashioned stone walls, and discover century-old slate-roofed homes. I then head over the Green Mountains in Vermont, through the White Mountains in New Hampshire and finally downhill to the Massachusetts coastline.
Matt's newsletter from this week:
WEEK OF AUGUST 11TH: THE LAST WEEK
Hello again from Boston, MA, our final destination and my hometown. As many of you know, this summer I rode (notice the use of past tense!) my bicycle 4,200 miles across America in honor and memory of my father. He passed away last April just 2 months before he was to set off on his own transcontinental journey. This summer I completed his dream for him, on his bicycle, while raising money for a scholarship in his honor.
As I have now completed my journey, I would like to ask all those individuals that have enjoyed my travelogues, that have laughed a few times, that have found some personal inspiration or that have shared it with others, to please help me support my father's scholarship. Please click here to make a tax deductible donation of which 100% with go to charity (my family and the U of R are paying for the trip). I will have ridden 4,300 miles by the end of the trip, so 100 dollars is a 2 cents a mile (no, I was not a math major), please consider making a donation to a worthy cause. Thank you for your support.
This week I cycled from Lake Placid, NY to Gloucester, MA. I left the history of the 1980 Olympics, crossed Lake Champlain into Burlington, VT, went slip sliding on a rainy day, saw minor league baseball with some old friends, and rode into Gloucester to complete my journey. Check below for photos and descriptions of the week.
This will be the last of my RideAcross Travelogues, but I am planning to send an epilogue in the next few weeks as my life begins to return to some semblance of normalcy and I have time to gather initial reactions to my experience. I hope you have enjoyed riding across America with me as your host; I have enjoyed having you all along for the ride.
THIS WEEK'S FUN FACTS
Miles ridden this week: 385
Total Mileage for journey: 4,327
Number of beaches we visited in Gloucester: 2
Very approximate number of pedal strokes taken this summer: 1.45 Million (based on average 80 RPM, 5.5 HR days)
August 11th: Vermont Expos
Lake Placid, NY to Burlington, VT
I awoke this morning to fog clearing above my tent and dew spilling off my rain fly as I unzipped the morning view of the Olympic ski jumps in the distance. So begins the last week of my journey. I ve opened this rain fly every morning for 8 weeks now (well, okay, almost every morning, thanks Theresa), but it seemed different today. I haven't quite entered sentimental mode yet, but I'm hovering precipitously on the edge. I don't have many more opportunities to awake to fresh morning air, I need to cherish these one at a time.
After missing breakfast for the first time all trip (looks like I cherished my morning a little too long), I set off along scenic Route 3 towards Vermont, climbing and descending in familiar fashion. We had a steep climb mid morning (over 20%) that proved extremely challenging since I was silly and tried to do it in my big ring. I made it, but was dead tired at the top (note to self: macho=bad, I've already apologized to my knees).
We disembarked from the ferry across Lake Champlain en-masse from the ferry, fifty riders rolling off the deck onto the shores of Vermont. After finding my daily mocha at Uncommon Grounds on Church Street, I met up with some old friends from the camp I visited last week. Mike, Maura and I went to see the Vermont Expos play the Jamestown Jammers in a classic match-up of Single A minor league baseball. We had some dogs, burgers and beers, watched the amazing display of ball (only 5 errors!) and the 14 46 home team pulled out a victory. We rounded out a great night with a drink at Nectars, home of the musical band Phish, who I followed for a short while in college.
August 12th: Slip Sliding Awway
Burlington, VT to Stowe, VT
There are some simple concepts in cycling. Eat enough food, drink enough water, pedal in the correct gear and wear the right size shoes. Unfortunately getting only 3 out of 4 of the above criteria is still asking for disaster. So I was none too excited when I realized this morning that I packed my cycling shoes in the truck and I would have to ride with Rich's shoes that were 2.5 sizes too small (the truck holds 90 cyclists gear and would have taken over 2 hours to unload and reload not gonna happen).
It actually became somewhat of a joke how miserable such a simple mistake could make me for an entire day. Every pedal stroke became grittingly painful after the first few hours, but was I gonna quit after riding this far? Heck no. So on I plodded, mile after beautiful freaking mile.
I did visit the Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory this afternoon and had a fresh of the floor pint of heath bar crunch. A worker literally goes into the plant and pulls out a pint right off the line, never been frozen, soupy, but amazing taste. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Unilever had not mucked things up too much since they purchase B&J 2 years ago.
As we rolled into camp, the skies opened and the rain began to pour down on our picnic dinner. Many were perturbed, but check out Kieran sitting under the Penske to avoid the rain in the picture to the right, smart man, very smart. After a great dinner, Jamie and I saw an opportunity. CycleAmerica covers the luggage bags with huge rolls of plastic. Huge rolls of plastic plus torrential downpour equals slip and slide. Everything went well until I took a right turn accidentally and slammed into Ken, who hurt his foot and proceeded to pour his dinner all over me. He saved me from hitting a car though, so thanks Ken.
August 13th: The Haircut
Stowe, VT to Bethlehem, NH
We entered New Hampshire today after crossing the Connecticut River and made our way through Littleton, home of Bishops Ice Cream. After just having Ben & Jerry's, I was in pretty good position to evaluate good ice cream, so I started with a double waffle cone of a chocolate brownie mix. It was good, but I wasn't too sure about how it compared to B&J, so I had to get another cone. I mean, this wasn't for pleasure or anything, this was business. Yep, after the second one, I'd say it was better.
Tonight, we all were chatting about how we had become somewhat ragged without haircuts for the last 8 weeks and since most of us were going to be seeing family soon in Gloucester, we thought it would be good to clean up. Well sure enough, one of the riders owned her own hair salon and could do wonders with a pair of clippers and a garbage bag. Check it out to the right.
August 14th: Hurricane Mountain
Bethlehem, NH to Fryeburg, ME
I left super late this morning and was determined to pedal pretty hard to catch up with all the riders. Seeing that we only had a few days left together, I was looking forward to the company. The plan seemed to make sense until I came upon the Mount Washington Hotel. I found complimentary coffee, a Boston Globe and a deck overlooking the vast presidential mountain range of NH, including Mt. Washington (the highest peak in the northeast). I'll hang out with the group tomorrow. I sat for about 2 hours, reading the paper, enjoying the views and chatting with guests. It was complete relaxation.
After a quick lunch to fuel up, I pedaled towards Hurricane Mountain Road: an optional hill climb and supposedly one of the most challenging cycling climbs in the north east. Sure enough, it was 2 miles of 15 percent and higher climbing with switchbacks that far exceeded 20 percent grades. It was tough. But it was wonderful. It was the steepest thing I've ever climbed (much steeper than smuggler's notch), but I made it without stopping. Check out the before, during and after photos to the right. I was struggling halfway up, and that was a brief respite from the incline!
August 15th: The Day before
Fryeburg, ME to Durham, NH
My crew rode together most of the day today. We finally and officially have entered sentimental mode. We chatted about favorites, about challenges, about days we wanted to quit and day we wished lasted forever. Today was the last full day of riding, tomorrow is the end. We re only sixty miles away from the Atlantic Ocean; I can lean forward and go sixty miles these days.
It doesn't seem real yet. Not much of this summer has seemed real. I have enjoyed it, hated it, wanted more and wanted to it come to a screeching halt. I have loved my companions and wanted to send them off a tall cliff. Today I began that long process of dissecting and pondering the implications of my journey.
BUT, I'm not done yet, so stop getting all warm and fuzzy on me. There's still cycling to do, I haven't completed anything yet.
August 16th: Smell the Ocean
Durham, NH to GLOUCESTER, MA
Okay, now we can get warm and fuzzy.
My eyes opened early, it was 4:30 AM, for the first time all trip I couldn't sleep. There they were again, I hadn't felt butterflies in my stomach since waking in this same tent 63 nights ago just north of Seattle. Should I get up, should I sleep. I am almost done.
Breakfast went quickly, riding began. I rolled out with Paul, a.k.a another rider, we pedaled slowly. Marc joined us, we were in no rush. We rolled through the backcountry of NH pretending this was just another day, pretending to enjoy the scenery and smell the smells like we ve been doing for 9 weeks, but we were kidding ourselves. This wasn't any other day, this was it, this was the end.
Lunch came, it was 10:00 AM, too early. We were in Massachusetts, my driver's license says Massachusetts, it's not a joke, we really are only 25 miles away. We wait, and wait, and wait until the crew is ready to roll. Drivers hate us. We re pedaling slowly, 14 MPH, two abreast 10 deep, just cruising. Not too much said, we all knew what was happening. Every second was another yard gone by, another yard closer to the end, another yard we could never get back.
Route 133 East, Gloucester, 7 miles away. What, how'd that happen? Okay, less than 30 minutes and my summer adventure is over. Thirty minutes is nothing, it takes me longer to cook rice-a-roni. There it is, the smell. I know that smell: it's salt water. I'm home.
T intersection approaching, T intersection means its here. Our road can go no further, it's finally here. We roll in Gloucester and there she is, the Atlantic. Utter elation, I scream out loud, I have done it, we have done it.
Family, friends all are there to greet us at the High School where all the riders congregate 1 mile before the official tire dipping, before the official endpoint. The police escort arrives, we roll out under siren salute. Roll through Gloucester, hooting and hollering, arrive at the beach and: no one. The cop took us to the wrong beach!!!
Everyone laughs, we don't care, we turn around, roll back through Gloucester, it was a victory lap, the crowds cheers again. We roll to the second beach, and there's my Mom as I roll down the hill. I carry the bike down to the water, take a look up, smile and dip my front tire in the Atlantic Ocean. We did it Dad.
Day 1: Nice place for a tent city
Day 1: Entering Vermont
Day 1: The Expos win the Pennant, The Expos win the Pennant!
Day 2: My feet hurt
Day 2: I could be a spokesperson, Unilever here I come
Day 2: Hiding from the rain during dinner, check under the truck
Day 1: Slip Sliding into ken, Slip sliding into ken, you know the nearer your destinations, the more you slip sliding into Ken
Day 2: Labrador Old Farts Cycling Club Founder and Chairman
Day 2: Our fearless leader Rich, safe at home
Day 3: Entering NH with Chris and Clive, watch your head Chris
Day 3: Yes it's hot under there?
Day 4: Laziness at the Mt. Washington Hotel
Day 4: crew before attacking Hurricane Mountain, 20% here we come!
Day 4: Hmmmmm, do I really want to do this?
Day 4: Okay, I'm still alive, halfway up, smile for the camera, well, good enough
Day 4: Oh yeah!
Day 4: I like to lift things
Day 5: Our wacky neighbors to the north
Day 6: I'm close
Day 6: Police escort ready to take us to the wrong beach
Day 6: Ze tire is dipped, I don t know what Theresa is dipping though
Day 6: Matt and Paul Saluting the achievement
(yes, it's Paul, did you hear me say Paul, well actually I'm writing out Paul's name so Paul can be included in the newsletter, is that good Paul?)
Day 6: Yes, Karlheinz actually threw the bike off the chartered boat, never to be seen again
Day 6: Sunset over the finish, thank you Gloucester
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