Archive | Week 8 RSS feed for this section
Aug 12, 2012

New York

Clicking the week’s summary chart will bring up a detailed route map for the week including elevation gains. After the summary and overview of the week and Sheila’s op-ed piece, you’ll see the posts in order starting with the first post of the week.You can view any week of posts by clicking on the week in the sidebar.

Click to see week-8 overview summaryOur 8th week began with a big splash… visiting with our friend Grace in Buffalo for our rest day and breakfasting on the brink of Niagara Falls. The pop-up overview summary for this week is not entirely accurate as they changed the first couple of days. So from Niagara Falls, Ontario we went to Geneseo, NY and then on to Seneca Falls, then we picked up the original itinerary into Watertown and Star Lake before arriving here in Lake Placid. The terrain has changed significantly again. Since midweek we’re no longer seeing corn and soy fields everywhere. It’s apparently too rocky to do much farming. Instead we’ve seen, Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, The Erie Canal, the Finger Lakes and hundreds of small lakes in the Adirondacks. This area is lovely, plush, and quite hilly. And thankfully the heat has given way to the sunny and comfortable high 70s to mid-80s. We did have one day of rain which is only the 3rd for the entire 8 weeks!

This week’s op-ed from Sheila

More C2C riders

Greg, UK

Ken, Canada

Allan, Hawaii

Max, Vermont

John, Michigan

David, CA

John, UK & Malcolm, Aus

Mary, CA

Every day Spencer knows exactly what he’ll write about, that day’s activities. We often talk about what we’re observing and what might get included in his posts, as well as which photos to take to help convey the experiences of the day. Then every Sunday I write about something. During the week the topic usually comes to me and I think about it in the back of mind and talk about it with Spencer. This week…nada! NOTHING! I’m staring at a blank screen not knowing what to talk to you about. Most odd.

Yesterday when we arrived in Lake Placid, as Spencer’s mentioned, we were met by Daria. She’s a friend of another coast to coast rider and has been following our blog. She feels a bit like she knows us. And while we know less about her, we also feel a connection to her. We have about 60 folks who are officially subscribed to our blog and I know of many others who stop by regularly but are not subscribed. So we have many known and unknown connections due to our blogging. When we’re writing we know we’re speaking to 3 unique audiences:

  1. Ourselves, as a documentation/journal
  2. Our friends and family, to keep track of our adventures, as well as other riders’ friends and family
  3. And as a reference point for future travelers who may remain unknown

Stay with me here. I don’t know where I’m going but as the Cheshire Cat said to Alice in Alice in Wonderland, “if you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter how you get there”. I think I’m following a thread about interconnection and community.

Over the last 8 weeks our group has formed into a loose community. Those “going all the way” from coast to coast (30 of us) feel especially bonded, having shared such intense experiences as the hottest July on record, countless mountain passes including 3 Continental Divide crossings, 10 miles of gravel, 30 miles of chip seal, etc, etc, etc. We can recognize each other from the back by the clothes, the silhouette while riding, the riding style and pace and who they’re with. We may or may not stay in touch, we may or may not ever see each other again. But we’ll remain connected.

The “others”, who arrive each Sunday night and leaving the following Saturday or a week later, have been dubbed “week-lings” or is that “weak-lings”?! Either way, they tend to stick together as our tightness is not easy to permeate. And most of us make no effort to reach out.

Because we value and desire community in our lives we intentionally reach out to these folks. This week that paid off with a very fun ride on Monday. But by Saturday’s ride I realized there were still several new folks whose names I didn’t know, or where they were from…and now, they’re gone.

So where has this rambling taken us? I think seeing some of the dynamics of community while on tour is useful to us as we look at our latest project at home. You may already know Spencer and I have been actively participating in a forming co-housing group for the last 2 years. So I’ve been thinking about the dynamics of our traveling community and how they may apply to our intentional and soon to be residential community in Seattle. The original households involved have shared the hard work of planning and decision making. We will have to work quite intentionally if we are to embrace and enfold the new households as they arrive. This doesn’t happen on it’s own. The bottom line is that community takes intention and work to create and maintain for it to be most worthwhile.

Aug 6, 2012

Cool weather at last

  • Niagara Falls, ONT to Geneseo, NY
  • 91.3 miles (3505 total)
  • Paceline
  • 75° and comfy!

We had a fabulous day off the bike this weekend. For those of you who missed the news – we figured out I was severely undernourished on Saturday afternoon. That’s a condition bikers call “bonking”. You can’t exercise anymore and you don’t think too straight. We should have gotten food into me an hour before we shopped at the store. As it was, when we got in the grocery, all I wanted to do was put my face down in the hot tater tots they had for sale. Once I got some food I was fine.

We had a lovely time with our friend Grace, ate lots of healthy food including our first Thai meal in 2 months. We also witnessed a terrific lightning storm with torrential rain from the comfort of her living room. So nice to be safe and warm and dry. She delivered us back to the Niagara Falls, ONT starting point at 5:30 AM today so we could start our ride.

The ride began with a trip to the Minolta Tower to have breakfast on the 26th floor. There was a sweeping view of the falls. You can see the tower at the far right of the picture we took from the Rainbow Bridge. The food was just ok, but the view was sensational.

We crossed into New York state (our ninth, not counting Ontario) with the early morning sun. After we got out of town, we started picking up followers for a little paceline. George, Bob, and Sarah stayed with us until after picnic. The roads varied in quality but we were able to keep a hot pace. It so helps to have some reason to ride! We always want to perform better when we have people on our tail.

It also helped that the weather was so cool. Most of the morning it was in the 60s. Blissful! We saw this painted buffalo in the town of Clarence Hollow.  We were moving so quickly that we actually got to picnic just after the picnic truck arrived to set it up. They’d been much delayed at the border crossing because they had Canadian produce on board. I think all the trucks had problems with the borders because things seemed to be running late today. But we had a good rest and set off again with our little group. The three of them are all new to the tour this week. The tendency is for new people to group together and cross-country riders to group together. But we were pleased to have found riding partners who were happy with our pace after 7 weeks.

But Bob blew out his tire, not his tube, about 5 miles out of picnic. We had to wait for a mechanic truck for 15 minutes, so Sarah took off alone. About another 10 miles down the road, we ran into a series of steep rollers which completely broke up the group. We just can’t climb as fast singles and they can’t descend like we can.

The last half of the ride was delightful. Lots of ups and downs. Lots of challenging roads and satisfying descents to reward you. And the temperatures remained cool! It’s so wonderful to not be drenched in sweat as soon as you step on the bike. We got in early enough to get all our chores done well before dinner. It was a fabulous day.

Aug 7, 2012

When we get to the top of the hill

  • Geneseo to Seneca Falls, NY
  • 94.6/3,600.4 miles total
  • 3,950′ of elevation gain
  • Finger Lakes country

What a day today was! It started with a bang and ended with a bang. It was a mere 59 degrees out. It is hard to imagine what a relief it is to be out of the blistering heat we’ve experienced steadily since Wyoming. Even starting the day with a 3 mile climb was not a problem for us. It was so cool out, the climb felt good. It’s a good thing we were happy with the climbs, too. We had them almost all day long.

The thing about the climbs here is that they never seem to end. You crest a rise, then see another going up just beyond. It took almost all day to understand this to the point that we didn’t expect a crest to lead to a descent. Some people call these “stair step climbs”. We went up a lot of stairs today.

Because there are so many climbs, the fields are all much smaller. We don’t see the gigantic rows of corn. There may be a cornfield, but it quickly gives way to a forest or meadow. I think the effect is that the cropland is reduced to a more human scale. It is easier to comprehend and embrace.

We rode alone much of the day today because nobody goes as slow as we do up and as fast as we do on the downs. That was the other great part about today. For every up, there was an equal or greater down. We lost 400′ of absolute elevation! And the downhills today were wonderful. Many were very fast. All too often they ended in a speed zone of a little town with one stop sign followed by another climb. That meant we couldn’t carry any of the downhill momentum into the next climb.

We were happy though. It was fun to have so much variety to the roads. The day heated up steadily and by the afternoon it was in the mid-80s. Fortunately, the afternoon also saw us get a 2 mile downhill that dropped us off at Lake Seneca. From there it was basically flat to the town of Seneca Falls. We saw more vineyards than you can shake a stick at. They were everywhere! We saw the campus where Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman doctor in the US when she was in Geneva, NY. We even saw a Dunkin Donuts! You know I had to stop and get a couple.

When we got in, we found our internet connection was very slow and spotty. We’re hoping we can get this posted so we don’t miss a day. But that brings us to the last bang. Just after dinner, Sheila had another episode of esophageal spasm. This happens to her once every few years and isn’t life-threatening, but is extremely painful. She basically feels like she is having a heart attack. It lasted about 20 minutes and we had one of the doctors on the ride help her. She’s better now and we’re hoping it doesn’t happen again.

I should have mentioned how beautiful the whole Finger Lakes region is. This area is gorgeous. It is great biking. We’ve loved every day here. And we weren’t originally slated to be here, so this is an unexpected treat. And tomorrow we ride across the top of two more of them. YAY!

Aug 8, 2012

More Fingers and a Great Lake

  • Seneca Falls to Oswego, NY
  • 83 miles
  • More hills, more lakes, nice roads
  • A fort from 1812!

We woke today knowing the ride was to be significantly shorter than the last couple. We were supposed to only do 77 miles. Of course, we had to add a little adventure once we got into town to stretch that out, but it was all good. The sun was out all day. We never got overly hot. There was plenty of shade along the roads. The roads were smooth. It was pretty close to a perfect day. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t hilly. Look at the photo at the bottom of the page of bikes heading up and up and up.

We slipped away from Seneca Falls and passed by two more of the Finger Lakes, Lake Owasco and Lake Skaneateles. In case you are wondering, the locals pronounce the last one Skinny-atlas. one of the hallmarks of all the lakes we’ve seen in the region are the beautiful houses around them. Around Skaneateles the homes were mansions. There’s big money to be had from the lakeside property here.

In Memphis we had a first. We came to a railroad crossing which actually had a train! We watched 100 cars go by. Almost all of them were flat cars with semi trailers on top. Many of the trailers were UPS vehicles! I was stunned. I didn’t know the big brown used rail too.

In Baldwinsville we had picnic after a short visit to the Erie Canal lock 24. The Erie Canal has been a part of America since America began. It was cool to see one chunk of it still in operation.

After picnic the road turned north and (gasp!) west to get us to Oswego. It was generally flatter, too. As with most of the roads, it was wonderfully smooth. The highway departments in New York still seem to be getting plenty of money. We got into Oswego High (home of the Buccaneers) very early and set up our tent. Then we went into town to look about.

We found a good little bike shop and bought an alternate electrolyte drink to use instead of the Gatorade provided. It’s just too sweet to keep using. I’ll be drinking Nuun from now on. We also got directions for some sightseeing. We rode down to the Oswego riverfront, sat by the river and meditated in the shade. Then we visited Fort Ontario, site of a battle in the War of 1812. The British took over this fort after a 2 day attack, then left it the next day. There’s a message there about the meaninglessness of war if you care to look.

Looking forward to tomorrow’s 68 mile day. We’ll be going slow and spending as much time as we can before arriving at school in Watertown. Maybe we’ll even stop for a soy chai somewhere on the road. Aaahhhh. The good life.

Aug 9, 2012

Bicentennial Daze

  • Oswego to Watertown, NY
  • 69 miles
  • cool, overcast day
  • More history!

Here’s a travel tip for you. When camping at high schools in the summer, arrange it so you aren’t camping during band camp. Imagine 60 odd high schoolers banging on drums, xylophones, cymbals and any other kind of musical instrument you can imagine until 9 pm. Then, of course, they have to carouse in the parking lot rather than just noticing the 35 tents filled with sleepy people. They are teens first, after all. It really wasn’t so bad, but it WAS memorable.

Today was a ride it slow and take it easy kind of day. There was no reason to hurry to do such a short ride. The vans weren’t even going to be at the school to unload until well after 2. It’s closer to 1 and we’re already blogging at the public library. So we didn’t hurry. We chatted at breakfast. We got pictures of other coast-to-coast riders who we have missed before. The route, while not difficult, was not flat. It was more like a blanket you’ve wadded up and thrown on the bed. Constantly up or down. Nothing long, nothing too hard, but steady.

We rolled northeast along the edges of Lake Ontario today. We stopped at a bike store in the middle of nowhere because he’d opened early for our group. We couldn’t see the lake except for 3 short excursions. The first took us into the hamlet of Henderson Harbor and right down to the water. There was a house shaped like a castle and another that had a brook flowing under it. It was very nifty. The second excursion was at picnic at a state park. Lots of sandy beach filled with lots of kids in day camps. The squealing was music to my ears. And one of the folks we pace-lined with on Monday, George, wanted to try out the tandem in the parking lot. Fun.

The third trip to the lake was to see a battlefield from the War of 1812. Seems the British wanted to destroy an American naval shipyard and landed troops to do that. The Americans had 2 forts protecting the shipyard. The battle was hard fought, much hand-to-hand. The British withdrew eventually and that was it. In case you missed the reference, that happened 200 years ago – thus the bicentennial celebration.

After that it was about 10 easy miles to Watertown and this lovely library. We have little idea what tomorrow might bring. Amazingly, neither of us are looking ahead to the end of the trip yet. We aren’t making plans of what to do when we get home or even dreaming of sleeping in our own bed again. I’m pretty impressed with our ability to stay with this moment, which for me is kind of sticky, sweaty and thirsty. I think I’ll close and let Sheila finish with this post.

One last thing: We’ve seen lots of houses here in New York with these gigantic stars on the side. Are they decorative? Are they meaningful? Are they an Amway scam? Are they guides for the ET invasion? Let us know if you know or have an idea.

Aug 10, 2012

Climbing to Star Lake

  • Watertown to Star Lake, NY
  • 62 miles/3,815 total
  • 3,000′ elevation gain
  • Limited internet at the top

Today’s post began yesterday. There was reportedly to be no communication coverage at Star Lake. It is too far from anything. This blog began in Watertown last night while we were preparing for a severe storm. Sheila and I were safely in the school.

The road is slated to go up pretty steadily, gaining most of the 3,000′ we gained today. There won’t be much to do in Star Lake since it has one bar and one convenience store. Our caterer is having to come in from way out of town to feed us. That’ll be good.

UPDATE from Star Lake: We have some limited wifi access that may die at any moment.  Today started overcast but dry but quickly changed to Seattle-like rain, light but constant. It wasn’t cold which was good. Picnic was at a park with a shelter, also good. After picnic the climbing picked up so we had to remove our rain gear, too hot. That means we got pretty wet the last third of the day. The photo shows us at a water stop by a sign that says Adirondack Region. We haven’t needed rain gear in a long time. We’ve been very lucky.

There was a bakery marked on our cue sheet for 10 miles before picnic. Everyone took advantage of the opportunity to get out of the rain and have a treat. We enjoyed a cinnamon roll with tea. You can see we took over the entire bakery until they ran out of food.

Oh, and last night at the school the local FOX affiliate came out and did a fluff piece on us riding across country during the hottest July on record! You can see some of our fellow cyclists.

Aug 11, 2012

Into the Adirondacks

  • Star Lake to Lake Placid, NY
  • 71.8 miles/3,887 total
  • 3,550′ of gain/132,461′ total
  • No rain! Lots of hills!

After yesterday’s day of rain, we were greatly pleased to see dry pavement this morning and throughout the day. It was a perfect day to ride. The sky was lightly overcast most of the day which kept the temperatures down. Everyone local who we talked to told us it was supposed to rain all day, but somehow, it never did.

It was a day of climbing without really going anywhere. We only gained about 300′ in absolute elevation from beginning to end, so most of the climbing we did was rewarded with equal downs. THAT’S the way to do it. Most of the climbs were gentle, but those which were steeper had steeper downs to compensate. We often broke 40 mph. In addition to giving us a boost up the next climb, that kind of a descent gives us a mental boost to keep struggling up the hard ones

There are a lot of lakes in the Adirondacks. Every where you turn there’s another body of water. This being Saturday, there were people heading out for boat rides or fishing trips. We saw bunches  of people hitting the hiking trails, too. This is definitely a vacation destination.

We spotted a couple of interesting sights while climbing today. One was this beaver dam which has now been co-opted by local fisher-folk as the best place to start trolling. Another was this stand of evergreen trees. For some reason the bark seems to be missing on more than 2/3 of the trunks. They remind me of Pacific Madrones which lose their bark annually. They look perfectly healthy other than the bark.

We cruised into Lake Placid in the early afternoon and found Daria (shown with us below) waiting for us. Daria is one of our blog followers who came to us via our coast-to-coast friend Ric from Monroe, WA. The two of them are running friends. Daria lives a few hours away and wanted to greet the coast-to-coasters as we arrived on our rest day. She and some family members were on hand to take our pictures, laud us with great praise, and generally make us feel like superstars.

After a long visit, we trundled over to our hotel, found the local health food store, and laid in our supplies for the weekend. We got a visit from Christiane, the Quebecois woman who rode with us for 5 weeks. She kindly gave us a bottle of maple syrup from her home.

Then, in a burst of genius, we took pizza fixings to a local pie shop and had them make us a vegan Italian sausage pizza for dinner. We sat on the porch in the evening sun looking out at the panorama of mountains and blue sky. It was delicious, and I don’t just mean the pizza. What a great way to ease into our day off. Plus, we have enough left over for lunch tomorrow. Wooo hooo!