Archive for the ‘Eastern Logs’ Category

Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania… fast

July 21, 2008

It’s happening fast now, states clicking-off like fireworks.

Indiana; Sweet rememberances of the 27 years we spent there, nothing changed, yet nothing is the same. Our entire family was able to be together for 24 hours in West Lafayette. Nostalgic, defining and strange to¬†experience the state-of-the-family now and simultaneously my mind could see them¬†in their¬†youth. How I love them all. How proud I am of them all. As Jean wrote, we lost the “3” as in Three Generations. It was hard to see Ian get sick in Illinois and then decide¬†it best to return¬†home. We miss him. However, try to imagine what I felt like having both my sons riding with me for two fabulous days! One of my friends from Indiana, Zach (an excellent rider), joined in for a day and the four of us, raced, sprinted, hammered¬†into Ohio. Competitive Spirit¬†is alive and well between the boys and had my brother Rob been there, well….¬†

Ohio; I think I know now why many cross-country riders take the northern part of Ohio. It’s flatter. Half way across this amazingly terrain-diverse state our central route got very “hilly”. “Hilly” (as in Ohio hills) is defined as abrupt grades of 10% or more but not lasting more than 500 yards followed by an immediate similar decent and followed by another climb and descent etc. etc.¬†This was eastern¬†Ohio and carried to ridiculous extremes in Pennsylvania (later). I can remember¬†Peter and I noticed¬†“hills” near Mt. Vernon, which¬†was not on the original route but construction, traffic and bad shoulders pushed us to look for alternate. This is not uncommon in the east. Here, I will reassert the fact that secondary roads do not share the same logistical parameters to get you from one point to another as do the main roads. Among other things, secondary roads go in straight lines (whenever possible) and do not “give a hang” about hills. An example if this happened east of Mt. Vernon. While coming down a hill I looked up to see the next challenge. Honest, this sucker was so steep it looked like a wall. A blacktop wall. I said in an earlier post that my Garmin GPS bike computer was toast and in for repairs (it’s back now). This device would have told me exactly what the % grade was (not that you care.. but this is my story). Anyway, I’ve climbed 16-18% in Door County and I will swear this was 20-22%!! Short, yes maybe 150 yds and when at the top??? Turn sharp right and PLUNGE 150 yds at 40 mph and then.. yep!

Pennsylvania; We have heard about the mountains and secondary roads¬†of this state. By this point of the ride¬†Peter and I are also; in shape, reasonably fearless, confident of handling a bicycle in most situations and unintimidated by mere danger. There is also a new mental framework: purposeful, hard-core, dig-in, get nasty and get-it-done. Jean, however,¬†does not quite see¬†all things like¬†this. So, we are on Route 40 (Pen DOT Bicycle Route S¬†) towards Washington PA. Welcome to the East; as in¬†old, populated, poor roads, bad shoulders, drivers with bad attitudes (as in “get off the road, A..H…!”). Things were getting ugly; that is until yesterday. The Great Allegehny Passage Rail Trail has been JUST the right thing at the right time. A real breath of fresh-air has put this¬†trio of¬†voyagers¬†in a renewed sense of joy and spirit of discovery. First, Jean no longer CAN follow us and must meet us at certain junctures. This is good for her as she does not have to worry about us being flattened on the next corner AND she can go and do whatever she wants until lunch and after that, dinner. Peter and I are riding 1-2% grades with no traffic, nice surface, park-tourist environment, shade, beautiful streams, country etc. etc. What’s not to like? NOTHING. We are loving it all the way to Washington D.C. So that’s a change of route from the stated plan to go north of D.C. and come down to the Atlantic through Delaware. We are working on a new route to be announced later. So that’s it for tonite from Cumberland MD. It’s been a blast!

Harper’s Ferry and Da-Da, dink, dink, dink

July 23, 2008

Tuesday, after a rainy start today¬†we stopped the ride at Harper’s Ferry, a mere 43 miles and tonight we both feel like we “cheated” because the ride was so short. It was¬†exhilarating to ride the road again.¬†The towns and hills¬†were beautiful after the flat trails from the past two days. Monday took it’s toll as we rode 73 miles on the C&O Canal Trail from Cumberland to Big Pool. The majority of the ride was on a towpath alongside the old canal. We had heard that this part of the trip would be rougher than the Allegheny Passage with its larger gravel, rocks, roots, sticks, ruts and mud-puddles. This trail is maintained by a different organization. Get the picture? So, at the end of the ride¬†on Sunday,¬†we stopped at the bike shop in Cumberland MD and had larger tires put on the bikes. Until now, we were riding on very narrow, hard road/race tires (23’s / 120psi). Not to get too “techie”, these tires ride fast but one trade-off is you get vibrated to death on rough roads. On the road, the 23’s are responsive and quick to do anything including flipping you over the handle bars on a rut. “Squirrely” is the term most often used.. it’s like riding a race horse or, if you’re riding fatter tires.. a plow horse. So the Allegheny was all the “rough” we thought we could take from a constant all day surface. We went up to “fatter” tires (28’s / 90psi). What a great idea! Rain the night before made the trail goo in some places and it took 15 minutes to get that “mountain bike look”. Ian, we thought of you. You would have loved it! We were “smok’n” as much as the trail would allow us and still concentrate while dodging sticks, rocks, puddles etc. You must “scan” from 30 to 8 feet in front of you constantly to pick your path, make adjustments. There is so much debris on the trail that you will hit a lot so you must make fast decisions as to what is bark or a log or something you can run over without being “launched”. For example, I hit two snakes before I identified them as not being sticks. It’s interesting but lose your concentration and it could easily be serious injury. Serious injury, out there with no direct way out and… “hmmm”.

This is compounded by “Da-Da, dink,dink,dink”. Until today, the term has been used only by Peter and me and not in the presence of Jean, which, could easily elevate her anxiety level while she is traveling around in some of these remote, off-beat areas. Today, however, we are pretty much back to “civilization” as we are to be in D.C. tomorrow and we can talk about it openly. Frankly, some of these mountain, backwoods, swampland dwellings and inhabitants can make one feel a little uneasy. No one particular area of the country has a monopoly on poverty nor the answer to affordable quality housing. However, given the roads and trails we have traveled for the past 6 weeks (seemingly more the past week), we have seen some pretty tragic residential environments. We could only recall the movie Deliverance and the theme song, “Dueling Banjo’s”; Da-Da, dink,dink, dink. So from time to time, while riding past a rough environment across the country one of us would mutter; Da-Da, dink, dink, dink. On the Canal Trail, there were a lot of “Da…..¬† “

Canal Trail vs Roadway

July 24, 2008

On Monday, Dan and Peter ended their ride for the day in Big Pool, Maryland,¬†an extremely small community with about 8 houses and no storefronts. As Dan said in his recent blog, the¬†trail this time was full of mud puddles, large and twisted sticks/branches, small and large rocks, roots of trees, and even live snakes. Upon arrival in the trails parking lot,¬†I could tell they had a hard day for they were really sweaty,¬†dirty, and thirsty,¬†hungry, and hot, and they had an overall unpleasant smell about them. ¬†In other words, they stunk. And so¬†did their bikes. They needed to get themselves and their bikes¬†to a ‘hose you down’ car wash. And I really didn’t want their odors creeping into the Bubmobile either but what choice did I have? (So sorry, Rob). Later, the decision to ride again on¬†rural roads¬†was most welcomed. I was happy.

Throughout this trip, there have been references made about the movie “Deliverance.” (Made in the 80’s, I think, and one of the first really frightening movies I had ever seen). We laughed and joked about it, knowing we’d be going through the Appalachian Mountains¬†similar to the setting of the movie. Well, let me tell you, various scenes of that movie recently flashed before my eyes¬†when I found myself driving into a deep, dark, thick¬†forest, on¬†a road one car wide, muddy, with a drop off on one side, no structures around, very desolate,¬†and with the air both steamy¬†and extremely humid; just a most frightening setting you can imagine a single woman to be in (a sexist statement, I know).¬†I was taking¬†a short cut through a national forest to a major highway and couldn’t believe this was an actual road. When my imagination got the better of me (here’s where Deliverance came in),¬†I found a place to turn around and¬†headed back¬†to a lesser desolate road¬†and drove some 20 miles out of my way¬†to a place where¬†I knew connected with the highway. This time I really thought I’d never see my loved ones again!

Driving in the mountains, on back roads, is not my favorite thing to do anyway. Dan and Peter have already termed this part of the trip ‘Jean’s panic driving mode.’ The twisting and turning¬†in the mountains confuses me more than usual (nothing perpendicular) and many of the small towns are unhealthy economically. Often,¬†the people are quite impoverished too.

Like yesterday, I mistakenly drove unto a major highway before I realized what I had done¬†and to get back to where the guys were, I had to take the next exit off and make my way back. An easy thing to do in the right circumstances.¬†However,¬†the exit I took brought me down into one of these impoverished towns and the on-ramp was closed due to road construction. Keep in mind I was still in a very hilly/mountainous area¬†where the town is about one road wide with¬†high¬†hills on one side and nothing, it seemed,¬†on the other.¬†I drove through¬†but couldn’t find¬†help.¬†It was a very unpleasant and uncomfortable place to be in. But¬†I decided I had no choice but to¬†park the car and¬†walk until I found signs of life.¬†And so¬†I did.¬†

I noticed a couple with their kids sitting in a carport¬†that was kind of attached to their house.¬†Their yard and the¬†entire carport was littered with cars, cans, toys and other stuff too numerous to mention¬†and they were sitting among all this junk just trying to keep cool, I think.¬† I¬†admit, I approached them with some trepidation (no, a lot)¬†and even though the man couldn’t see well and had a stump for a leg which was covered with¬†really dirty gauze and¬†his wife¬†only¬†nodded throughout our conversation and said nothing, and the two little kids were staring at me and were quite unkempt, it turned out¬†he was very kind and most helpful and did get me back to where I needed to go. Once again, my fears were unfounded and I learned the lesson, yet again, not to judge others by how they look or how they live their lives.

But the further east we go, the less mountains to deal with so I am happy to be their driver again. But it’s¬†experiences like this that has made this journey a fascinating one and¬†these particular¬†memories, in particular,¬†will last forever. Strangely, I cherish them.


July 26, 2008

Speed. Speed is a relative term. On a bike an average speed for the day of 15 mph is pretty good, 17 is great and 19-20¬†is race quality. The “Tour” riders might average 27 mph.¬†So how fast we can make a bike go compared to,¬†well, each other¬†and others? First, this is not a race but a family journey. HOWEVER, anytime two or more people are traveling the same¬†direction, there is a very slight tendancy to WHIP THE DUDE! As we approach the end of the ride there is little question that speed, in this family, is simply a matter of chronological age. First is Ian (18), then Peter (42), then me (70). It’s not even close. However, endurance might be a different matter. Ian had some problems¬†by the end of a day whereas his Uncle Pete just kept pounding away. Peter is without question the “Le Tour d’Bubs Champion”. Moreover, he loves bicycle racing and follows it studiously. Whenever we had a nights lodging without the VS Channel (covering “le Tour d’France”)¬†he would be in a snit. He knows all the teams, riders, gear.. the whole smear. He subscribes to bicycle racing magazines. He wears bike racing jerseys. Get the picture? He is a powerful, consistant and steady rider and I rode his axle (drafted him) for 2,000 miles. Drafting only helps when there is a headwind or calm.¬†Also, everyone must climb their own hills but without drafting the lad, this old boy could be a week behind.

Ironically, over this ride we have met very few serious bicyclists going our way (the stranded sisters in Oregon do not count). We have met some of them on the trails in Pennsylvania and some in¬†Maryland but we have yet to be overtaken by anyone. Without question there are scores who can, we just have yet to meet one. We have had a couple who have tried. Like the one guy out of West Newton riding a hybrid. I saw him at the begining; a young, thin, quiet type prepping his bike near us. About a half mile up the trail I looked behind me and there he was 25 yds back. Hmmm. So Peter picked-it-up a “click”. Another quarter mile and he was maybe 50 yards back. So¬†pick it up another click and we never saw him again. I thought maybe he met a friend at a parking lot, Peter said; “We blew-him-up”. The best one though, was later the same day coming¬†to the end in¬†Cumberland MD. We were on the outskirts of the city, on the Trail, when totally out of nowhere this guy riding a hybrid comes up next to me. He’s probably 50 something dressed kind of weird with sneakers and his bike seat is set too low. His legs looked as if he had spent time on a bike but little else made sense. He made some pleasant remark as he passed us both. Pete is not going to let this go unanswered, I can tell. So I snuggle up behind¬†Peter and wait for his move. Sure enough, an open stretch and we blew by and keep on it but we are running out of¬†trail fast as the City Center is right in front of us with traffic and¬†pedestrians. This local knows all this and smoothly whips out in a street leaving us to brake hard and fend-off the tourists. That was fun!

There is one exception, this does not include Peter’s friend, Brian, who rode Oregon with us. Brian was in a world of speed unfamiliar to us, at least at the time. We’re in a bit better shape now, so who knows? Come on back, Brian!

It’s over!

July 28, 2008

at Assateague Island

Today, Monday July 28, 2008 at approximately¬†3:30 EST;¬†Peter, Jean and¬†I assembled on Assateague Beach, Maryland, walked to the ocean and dipped the front wheel of the bikes in the Atlantic. Emotions were there too as we did not know what to feel after starting the journey some ¬†51 days ago. I know we’ll all write more later. Tonite we are tired and the bed looks real good. So for now, we have done what we set out to do and it’s real sweet.

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