Sunday, September 9, 2012

Cumulative Route (Final)

Of course this blog isn't complete without a picture of the final, full route:

As well as a view of the route in Google Earth:

And, if you're dying for more detail, here is a calendar listing each day's ride and distance:

And, no, I didn't ride today!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Day 85: Home, Sweet Home (or, New York, just like I pictured it!)

I did it. Wow. The sense of achievement really didn't hit me until I was crossing the George Washington Bridge. I then thought of starting this journey, 85 days and almost 4,000 miles ago, and was a bit overwhelmed, emotionally, by the scope of it all. Although my story is going to be that a gust of wind blew something into my eye.

I rode today with a lot of adrenaline and a bit like a man possessed. Rain and severe thunderstorms were again forecast for segments of my route -- which tends to lend wings to the feet (or whatever the biking analogue to that is) -- but, except for a few brief periods of light rain, many of which were sun showers -- I again was fortunate enough to dodge the really bad stuff.

Which has pretty much been the story of this ride. Bob and I had remarkably good weather, heat wave notwithstanding, an amazing lack of bike mechanical problems (I had two flats, total, both on the same day, back and front tires, from parking by the roadside in a bed of thorns - my bad), and a stunning absence of injuries/accidents (I slipped, mounting my bike, once). So I feel very lucky and blessed in many respects.

Not the least of which is in my spouse, Laura. She has been an enthusiastic supporter of this trip from the get-go -- even when it was clear that it perhaps didn't quite represent the summer plans she was hoping for. I couldn't have done it, nor enjoyed it so much, without our daily video chats and her constant cheer, good thoughts and well-timed care packages. Thank you, sweetie! I love you (kind of reminds you of the Barack and Michelle relationship, doesn't it?).

OK, back to the ride. Today's distance was just over 52 miles, and the total ascent was again a challenging 3,100 feet. Add in a constant headwind from out of the South, typically at least 10 mph, but gusting above 20 mph at times, and it wasn't a simple victory lap. But fueled by the desire to get home and put this one in the books, as well as a dread of getting caught up in vicious storms, I rode very strongly, with only a few rest stops, and didn't even pause to take pictures (which, as Bob can all too readily attest, is a shocking deviation from form). There was only one photo I really cared about -- and that would be at the end, in front of my building, with Laura. Plus, in truth, it was all familiar terrain at this point. However, once across the GWB, with the end in sight, I did pause to take one shot (see below) from my favorite spot on the Henry Hudson Greenway, just south of the Bridge.

So, some final statistics: Total mileage was 3,971 miles (I may have to do a 30 mile ride tomorrow, maybe including Astoria, Queens, to complete my Astoria (Oregon) to Astoria (New York) trip at over 4,000 miles). But maybe not. Out of the 85 days on the road, 8 days were rest days -- but I rode the final 23 days without taking one. Bob and I were together for 60 of the 85 days -- missing 8 on our separate charges into Minneapolis, and then 17 at the end as we each headed towards our respective homes on more direct routes. Thanks, Bob! It was great riding with you and having you for company and a friend.

Thanks to all of you for reading and commenting and your many words of support. Maintaining this blog has been a bit of a tyranny at times, but it has also been great fun and allowed me to feel like I was staying in touch with my family and friends (and, since this gets posted on Facebook, I guess I'd better include friends of friends). I hope that sharing my journey has been fun for you as well, and maybe even a bit inspiring.

I'll post a cumulative route picture tomorrow (probably) and, if the muse strikes me, maybe some wrap-up thoughts in a few days.

Next comes re-entry into normal life. It may be a bit of a challenge. But I think I'm up to it.

Oh, and lest you think I had forgotten, here, for the last time, is today's route and metrics:

Day 84: West Point, NY

One day away, and I'm pretty darn excited - both about finishing and getting home. But I'm not making it easy on myself (which, maybe, is the right way to end a trip of this kind). Today's ride, from Rhinebeck to West Point, was 56 miles and over 3,200 total feet of ascent - with a lot of >10% gradients thrown in there. Add in a dash of headwinds and ridiculously high humidity and you've got all the ingredients for a hard day's ride. I arrived at West Point a sweaty, wilted mess and pretty exhausted.

As has often been the case during this trip, the day's biking was really a tale of two very different rides. Leaving Rhinebeck, and mostly taking back roads suggested by this excellent site (, was a lovely way to start the day. Except for about 3 miles total on Route 9G, I had really nice, empty roads and country scenery the entire 20 miles or so to Poughkeepsie. There, I took the Walkway Over the Hudson, a wonderful repurposing of an old railroad bridge, which, if you've never been to, is well worth a trip. It's over a mile long (the part above the water is less, about .6 of a mile), and the views North, South, East and West are just plain fun, giving you a perspective over the Hudson that is pretty unique.

Once over the Hudson, the ride South, until a few miles North of the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, was also delightful, taking me through tons of farmland and orchards brimming with apples, pears and peaches, on roads that were lightly trafficked, if at all. But the remaining about 15 miles to West Point, with the exception of the Storm King Highway, was neither scenic nor (Storm King Highway included) particularly safe. I ended up on long stretches of 9W that were four lanes, without shoulders, and the Storm King Highway is a treacherous, curvy ascent around the slopes of the Mountain of the same name, rising up to a height of over 420 feet (and giving amazing, panoramic views of the Hudson), but consisting of only two narrow lanes, also without shoulders, and many blind curves. And traffic, coming towards me, was very heavy, although, fortunately, quite a bit less in my direction.

I had 3 or 4 cases where cars whizzed past me so fast and close that I wanted to flip them the proverbial bird - and one where, without thinking, I actually did (although I'm sure the driver was going too fast to notice). Welcome back to the tri-State area, Roger!

Safety -- or, more precisely, feeling safe, is a peculiar thing. If I thought about it too much, I probably would never have even undertaken this trip. But, to a remarkable extent, the roads have been good and the close calls (knock wood) pretty much absent. But for the past few days, as my journey has neared completion, the potential dangers of the ride have been much nearer the surface of my consciousness. I think that's a natural reaction to being so close to being done, but not quite yet there - but it's an odd feeling to encounter at this late stage.

When I finally arrived at the first checkpoint for West Point (the Washington Gate) after the climb up Storm King Mountain, I was unfortunately told that it's barred as an entry point for non-military IDs (although, oddly, you can exit that way, and I have done so during prior visits to West Point). That sent me back out on the road, with more climbing and another, short and hair-raising stint on a divided, four-lane 9W without shoulders, to get to the Stony Gate entrance. Still more climbing (sheesh!) and, after briefly getting lost on the sprawling West Point campus, I arrived at my destination, The Thayer Hotel. Where I was promptly given Room 225. How perfect is that? (for those not in the know, I live at 225 West 106th Street, and the building, among its denizens, is often referred to simply as "225").

One quick postscript to my stay in Rhinebeck. Cari, the lovely owner/operator of the Looking Glass B&B where I stayed, besides providing fantastic accommodations (while also juggling the care of her two young children, ages 2 and 5), insisted on comping my night's stay in celebration of my nearly-complete journey, as well as part of her ongoing desire to purpose her Inn for social and charitable goals (although she didn't ask, I'll add my unpaid night's cost to my donations to ICM). Thanks, Cari! Yours was a very much appreciated kindness -- and a nice reminder of just how generous and well-intentioned the folks I have met on this trip have been.

It's been great.

Here are the penultimate day's route and metrics:

Friday, September 7, 2012

Day 83: Rhinebeck, NY

Phew. Today was a hard, but good, ride. Start with total distance of 65 miles, and ascent of 2,600 feet, both numbers I haven't seen (certainly in combination) for a while. Then throw in a steady 5+ mph headwind. Welcome back to the East Coast. Lots of short and steep ups and downs.

The mileage was my own fault. In planning my route home from Albany, I thought, based on a quick pass with Google Maps, that the Rhinebeck leg would be about 55 miles. But when I dug a bit deeper (I'm afraid only last night), it was clear that the shorter mileage relied, basically, on taking Route 9 most of the way. Big shoulders, but high traffic. So I scrambled a bit, looking for alternatives last night, and came up with routes that were, respectively, 65 and 72 miles, with an additional 500 and 1,000 feet of climbing. I'm not a total glutton for punishment, so I compromised and went with the 65 mile route.

This meant that the first 15 miles or so, out of Albany, were on Route 9J, the original Google Maps route -- and it was pretty good -- not wonderfully scenic (although some good views of the Hudson and the Catskills lurking on the other side), but good shoulders (with some serious exceptions) and low traffic levels. Except for the two times, both within literally a mile of my Albany hotel, trying to get to the bridge bike path across the Hudson to Rensselaer, when I mistakenly went on highway entrance ramps and had to beat hasty, wrong way, retreats. But once I got past those snafus, and put in my time on 9J, and finally went off-road, so to speak, with the longer mileage variation, the scenery really picked up -- orchards with apple and pear trees, horse farms, corn fields (a reliable scenery staple), lakes, open fields, etc. -- and the traffic basically disappeared. Good stuff! Good enough, in fact, that I've added about 5 miles to tomorrow's route to West Point (on the Rhinebeck to Poughkeepsie leg of the route) to try to replicate the experience. Once I'm in Poughkeepsie, a route I've done a bunch of times, I can basically ride my way home blindfolded (with empty back roads galore already part of the plan).

It's probably not a secret to any of you, but I'm pretty excited about getting home!

Not so excited, however, that I would forget to give you today's route and metrics:



Thursday, September 6, 2012

Day 82: Albany, NY and the Mohawk-Hudson Bikeway

Wow. I'm in Albany. I saw and rode along the Hudson at the end of today. It really feels as though I'm close to completing this quixotic journey. Three more days of riding, with stops in Rhinebeck and West Point on Thursday and Friday, and I should be home!

Today, with just a hair under 50 miles of travel, was an excellent day of riding. Part of that excellence, as was the case for yesterday (for which astute readers will note there was only a photo blog post -- this will have to do for the "color"), is that I stayed dry. And by that I don't mean that I skipped wine with dinner. Rather, I was pretty convinced by the weather reports that were predicting rain and thunder storms on my path with 80% and higher certainty, that today (and yesterday) would be challenging weather days. But today was actually sunny for large segments of the ride and, although there were threatening clouds hovering at different times, nothing came of it. I even had a tailwind for a lot of the day! Yesterday had headwinds, but, again, the threatening clouds stayed just that -- threatening.

So, in the game of low expectations being exceeded, today and yesterday definitely fit the bill. Which, almost by itself, made for good biking days.

Today's ride included approximately 35 miles on a paved, yes paved, bike path -- the under-publicized  Mohawk-Hudson Bikeway. It ranks up there (IMHO) with the best portions of the Pere Marquette trail and even Coeur d'Alenes. The terrain was curvy, with elevation ups and downs (which keeps it interesting), and the scenery was highly varied -- from paths through canopies of trees, to routes alongside the Mohawk River and its various locks, to urban passages (Schenectady strikes me as a pretty cool city), to travel by the lesser-known Cohoes Falls. Really good stuff. I didn't even look for parallel back country roads.

And did I mention that I'm in Albany which is, like, a real city? I'm ensconced in a Hampton Inn and having dinner at a restaurant with real Bordeaux glasses and red wine choices other than "house." By contrast, my stay last night in Amsterdam  (Day 81's destination) was at an America's Best Value Inn that I would politely describe as -- putrid. And the wine last night? Well, it was Fetzer red in a miniature airplane-size bottle, illegally procured (in the sense that the Billiards Hall, literally the only place open within miles with a booze license, wasn't supposed to sell it to me to go), and consumed in my hotel room with a takeout pizza (which actually wasn't bad).

Civilization -- and, by that, I mean Manhattan -- here I come!

Here are today's route and metrics: