Posted: Tue, 27 July 2004
JULY 27 AMERICA --- FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA
Today, on the 52nd day of our epic journey across America we reached the Atlantic Ocean in Rye Beach, NH. Our police escort first met us at the local Jr High School. After the group picture, we lined up two by two--all in our red, white and blue jerseys--and followed the police car--with its lights flashing and its siren sounding at all intersections--along the 3 mile route to the beach. It was an immensely HAPPY ride. We had done it...I had done it!!
Meg's flat tire on the way to the beach
We arrived together, we acheived our goals together, we met the Cross Country Challenge together. A team of 26 individuals from 18 states (and France), with diverse backgrounds, and widely varying ages, with mutual support and encouragement, successfully rode our bicycles from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. An unbelievable feat...a 3800 mile trek across the mountains, rivers, plains, cities and towns of this immense and beautiful nation.
I am so PROUD! ...and thankful.
*Proud to have reached my individual goals.
*Proud to have been a part of this marvelous group of people.
*Proud of the support I received from SO MANY: my family and friends
who could not have done more.
We will remember this day always. The great memories of our travels will enrich our lives forever. We have done something that few have done, that is both a physical and mental challenge, and we all had our own personal reasons for doing it. From sharing our thoughts and emotions at our final banquet it is abundantly clear that each of us is somewhat changed today after meeting the challenge. It meant SO MUCH, in so many different ways to all of us to cross the finish line at Rye Beach...to complete the mission.
I was pleased to see so many supporters at the beach, many with signs, cheering for their rider. My fraternity brother, Jim Cullen, and his wife Carolyn were there. The Schellengers, friends from Naples, were there with a video camera, and Sheila and Sandy, two great girls who were sorority sisters of Betty, also came to the beach to see this amazing finale. We shared a champagne toast beachside.
We carried our bikes through the sand to the water's edge for the tire dipping and the photos. I was dunked by Mason, but he was underwater as well. Soaking wet, we were both interviewed by the local Portsmouth, NH paper, whose reporter had been briefed by reading this website. So many of the family members and friends of the bikers expressed to me their thanks for this daily website journal that enabled them to follow our progress across America. I feel gratified by their comments.
Mason, Bill and Joe
Mason and Joe were awarded the "Spirit of the Ride" awards by AbB for their leadership and exemplary attitude and conduct during the 7 1/2 week ride. Deservedly so! Proudly I carried the trip mascot, the chicken, to the beach today. It was awarded to me primarily because of the meaning this voyage had for me, and for the benefits to others that can be the result of the funds raised for The American Cancer Society.
Farewell dinner in Kittery, ME
Our "lobsta" dinner party in Kittery, ME this evening was an appropriate closing ceremony for our journey. We sadly said our good-byes to biking friends--one by one--with fondness and mutual respect. We spoke of reunions and bike trips where we could meet again. That remains for the future. What we all knew and expressed in so many ways, was that we had all experienced a journey of a lifetime, with memories to be savored forever.
Posted: Mon, 26 July 2004
JULY 26 MEANDERING IN MASSACHUSETTS
Breakfast at Friendly's
We rode today from Greenfield to Chelmsford,an 85 mile route through the towns, rural areas, and scenic spots in Massachusetts. Our straw poll put Mass. among the top three states we visited in terms of scenery and interesting sights. The other two are California and Colorado.
French King bridge
It was a long day on the road with a variety of riding conditions. There were more hills than we wanted, fewer downhills than expected, and an abundance of rough road in the cities. "Big Dawg," who finishes first every day, was challenged to ride with the "scenic group" all day today. We bet he couldn't do it, as he doesn't like to stop EVER, and we like to stop OFTEN. He stayed with us all day, helping to fix flat tires, taking pictures, ACTUALLY TALKING while riding--and not worrying about being first to the motel. He loved it. We knew he would.
Happy Hour in Chelmsford
Tonight after dinner AbB hosted our final banquet. It was a blast in many ways...and sad in some respects. The riders spoke eloquently about the trip and what it meant to them personally. The theme was of course togetherness. Stories were told, small gag gifts were presented, and we laughed as we recalled many of the funny and strange things that happened along the way. I was given the honor of carrying the "chicken" on its final voyage to the Atlantic Ocean (but that is a story for another time).
It is late--and in the early morning we depart on our final day of the Cross Country Challenge. We have almost made it. Tomorrow will be a joyous day on the beach in New Hampshire!
Posted: Sun, 25 July 2004
JULY 25 BIKING THE BERKSHIRES
Today's ride was billed as one of the 3 toughest climb days of the trip. That would put it in the company of Donner Pass in the Sierras and Monarch Pass in the Rockies. I DON'T THINK SO. In fact, I'd like to do this ride AGAIN someday. It had everything: climbs, great downhill runs, beautiful mountain scenery, prim and proper New England towns, good roads, and interesting sight seeing from a bicycle seat. We even got to watch motor cycles racing by us through these mountain curves, as we slowly pedaled upward.
It was a 75 mile trip from Troy, NY to Greenfield, Mass with 5260 feet of elevation gain consisting mainly of 4 major climbs. These climbs in the Berkshire Mountains were steep, but shorter in duration than either Donner or Monarch. This was also day #50 of our trip, so we are much stronger and more fit. We were not at the high elevation from sea level that we experienced in the West, so breathing was less difficult today. We have also gained the confidence and experience needed to climb successfully. The combination of all these factors made today's route challenging, but not intimidating.
Atop the Berkshires
The New England towns we rode through were indeed a highlight. Grafton was charming, and Williamstown, home to the Williams College campus, looks like it was fabricated by central casting for "the ideal small Eastern college town." We rode through North Adams (less ideal), had lunch in Charlemont while the towns folk celebrated "Yankee Days," and then rode parallel to the Deerfield River into Shelburne Falls. Joe and Mason took the opportunity to go for a swim at the glacial potholes there (I don't know why). As we crossed over the bridge we could see the beautiful "Bridge of Flowers." It was the old bridge that was scheduled to be torn down until the town ladies came up with the plan to make it into the beautiful flowered catwalk that it is today.
Williams College Campus
Today's ride from Troy was on Route 2 all the way into Greenfield's "rustic" (ie. nearing condemned statis) Candlelight Motor Inn. My friends, the Clarks from Naples and nearby Longmeadow, Mass picked me up--at the "Inn"--for a dinner out and an enjoyable evening.
Overlooking North Adams, MA
Tomorrow evening AbB is hosting a party for US, and Tuesday evening we are hosting a party for US. I love a party!
Posted: Sat, 24 July 2004
JULY 24 FOLLOWING THE MOHAWK RIVER
The realization that in only a few days we will have reached the Atlantic Ocean is with us constantly. We are relaxed about the daily rides, totally unconcerned about the day's mileage, or the amount of climbing ahead, or the weather. We are just ENJOYING ourselves, enjoying the biking, and our time together. We stop often, we come in late in the afternoon; what's the hurry?
Route raps are a lot of laughs now. The "chicken" was presented to Michelle of AbB who has been the staff person who has always been there for us--every day encouraging us, looking out for us, and helping us reach our goal. We had a number of funny "honorable mentions" tonight (which I won't get into) as well. There is a much give-and-take among the group that has been together now for 7 weeks. The T-shirt exchange was also held tonight. Fun! My "Hooters" T shirt was widely coveted, and after many "take-aways" finally ended going to John (ME).
We rolled onto Route 5 in Little Falls this morning and basically followed the Mohawk River 83 miles to Troy, NY where it meets the Hudson. Initially we rode a ridge high above the river and could see for miles down into the Mohawk Valley. The bike path on Rt 5 is excellent and WIDE so we can ride in twos and talk. It was a beautiful, sunny but chilly morning that would turn cloudy later on, and then sunny again. We went through the towns of St. Johnsville, Fonda and Amsterdam; all towns I knew or had visited while growing up in Central NY. It was sad to see how these towns had regressed as the old industry mills moved or were shut down. Really, only the beauty of the River and the locks and the countryside remain, the factories and the jobs are gone.
Near Rotterdam we entered the Mohawk Bike Path trail and stayed on it almost the last 30 miles to Troy. I could see the State Capitol Building in Albany as we crossed the Hudson River into Troy. RPI, the engineering university, is located just behind our hotel and some of the boys went up on campus to have a look.
I would normally have liked the bike path, as it followed the Mohawk River and passed by several locks, functioning, as well as remnants from the old Erie Canal. BUT, it was poorly maintained and very rough riding on my poor TREK (and body). Oh well, no need to complain...we are almost THERE.
Posted: Fri, 23 July 2004
JULY 23 HOME AGAIN
Smallest chapel in America
Our bike route today took us within 5 miles of Rome, NY---my hometown! I had never traveled on most of these mainly back country rural roads before, but the directional signs to all the towns were very familiar. I was back were I grew up, and what a welcome awaited me. As our group of riders pulled into Westmoreland, there were balloons, signs, several people gathered, and the MEDIA. TV news from a local Utica station was filming our arrival and then did an extensive interview with me about the Cross Country Challenge and the fund raising effort for the American Cancer Society. My hometown newspaper, the Rome Daily Sentinel, covered the event. My family was there also, which made it all very special. Following all the "hoopla" we had lunch before departing for Little Falls.
Mike relaxing on the road to Little Falls
My brother and sister-in-law decided to ride with us the last 30 miles. We said we would ride slowly and gave them a little head start. Then -as planned- we caught them and flew by hoping that they would think our pace was extroadinarily fast. They seemed a bit stunned at first, but quickly realized that it was all a joke. They rode well, and I'm sure enjoyed our stops for watermelon and ice cream along route 5 in Central NY.
The scenic group enjoying watermelon
The morning ride preceding lunch was WET from a steady rain and SLOW as we exited Syracuse through traffic lights, industrial parks, neighborhoods, and railroad tracks. We had an 85 mile ride in front of us and were in no particular hurry. Our arrival in Little Falls late in the afternoon gave us little time to clean our bikes and shower before route rap.
In addition to my family, I brought a guest to route rap today. He is a friend of one of my fraternity brothers who asked if I would introduce him to our group. His name is Alan, and he did have a chance to talk with several of our riders. He was an avid cyclist himself who had trained on the same routes we were now taking across the state. That is-- until he was struck by a car and left partially paralyzed. He can't cycle anymore, but he sure did enjoy this brief time talking with people who all have a common interest...taking a bike ride for the pure joy of it.
Posted: Thu, 22 July 2004
JULY 22 "CUSE, CUSE"
The cheer you hear at Syracuse University basketball games is, "Cuse, Cuse." We may all be chanting the same thing in appreciation after our visit to this Central New York city. We especially enjoyed our time here.
Syracuse was the stopover we have all been waiting for, as David has been planning our entertainment for weeks. In his hometown, he has taken on the responsibility of making sure we all have a good time. He arranged a boat trip with dinner on Skaneateles Lake for the bikers. He suggested a restaurant and made dinner reservations for 13 of my family members who had come here to support my journey. He did a fabulous job in making this stop one we will all remember fondly.
The Family In Biking With Bill Shirts
It was really GREAT for me to see all my family gathered in one place. They came with welcoming signs, cookies, cameras blazing, my lost biking jersey which they located somewhere in Utah, and a wonderful outpouring of support for my cross country journey. THANKS!
The supportive family
Mason, Chuck and Bill
The bike trip today was a short 63 miles from Canandaigua to Syracuse through the Finger Lakes Region. We slowed down in the picturesque towns of Geneva, Seneca Falls, and Waterloo to take in the scenery. We walked to the end of the pier on Seneca Lake and took pictures into the haze covering the lake at this time of the morning. We stopped for rootbeer at a stand in Waterloo, and for lunch in a rustic old inn in Camillus. It was a hot and humid day with some hills to challenge us from time to time. We did move quickly, however, as we all had plans for the afternoon and evening.
On the pier in Geneva
It is a tired and happy group tonight. We'll be back on the road first thing in the morning.
Posted: Wed, 21 July 2004
JULY 21 "THE CHOSEN SPOT"
It was hot and humid today as we cycled 94 miles from Hamburg to Canandaigua, NY. My spandex biking shorts and my biking jersey were white with salt from perspiration at the end of the day. The long sweaty ride was intensified by the rolling hills of Western New York State. The total climb was 3210 feet over the course of the day. Racing downhill, building momentum into the hill, then shifting several times to reach the top was the "play of the day." It is TIRING... when spread over 94 miles.
Short rest stop
The morning ride included a pleasant tour through the affluent suburban towns of Orchard Park (passing by the Country Club) and Aurora (where posters announce upcoming polo matches). These Buffalo suburbs may not appear attractive to many of us in the dead of winter, but on a beautiful summer morning these towns are most appealing.
I only had one pancake!
We picked up Route 20 again and rode its wide shoulder bike path over the hills, down the cooling descents, and through construction sites all the way to Canandaigua. We had a SAG stop in the charming town of Avon--in a park situated in the main downtown area. After lunch in a nearby restaurant, we headed out to complete the last 25 miles...MORE HILLS, MORE HEAT.
SAG stop in Avon
Our mechanics, Vern and Brantley, had a busy time at "mechanics hour" this afternoon. We were lined up to get help in keeping our bikes in top shape. These guys can get rid of any click, or wobble, or shifting problem we throw at them. I have NO complaints with my TREK 5200. It has performed very well for me. We have spent a lot of time TOGETHER these past 43 days. Mike (NJ) tells me his computer has recorded 235 hours actually "in the saddle" so far.
Joe helps Mason fix a flat
Canandaigua means "the chosen spot" in the language of the Seneca Indians who settled here in the heart of the Finger Lakes. Glaciers formed Canandaigua Lake and left lush green rolling hills that now are filled with vineyards supporting a growing winery business. The boys from the Midwest continue to be impressed with NY State.
Wait until they take the boat ride tomorrow in Skaneateles!
P.S. The "chicken" award was presented today to Kevin, the high school boy who just joined us. He didn't finish the 94 mile ride today until 5:15pm----a long day on a bike. BUT, he then went back out on the road to ride 6 more miles in order to complete his first century. GUTS, he deserved the recognition!
Posted: Tue, 20 July 2004
JULY 20 "I LOVE NEW YORK"
Joe said it again this morning. Every day as we leave the motel on our bikes, he says the same thing: "This is going to be the BEST BIKING DAY EVER"! He means it. We all laugh, but every day something really memorable happens.
Today we showed the boys from Iowa, and California, and Indiana, etc. what Upstate New York is all about. We rode for 82 miles from Erie, PA to Hamburg, NY hugging the coastline of Lake Erie. We traveled mainly on routes 5 and 20 through the towns of Barcelona, Dunkirk, Silver Creek and Derby into Hamburg, NY, which is known for "being a half hour drive from Buffalo" according to my informed sources.
Bill and John arriving in Hamburg
We departed from downtown Erie at 7:00 am and were at the NY State line in about an hour for the obligatory photos. We caught glimpses of Lake Erie from time to time as we rode, but it was not until we reached the town of Barcelona that we had our best lake view. There we stopped at the Daniel Reed Memorial Pier and marina which offered a great scenic overlook of the harbor, the boats, and this magnificent Great Lake. The boys from Iowa (and elsewhere) were impressed. I don't believe that any of us knew that this Western NY Lake Region was as big a grape growing area as it is. We passed numerous large vineyards and small wineries located on the slopes leading down to the lake. The transition from cornfields to vineyards was a pleasant change. The countryside, the weather, the excellent bike path on the highway, our revived energy level following a rest day, all made for a great ride day...just as Joe had said.
Kenny and Tom at the state line
Big Dawg, our tug boat friend from Alaska and the first rider in every day, told us at breakfast this morning about a SPECIAL lunch treat he had planned for us. And indeed he did. His friend owns the Sunset Grill in Silver Creek and was offering "the Big Dawg Special," a $3.99 combo: foot long hot dog, curly fries, and drink. At least 25 "specials" were sold to our crew, as Big Dawg helped at the grill. Capped off with a big dish of ice cream, we had a great lunch.
Vineyard near Lake Erie
After getting a new tire--called an "Armadillo" for its toughness--following a blowout of the tube and tire, we raced the last 20 miles to Hamburg. Not really a race, but we rode consistently at 22/23 mph on good, flat pavement. We, in fact, averaged 17+ mph for the day, which may be my quickest day's average. It was fun to "air it out" a bit today.
We had 4 new people join us in Erie for the rest of the way: Rick (PA), Fred (NH), and a high school boy, Kevin (WA), traveling with his Aunt Robin (ME). They got off to a good start by having dinner with us in Erie last night at a terrific Irish Pub.
Dinner at the Irish Pub in Erie
This weeks issue of The Sun newspaper in Hamburg has a nice article about Mason's bike ride for the Army Emergency Relief Fund entitled: Ride for a Cause...West Point Graduate Raising Money for AEF. It tells about our Cross Country Challenge ride and devotes some space to my ride for the ACS.
As an old Up Stater, I can truly say "I Love New York" for all of us today!
PS My thumb and hand are fine after a little incident on a wet road last Saturday.
PPS Some stats: 43 days, 3225 miles, 10 centuries, 10 flat tires, 3 new tires, a few crashes ...now in the record book.
Posted: Sun, 18 July 2004
JULY 18 ERIE ON THE LAKE
We completed our marathon --400 miles in 4 days-- with a 98 mile jaunt from Austintown, OH to "beautiful downtown Erie, PA." Actually, I'm not even sure Erieites would claim the "beautiful" part, but we have a day off here and the cycling gang will have a chance "to check it out." We are only a few blocks from the waterfront on Lake Erie, staying at a former Hilton 5 star hotel. Well, to be truthful, it has over time lost the Hilton name (and the majority of it's former stars). The (former) swimming pool sits empty--but not the bar! We often have a little "celebration" on a night before a day off. Steve (CO), actually celebrating his 51st birthday, suggested tequila shots to the group. You'll have to guess if anyone took him up on it. Tim, also had a birthday (50th) yesterday...so we had 2 cakes to devour after dinner.
Steve's birthday cake
Dale left for Tucson yesterday, and Cliff goes back to Annapolis today; both great guys who left with the best wishes from all of us. Last night at dinner Dr. Cliff, who has now been on 4 Cross Country Challenge trips --as he is doing it in segments-- had some kind words for our group. He said that of all the groups, we were "the friendliest, most welcoming, most mutually supportive and fun" cycling group he had met. A STRONG ENDORSEMENT!
The ride to Erie was diverse: when you cover 96 miles you get to see a LOT. We were on backroads often, but highways as well. We passed farmland, small towns like Wayne Center and Lake City, some industries, and rode through just plain American neighborhoods. I sometimes think about our French bikers as we pass through these areas, they have to be IMPRESSED with America. I am everyday!!
We had a great lunch in Conneaut, PA at a root beer stand with a picnic area out back. The Sunday crowd was there. We again seemed to be viewed as aliens. But folks are always interested in what we are doing and AMAZED when we tell them. Our best stop of the day took place shortly thereafter; it was at a roadside fruit and vegetable stand. We were having some raspberries and cherries when we noticed Joe (TX) with a big WATERMELON he was carving up for all of us. We ate the whole thing...what a treat.
Watermelon on the road
We had more rolling hills and valleys today. We even passed some vineyards in Pennsylvania...in this case I was hoping that our French friends didn't stop to sample the wine. We were again in Amish country. We followed the familiar black Amish horse and buggy on one back country road for a while. From behind we could see only the the lower half of the horse's legs as it clip-clopped along. It was actually funny watching that, as the legs and hooves seemed to be DANCING on the road.
We entered Erie in a welcoming rain. We yelled approval at a Jr. High School sign that said: GO Lance...Go For Six!! We saw many of the decorated frog statues that Erie has placed around town, and affluent neighborhoods--and some less so. All in all a pretty good day on the bike.
Arriving in Pennsylvania
Posted: Sat, 17 July 2004
JULY 17 RAINY DAY TO AUSTINTOWN
When I was young my grandmother used to tell me that sometimes I didn't "know enough to come in out of the rain." She may not have been serious, but today I proved her right. We were out riding in the rain all morning from Wooster to Austintown, OH, a distance of 91 miles.
We departed the hotel in our Hi-Vis Yellow rain gear and headed for the backroads that we have been travelling in Ohio. It was a cool, gray day with rain expected most of the morning. The steady rain soaked us. Our shoes, pants, and glasses were drenched. Certainly it is more difficult to bike in the rain: the roads are slippery, the pot-holes less visible, it is tougher to see clearly. However, we were in no rush - we had all day to complete the ride.
SAG Stop in the rain
We passed a LARGE commercial dairy farm that held about 2000 milking cows (according to my farm consultant, Tom (IA)). They were housed in buildings with individual stalls, which apparently they never left. This was not the little family farm with "Bessie" coming in at the end of the day to get milked. We also noticed that many of the farms had oats as a crop in addition to the corn and soybeans. Mason, John and Joe spent some time at a pig farm (why I'm not sure).
Yesterday I mentioned that we have had a couple of accidents with injuries. I know that statements like that can alarm the friends and families of the bikers. That is certainly not my intent--and let me assure you that EVERYONE is ok--no one has been seriously hurt. Unfortunately, biking accidents sometimes occur in spite of our best efforts to ride safely to prevent them.
Meg, Dale and Mason at Cracker Barrel
The total climb today was 2670 feet. We encountered mainly rolling hills that were less steep and less frequent than yesterday. The town of Canal Fulton with its cobblestone streets and manicured lawns looked like a perfect little village, even on a dark, cloudy day as we passed through.
The route through Ohio has been very pleasant for all of us. We have had some rain and some rough pavement, but the backroads chosen for us to take through the state have really been enjoyable.
Route Rap in Austintown
We are planning our final days parties now. The realization that we are approaching the Coast is apparent. Our odometers tell us we have gone over 3000 miles. Tomorrow we will enter Pennsylvania and a rest day in Erie. The group continues to get along great. We are truly a compatible bunch!