Hello from Calgary:
Let me start this last note where I began with my correspondence about 3 months ago. I was undertaking a personal challenge, to test myself physically and mentally while doing something I enjoy - riding my bike. It made sense to me to challenge others to use my quest as an opportunity to benefit the charity(yes) of your choice. (For Carolyn and me, our choice is the United Jewish Appeal of Calgary Jewish Federation.) Many of you have done just that and I am most appreciative. I urge all to consider how much those many wonderful organizations out there will benefit from you doing a touch more.
- I set out from home on August 22 and returned October 6. That’s a day for travel each way, 4 rest days and 40 days of being on the bike. (45 days is too long to be away from my family, my life. That said, if the trip had been 10 days longer, I have no doubt about my capacity to have kept going. (See previous note on Stockholm Syndrome.)
- I rode 6020 km (technically 6019.98). This includes side trips to Toledo, Ithaca, a cemetery, for milkshakes and lattes, etc. It does not include the 12 km we missed by virtue of forest fires - though the force majeure provision (see earlier email) says those of us funding on a per km basis should include these.
- in addition, my total vertical gain was 45.12 km. Some of that was minor ups and downs across the prairies; some of it was serious climbing at Big Horn Pass in Wyoming and the steep hills of the Adirondacks.
- this makes an average of 150.5 km per day distance and 1.13 km per day vertical. In US terms, the totals are 3741 miles (3748 including the fire miles), 148,043 feet of climbing, for an average of 93.5 miles and 3701 feet per day.
- I gained 3 pounds comparing my weight the morning I left to the morning after I arrived home. (I’ve written earlier about the quantity of food, I think it’s worth repeating. Breakfast was at 6:00 A.M. I’d eat as much as I could stuff in, usually a plate of scrambled eggs and bacon and toast and a muffin and some cereal with yogurt. I’d make a bacon sandwich (sometimes peanut butter and bacon on a bagel) to take in my pocket. There’d be a van stop about every 25 km. At the first morning stop I’d have my sandwich. At the next stop I’d have a banana and some cookies and trail mix. Lunch was usually a picnic spread and I’d have a huge sandwich with some salads and several cookies. Then 2 van stops in the afternoon. Often we’d arrive at the hotel at 2:30 or 3 and head out for a milkshake or a cheeseburger and a beer. That got us through until 6:00 when we’d devour dinner. Dinner was often a buffet and the view from the restaurant staff must have been like a plague of locusts attacking the food.)
- I had 3 flats and needed 3 new tires. (I’ll need to replace the tires on the bike when it gets home, so it’s like going through 5 tires.)
- I don’t have a count on the number of Guinness consumed - definitely not enough. Same with the morning latte - remarkable how many towns across America are lacking decent espresso. (note please - I have standards and don’t consider Starbucks in the acceptable category)
- 28 cyclists, 4 guides, 1 soigneur (massage therapist) and 2 soigneur family members set out from Astoria, Oregon. 1 bike rider (my friend Leigh) was injured in the first week. 7 cyclists dropped off in Missoula, Montana. 1 rider (Netherlands Marc) was injured in Vermont (his surgery is scheduled for today. The rest of us made it.
- of the 19 cyclists who went the whole way, a few took rides in one of the support vehicles somewhere along the way for various reasons: uncomfortable with riding on the Interstate (2); knee problems (1); using work as an excuse to rest and also avoiding weather (1); other (1). This means 14 of us rode “every freaking inch”.
- 5 hot towel shaves, 1 on each day off and one the last day in Portland, Maine. I highly recommend Paula at the Man Cave in Missoula and Alicia at the Mensroom in Portland. Take a miss on Rick at Cha Cha’s in Madison.
- doing the whole thing, almost all of it riding well and strong
- bonding with my fellow cyclists and with the support people. I feel I’ve made some good friends.
- playing a role as somewhat of a leader
-having a positive attitude through-out (with the exception of the morning into Ithaca)
- riding all climbs non-stop (except Big Horn Pass where 1/2 way up I had to get more clothes from the support van)
- getting stronger as the weeks went on
- the Gruppetto: a group of us rode together most of most days. We got along famously, supported each other well and had fun together.
- Leigh’s crash
- Marc’s accident
- the wet, cold, miserable morning into Ithaca
Observations on the weather:
- generally great cycling conditions
- very cold and wet going down Lolo Pass in Montana
- strong cross and head winds in South Dakota and Iowa; probably made the trip across the plains the hardest cycling of the whole event
- heavy rain into lunch one day in Iowa
- 2 days of light to moderate rain in Pennsylvania and New York (including the afternoon a group of us went off course for a short distance so April could put flowers on the graves of her grandfather and grandmother)
- cold heavy rain into Ithaca. (This was the low point for me. Thankfully I had ridden every inch to this point so I wasn’t about to quit. Scott, one of the guides, was a saviour in helping me and another rider work our way through the winds and rain and cold. His help at that moment will be one of my lasting memories.
- very cold the morning we rode downhill into Missoula and very cold every morning from New York to Maine. (The cold in the northeast was great in that it helped the leaves turn just as we were there. In New Hampshire particularly the roads on Sunday were packed with cars of people from all across the US out to see the sights. The locals call them “leaf peepers”.)
- morning mist on the lakes and rivers in Vermont
Going off the reservation (times not part of the scheduled day):
- going to Toledo with Dan McHugh
- going to Ithaca with Dan Smith
- going to the cemetery with April
- lattes and cheeseburgers and shakes and beer with all sorts of people
- dinner on my own in Madison (not schlepping to the home of the owner of Trek)
Memorable cycling moments:
- a 12 km climb in New York. I rode hard up the hill with Stacie (a former college distance runner; she’s the one who got engaged on the trip) and then racing down the other side, playing leap-frog with Lawrence
- doing a 40+ km team time trial with Michael in the rain after the cemetery
- slogging uphill and upwind in Iowa
- cycling for almost 100 km along the Lolo River in Idaho with Jim, Stacie and Jay
- Toledo when Dan M. saw his family
- Ithaca when Dan S. saw his daughter
- the beach in Maine when Dan S. saw his other daughter
-the beach in Maine, recognizing we were finished
Day off events (besides laundry and shaves);
- Andy at the bike shop in Missoula diagnosing my bike as having a birth defect
- sitting with Laurie the seamstress in Rapid City as she replaced a jersey zipper and gave me insights into life with a disabled Viet Nam war vet
- Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland
Scenery quickly brought to mind:
- drought in Oregon, Washington and Idaho
- no real mountains
- the ride along Lolo River
- the forest fires and smoke in Idaho and Montana (including flames along side the road as we neared Kooskia, Idaho)
- Spearfish Canyon, South Dakota
- Badlands National Park, South Dakota
- corn: from after the Badlands across Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and still on into New York. I now understand the importance of the corn lobby in the US Congress.
- the Mississippi River
- Lake Michigan
- rolling hills in Wisconsin
- Allegheny National Forest
-Adirondacks, Green Mountains and White Mountains in New York and Vermont
- New England leaves and colours
- the Atlantic
- I don’t claim this ride to be a heroic undertaking. I’ve not been off to war nor have I been battling a life threatening illness. It was a bike ride.
- for me this ride has been a journey and a physical challenge like none other in my life. At this moment I’m not able to understand the fullness of the impact on me. I’ll need time to reflect.
- I do know these things however... I rode across America with a group of incredible people. The routine, the pace and confined closeness pushed us out of our comfort zones. We rose early each day. Our bags were to be to the van no later than 6:00 am. We then took our breakfast and began our ride just after 7:00. We rode an average of over 150 km per day. When we arrived at our destination we showered and needed to be at dinner by 6:00 pm. Dinner was often some distance from the hotel. Arriving in mass we often overwhelmed the staff of the restaurants and we had long waits to be served. Despite these stresses my riding partners generally were gracious and good company. After dinner I would return to my room, lay out the next day’s riding gear, speak to Carolyn and fall into bed
- I arrived safe, satisfied and happy.
- for me, this was an epic journey, a great adventure
- I’m happy to be home. And was treated to wonderful greetings yesterday from each of the 5 Little People. Life is good in Calgary!
Thank you for the being with me along this ride. Your thoughts and encouragement were helpful and most appreciated.