Saturday, August 25, 2007

A New Kind of Roast

Dispatches from the Frontier of Human Powered Travel in the Great American Outback

Yesterday's ride started out well, but after I posted a blog update, I pedaled into a soggy furnace. Not my longest day, nor one with the most climbing, but near the top of the difficulty scale because of the 90+ temps and high humidity. I had grandiose plans to make it to Palmyra, but there was NO way that was going to happen. The country was beautiful, but it was viewed through a fog of sweat and strain. Well, this is what I signed up for. At one point (see the picture below), I stopped in the shade of a mausoleum surrounded by gravestones. I understood how they all felt. The picture says a lot, I think.

As hard as that ride was, the night that followed was worse. I needed a place to stay and headed out to a park near a lighthouse. I talked to the two docents, and--wonderful!--they made it their mission to find me a place to set my tent. One of them, Edi, had me come to her house. I later pitched my tent in the back of their home on an enormous lawn virtually walled in by some kind of cypress. No wind could penetrate. A storm was due in that night, so I protected everything and kept the fly to the tent ready. I crawled in after dinner only to begin the supreme discomfort of a close, hot, damp unmoving air trapped in my nylon sarcophagus. Death by insects or suffocation? My legs had been totally ravaged below the knee at my previous camp by some phantom piranha circling in the air about the shores of the lake, so my skin burned with a raging itch only made worse by the heat. The storm was only sound and fury at Sodus Point where I was camped, so I didn't even get the cooling effects of the rain.

The morning finally came, a blessing and a curse. The night was over, but the daily roast was about to begin again. The good news was that I was only riding 30 miles to my next stop where showers and cycling friends awaited. I did enjoy Pultneyville, which has an amazing historic district of 19th century homes. Today, after the ride, I rejoiced in a blessedly cool shower, did laundry, hung out with my hosts. Still scratching, but I'm starting to feel normal again. Tomorrow it's on to the Erie Canal Tow Path, some interesting civil engineering features, great history, and about 90 car-free miles.

Until next time, this is your correspondent signing off.

Portrait of the Artist as a Thrashed Athlete:

A short video of cycling on this hot day...

Friday, August 24, 2007

To the Inland Seas

I'm officially out of the New York mountains and slogging it out across the upper state. I spent last night on the shores of Lake Ontario, the last ocean I'll see until the Pacific--amazing.
I awoke in Boonville in a camp tucked into the far reaches of a fair grounds. Up half the night doing battle (not!) with a skunk, I struggle out of my tent into a dim morning, the sky hanging like a vast beef steak gone bad, an immense grey slab of meat hanging low over the earth. Not inspiring. But it was cool and not raining--yet--so good enough for cycling.

I'm a constant source of interest wherever I go. I end up answering the same questions a lot (where from, how far, did you make that...?), but this offers me a way to open conversations and meet folks, so I have to be patient. The people continue to amaze me with their generosity and kindness. I expect that experience to be one of the greatest legacies of the tour for me. What a great bunch of people we have in this country.

I crossed the 700 mile mark officially this morning. My body has mostly adapted to the demands of the tour. The various bits and pieces may complain a little, but they know their work: a 4 to 7 hour spinning class every day.

Soon I'll be on the canal path, about 90 miles of car-free bliss and then Niagra Falls. I wonder if anyone has ever ridden a German recumbent over the falls?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Ack--a 'Dack Attack!

Been in the dark zone lately as I struggled across the Adirondacks. Fortunately, they just aren't as steep as the rest of New England, so the going was easier--though my second day in totaled 3,500 ft of climbing. The place is a bit wild with neat little towns sprinkled here and there. The riding has been wonderfully cool, as good as I could have ever hoped for. I know I've got more heat in my future, but this has really been working out in my favor.

I'm out of the mountains now, so I've got a lot of easier going--like weeks and weeks of it. I'll be begging for the Rockies by the time I hit Pueblo. I'm currently in Boonville, NY, if you want to look it up on a map. As usual, I have no idea where I'm going to stay, but it's only a little after 3pm here, so I've got time to work things out.

I had a neat encounter back in the hills. I was hunting down a campsite, starting to take a local's advice, when I didn't like the fact that I was headed off my route. I spun around, got back on route, and was promptly hailed by a boisterous group of TransAm riders from Adventure Cycling. There was one woman in the group who had recently turned 70. Gotta love that. We had a great time. It's funny how the road seems to provide just what you need when you need it. I got a good jolt of motivation by being around people who had already been on the road for over 80 days.

The shots of the town are from Blue Mtn. Lake where I had a rest day. And the chairs? Well, you've seen the mountains, now dig the furniture!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Last of the Worst

Dispatch from the frontier: Middlebury, Vermont

Yesterday was another big one. This professor is getting schooled in New England: I now have a Master's in Getting My Ass Kicked. As my title suggests, I think I'm over the worst of it. The early part of the day found me in a soggy camp. A light, steady rain started during the night and continued off and on for much of the morning. It started to break up around noon, but I rode for some distance in my rain gear.

I assaulted the "Bread Loaf" climb to Middlebury Gap. This had yet another 2 mile torture ramp of 12%. What is it with these New England road builders? They all must have studied in San Francisco at the Hyde St. School of Civil Engineering. Below is one of the steeper bits that required me to get off Mojo.

I am now in the land of Robert Frost. I found this poem that I think speaks well to my journey:

Forget the myth
There is no one I
Am put out with
Or put out by.

Unless I am wrong
I but obey
The urge of a song:


I rolled into Middebury a bit late, and after shopping, really had to scramble for a place to stay. I eventually stuck my head in a just closed cafe, and one of the workers, Julie, a host, offered me a spot in her flat. Presto. The road turns and provides. She was a great host. Thanks, Julie!

Today, I'm bound for New York. Another state goes down--yeah. Below are more shots from yesterday's ride.