Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Epilogue

Wheels in the Atlantic, August 18, 2009

Wheels in the Atlantic, August 18, 2009

Wheels in the Pacific, June 7, 2009.

Wheels in the Pacific, June 7, 2009.

Thank you

  • Thank you [??] to Howard Headley and Sue Petersen who, two or three years ago, discussed the insane idea of riding their bicycles across America.
  • Thank you to all those who were involved with the planning and preparation involved with turning Howard and Sue’s insanity into reality.
  • Thank you to Marshall and Ann Schilling, and to Suzi Wood for providing the support services for this tour. Without all of you, this undertaking would have been a whole lot tougher.
  • Thank you to all who followed us on our travels and supported us with your thoughts and comments of encouragement.

Stuff

Since we all knew that we were taking three support vehicles plus a travel trailer, we all went carte blanche on the stuff that we brought. As it turned out, most of us mailed a lot of our stuff home after about two or three weeks on the road (The person who mailed their rain gear home should have thought otherwise).

The rule of thumb for packing should have been: a) Gather and organize all of the stuff that you think that you will need for the trip. b) Reduce the gear that you collected in “a” by half. c) Reduce the gear that remained after step “b” by half. d) Once “c” has been completed, you probably have the correct amount of stuff.

Bicycles

A long tour such as this one forces the rider to gain a new respect and appreciation for these delicate, yet tough, transportation machines. As we crossed the country, we changed out a few tires and tubes, cleaned and lubed chains regularly, repaired a few wheel bearings and did little else. Yet our bicycles held together and continued to perform day-by-day under a variety of conditions.

Campsites

Camping in a different location for nearly all of the 72 days of our venture allowed us to sample a number of different campgrounds throughout the US and Canada. The following is a sampling.

The Best: Our last campground, Moorings Campground near Belfast, Maine. The only downside to this campground is the fierce mosquitoes that swarm after 8 pm.
The Worst: Republic, Idaho. One bathroom with one key for a number of campers. Cold water only in the shower and a toilet that leaked constantly.
The Noisiest: Whitefish, Montana. The trains that rolled through that place every 30 minutes sounded like they were coming right through your tent.
The Most Crowded: Traverse City, Michigan – nicknamed “Somalia.” Every campsite in this densely populated facility seemed to have a roaring campfire that kept the area thick with smoke.
The Scariest: Duggin’s Campground in Ontario, Canada. Every individual inhabiting this campground seemed to be drunk and have a big, mean dog.

The Routine

If there was one factor involved with this tour that might possibly make a person go insane, it was the routine. Each day, other than rest days, seemed to be a carbon copy of the previous day: Get up, eat breakfast, break camp, get on your bike and ride, reach camp, set-up camp, eat dinner, go to bed. At times we all felt stuck in a remake of “Ground Hog Day.”

America

Be assured that this country – at least the portion that we traveled through – remains great. The grandeur of the American landscape from the West, to the Midwest, to the East is awe-inspiring. The beauty that we observed from the saddle will forever remain etched in our memories.

America’s greatest asset is her people. The people that we met as we crossed this great land proved, in all cases, to be genuinely gracious and resilient individuals. People were always willing to give us directions and, in some cases, even shepherd us along our routes, all the while demonstrating a genuine interest in what we were doing. As we bicycled though areas of North Dakota and New England, for example, we encountered and chatted with people who safeguard their traditions and culture fiercely, while still supporting and defending the basic rights of all citizens. We observed and met individuals and communities who are suffering in today’s economy; yet, they still cling to the hope of a better future.

The Human Element

Initially 11 individuals started out on this venture, seven riders and four support people. The attrition began when the Schillings’ grandson, Cole, missed his buddies in Pendleton and opted to go home. Two more individuals were lost when tragedy struck and Howard Headley was injured in a hit-and-run auto accident. We all hated to lose the leadership and spirit of Howard and Chicken from the group. Eight of the eleven soldiered on.

When eight individuals are put together for 72 days, there are bound to be some bad days that go along with the good. We certainly had some days when there was friction and disagreement within the group. For the most part though, group members were respectful of each other and tried to focus on the primary issue of this tour, which was the ride. Every individual harbored a passion for bicycle riding and looked forward to the ride as the best part of the day.

A Final Thought

Crossing the Northern Tier of the United States on a bicycle was not easy; it took a special commitment of time, energy and will. Those who were involved in completing the crossing, whether a rider or a support person, is entitled to savor a special sense of accomplishment for completing the crossing. Those involved also cannot help but have been changed, in some sense, by the venture – be it through developing a greater appreciation for camping or becoming more tolerant of others. Hopefully, these changes will be productive and positive.

C’est tout.

Bar Harbor, Maine.

Bar Harbor, Maine.

August 18, 2009: Belfast, ME to Bar Harbor, ME

The final leg, 62 miles from Belfast, Maine to Bar Harbor, Maine.  Everyone was hoping for a Sunday afternoon ride, but the rugged Maine countryside had different thoughts.  The day started off hot and humid, the rollers were in place, the road surface and shoulders were not even worthy of a mountain bike, much less road bikes.

One of Maine's wonderful shoulders.

One of Maine's wonderful shoulders.

Early this morning we set out – regardless of the conditions, as long as our bicycles remained functional and in one piece, we were going to finish this tour. It was only fitting that over the last two miles as we approached Bar Harbor, we would have to scale one last long, steep hill.

The final climb into Bar Harbor.

The final climb into Bar Harbor.

Early this afternoon we all assembled at the beach near the town peer in old town Bar Harbor and dipped our front tires into the Atlantic Ocean. After bicycling 4,259 miles and climbing a total of 140,825 feet,  the journey was completed.

Today’s Bicycling Distance: 62 miles.

Thanks from Mark and Sue to all the Northwest Parkinson's Foundation Contributors.

Thanks from Mark and Sue to all the Northwest Parkinson's Foundation Contributors.

Almost There…

Sue the lobster at Belfast, ME

August 17, 2009: Damariscotta, ME to Belfast, ME

During our off day we obtained some much-needed rest and recreation. Sunday night we visited Marshall’s Aunt Marge in Round Pond, Maine. Marge took us down to the waterfront area and we enjoyed a traditional Maine supper of clams, mussels, corn on the cob and, of course, lobster. The whole evening was perfect – thank you very much Marge!

Marshall and Marge.

Marshall and Marge.

Lobster feast at Round Pond, Maine.

Lobster feast at Round Pond, Maine.

We began today’s ride with the thought in mind that Maine had not been too kind to this group of bicyclists, visiting from the west. The combination of heat, humidity and steep rollers  has taken its toll on everyone. Regardless, we began to travel north towards Belfast, ME, 52 miles closer to our goal of Bar Harbor. The weather today was not as warm as previous days, but  the humidity was still evident. The map followed State Route 1 for most of the day, and although not as difficult as previous stages, today’s still presented some challenging hills.

The worst part about today’s cycling was the continual presence of automobiles in one’s hip pocket amidst the negotiation of Route 1’s narrow shoulders. On the flip side, today did give us the opportunity to travel through some of the quaint towns of northern Maine such as Camden and Belfast. Each of these communities really does have an individual charm of its own.

The Camden waterfront.

The Camden waterfront.

We are currently camped at Moorings Campground just outside of Belfast. Tomorrow’s ride will take us an additional 55 miles up the coast of Maine to Bar Harbor where, at long last, we’ll cast our collective gaze on the Atlantic Ocean.

Today’s bicycling distance: 52 miles.

…A belated birthday shout out to Howard Headley, who turned 69 (According to Howard) yesterday (Aug. 16).  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HOWARD !!

Last State!

Welcome to Maine

August 15, 2009: South Waterford, ME to Damariscotta, ME

August 16, 2009: Rest day in Damariscotta, ME

We’re resting today at Duck Pond Campground and exploring the nearby town of Damariscotta. This morning Chuck and Suzi met up with their nephew Chris and his family, and tonight we will enjoy a lobster dinner with Marshall’s Aunt Marge.

Yesterday’s ride from South Waterford to the coastal town of Damariscotta, about 110 miles south of Bar Harbor, was rough. The route could have accurately been described in a single word: “punishing.” The temperature was in the 90s, the humidity in the 80-90% range and the Maine rollers unforgiving. Matters were complicated by the fact that the roads traveled had literally no shoulders, on a Saturday when traffic was relatively heavy.

Approaching a Maine roller.

Approaching a Maine roller.

Ascending a Maine roller.

Ascending a Maine roller.

Fortunately everyone made it in safely, if a little wiped out.

Tomorrow we will bicycle about half of the 110 mile distance from Damariscotta to Bar Harbor, putting us in position to finish our adventure on Tuesday, August 18th, two months and eleven days after beginning it all in Anacortes, Washington.

Yesterday’s bicycling distance: 86 miles.

Over the Kan

Sue at the summit of the feared Kancamagus Pass.

Sue at the summit of the feared Kancamagus Pass.

August 14, 2009: Woodstock, NH to South Waterford, ME

Thursday night we slept in the shadow of what we thought might be our biggest obstacle of this ride – Kancamagus Pass, or the “Kan,” as the locals call it. Mount Kancamagus is the tallest peak in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and we learned of its legend as we approached its location. One lady in Vermont told us that she had a hard time driving over the Kan. A man in Woodstock told us that the Kan would make Breadloaf seem like unleavened bread.

New Hampshire's White Mountains

New Hampshire's White Mountains

The climb to the top of the Kan is six miles and it commences as soon as you exit the town of Lincoln, New Hampshire. As we climbed, we expected the mountain to rear her ugly head and throw up grades of 12 to 14%, similar to those that we experienced on the “Loaf.” Alas, with the exception of  some 8 to 9% grades two miles from the summit, the real steep stuff never materialized. As an added bonus, the descent down the east side of the hill was spectacular, offering  some great views of the White Mountains.

Sue, climbing the Kan.

Sue, climbing the Kan.

As the route continued, we descended into the town of Conway, NH. Shortly after leaving Conway, we crossed our final state line and entered the state of Maine.

Having left the Kan in our rear-view mirrors, we naively thought that we were out of the woods with climbing. How wrong we were. Just past the town of Sweden, ME, we faced some punishing rollers – one of which boasted an estimated incline of 20%. We still have about 200 miles left until we arrive in Bar Harbor. Tomorrow we will bicycle towards the coast of Maine and the town of Damariscotta, a distance of some 90 miles.

Today’s bicycling distance: 65 miles.

New State, Same Hills

Tomorrow's gonna hurt

Tomorrow's gonna hurt

August 13, 2009: Gaysville, VT to Woodstock, NH

Fearing hot weather and humidity, we departed from our camp at Gaysville, VT a little early, as we made our way to today’s destination, Woodstock, New Hampshire, a distance of some 80+ miles.

Since there was no sign at the border, this was our welcome to New Hampshire.

Since there was no sign at the border, this was our welcome to New Hampshire.

The Green Mountains promised more climbs today and did not disappoint. Some of the initial climbs were short, but steep. Later in the day, we encountered a few longer climbs that were not quite as steep, more reminiscent of the climbs of the Northern Cascades.

None of today’s climbs rivaled yesterday’s ascent of Breadloaf. A picture of a crude topographical map accompanies this post:  note the relationship between Breadloaf and tomorrow’s challenge, Kancamagus summit. Given that Breadloaf, at 14% grade, was steep enough to loosen the spokes of certain of our rear wheels, the climb tomorrow could be a real adventure.  Regardless, the route will take us into Maine and the last legs of this trip.

Today’s bicycling distance: 83 miles.

…….Due to fatigue and old age, we failed to recognize Chicken Headley’s birthday on yesterday’s post. A belated Happy Birthday Chicken!!

One of New England's covered bridges.

One of New England's covered bridges.

The Steep Part of Vermont

Welcome to Vermont

There was no rain on the horizon as we left Ticonderoga, NY and headed for Gaysville, Vermont, a distance of about 60 miles. The route started with a ferry ride across Lake Champlain to Vermont.

Crossing Lake Champlain

Crossing Lake Champlain

Vermont touts itself as the “Green Mountain” state, a moniker that we would begin to understand as the ride continued. The roads in Vermont may be simply characterized as *terrible* – they are peppered with potholes and cracked pavement, making riding hazardous.

In contrast, the Vermont countryside is very picturesque, full of dense forests and beautiful rivers; the towns are quaint New England bergs loaded with history.

One of the most striking towns through which we passed was Middlebury. One reason why this town was notable was due to the fact that between  Middlebury and a neighboring town, Ripton (home of the late poet Robert Frost), the Green Mountains suddenly became a challenge with 12% grades. The most challenging climb of the day was Breadloaf, a long steep pull that pushed 14% in spots.  The Green Mountains are not going to be kind, since we are looking at even more challenging climbs over the next two days.

Summitting Broadleaf.

Summitting Breadloaf.

We are currently camped at the White River Camp Ground in Gaysville, VT. Tomorrow’s ride will take us to Lincoln, New Hampshire, a distance of 81 miles.

Today’s bicycling distance: 60 miles.

Those Green Mountains are steep!

Those Green Mountains are steep!

Ripton, Vermont, home of Robert Frost.

Ripton, Vermont, home of Robert Frost.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.