The Last Day

I was released from the hospital yesterday afternoon (Saturday). After my accident on Wednesday, my wife Angie, my son Domenic, and Angie’s sister Gina flew to Albany to be with me. It was great to see them. I just wish the circumstances had been different.

After more X-rays over a couple of days it was determined that my collar bone may or may not need surgery and the decision should be left to an orthopedic expert near my home town. So nothing has been done with the collar bone. It was also determined that although the lung puncture is no longer apparent, I still would not be able to fly.

So with that information in mind, the nursing staff spent Saturday morning preparing my collar bone and road rash for car travel and Angie and Gina spent the morning finding a suitable vehicle to drive home. No small task as it turned out with the upcoming holiday.

By early afternoon a vehicle was secured and we set out from Albany for what turned out to be a long but pretty easy drive. The original plan was to drive half way and spend the night and then complete the trip today. However, I was able to get comfortable in the rented minivan and Angie and Gina were able to split the driving duties between them and so with just a few stops we made the entire trip arriving home late last evening.

I am very grateful that Angie, Domenic, and Gina were able to come to my aid.

And so my ride is finished but not complete. The ending was overwhelming disappointing. But not the ride itself. The ride was amazing. The ride was wonderful. The ride was unforgettable. The ride was life changing.

I have done a few things in life that were frightening at the start. I have done a few things in life that seemed too big to take on at the beginning. I have done a few things in life that had me questioning myself and my abilities as I set out.

But nothing like this. This was so big it was hard to get my mind around it. So big it was hard to comprehend. And so I didn’t. I just peddled. One stroke at a time, one mile at a time, one hour, one day, one week, one state, and on and on.

And what I found along the way was amazing. I found that our country is big. It’s big and it’s vast. It’s also incredibly beautiful. And it’s diverse with beautiful deserts, tall mountains, rolling plains, rich farmland, thick beautiful forest, and so much more.

I also found that the people in our country are friendly and nice. I had so many wonderful conversations with so many very nice people in restaurants, convenient stores, hotels, and other places I stopped. Most were curious about my adventure and almost without exception they wished me luck and safe travels as I carried on.

I even found that most drivers were exceptionally cautious around cyclist, slowing down and giving us room. There were exceptions of course including the RV driver who played a part in cutting my trip short, but there are always a few jerks. I found them to be the exception.

I found a large part of our country that is struggling. I rode through more dying and abandoned small towns than I was prepared to. It was so sad to see the all but boarded up Main Street, the closed down diner and movie theater, and the no longer working neon sign of the Chevrolet dealership.

It was also difficult to see all of the flood damage from the extraordinary rain most of the country received this spring. So many rivers and streams were out of their banks flooding the adjacent land. Crop damage was an ongoing theme from Oklahoma to New York State.

But this is America and I saw lots of signs of hope. There’s a lot going on in the country I rode across. There are thriving towns both big and small. There is big industry and big agricultural all across the country. And there are amazingly nice and friendly people all across this great land.

Fifteen or so miles per hour is the perfect speed to absorb a country like ours. The right speed to smell the smells, notice flowers, yard ornaments, wind mills, and old farm implements. Things that are just part of the blur at highway speed.

It is not possible to describe this experience in a few words. I’m actually still in the process of comprehending the experience. But I can confidently say it was an incredible, overwhelming, experience that I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity to participate.

There is the matter of the final miles. The accident happened on the third last day of the tour and about 140 miles from the Atlantic Ocean at Revere Beach in Boston. I have to finish the ride I started. Once I heal I’ll be making plans to go back to Vermont and pick up where I left off. No time table at this time. Could be this fall or I may wait and join the Crossroads Cycling Tour next year for that part of the tour. But I will finish. Thanks for following along.

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Day 47 – Troy New York to Brattleboro Vermont – Disaster

Today we were scheduled to ride 78 miles from Troy New York to Brattleboro Vermont. I didn’t make it.

The day started out beautiful. The rain from yesterday was gone, the skies were blue, the temperature was pleasant and the winds were light. A great day for cycling.

It was clear from the beginning this would be a climbing day. At mile 4 we encountered our first hills. Nothing terribly hard but a steady diet of climbs in the 4-5% range that lasted for 10 miles or so. After the hills we had some nice easy peddling into the first rest stop at mile 23.

At the rest stop we were told that the big climb of the day was upcoming. A steep climb about 10 miles long. With that information in mind, I fueled up and headed out to climb. In just a short time the climbing began but it wasn’t difficult with grades in the 1-2% range. At mile 27 we reached the Vermont border and crossed into the 13th state of the tour.

Vermont is beautiful with it’s green mountains, small farms and towns and flowing waterways seemingly around every corner.

As we peddled on the climbing became steeper and more consistent. We climbed consistent 5-7% grades for the next 8-9 miles before reaching the top around mile 41. It was a slow grind up

As we reached the top of the climb we began a descent that was nice and smooth. It was a nice ride down for a few miles before disaster struck. Around mile 45 I was descending pretty fast knowing that the second rest stop was at mile 52 after which we would encounter the day’s second climb.

Although I was moving pretty fast on the downhill, I was comfortable and in control of the bike. However, without warning a large motor home pulling a trailer passed me at high speed and at an uncomfortably close distance. Immediately the buffeted air created by the rig struck me and through my bike into a wobble. A wobble I couldn’t recover from despite my best efforts. When the bike was wobbling and loose gravel appeared in front of me, I knew I was going down. The next thing I knew I was being loaded into a helicopter for evacuation to Albany Medical Center in Albany New York.

After several exams I was told I have a broken collar bone, some fractured ribs, a small lung puncture, and lots of road rash. I’m still in the hospital as I write this on day 48 of the tour. The rest of the group have ridden on and are now in Boston. Tomorrow they will ride a 17 mile parade route to Revere Beach and dip their wheels in the Atlantic Ocean. I will not.

The disappointment of not finishing is far greater than the pain of the injuries. I suppose at some point after I heal I can come back and finish the ride starting at the point of the accident. Technically I will then have ridden across the country but somehow it won’t be the same. I know stuff happens and we all have to overcome adversity from time to time. So I know I’ll recover and look back on this great adventure with nothing but fondness. But it just hurts right now. Thanks for following along.

Day 46 – Herkimer to Troy New York – And Then It Rained

Today we rode 85 miles from Herkimer to Troy New York, in the rain. Our route for most of the day was New York Route 5 East.

As the riders gathered for breakfast in a severely understaffed Denny’s Restaurant in Herkimer the conversation, as usual, was about the weather. Rain was moving into the area and was forecasted to bring showers for a good part of the day. By the time breakfast was finished and the bikes were prepared for the day’s ride, the overcast skies began to produce a few sprinkles of rain.

The sprinkles turned to light showers as we rode through Herkimer on our way east. The temperature was in the low 60s so the rain gear felt good and the light showers didn’t really affect the ride. I took a photo of an old bridge over the river just outside of town.

The showers continued for a while as we rode east passing through several small towns along the way. At mile 20 or so we passed by Fort Klock, a fortified farm house built in 1750 and used by the early settlers during the French and Indian Wars.

A few miles further up the road, NY Route 5 dipped down into the Mohawk River Valley and we rode parallel to the river for most of the remainder of the ride. Not only was the road smooth with a wide shoulder, there was only a modest amount of climbing. And to top it off, the rain showers subsided as we cruised along under the still overcast skies. The scenery along the river was gorgeous even on a gray day.

Our first and only rest stop of the day was at mile 41 at a road side rest area atop a hill. As I approached the hill and began the climb, the skies opened up and the rain came pouring down. I had removed my rain gear earlier and now I was soaking wet as I pulled into the stop.

As the rains came down, all the riders huddled under a small tent and waited for the downpour to stop. After 15 minutes or so the rain stopped but the skies were grey and looked like they were heavy with rain.

We fueled up at the stop and made the decision to ride on in hopes that the rain would not return. No such luck. Within 10 minutes or so the rain again poured down. It rained so hard that within just a few minutes the water was running down my back and filled up my shoes. And it didn’t stop for 20 minutes or so.

Eventually the rain did stop and before we reached our destination, the sun appeared. Along the way we just kept riding and as we did we slowly dried out.

Around mile 70 we rode into the town of Schenectady New York where we crossed the Hudson River. Just outside of the city we got on the Mohawk River Bike Trail and followed it most of the way to our hotel in downtown Troy New York.

Today’s ride was a pretty nice one even with the rain. I find that each day I’m enjoying the rides more and more knowing that there are just a few left.

Tomorrow we’ll ride 57 miles to Brattleboro Vermont. It will be a short day in miles but it is considered one of the hardest days of the entire tour as we’ll be climbing nearly 5,300 feet. I guess we have to earn this badge. Thanks for following along.

Day 45 – Syracuse to Herkimer New York – A Good Day But Some Bad Luck

Today we rode 71 miles from Syracuse to Herkimer New York. It was a good riding day but we had some bad luck in the group. More on that later.

Rather than describe today’s route I included a picture of the day’s route sheet that I carry on my bike. I use the odometer on my bike computer to reference the turn points on the sheet. That’s basically how I’ve been navigating the route across the country. I also have the daily routes loaded into the bike computer so it also gives me turn by turn instructions. Having both is kinda overkill or as one of the riders told me, a belts and suspenders approach. It works and it’s gotten me most of the way.

The weather was pretty good today with partly cloudy skies, cool temperatures, and very light winds.

We left Syracuse at our regular starting time of 7:30 so we had to deal with Monday morning rush hour traffic. It was a little hectic and it took us more than half an hour to get clear of the city streets and the congestion.

Once we were in the country, the route was very rural, as in out in the middle of a lot of nothing. Very few homes and farms and those that we did see were generally very run down.

At mile 25 we entered the little town of Canastota, a town of about 4,000 residence built on the Erie Canal. The canal has been preserved in the town and for several miles east, now part of a New York State Park. The people in the town are proud of what they have as a few came out to talk to us as we took pictures. They gave us a little history of the town and pointed out some things we might be interested in including a very nice mural painted on a building next to the canal.

Shortly after we left Canastota, we arrived at our first and only rest stop of the day at mile 33. After refueling we again found ourselves out in the country. However, we now found more and better kept homes and farms as we peddled along.

Near mile 53 we arrived in Utica New York, a pretty big town with a population of over 62,000. Unfortunately we arrived just before noon and had to deal with the midday traffic. The roads on our route through Utica were pretty rough so the riding was kind of tricky. At that time I was riding with Greg, Charlie, and Jeff and they wanted to stop for lunch. I didn’t want to deal with the traffic so I decided to ride on alone and get lunch at the end of the ride in Herkimer, just an hour or so up the road.

There’s not much between Utica and Herkimer but the road was pretty good and in a short while I arrived at the hotel. As I did, some of the other riders told me about another rider named Tom from Berra Ohio. Tom is a strong rider and is usually out ahead of most of the rest of us. Apparently as Tom was going through Utica today, he hit a pothole, snapped the front fork on his bike, and took a tumble over the bar.

Fortunately the support team was able to get to Tom within minutes of his call and get him some medical attention. A trip to an urgent care unit revealed just some minor scrapes and some bruising. His bike of course is not rideable and we’re just a few days from the end. After some deliberation and a few phone calls to some local bike shops, Tom was able to find a suitable bike to finish the tour. Really bad luck for Tom but it looks like he should be good to go and able to finish. I just hope he’s not so sore tomorrow that he’s in agony as he rides.

Tomorrow we’ll ride 85 miles to Troy New York just outside of Albany. The ride shouldn’t be too bad but there is a high probability of rain most of the day. After tomorrow there will only be two real riding days left as Friday will be just a 17 mile ride to Revere Beach to dip our wheels in the Atlantic Ocean. The end of this amazing adventure is very near. Thanks for following along.

Day 44 – Victor to Syracuse New York – Another Good One, The Streak Continues

Today we rode 86 miles from Victor to Syracuse New York. It was a nearly perfect day.

We travelled on a lot of county roads as well as New York State Routes 96, 5, 173, and 370.

The weather was chilly again this morning with temps in the low 60s. Vest and sleeves again for me. Sunny skies greeted us as we left the hotel and a very slight breeze out of the north, northwest. For the most part the roads were pretty good all day and were exceptionally good for the first 30 miles or so. By day’s end we would climb just over 2,800 feet but most of it, especially in the beginning, was nice easy rolling hills. Put it all together and it made for a really nice ride on a beautiful Sunday morning.

A few miles outside of Victor, a beautiful little town with a population of around 15,000, we came upon the tiny town of Shortsville. For me of modest stature, it seemed like a good photo opportunity.

Soon we were out in the country riding on very nice county roads and soaking up the peace and quiet of a Sunday morning. Very little traffic, blue skies, and rolling hills dotted with small dairy farms.

Around mile 28 we rolled into to the outskirts of Geneva New York, a small town with a population of around 13,000 located on the northern end of Seneca Lake, one of the New York Finger Lakes. Our rest stop at mile 30 was in a park near the waters edge of the lake. Beautiful on this gorgeous morning.

After the stop we continued east through the small towns of Waterloo and Seneca Falls. Beautiful little towns located between Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake. Unfortunately I was enjoying the ride so much I forgot to take any pictures.

At mile 41 we turned north out of Seneca Falls and navigated through the country side on a number of county roads. Along the way we found some more beautiful streams with rushing water so common in this part of New York. It’s hard to pass them without pausing for a moment.

On this great day the miles rolled by quickly and soon we peddled into our second rest stop of the day at mile 55. The location was a great little ice cream store called Classic Cones. With the available outdoor seating, it was a great place to enjoy some lunch and of course some ice cream.

Leaving the little ice cream shop we again found ourselves navigating country roads through rolling hills that provided wonderful vistas of the area. Really beautiful on this gorgeous day.

At mile 70 we found the little village of Camillus and just outside of the village, a preserved section of the Erie Canal. Only a few miles long, the section had an operating canal boat, lock, and a preserved aqua duct. An interesting place to visit.

The last few miles of the ride were as enjoyable as the rest and before we knew it we rolled into out hotel in Syracuse. Literally we rolled into the hotel as it’s become custom on the trip to ride the bikes through the automatic doors and into the lobby. We’re always warmly greeted by the hotel staff, most of whom are very interested in our trip. The end of a really great ride.

Tomorrow we’ll ride 71 miles to Herkimer New York. The weather forecast looks very promising and the route looks good. Perhaps the streak of great days will continue. Thanks for following along.

Day 43 – Hamburg to Victor New York – Another Good One

Today we rode 89 miles from Hamburg to Victor in the State of New York. It was a good one.

Our route included NY Routes 240, 354, 64, and 251. Our primary route however for a good bit of the trip was US Route 20 East.

As I do every morning when I wake, I checked the weather first thing this morning. The forecast called for sunny skies and cool temperatures in the area for the day. The current temperature in Hamberg was a chilly 52 degrees with forecasted highs for the day in the upper 60s. No rain and light winds that looked to be mostly favorable. Looked like another good day for cycling.

As we rolled out of the hotel we had a couple of new riders with us as a few friends of Jeff, who lives here in upper New York, would be joining us for the day.

I pulled on a vest and some sleeves (bike clothes come in pieces so you can adjust for the weather) to fight the chill and was pretty comfortable as we worked our way out of Hamberg and through the adjacent towns of Orchard Park and East Aurora. Beautiful towns with nice streets and lovely homes.

By the time we reached East Aurora the temperature had already risen enough to allow me to shed the vest and sleeves. I pulled over on the Main Street across from Vidler’s 5 – 10, with a unique store front, to make the change and stow the extra layers in my pack. Great opportunity for a picture.

Outside of East Aurora we found ourselves riding through the countryside of rolling hills dotted with small farms. At that point we were traveling on an assortment of country roads as well as NY 240 and then NY 354. For the most part the roads were smooth and the more heavily travelled state routes had nice shoulders to ride on. At about mile 27, and just 3 miles from the day’s first rest stop in the small town of Alden, we turned off of NY 354 onto a county road under construction. For the next 3 miles the road surface was pavement with the top layer removed for replacement. Even at 10 miles per hour it felt like my bike would shake apart from the vibration caused by the uneven surface. It was a long 3 miles to the rest stop.

At the rest stop we all had our pictures taken as we have now surpassed the 3,000 mile mark of the trip. It’s actually hard to comprehend that we’ve travelled that far by bicycle.

After the rest stop we headed east on US Route 20. The country side was beautiful with rolling hills (more climbing for us) and dotted with farms, some small, a few a bit larger, and an occasional large dairy farm. There were corn and soybean fields planted with this year’s crop, most of which looked a bit delayed but up and growing nonetheless. No signs of flood damage in this area.

At mile 68 we peddled into the small town of Avon and our second rest stop of the day. Beautiful little town with a nice Central Park that made the perfect setting for our stop.

Over the last 20 miles or so of the ride we road through the small town of Lima with it’s supposedly haunted American Hotel across from a large Catholic Church, as well as Honeoye Falls with it’s waterfall downtown. All part of a great bike ride on a really nice day.

I am a little tired as the rolling hills added up to just under 4,000 feet of climbing over the nearly 90 miles that we travelled in 5 hours and 42 minutes on the bike.

Tonight we’re going to dinner with some of Margaret’s family (Greg’s significant other) that live in the area. I’m looking forward to getting out and seeing a bit more before we leave again in the morning.

Tomorrow we’ll ride 86 miles as we work our way to Syracuse New York. Thanks for following along.

Day 42 – Erie Pennsylvania to Hamburg New York – A Spectacular Day

Today we rode 80 miles from Erie PA to Hamburg N.Y. It was a great day to be on a bike.

Our route was pretty simple today as we travelled east out of Erie on PA 5 which became NY 5. We then turned onto US 20 East and followed it into Hamberg.

It rained pretty hard overnight in Erie but the skies were clear as we left the hotel. The streets were partially wet and had a few left over puddles. The traffic was a little heavy in the city as we rolled out during rush hour but for the most part we had enough room to negotiate our route.

As we reached the edge of the city, we found that PA 5 had a nice smooth surface and a wide shoulder. Our route was basically to the northeast and the light northwest wind was mostly favorable. Recipe for a great day.

Shortly after we left the city we found ourselves traveling through the country side. However, the corn and soybean fields that have been a part of the landscape for weeks now gave way to vineyards. Miles and miles of vineyards covering the gently rolling hills. And to our left, amazing views of Lake Erie. Nice bike ride.

In what seemed to be almost no time at all, we entered the State of New York at mile 20. Generally speaking, whenever a state line is crossed the road surface changes. That held true today as we crossed into the Empire State. Fortunately for us N.Y. 5 was freshly paved with a wide shoulder that was almost perfectly smooth. Add just a bit more tailwind as the breeze had picked up a bit and the riding conditions were nearly perfect.

At mile 30 we stopped in the little town of Barcelona New York to look at the light house constructed there in 1828. The keepers house has been turned into a small museum to tell the story of the lighthouse built to guide shipping vessels into what was known then as Portland Harbor.

At mile 42 we stopped at our first and only rest stop of the day. By the time we reached the rest stop, we had run out of new pavement and the road surface had deteriorated. But the skies were blue, the scenery was still wonderful, and the tailwind was pushing us along. I’ll take it.

After refueling we continued on NY 5 and soon rolled through the town of Dunkirk NY. Beautiful place right on the shore of the lake in Chautauqua County with a population of just over 12,000.

A few miles further up the road in the Village of Silver Creek at mile 58, we picked up US 20 East and our route turned inland away from the lake. For several miles, the surface of the shoulder on US 20 was pretty rough so the riding was more difficult. However, it improved toward the end of the ride and we found ourselves on a nice surface again.

Throughout today’s ride we saw evidence of the heavy rain overnight but none of the flood damage that we’ve seen so frequently over the past several weeks. Even the rivers that we crossed, although they were running fast, none of them were out of their banks.

All in all, it was a pretty spectacular day on the bike.

Tomorrow we’ll continue our trek across New York as we’ll ride 89 miles to Victor, a suburb of Rochester. The forecast calls for favorable weather so hopefully we’ll have another great ride. Thanks for following along.