Thursday, May 26, 2011

Going Green

Ok we get it! We didn't like all that rain drenching us for days, but we are loving the green green greenness of springtime now! It seems like just yesterday we were riding through the barren trees on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and now the scenery is lush with green grass and trees everywhere.

There's even an action shot of Adam!!

Though the scenery has been beautiful, riding has been a toss up. The weather has been so iffy, that we just don't know whether to stay or go. We looked out the window last Saturday and it seemed lighter than usual, so even though the radar predicted a big storm barreling through in only a few hours, we decided to attempt the 21 mile climb up the Kancamagus highway. Only two miles in and we started to see other cyclists. Instead of them carrying big panniers, though, they all had light racing bikes. As we passed a few more(don't get excited, we were passing them going in the opposite direction as us) we realized there must be a race that everyone was prepping for.

Sure enough, around the corner was the start of Crank the Kanc! It was a time trial race 21 miles to the top. Every 10 seconds one of the 200 riders would start their climb. How awesome was this! We'd have people riding with the us the whole way!

We got to the race just as the first racer was off. We let a few go ahead of us, then left just ahead of #10. It wasn't long before racers started to pass us, but we gave them each a shout of encouragement as they flew by. One guy, walking his dog on the side of the road was confused about our race strategy of carrying loaded bikes on the climb. I guess we were pretty confused, too.

The racers were all finishing in under an hour and 1/2 while we started our climb at 9:06 and didn't get to the finish until 11:53. There's quite a difference between bike touring and racing. Though there were a few of these racers who managed to yell some sort of encouragement our way as they flew by, most of them were so focused on going fast that they didn't dare take an extra breath or look around at the amazing scenery.

We were in my favorite part of the country. Green green green mountains, the smell of pine, and hills and rivers everywhere you look. We like to talk to people and experience our surroundings. So we didn't just hop on the bikes and go, we stopped to take pictures, talk with race onlookers, and cheer the racers on.

It might take us double (or triple) the amount of time to get anywhere, but we really do get to experience the places we visit. Adam's dad got a taste of this when he rode with us. The first day was relatively carefree and we were able to get from point A to point B without too many stops in between. Day 2 proved to be very different. We had to get our state line video and picture, we stopped into two places to look for a map of RI, we had to find a quiet place at 12:00 to make a call-in interview to the Jordan Rich show, and we had to somehow finagle our way onto the walkway of the Jamestown Bridge. The time just gets eaten up, but I'd say that 2 hours and 47 minutes for a 2,900 ft climb is pretty awesome!

Close to the very top, we approached a cyclist on a hand-cycle. Though he had full use of his legs, he was riding the hand-cycle with his friend who had apparently left him in the dust. The race filled up too fast for him to get in on a bicycle, but his friend told him the hand-cycle division was still open so they joined together. His friend runs a disabled sports program in NH and does a lot of races with them. It was cool to see a hand-cycle in action. But I'm not surprised that usually hand-cycle races are done with running races as opposed to cycling races because as long as it took us to get up the mountain, it took these guys just under four hours.

When we reached the top, we got offered some left over bagels and pretzels, then saw a cloud come racing in. We debated a bit too long about whether or not we should race down or wait it out at the top under the gazebo and headed out just before the rain. Did you know, when you're flying down 12 miles of 12% grade, the rain stings your face as it hits you? But we didn't let that bother us and enjoyed the decent into Lincoln, NH.

The trees weren't the only things going green, Adam was, too! Ok, not really, but he was starting to get a cold, so we left the day at that and found Chet West who ran an Appalachian Trail hostel out of his house. Chet used to be a big hiker and trail guide in the White Mountains, but 12 years ago, he had an accident with his camping stove. It blew up while he was using it, and burned him inside and out as he breathed in the white gas. After 8 months in a coma, Chet slowly recovered but the accident left him in a wheelchair. When the company settled, he bought his house and converted it into a hostel and has been letting AT hikers, cyclists, and any passer-throughs stay for over four years.

It was a little too early in the season for too many hikers to be using the hostel, so Adam and I stayed alone, but we lived it up and made a superb dinner of pasta, asparagus and prosciutto, courtesy of an article I read on Madison Patch.

We got up bright and early the next morning, hoping to get in a good 50 or 60 miles, but after only 40, Adam was wiped. We found a little inn just over the boarder into Vermont where the owner had actually done a bike trip across the country in the 70's.

He gave us a great deal and as soon as we got into the room, Adam crashed on the bed for a two hour nap. I got him some Airborne to give him a boost of vitamin C, but he was less than thrilled at the "hippi medicine" as he calls it. At least the soup made his throat feel a little better.

After a new-found dinner of Pasta Alfredo with tuna fish, we fell asleep hoping to kick the cold that night. Unfortunately, it didn't work and Adam was still not feeling so hot the next morning, but he insisted he felt good enough to ride the 30 miles to our little Vermont cabin where we got engaged.

Along the way, we ran into Wally and Barbara, two warm showers hosts and pretty regular touring cyclists. They were doing some gardening in their front lawn and we stopped to chat for a bit before they invited us into their home for lunch. Ham sandwiches never tasted so good. Wally and Barbara lived on a hill and designed their own passive-solar house. They had a bunch of windows facing the south, a wood stove, and tile floors, all reminders of my house growing up in Madison that my dad had designed and built. One day, Adam and I really will want to settle down and we always take notice of what we like about houses. This one was pretty awesome!

Vermont in general is pretty into this aspect of going green, and buying local and organic food. To the extent that when we reached our destination town of South Royalton, we went into the grocery store and couldn't find anything other than organic, locally grown anything. It's a pretty awesome idea, but killer on the touring cyclist budget. After we stocked up on some organic strawberries and all-natural chicken noodle soup for Adam, we made the last push to our cabins.

I keep saying our cabins, but they really aren't at all. The Vermont Twin Cabins are owned by Keith and Lisa Hirtle. When Adam was looking for a place to take me to propose to me a year and a half ago, he found these cabins. We came back for a couple nights for our mini-moon trip in October, and couldn't resist stopping in again since the Adventure Cycling route goes right past it. Keith and Lisa have always gone above and beyond to make our stays special, and this time was no different. They offered to buy us pizza for dinner and then Lisa cooked us Baked Apple Pancakes for breakfast the next morning.

When I went to bring the dish back to their house and ask to stay another night because of Adam being sick, they told us that they had watched all of our videos on Facebook that night and loved seeing their cabins in our mini-moon video.

After a day of napping, Airborne, and tea, Adam felt good enough to move on out the next day. We said our goodbyes and braced ourselves for the climb we knew we were about to encounter. Last year, when biking up to the cabins, we had gone the opposite way and so we knew there was going to be quite a few miles of uphill over Mt. Killington. So after riding for a few hours, a break for lunch and another mile uphill, we made it to the top. I guess I had imagined something much worse and I asked, "Is that it?"

To which a man working at the hotel at the top of the hill replie, "That's it! You can coast for 8 miles!" And we did. It was the type of downhill where you never had to break, but you never really had to pedal either, you just kept going. The rest of the day seemed mostly downhill and towards the end of the day, we crossed into New York with our eyes peeled for a place to stay.

Only a mile into NY and we found Fairview Orchard. We asked Carol, who was sweeping the porch outside, if she knew of a place to camp or if she wouldn't mind us camping out there. She had to ask her son, Tim, since he owned the orchard, and she told us he'd be home soon. A few minutes later, Tim showed up in a John Deer tractor! He eyed us suspiciously at first, as anyone probably would, but once we introduced ourselves, he opened right up and told us we could camp anywhere, but the best views were up around the bend. So we pushed our bikes around the curve and we were amazed by the sight. Miles and miles of Vermont Green Mountains was all we could see.

Tim and his wife Bonnie let us set up camp, then brought us into their new log cabin home. The house itself was impressive, something that Adam and I dream about, and it had the best view on the property. Everywhere you looked there was more green. It's hard to even explain in words the view they had. There was nothing to obstruct their view. No telephone wires or roads. Nothing but miles away, one tiny dot of a house.

We thanked them for giving us a place to camp and with that sight in the background, we ate a hearty meal of macaroni and cheese and hotdogs(couldn't find any spinach), and went to bed.

Hopefully this is the end of days like this...

...and we'll keep getting more days like this...

...which makes us look like this!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Leaving home proved to be a very hard task for me this time. It was different, though. When we left in January for San Diego, tensions were running high for the preceding weeks. This time, I was totally calm. That is, until the morning of. As soon as I got up my heart started racing and when I came out of the bedroom carrying a few bags, I got sad seeing my mom in the kitchen, drinking her coffee. I tried pushing it aside and focusing on the tasks at hand, but when I gave her a hug on one of the trips from the bedroom to the garage, I choked up a bit... I wonder if she noticed.

We had two goodbyes, one at my mom's house and then we made our way to Adam's parents' house where my dad met us for a goodbye, too. We had such a nice time at home with family and friends, it really was hard to leave again, but so nice that Adam's dad decided to come with us for our first two days back on the road.

As tough as it was to say goodbye, it has been an easy transition back on the road. The first few days were light, 50 mile days with Adam's dad. He was a trooper, though and kept up with us, even pushing us from time to time. We made it to Mystic early that first day and on a coin toss, decided to spend the night there instead of pushing on another 10 miles.

We met up with Paul and Ashley again. Ashley had work in Providence that day and on her way home came into Mystic to have dinner with us. We couldn't have picked a better restaurant. Adam and Paul both ordered the Seafood Scampi Hot Rock dinner. I guess the gimmick is, they heat this stone up to 650 degrees and put the food on the stone for you to cook at the table. Seems a little odd to me that you're still paying full price when you end up cooking the food yourself, but it sure was yummy! I couldn't resist the Quatro Formaggio.....cheese....mmmmmm. And I didn't even have to cook it!

We started the next day, another cloudy, windy day. We had battled the 20mph winds from Madison to Mystic and it looked like we were in for another battle today. This time with less sun. We were headed towards Jamestown with the idea that we could get to Newport from Jamestown but the bridge situation was tough. Early that day, we called the Jamestown police department just to make sure we could bike across the bridge. The officer told me we couldn't ride our bikes on the bridge, but there was a walkway we could walk our bikes across. Good enough for us.

The only missing piece of information the police officer forgot to mention was that there was no way for us to get to that walkway without climbing over guardrails, pushing our bikes through the woods, and eventually having to ride on the highway anyway. Well, we all managed, my father-in-law loving the whole ordeal.

Once on the path, we had barely enough room for our bikes to fit, but we made it across and met Steve, a friend of the Coppola's, on the other side. Our hopes were to make it to Newport that night, but after the one bridge ordeal, we weren't too psyched about navigating another, much bigger bridge, especially since we knew bikes were not allowed over it at all. Plus, Steve had offered a warm bed, shower, and lobster and steak dinner. We would have to be crazy not to take him up on the offer. Adam's dad took full advantage of the invitation for dinner, too. Uncle Ralph had driven out to pick him up and they both stayed for dinner then were off. And so after two days of some extra company, it was down to just the two of us again.

We had only about 35 miles the next day to get to Providence where we had an event that night. We were somewhat discouraged by the weather, but made it through another cloudy, windy day. At one point in the day Adam asked me if we actually had a tail wind. It almost felt like it but when I saw a flag, still flapping from the northern wind, we realized that wind had only subsided for a minute that felt like a tail wind after pushing against the wind for so long.

We made it early into Providence and met up with Matt Morritz for dinner. Matt is from the Rhode Island Bicycle Coalition and had set up our presentation that night. The presentation at McFaddens that night drew in a crowd of about 20. Some were Adam's friends from Providence College, but since Matt had good connections with local cyclist groups, we were able to get some local interest as well.

After the event, we stayed with a RISD student, her 5 roommates, and dog. It was great meeting Lenore and her dog, Tulip. Made us think back to our college years and realize how thankful we are that's behind us.

We woke up and were out the door before anyone else that morning, and first on our stop for the day was Adam's Alma Matr, Providence College. Whenever we visit, Adam always has to say hi to Wally the security guard. I don't ask why all the security guards know Adam, at least they all seem to have fond memories of him.

One thing we found in and around Providence were some great bike trails. The one that led us into Providence lasted ten miles or so and we got some fun video and photos along the path. But the one leading us out of Providence the next day was even nicer. It ran along a river for a good 8 miles and even though it was slightly northwest and we were heading northeast towards Boston, we are always happy to add a few extra miles if it's on an actual bike trail.

Somewhere along the road that day, we had to find a nice quiet place to make a phone call. Marianne O'Hare has been helping us get some interviews and arranged for two phone interviews on these first few days back on the road. We stopped in a police station and were given a community meeting room to make a phone call into the Frankie Boyer show the day before. We're trying to find the interview online and see if we can post it here. This time, we went into a library and were given one of their meeting rooms to make the phone call into the Jordan Rich show. The show will air this weekend, sometime after midnight on Friday on WBZ. When we find a link that works, we'll post it!

It was our first sunny day back on the road and we soaked up as much sunshine as we could. The wind didn't necessarily calm down, but just having that sun on us brought smiles to our faces. The smiles only got bigger when we made it to Robby and Susan's apartment in the city where we were to stay for the weekend.

My Aunt Sue had lined up an event at Landry's Bicycles for the next evening and it wasn't until the night before that we found out we had forgotten to set up getting a projector to show our presentation. Oops. We tried to find a place that rents projectors, but to no avail, so we did the only logical thing. Buy a 26" television, use it for the event, and bring it back the next day. It worked like a charm(Disclaimer: Give a Bike and its affiliates do not take any responsibility for those who try this same technique and end up with a $250 T.V. that the store won't take back).

The event was awesome, bringing in lots of family and friends and a few new friends. Adam and I even met a few people early to take a little ride around Boston. We hoped whoever showed up for the ride would know their way around Boston but apparently, the people who showed up were hoping we did, too. So we managed to find the bike trail around the Charles River and concluded that the southern side of the trail was much nicer than the northern part, but we all had fun.

After the presentation, those of us who weren't full on the awesome cake my cousin Sharla made for the event went out to pizza and then bowling. Good night to share with friends and family.

We took another rest day in Boston, hoping the weather forecast was lying about the next few days being rainy, but it turns out the weather guys were right on! Monday morning we headed out of the city into a cold, dark, and windy day. We knew it would be a long 75 mile day, but the weather looked better on Monday than Tuesday and so we opted for more miles to my high school friend, Jess's house in Kittery, Maine.

As the day wore on and the weather turned darker and the rain started in on us, we were able to duck inside a gas station when it got really bad, and spent the last few miles with a light drizzle slowly soaking us. The rain did manage to break for us when we met Jess on her bike at the Maine line and got our picture before riding the last two miles to her house. We were happy to be able to spend some time reconnecting with Jess and meeting her boyfriend. I continuously feel that even though I'm away from home, I feel closer to my fiends and family while on this trip. If it weren't for this trip, I don't know if we would have found the time to visit Damon and his family before they move to China, or hang out with Jess in her house in Maine.

The next morning we were not excited to leave the dry house for the foggy, cloudy, windy day... sound familiar? I'm not going to write to you about the frustrations of that day, but have decided instead to focus on all of the good that came out of that day. The rain did subside for about half an hour, enough to allow us to enjoy riding next to the Atlantic Ocean, up the coast of Maine. The wind made the waves crazy and we got to see them crash against the rocks!

Later on, we had to make a stop at a bike shop when Adam was convinced his bike had broken. The shop owner, Claud, took Adam's bike, cleaned out the chains and all the dirt from riding in the rain for a few days, and told us absolutely nothing was wrong with the bike and charged us nothing. Crisis averted.

When we needed a break from the rain seeping into our shoes and gloves, we hopped into a Dunkin Donuts where a big crew ended up chatting with us and then donating $20 to our charities!

It was at Dunkin Donuts that we received the call from my Uncle Dan. He was offering to come pick us up instead of biking the last 17 miles in the rain and dark to their house. We turned down the offer and he said, "Are you sure?" I asked Adam, "Are we sure?" we thought about it for a moment, and then concluded that we'd make the rest of the trip on bikes.

So we pulled on our soggy gloves and got ready for a 17 mile push through the pouring rain to a warm, dry, comfortable home for the night. After 2 miles we were soaked, after 10 miles we were tired, but at about 14 miles into the ride, we were saved. Now don't worry, no one gave us a ride. We were only a few miles from my aunt and uncles house when we met Brian. He had passed us in his car a few minutes earlier and pulled into his house then walked down his driveway in the pouring rain to grab our attention and ask us if we needed a place to stay for the night.

Even though we knew we had a place to stay, we turned our bikes around to thank Brian for the offer. It means so much to us when someone goes out of their way to offer us help, especially when we're in such bad weather with the darkness of the night threatening. We talked briefly, but enough to leave a lasting impression of Brian, and then we were off to finish the last few miles with heavy, rain-soaked clothes but lightened spirits.

And then we saw it. The sign read, "Ice Cream Social! Come celebrate Adam and Christy's 29th state on their 50 state bike tour!" It was a sign announcing the social my aunt had set up at her house for the next night. We knew we had made it!

The warmth of the house and the smell of Indian food overtook the feel of soggy shoes and cold, wet hands and we enjoyed a little time with the fam before we headed to bed, exhausted from the day.

At 7:00, we woke up and I double checked that the presentation we had at the middle school was indeed at 9:30. Good thing I checked. It was at 8:00 and we jumped out of bed to get there in time. And we really would have been there on time, too, if it wasn't for the two flat tires we got on the way. Note to self: glueless patches are worthless.

We got there at 8:15 and thank goodness schools are flexible. They rearranged the schedule and we were able to still give our presentation to the 6th graders, and added in a second presentation to some 8th graders. In the middle of the presentation, when the kids were engaged and asking too many questions that we actually ran out of time, Adam and I looked at each other and smiled. This is why we biked in the cold, in the rain, and in the wind. Some of the kids found us on Facebook and wrote on our wall that night thanking us for coming to their school. And to think... we had actually contemplated getting a motel for the night an missing the presentation.

Topping off the day, the ice cream social brought in about 50 people, including my uncle Tom, to my aunt's house (it definitely helps to advertise right in front of the local bus stop) and we raised over $200 for our charities.

One of the women who came to the event stopped by the day after and gave us a note with a card inside that read, "Sometimes Rain and Cloudy Skies are Really Blessings In Disguise." Looking back, riding in the rain was well worth it. Especially when we got ice cream to celebrate!