The Trip’s Theme is…

…water. Apparently. Yesterday we took the ferry from Milwaukee to Muskegon. Never got a drop of water upon my tires. Today? Grrr…today we road through the water. Water fell upon us. Water splashed up at us from the road. Water waited for us in puddles. The water, my dear reader, was out to get us today. And…I am afraid the water won.

We’ve ridden in the rain before. So much that we have terms for wet. For instance, when travelling with Cycle Italia, it isn’t raining until the dots on the pavement connect. Meh…no worries there today. The dots had long connected before we even left the hotel. So, what about PAC Tour wet? There, you haven’t gotten wet until your human’s socks are going squish, squish. Meh. That degree of wet we hit before we’d even gone a mile done the road.

Today, we coin, “Michigan Wet.” That is a wet that starts when the ride start and will continue into tomorrow. At least we’ll dry out a bit tonight in the hotel, but our pal NOAA says more rain tomorrow…yeehaw! (not).

To make the ride more “interesting” today was also a day on gravel. Blech. One stretch of gravel and my rear brake and saddle bag were coated in mud. Could have been worse and was….miles down the road the trail was shared with horses. Maybe now the humans will think about buying me some fenders, eh?

Seriously, seriously, messy and until afternoon, it was either gravel or a busy highway so we stuck to gravel. Thankfully, after lunch we managed to get some quiet roads. There was lot of road spray because the rain kicked up a notch (of course, why not….we’re wet…throw some more at us Mother Nature….grrrr), but, hey, by afternoon the road were pretty clean and that water helped to get rid of some mud (no, not a silver lining, but one could think that). When we pulled into the hotel, the humans cleaned us up a little better….well…better…but not great…clean enough to hang out in the hotel room. Hoping I get a little more TLC tomorrow with a chain lube, but…then….then…back into the rain, my friends….I fear this trend.

Sailing, sailing, over the ocean…

…when Jack grows up to be a man, a sailor he will be… oh, wait, my name is Edwina and I am clearly a bicycle. A clean, well-tuned bicycle. A bicycle ready for the roads of Michigan….well…maybe.

Today, we sailed across the ocean…a little ocean…ok, just a lake. The humans got up well before the crack of dawn and toodled us down to the ferry dock. Riding the ferry is fun. Lots of motorcycles to chat with while the humans ride upstairs. Touring motorcycles are like bicycles…two wheeled vehicles that enjoy the backroads. I just feel bad for them…sure I complain about the humans being old and slow, but no fossils are destroyed while we toodle along.

Coming off the ferry we road on bike trail and quiet roads to Cedar Springs. The humans gave us a rest when they stopped at a winery; apparently an interesting winery, but, you know, alcohol is nice to clean my chain, but not something I would go out of my way for. But, the views were nice.

Tonight, the humans headed downtown for a beer and veggie burger, leaving Edwin and I behind in the hotel.

Now…about this trip….first, both Edwin and I are riding….yep…Edwin’s human is riding. OK, we’re not doing PAC Tour mileage. Heck, no. Time to smell the roses on this trip. No more than a metric a day. Should be fun….well…if we get through tomorrow….rain, strong winds and gravel…..I fear I may be mucky mess….but…I shall worry about that tomorrow….today, we are happy…we’re on the road.

And Then it Ends

Well, Dear Reader, the riding is now over. My apologies for such a delay but, apparently, they do not have cell towers in the ocean and we were without connectivity. Weird that….here we were back in the land of civilization but no internet connectivity. But, I digress.

Yesterday the human and I rode in with the peloton to Rye Beach, New Hampshire. Woot! The ride that day was made to order. A sedate 50-ish miles in rolling terrain through forest and subdivisions. Gorgeous. Quiet. Little traffic. OK, a few steep gradients, but, hey, it was the last day and none were very tall. Just perfect.

We regrouped 3 miles from the beach and road in en masse. One big peloton of cyclists blocking the road. Well, not really, the roads were pretty quiet and the handful of cars got around us just fine. But, it was a culmination of a long trip and the party atmosphere a necessary catharsis. After the obligatory group picture at the beach it was an afternoon of rest and relaxation. Ahhhhh…..well, let me put it this way….the humans had an afternoon of rest and relaxation in the shade, while I sat on the bike rack baking in the sun! Hrrrmpph….really? Couldn’t find a shady spot?

But, then as the trailers were packing up for the long trip back to Sharon, Wisconsin, Edwin and I hopped in to catch a ride while the humans went to the celebratory dinner. As with every PAC Tour, there is a slide show and awards. Multiple riders crossed the 10,000 miles with PAC Tour and two crossed 20,000. Alas, while my human and Edwin’s were acknowledged for 10,000 miles, I, the bicycle that has hauled my sorry excuse for a human rider 10,000 miles with PAC Tour alone was, sigh, not acknowledged. Sob…we work so hard for you humans and, so rarely get a thank you.

Alas, now it is over. We have seen the country from end to end both from the Southern and Northern Tier. Each is unique. Each was worth the trip. Each had high points and low points. But, quite definitely, a trip worth taking.

Whoosh

Vermont was but a blur and we are now in New Hampshire. Tomorrow is it! The Real Riders are trying not to celebrate just yet…there are still 56 miles between us and the ocean.

This is a pretty area of the country. Rolling hills (OK, some are a tad bit taller than “rolling” but many arrive with a view so worth it). There is more money in the towns we travel through so the older homes have been well cared for. Oh…and the architecture is fascinating — dormers with dormers, turrets of all shapes and sizes, cobblestone construction, brick, wood…they definitely did not build as Malvina Reynolds put it “little boxes on the hillside…and they all look just the same.” Nope.

Yep…tomorrow…a short 56 and we shall see the ocean! It has been a very long 33 days.

Reading List Animal, Vegetable, Junk Mark Bittman. Pulled together many of the books we read during the trip. Well worth the read.

99 More Hills to Climb

99 more hills to climb, 99 more hills

Summit a hill, Find two more

100 more hills to climb

What? That isn’t the pattern for that song? It should be counting down, not up? Yeah….I don’t think so. I suppose you also think that what goes up must come down, too. Hrrmph….I can attest that sometimes what goes up just goes up some more and some more….and then the down? Scary fast but never fast enough to get up the next hill.

Today’s route started in the Finger Lakes and ended on the Eire Canal. In between there were many, many hills. Our cue sheet called out 28 hills. Why 28? Beats me. Not that the hills had names…just numbers. And, there were hills before the hills that didn’t get a number that felt just as big…and some of the numbered hills were really just extensions of another hill. So, what was up? Well, besides the road, of course…just a way to track, I guess.

We had hoped it would be a pretty day of riding, but, alas, not so much until the very end when we were, of course, vanned. The joy of riding hills comes from the views at the top. It is, after all, our reward. But we were in rolling hills and so once up, we came back down and since the road was busy, you had no time to really enjoy a view. Sigh. And, then by the second rest stop we were way off pace. We got up the hills just fine, but….slowly…too slow. Tomorrow will be better.

Details. 49 miles, 3655 feet of climb

Reading List The Shark’s Paintbrush Jay Harman. Biomimicry for innovation. Interesting, but too much business and not enough biomimicry for our taste.

100%

After finally coming to terms with the state (or lack there of) of my human’s health, we have limited ourselves to riding only into lunch each day. Thus, we ride about 2/3 to 3/4 of the route and then stop. It is working out well. The human is staying healthy and we’ve changed the ride from a challenge to…well….a vacation. Normally, we would have gone home as constant shuttling is not a PAC Tour thing, but Edwin’s human is crew and, while not able to ride, is happy being “The Chef.” So, arrangements were made, plans adjusted, goals rearranged and the trip continued. Real Riders do the Real Rider thing and we cheer them on while we ride our thing. All is good.

But today?!?!!? Today we rode 100% of the route! Woot! Oh, wait. Do I have to confess, Dear Reader that today was an easy day for the Real Riders? That the Real Riders only rode to lunch and that lunch was at the hotel?!??!?!?! Darn…yep…we rode every mile the Real Riders rode, but….it was recovery day for them and a “normal” day on the bike for the human and I.

And a great day it was. We entered the Finger Lakes of New York. We had some climbs but they were pretty roads and we were rewarded with awesome ridge riding at the top. Lots of small, linear towns and a lot of really interesting old architectures. One does not need to read the plaques that state that the town was founded in the 1700’s to recognize that we are in much, much older town. It makes riding through the towns and villages is as interesting as the country side.

Details 71 miles 2549 feet of climb

Reading List White Like Her Gail Lukasik. A woman’s genealogical search after learning that her mother went white.

New York!

Getting closer every day. OK…it was closer the day we rode out of Everett, WA, but when you’re talking one mile out of 3800-ish, it doesn’t feel closer. Yet, today, crossing into New York felt closer. The Real Riders have north of 3300 miles under their tires. Impressive, no? And the last few days have been challenging miles, as well. The hills may “only” last 2-3 miles (some are shorter than that), but they are much steeper. It isn’t unusual to see a 10 or 11% gradient on the GPS and on some hills the GPS has said 20%. Thankfully there are not too many of the latter, but we do seem to see long 7-8% climbs with a kick at the end where, apparently, the road graders just said, “Too tired, to grade, let’s just slap some asphalt on what’s left and call it a day.” OK, maybe not, but the kick at the end just seems cruel.

The day started in the Allegheny Forest and finished in New York. Pennsylvania is now behind us and, quite frankly, I’m glad. Pennsylvania did not have nice infrastructure for bikes. Shoulders were often torn up, narrow, and in some cases blocked by a rumble strip (grrrr….really? And where, dear road engineer do you now expect us bikes to ride?!?!?!?!). To make the memories worse, one of our riders got clipped by a truck, making all of us a little skittish on the busy roads. Now, that said, 99% of the Pennsylvania drivers were great, giving us room and waiting to pass (or for us to find a pull out). This is probably due to the large number of Amish buggies on the roads — drivers are expecting non-automotive traffic. But, still…that one truck driver left a bad taste for all of us. Sorry, Pennsylvania, you had the Allegheny Forest and it was awesome, but some unhappy biking.

Today, again the terrain, was rolling hills. Forest and small towns. One really felt that this was the foothills of the Appalachians with small farms, old buildings, towns that seemed to be laid out linearly along the highway and go on forever. It is hard to imagine that this area was once considered “frontier”.

Details. 69 miles, 3642 feet of climb

Reading List Against the Grain James C Scott. Political Science viewpoint of early states mostly focusing on Mesopotamia. Very academic and often intentionally controversial, but thought provoking (e.g., did the development of the state domesticate humans?). [I continue to clean out my Audible freebie list before buying anything new so the reading list will be scattered from this point on.]

It Comes with a Cost

Beautiful scenery comes with a cost….and that cost? Wear and tear on the muscle fibers of the human’s legs as the number of climbs increase to get that beautiful scenery. As a bike? Meh…..a road is a road. Sure, when the human gets cautious on a downhill, my brake pads take a beating, but they can be replaced. Human legs…fragile things need time to repair. But…enough negatives…the scenery!!!!!

Oh, today, the scenery was amazing. Some of the roads were rough, but twisty, wooded, rural…up and down. The ride took us from rolling hills into the Allegheny National Forest in the foothills of the Appalachians. Amazingly beautiful scenery, but, yep….flat road was not in the cards….so definitely no flat, flat, flat farmland that described Illinois and Indiana. Miles go by more quickly when there is so much to see.

Even the towns are interesting with their older homes. Many of the same style of old houses in the Midwest, but unlike the Midwest where there might be one on a block, here they line the block. We know the population density of these towns was greater than the Midwest at the same time and you can read it in the architecture.

Today was our 28th day of riding and we have another week to go. For comparison, the Southern crossing ends at Day 27.

Details. 50 miles, 4192 feet of climb

Reading List The First Signs Genevieve von Petzinger. Interpretation of Paleolithic rock art symbols and their meaning in the development of human culture.

Crisis Averted

Woot! I have a saddle! Wahoo! What’s that, Dear Reader? Do I hear you saying, “Of course, you have a saddle Edwina. Without a saddle you’d have no human rider and wouldn’t go very far. Not to mention, a saddleless bicycle is a pretty odd looking thing, no?” Well….

A few days ago, the cantle plate on my Brooks saddle broke (hrrmph…Susan thinks my human has lost weight, but I can attest that is not the fact and…well….the saddle did break, but I digress….). So the human swapped out the broken saddle for my backup. No problem. We were back on the road and riding fine….until today.

As we crossed a busy road, we heard something fall, but it wasn’t a familiar sound. Can’t stop in the middle of traffic, but we stopped on the far side of the road to check out obvious cuplrits….bags, lights, stuff from the bags, etc. Nothing. And then we heard the noise again as a couple of trucks passed. Oh…must have been something other than us, right?

And then we started to ride and it was clear that the first ding was part of my saddle hitting the pavement and the second ding was the truck sending the pieces to parts unknown. Expletive. We limped the remaining 4 miles into the next rest stop and hitched a ride.

So…now we have 2 broken saddles, but….one saddle has a broken cantle piece and the other has a missing nose piece. If we could move the noise piece from one onto the other we’d have a whole saddle, right? Well, theoretically. And, sometimes, with the amazingly talented PAC Tour crew, theory meets practice. Woot! They made one saddle out of the two and we’ll be back on the road tomorrow! Woot! Thank you, amazing crew! You’re awesome!

As the for ride…our short ride was cut even shorter, but we rode in the rolling hills of Ohio. “Rolling hills” is a lot like the back roads of the Driftless — steep. In the afternoon we crossed into Pennsylvania, so Ohio is now history. One rider and one crew left in Ohio due to home issues, but we picked up a rider, as well.

Tonight Edwin is back in the room with us. A low bridge clearance meant he had to come off the roof of the truck (alas, not because he and his human are getting to ride). But, to make him feel welcome, tonight he is the clothes rack while I beam here with my brand new pieced together saddle. Woot!

Details 50 miles, 2375 feet of climb

Reading List The Book of Eels Patrik Sensson. Natural history on eels. It was an Audible sale item. Interesting read with more background on why we don’t know all of the details of the lifecycle of eels.

Misunderstood, methinks

OK…yesterday, Dear Reader, I said that as we moved further east in Ohio that the roads would get lumpier. By that I meant that we would stop seeing perfectly straight roads that were flat, flat, flat. Apparently, I misspoke. While we did start to see roads that bent and twisted and went up and down (aka, lumpier) we also encountered lumpy roads….roads with new asphalt that were rougher than fresh chip seal.

Chip. Seal. Four letter words to bicycles. Fresh chip seal is like riding a gravel road. If you can find a wheel rut that has sealed the chip, it is just rough. But pay attention….piles of gravel can occur any time (as, alas, one rider discovered on the first day). Dangerous stuff for a bicycle.

But, that asphalt. Owie. You cannot imagine, Dear Reader, how many times I had to tell the human to quit spinning at a high cadence and pull up a bigger gear with a lower cadence. Us bikes do not have shock absorbers (well….some mountain bikes do, but not road bikes). We rely on the human to absorb the road vibration and a high speed cadence can just amplify the vibration, while a lower speed cadence can work to counteract it. But, still….riding those rough roads is hard on us bikes and hard on the humans. Ouch. My wheels will think they’re still bouncing all night long.

That said, the scenery today was prettier. Funny how fields and more fields of corn, more corn, soy and more soy can be prettier if you break it up with a hill, a stream or a bend in the road.

Tomorrow, Pennsylvania.

Details 87 miles 696 feet of climb 14.6 strain

Reading List Paper Mark Kurlansky. The human had read Cod and Salt so the author was a known entity. These books are history centered around a topic. In this case, not just paper, but what was printed on it and when. Lots of anecdotes…perfect for riding along.