Thursday, June 30, 2011 One Spot

Right now, I'm sitting on a different kind of seat:  wider, comfortable, stationary unless I decide to tilt back and admire my prose.  I'm in the library in Warren, Ohio.

I've been picking up the pace the last few days because my daughter, Abby, will be in Cincinnati over the Fourth of July weekend.  Originally, I didn't think I had much chance to make it back in time to see her; but my legs are working well and I've done 436 miles in the last five days.

That doesn't include the 1 (one!!) I've logged so far today.

The riding has vastly improved since rain stopped two days ago, although when I came out of the last big hills in New York and started down the shore of Lake Erie, expecting easy, flat pedaling, I caught a ferocious head wind that slowed me up all afternoon and into the evening.  It was a beautiful ride, though, on Highway 5, right along the lake shore, and just about dark I ran into a trio of riders who were also going cross country, like me.  They were already stopped at a motel and I toyed with stopping there, too, but wanted to find a campground...and they were breaking off their ride the following day in any case (planning to do the ride across America in four yearly 3-week installments).  So we shared a few stories from the road and then I had to get going before the sun set entirely and I ended up bicycling in the dark.

Once again, I failed to remember their names (a theme so far on this trip):  mom, dad, and Beth, their daughter, about 28, and a teacher of inner-city kids down in Jacksonville, Florida, in the K-2 grades.  I asked how she liked teaching and she replied, "I love it."

I could have said the same myself.

Donations continue to come in from all kinds of people, including a lot of former students, and I am much gratified by the kind support.  I'm going to be pedaling through the Bath/Richfield area, where I grew up, once I get motivated today.  On July 1, I should be going through Columbus and on the 2nd I'll be cruising home for a short break.

Yesterday, I rode from State Line, New York (literally, 100 yards from the Pennsylvania border), through Erie, Pennsylvania and then south 60 miles on a bicycle trail from Ashtabula, Ohio to the Warren, Ohio area.

The roads in five states:  Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and Pennsylvania had excellent wide shoulders and I felt very safe.  Then, no joke, I hit the sign that said, "Welcome to Ohio."  And right there the wide shoulders vanished as suddenly and completely as Jimmy Hoffa.

Still, I had an interesting thought the other day, when the headwind was killing me and making me wish I'd remained seated on the couch at home.  Most of the type-1 diabetics I've talked to, young kids mostly, are despite their youth more philosophical than me.  They ride against the wind every day, so to speak.  They deal with hills and headwinds, insulin and pumps and shots, and keep plowing straight ahead, usually with very little complaint.

So, I decided to stop cursing the wind and keep going on my way.  I made 106 miles yesterday.  I hope that gets us 106 miles closer to a cure.

Well, it's almost noon and I've only got that 1 mile in for the day.  This typing is making me hungry.  I need to go find a place for lunch.

Hi, oh, Silver, and away!  Time to get riding, folks.

If you would like to donate to help find a cure for type-1 diabetes please click HERE

(This single click takes you to my fund-raising page.  There, click again on "donate to this event."  Then click "Biking and Painting for Diabetes."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Soggy Bottom Days

Okay, this is getting ridiculous.  I'll be riding out of New York state this afternoon and I've hardly seen the sun peak out from behind the clouds yet.  In fact, I've been on the road for eleven day and gotten rained on seven.  Not a light rain, either.  If you want to know what the weather has been like go put on a bicycle helmet, t-shirt, gym shorts and biking shoes.  Put on a pair of glasses, too, even if you don't normally wear them.

Now go stand in the shower and turn it on full force.  Be sure your glasses steam up so you can't see.  That's what the riding has been like at times in this state.

It's causing a lot of soggy underwear.

Otherwise, the trip is going well.  The roads in this state have the wide shoulders that make bicycling much, much safer.  I've been passing through all kinds of quaint little towns and the people are very friendly, too.  When I stopped for lunch today (after another downpour) a woman named Frances Griffith stopped to chat.  Hearing that I was raising money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation she immediately reached in her purse and handed me a $10 bill.

A couple of days ago, I passed through the hometown of Frank Baum, the author of the Wizard of Oz, and noticed the sidewalks were actually made of yellow bricks.  But I didn't stop to take any pictures--because it was raining.  I also passed within a few miles of Palmyra, New York, where Joseph Smith uncovered the golden plates that became the Book of Mormon and launched a new religion.  I didn't stop there, either.  It was too damp and dreary.  I did manage to stop in Seneca Falls to see the Women's Heritage Museum.  Seneca Falls is the site of the first convention, in 1848, to begin the push for women's rights.  It's hard to believe that for centuries the dumbest man on the face of the earth had more basic freedoms than the most talented woman.  Sadly, it's true.

That's one reason I've always been  liberal:  because conservatives have been freaking out about how change was going to destroy society for centuries.  The convention at Seneca Falls was headed up by Elizabeth Cady Stanton; but Susan B. Anthony was not directly involved in the movement until 1851.  After that, one historian has said, Stanton and Anthony were like "two drumsticks" keeping up a constant beat for equal rights.  The contest was long and arduous, and defeats were common every year, but I've always liked Anthony's attitude.  Asked once by a young female reporter if she expected to live to see women vote, she said no, but added, "Failure is impossible."

Not a bad way to look at the world--after she had persevered for more than fifty years.

Perseverance is always the key:  So I'm going to go pedal some more.

If you would like to donate to help find a cure for type-1 diabetes please click HERE

(This single click takes you to my fund-raising page.  There, click again on "donate to this event."  Then click "Biking and Painting for Diabetes."

Monday, June 27, 2011

New Pictures From The Trip

On a bike you have to earn the chance to see the scenery, near Kancamangus Pass, N. H.

I haven't had much chance to update my story lately.  It's been raining almost every day and I've been pedaling a lot:  103 miles three days ago, then 80, then 75, and 50 so far today.  I did have the chance to visit the museum in Seneca Falls, New York.  There in 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others helped launch the modern women's right movement.  

Before Stanton came along (and then joined forces with Susan B. Anthony) women had few rights.  They couldn't vote.  They couldn't control property once they were married and in cases of divorce the husband gained custody automatically.

Clothes included hoop skirts (1850s, 60s) and then the bustle (70s, 80s).  The corset was in fashion for most of the 19th century and could be laced so tight that some women fainted as a result.  Any sacrifice for style!

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, with umbrella; me.

Frederick Douglass next to me.

Find your business niche and the customers will find you.

Combination bustle and corset, c. 1870s.

Resting my feet near the Swift River.

A woman's place, before the convention at Seneca Falls.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Damp Somewhere in America

Well, let me say today that it's raining in New York State.  I could have posted the same sentence yesterday and the day before the only variation would have been "in Vermont."

I like bicycling and like raising money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation but let me make this clear:  I am not a duck.

Here's what I learned when being poured on in Vermont.  If you are wearing glasses like me and rely on a mirror attached to those glasses to provide visibility to the rear, this is what you cannot see once your glasses and the mirror fog over:

1. road signs
2. potholes
3. pedestrians
4. small farm animals
5. blimps
6. any cars within a mile
7. picturesque New England churches
8. picturesque New England towns
9. picturesque New England scenery
10. basically anything...

So, yeah, riding in the rain isn't all that much fun.

Otherwise, this has been a good stretch; when it's dry New England is beautiful and most of the roads have been very safe, with wide shoulders.  There are some KILLER hills, however.  The Middle Gap from Hancock to Middlebury has grades as much as 15%.  Even the road along the western shore of Lake George had a long uphill stretch that slowed me in places to "stand-on-the-pedal" and try to move forward speed.  It's not too bad going up a steep road at 4 mph.  When you get down to 2.6 and you're straining every muscle in your legs and sweating profusely, it gets hard to be philsophical and enjoy your trip.

Then you curse.

As I mentioned briefly, two nights ago Molly and Bud Reed put me up at their house in Middlebury for the night.  Bud used to have his own business organizing bicycle tours and he and Molly have led rides in places like Russia and China.  They know more about biking than I ever will and were wonderful hosts.  Last year they took a family trip, nine months, around the world with Spencer, their 14-year-old son and Rachel, their 19-year-old daughter.  Rachel is a top student, now attending Johns Hopkins.  Spencer is your typical guy,   smart, but not necessarily fond of school.  (It reminds me of when I was young--and managed, for example, to earn an "F" in art, because of a bad attitude.)  I should have taken a picture of the Reeds but didn't think of it during the evening and left early the next day before my hosts arose.

I give them an A+ for their treatment and pleasant conversation, including talks with their friend Tim, also an avid cyclist and a former Government Accountability worker in Washington, D.C., who shared stories of trying to keep tabs on various agencies that might be, shall we say, "bending teh rules."  Bud threw together a great meal, and ended it all with ice cream and strawberries topped with Molly's homemade chocolate syrup.

Yesterday, I did another 63 miles (I hope to pick up the pace soon).  My policy for picking places to eat is to do what the locals do.  In fact, it's almost foolproof if you follow this rule:  Go where the guys in baseball caps and work clothes go--and you're going to get a lot of good food.  I passed Fort Ticonderoga yesterday, scene of heavy fighting during the French and Indian War and military ineptitude in the American Revolution.  The British lost the fort without a shot being fired early in the war and Ethan Allen became a hero.  Then the Americans lost it back, in part because portions of their defenses were compromised by drunkenness among the troops.

Then I churned out the miles down the Lake George road and had dinner at the Diamond Point Grille.  First, dinner was awesome and I would recommend the Grille to any bicycler or car-driver or camel jockey following 9N along the lake.  Better yet, a woman named Beth Thomson was seated at the bar with three friends and spun around on her stool to ask how far I was going.  When I said, "California," she and her friends, Greg Mason and Anthony and Lois Porrazzo, began asking about my ride and my purpose.  Beth told me about her three kids, and sounded a little worried about her son, who was going to Weber State in Utah last year, but is now home and taking classes at community college.  Then she mentioned to her friends that the young man was doing 70 hours of work between two part-time jobs.  You figure anyone who can work that hard will do fine in life.

Eventually, Greg stepped outside to make a phone call and when he returned sat down with me and said he had fixed it with a friend, who owned a nearby Super 8 Motel, so that I could stay for free, since I was riding for JDRF.  Greg is a retired music teacher and we talked "shop." I asked him the question I ask almost every teacher or former teacher I meet.  "Do you think standardized testing is improving education?"  He laughed and said, "I was a music teacher," meaning it didn't effect him and he was glad, "but, no."

I worry about that a lot.  But I finished my meal and told the four friends I'd mention them in this blog.  "How do you want to be described," I wondered, "as the best looking quartet in the bar?"  They laughed and said no, just four locals.  So four nice locals from Lake George, New York it is.  I jumped on my bike and off I went, excited by the prospect of a dry (free) room for the night.  About a mile down the road Anthony came flying past in his car, honked, and then pulled over and said, "You left your money and credit cards back at the restaurant."  The people who worked there wouldn't give them to Anthony; so I had to pedal back to pick them up.  Then off I went again.

My only regret is that I failed to by them all a round of beers.

That's my update for now.  Back to the bike Batman!

If you would like to donate to help find a cure for type-1 diabetes please click HERE

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I've Been Adopted

Today, when I was in the library at Middlebury, the child's librarian, Molly Reed, noticed my bicycling gear and invited me to dinner at her house.  She and her husband Bud are avid cyclists and have now invited me to spend the night--and I can upload pictures on their computer.

So:  a few pictures from my trip:

The view from Cadillac Mountain.
Sunrise at Acadia National Park
The water in the Swift River, New Hampshire is clear even when three feet deep.
Beautiful swimming spot on the Swift River, New Hampshire.
Getting ready to cool off in the Swift River.
To get to the good views you have to pedal a LONG way; near the top of Kancamangus Pass, New Hampshire.
Baker River, New Hampshire; the bed of the river is all one solid piece of granite, carved by nature into various grooves.
Grooved granite:  Baker River.
Wild Lupine near Bar Harbor.
It's impossible to defeat time with stone.
Overlooking the Kennebec River.

If you would like to donate to help find a cure for type-1 diabetes please click HERE

New Hampshire and Vermont: Tough Climbs and Beautiful Country

I've been riding for six days now, with today being a day more for sitting on chairs and benches than for sitting on my bicycle.

Right now, I'm at the library in Middlebury, Vermont, a beautiful college town and I just pedaled up and over the Middlebury Gap, 2,144 feet, and in places the grade as much as 15% (or it might have said 18%).  If you aren't a serious biker, trust me:  that's a killer pass.  Of course, I knew what I was getting into when I started this trip.  So I can't complain.  Besides, this morning, I met an older gentleman riding the other way, finishing his third trip across the United States.  (This one was interrupted last summer by illness in his family, his father being sick, so he picked up where he left off and was heading for the Maine coast.)  How old was his father??  Earl Carlson told me HE was 70.  I wish my camera was working because he had a picturesque forked beard.

But my camera isn't working...which is too bad, right now.  I saw a cool purple barn.  I also met two young riders, out for a shakedown cruise.  On July 7, Alan Winslow and Morrigan McCarthy are starting their ride in Fairbanks, Alaska.  What sissies!  All they plan to do is ride south to...Brazil!  Then they're going around the world.  When I asked them "why now, what prompted this decision," Alan replied, "Well, we both lost our jobs."

I didn't ask for details on that; but they're both photo journalists, and decided to take lemons and, I hate cliches...not lemons and a trip around the world.  They have a grant to record the lives of 20s age people around the world and won't be back until 2015.

I expect to beat them home.

If you're thinking about a ride across America on a bicycle (and I mean, who isn't!), I can assure you that the roads in Maine are great.  Traffic's not too bad, either.  This has something to do with the fact Maine is only a little smaller than Ohio but has only 1/8th the population.  I decided to pedal through Augusta, the state capital, for example, after looking up the population:  only 18,500.  So that seemed safe.  Then I ducked a hail storm just in time and hid out in a motel for the evening.

The last three nights, I've been camping, twice just making my own spots in the woods.  There are some gorgeous lakes in southwestern Maine, and the ride from Conway to Lincoln, New Hampshire is stunning.  You start up the Kancamangus Pass near Conway and for the first ten miles you're right next to the Swift River and I found one of the prettiest swimming spots ever at the Lower Falls.  Once I get it set up to post pictures (my stupid camera isn't working), I will.

You do have to churn uphill almost 20 miles to reach the crest at 2,860 feet; but then you have a free ride down the other side.  The good news is you can eat a lot to give you energy and still lose weight.

The next day, coming out of North Woodstock, Vermont, I followed some non-descript state highway that must have been laid out orignially by billy goats.  Lord, it was a merciless ride.  No cars, really, for about fifteen miles...since no one probably uses the road if they can avoid it.  So I had the pleasure of sweating in silence, except for the sound of woodpeckers in the surrounding forests.  One had a rapid-fire sound.  Another reminded me of an air-hammer.  I can't say whether or not they heard me cursing as I churned uphill.

I also followed the Baker River for a few miles near Lincoln.  At one point the entire bed of the river is formed by one huge slab of granite.  Since it had no cracks, for hundreds of years, the river has been wearing grooves in the stone and creating wonderful abstract stone shapes.  Again, I'll post when I figure out my camera's ailments.

I'll post this for now and may add to it later.  For now, I can post a few pictures from my phone on my Facebook page.

If you would like to donate to help find a cure for type-1 diabetes please click HERE

Monday, June 20, 2011

Into New Hampshire

After I post this at the library in Freyburg, Maine, I will ride up into the mountains of New Hampshire.  The weather in Maine has been perfect for riding and the Lake Region in southwestern Maine is beautiful.

Last night I employed the bicycler's favorite ploy:  stealth camping.  That is:  you pull your bike off into the woods when no one is looking and set up your tent and sleep under the stars (or leaves) for free.  You can't beat the price.  But I noticed something unpleasant this morning:  three ticks.  Two crawling on my legs.  One smashed on my stomach.

I am going to be seriously unhappy if I get Lyme's disease.

This is the second library where the computer isn't setup to upload pictures from my camera.  So trust me:  Maine is a pretty place to pedal; and I'll load a couple of pictures as soon as I can.

I did 66 miles yesterday and felt pretty good.  I think I can do this; and if anyone wants to donate, that's cool, too.  I'm about halfway to my goal on donations ($5,000 so far, $5,000 to go).  And I'm 200 miles down and 3800 to go.

I'll be svelte when I'm done.

If you would like to donate to help find a cure for type-1 diabetes please click HERE

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Start of a Long and Winding Road

I arrived at Acadia National Park a little after 2 p.m. on June 16, turned in my rental car, ate a lobster (two pounds for lunch), and then pedaled up to the top of Cadillac Mountain to be sure I had my bicycle legs under me.  Since that's a rise of 1,550 feet from sea level, you're going uphill for approximately ten miles.  So it's a good test and the views are fabulous when you get there.

I'm typing on an old computer at the South China, Maine Public Library, so I can't upload any pictures yet.

I felt pretty good at the top of the mountain when a young, wirey bicycle rider saw me and the load I was carrying and said, "Holy jimokes."  Yep.  He actually said that twice.  "I'm impressed you could make it up here with that load," he continued.  Then I explained that I was going to be pedaling to California soon.  Two other young riders joined the conversation and I recommended to them all that they try it some day.

I told them I averaged about 80 miles a day last time and again they seemed impressed.  So I was feeling pretty strong--and ready!  I pedaled down the mountain, did a few extra miles in the park, and then headed for a campground overlooking the Atlantic.  When I "pulled up" at the ranger station the ranger noted that I now qualified for the "over 62" lifetime pass to get into any park and get reduced rates on camping. 

Suddenly, I felt my real age.

I don't know:  maybe the park service figures 62=year-olds won't show up much to camp.  Or they figure we don't have much time left.  Well:  I'll show Uncle Sam!  I am now the proud possessor of a LIFETIME pass to all our parks.

Yesterday, under beautiful, sunny skies, I pedaled 68 miles and felt very good.  Today, it's been rainy and not as easy.  You can tell you're in Maine, though.  At breakfast today (the pancakes were as big as garbage can lids, I swear it; and I think the syrup came in gallon jugs), I was reading in the Bangor Daily News about trooper Fred Thomas of the Maine Highway Patrol.

Thomas was recently involved in a collision, while on duty, with a moose.  Trooper Thomas has seen this before.  In 2007, he had to take evasive action to try to miss three moose crossing the highway up in Aroostock County.  He missed two, but plowed into the third, causing $10,000 worth of damage to his cruiser and leaving one moose family in mourning.

I'll post a few pictures as soon as I can.

If you would like to donate to help find a cure for type-1 diabetes please click HERE

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Four Thousand Miles for JDRF. How Hard Can it Be?

I'm going to be leaving Acadia National Park on a cross country ride to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in about eight days.

I'm lighter than I was when I started in 2007 on a similar ride.  So that's good.

I'm also 62, and four years older; but it should be fun.

If you would like to donate to help find a cure for type-1 diabetes please click HERE
Ignore the gray hair sticking out from under the helmet!
I can do this ride.  It's only 4,000 miles.
(This single click takes you to my fund-raising page.  There, click again on "donate to this event."  Then click "Biking and Painting for Diabetes."
I'm riding for the 82 young people who turned up type-1 diabetics today.

I'm riding for the 30,000 Americans
who are diagnosed every year.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Four Cool Diabetics at Loveland Middle School

It was my pleasure to return to Loveland Middle School yesterday and talk to Mr. Dave Fletcher's 8th grade history classes about my bicycle rides across America.  Dave is the father of Noelle Fletcher, a young lady who turned up diabetic two years ago at age 26.

I also had a chance to meet four very cool young men and women in person:  Alyssa Heal, Sydney Mahon and Jason Ratterman, all seventh graders, and Dezaree Heath, an eighth grader, all type-1 diabetics.  I didn't have much time to talk to Jason, but by his demeanor it was obvious he was a positive, funny kid, and he did smile and admit he's ready for summer!  Sydney told me she's been type-1 since second grade and remembers parties and celebrations, thinking, "I just wanted to do what other kids did." 


I've talked to Alyssa before and Dezaree was in one of Mr. Fletcher's classes.  So I know Alyssa is always upbeat and cheerful.  Dezaree, has been a diabetic since age 2, and it was clear she has a great sense of humor.  Sydney was wonderful, too.  "Sometimes, I don't really want to deal with it, but I have to," she admitted when I asked if being a type-1 diabetic ever got her down.  But the young lady was SMILING the whole time we talked. 

It's an honor to ride in the name of them all.

Mr. Fletcher's students were great--especially considering the fact it was their last full day of school--and they were trapped listening to me.  So I showed them some of the pictures from my trips and places I hope to see this summer (Yosemite National Park, for example) and we handed out fund-raising letters for JDRF to anyone who was interested.  So:  a great "thank you" to Dave and his eighth graders for allowing me to visit and for a very warm welcome.

Dezaree Heath, Alyssa Heal, Sydney Mahon and Jason Ratterman
If you would like to donate to help find a cure for type-1 diabetes please click HERE!  These four young people would appreciate it.

(This single click takes you to my fund-raising page.  There, click again on "donate to this event."  Then click "Biking and Painting for Diabetes."