Where I’ll Be This Summer

I have completed a day-by-day breakdown of my route for this summer’s trip!

This is the first draft, and I am sure it will change somewhat before I leave, and no doubt it will be altered on the road by weather, recommendations from people I encounter, mechanical problems, or some other reasons, but this gives me an excellent framework to work from.

Here are a few highlights:

  • The entire course is 3500 miles long.
  • The total number of biking days is 46, working out to an average of 76 miles per day, almost exactly the 75 miles per day I had initially envisioned. Seven days are scheduled to be 100 miles or greater (mostly coming on flat or downhill days).
  • I plan to leave in early-to-mid June, and finish in mid-to-late August. The plan is to bike five days and take two days off in any given week, for weather or rest.
  • There are three ferry rides: across the Mississippi River; across Lake Michigan; and across the Canadian border into Ontario.
  • I realized there is a 350 mile+ rail trail almost the entire way across New York state, the Erie Canal Heritage Trail. I’ll be taking it nearly from beginning to end, as it goes from and to almost exactly where I want to go. Also unexpected, it is incredibly flat. I thought I would encounter more hills in New York. The trail is a mixture of paved sections, crushed rock, and shared roads.
  • I think I will be staying with at least 14 different hosts along the way (I’ll be confirming during the days ahead). Most of these hosts live in locations in the latter half of the trip, which I guess is to be expected. If anyone knows people in Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, or South Dakota where I might be able to crash for a night, let me know!
  • The halfway point will be in South Dakota.
  • I will travel in 13 different states or provinces: Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario, New York, and Massachusetts. Because the western states are so large, I spend the most time in them: six biking days each in Oregon, Idaho, and Wyoming. No other state has more than four.
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In A Car vs. Bike Battle, Who Wins? Hint: Not The Bike

As I have talked about before, I was initially planning to make my trip in the summer of 2013, and then work issues caused that to be delayed by one year, to the summer of 2014.

However, the plans changed again in the fall of 2013, in an instant.

It was on October 10, a Friday, and I was biking home after work. I had covered about 7 of the 11 mile distance, around 5 PM on a clear, beautiful day. I was biking on Mass Ave in Arlington, which is a busy road, and I was near Arlington Heights, one of the primary intersections along Mass Ave in Arlington. Some bike lanes had just been painted on the road days before, and while there was plenty of traffic going in each direction, there was nothing blocking my path.

A pickup truck going the other direction, however, didn’t see me and made a left-hand turn into a parking lot, hitting me. When I saw the truck turning I tried to swerve out of the way, but there was simply no time. The truck struck me with the front right bumper, and I was launched up over the hood of the truck and came down on my head in front of the vehicle. Luckily it stopped so I wasn’t run over.

The helmet, and luckily not my head, cracked open

The helmet, and luckily not my head, cracked open

My helmet was cracked open, but I had no damage to my head or brain, and I never lost consciousness. I remember the impact and everything that happened afterward. I was, understandably, quite shaken up. I tried to stand up, but my left leg, which is where the brunt of the impact happened, wouldn’t support my weight. The police showed up and an ambulance was called.

A kind passerby offered me a cell phone to call my wife, and I left a message for her, telling her I had been in an accident but was fine, and I would call her from the hospital. The police took my bicycle, and I was loaded into the ambulance with my gear.

The ambulance took me to the nearby Winchester Hospital. After an initial once-over in the emergency room, and a follow-up call to Marsha, I was sent for x-rays on my left leg as I was still not able to stand on it. After the x-ray, Marsha arrived, and the results came back negative, with no fracture in my left hip. Other than a couple of scrapes, I was fine. No head trauma (I was asked if I knew what had happened to me a couple of dozen times), and they said if I could stand I could go home. As much as I wanted to, though, my leg still couldn’t bear my weight. So I stayed in the hospital overnight for monitoring.

During the examination, at random moments the muscles in my leg would seize, which caused sudden and very sharp pain. When the muscles would relax, the pain would subside.

This continued to happen throughout the night, so any sleep I got was fitful, at best. It happened every hour or two, and I got pretty good at getting my muscles to relax when I had an attack.

In the morning, a physical therapist was sent to work with me to help me try to get on my feet. However, before we could get started, it was decided to send me for some additional x-rays. The hip had no fracture, but my left knee had not been scanned, so there was some concern that there was a problem there that was causing the attacks and the pain I was experiencing.

Sure enough, the results showed I had a compression fracture below my knee. The tibia comes into the knee with a triangle shape, and in the impact, the edge of that triangle had sheared off, or compressed, several centimeters. An orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Alessandro, gave me the bad news that the fracture was severe enough that surgery would be required to raise the broken piece of bone back where it should be, then insert some metal screws attached to a titanium plate that would hold everything in place until the bone healed.

I got this news on a Saturday afternoon, and the surgery was scheduled for Sunday morning. That means I had another night of random shooting pain and little sleep, all the while with Marsha at my side sleeping in an uncomfortable chair. She was a tremendous help for me, keeping my spirits up and discussing the upcoming surgery.

The aftermath of the surgery

The aftermath of the surgery

Sunday morning came eventually. I was put under general anesthesia and the surgery was successful (from the doctor’s report: “he tolerated the procedure well”. What praise!). My left leg was bandaged and I would not be able to put any weight on it until the bone healed, for at least six weeks. Under all the wrapping, I had a long scar on the leg, closed with metal staples. There was no cast, but I had to wear a brace around the knee to hold it all steady.

Once the surgery happened, I started to make pretty rapid progress with my recovery. On Monday, another physical therapist worked with me to practice getting into and out of bed with just one good leg, walking with crutches, and going up and down stairs. I had an additional x-ray and a cat scan, and the nurses were all very impressed with my upper body strength (I’ve never had that complement before!) and my ability to get onto a cart or into a wheelchair. I was able to use my uninjured right leg extensively to support my left. I was given a machine to slowly bend my left knee at various angles. There was talk of me being able to go home on Monday evening or perhaps on Tuesday.

Me in the hospital, the day after surgery

Me in the hospital, the day after surgery

On Tuesday, though, we had another blow. The surgeon suddenly realized that no x-rays had been taken on the right side, and that in this kind of accident, the right knee could also have had a problem. They scanned my right knee and ankle. My right leg felt good and was able to bear my body weight, though, so I was not worried.

Marsha was grabbing a quick lunch from the cafeteria and happened to be seated near my doctor who was discussing the results of the scan, and overheard that a secondary fracture was discovered. She quickly hurried to my room with the news, and we spent a tense half an hour discussing the possibilities. Would I be confined to a wheelchair and unable to walk with crutches? If so, would I be able to get into our second-story home, since we don’t have an elevator? How would this impact my proposed recovery timeline? Would Marsha need additional help to take care of me? We tried to stay positive, but it was difficult. I had been feeling very good and making good progress, so this was very difficult news to receive.

Finally Dr. Alessandro returned with the full diagnosis. It turned out that while a fracture was detected in the right knee, it was just a small crack, and it was located in a non-weight bearing bone, meaning it did not impact my ability to put weight on my right leg. I had to wear a brace on the knee to prevent any unexpected lateral movement, but I could continue to walk on crutches while the left leg healed. What a relief! It was certainly bad news that I had TWO broken knees, but compared to the alternative, it was about the best that could be expected.

After having dinner at the hospital, I was finally released, and we made it home right around dusk. Getting in the house and up the stairs was a real challenge. On the front steps leading to our outdoor porch, I had to sit on my butt and lift myself up the stairs with my arms. I was able to go up the main stairs with crutches, but it took a long time, a lot of energy, and was very stressful for both Marsha and me. I was not looking forward to leaving the house again!

I’ll cover the rest of my recovery and talk about the subsequent fallout in later posts.

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Tour de New England: Afterword

When I first set out on my Tour de New England, I had a few simple goals in mind: I wanted to see how my body and mind would react to biking day after day for an extended period of time; I wanted to experience what it was like to be on unfamiliar roads, dealing with different conditions and unexpected occurrences; I wanted to make an inventory I might need for such a ride, and to see, under real-time conditions, what I needed and could do without, and see how heavy that gear would be when loaded on the bike; to do something I enjoy and have fun!

With these goals in mind, I would say the trip, even the frustrating or tiring parts, was an unqualified success. I fulfilled all of these goals, and I learned a tremendous amount about the touring life and what it entails.

And, I’m happy to report, I enjoyed it even more than I thought I would, so much so that when I wasn’t on the road, I was thinking about it and looking forward to it, and after the trip was over I missed it a great deal. Marsha, I think, also enjoyed the trip, even though her experience was quite different from mine. It was certainly different from any other vacation we have taken before or since.

Some of the things that I learned that will be useful for my cross-country trip or that surprised me:

  • Before the start of each day, review the day’s route and have a general idea of what you will be doingThis doesn’t mean the entire stage needs to be memorized, but some familiarity definitely helps. For example: the first third is mostly uphill, the middle third is on an unpaved rail trail, and the final third is mostly on a major road. That sort of preparation breaks each day down into pieces that you can internalize, and it can help you prepare mentally and physically as needed. If there is a significant hill toward the end, for instance, you may want to reserve a little extra energy reserve.
  • At the beginning of each day, if possible, load up with water and foodI’d typically bike for a half hour to an hour, then try and find somewhere to stop for breakfast. Anytime in the early going, if I found somewhere to order a sandwich or some other food that was easy to transport and not too messy to eat, I’d stop.

    By the second or third day of the trip, I got very comfortable with stopping just about anywhere for water. Anytime I would eat, breakfast or lunch, I would almost always ask for ice to fill my Camelback and water bottles. Most places were very accommodating.

  • Keep your eye out for electrical outletsI had a bicycle GPS, which unfortunately was not like the usual GPS in that it did not provide me with directions: turn right in 500 feet; continue for 3 miles; etc. This was more a glorified bicycle computer, tracking details of my trip: the distance traveled, heart rate, calories burnt, average speed, max speed, etc. I’m a numbers guy, so having all that information was great to pour over and study, although a more typical GPS would have come in handy.

    The charge on my GPS lasts about 15 hours, or about two to three days. Every night I tried to charge it, but that wasn’t always possible; if I was camping, for instance. So often I found myself wanting to charge it as I was eating lunch at a diner somewhere. When I would enter, I would often scan the room for any outlets that I might be able to use.

    For my longer trip, I will be carrying a cell phone, so I imagine I’ll need to charge it even more often than the GPS. I’m experimenting with devices that I can carry that will provide a charge, using either the sun or the motion of the bicycle itself. I may also bring a spare battery, then when I can, charge them both and have one as a backup.

  • There are a LOT of big trucks on the roadI was surprised at the variety of large vehicles that are in use on our system of roads. I’m not referring to SUVs or pickup trucks or other personal vehicles (although there are plenty of those, including Winnebagoes and RVs). I mean bigger, industrial trucks, like: semis, car carriers, construction vehicles, cement trucks, oil tankers, horse carriers, dump trucks, fire trucks, water trucks, UPS trucks, mail carriers, etc. Every time I thought I had seen them all, some new type of truck would go zooming by, seemingly inches from me.

    Luckily, most of the roads that had this sort of traffic had wide shoulders that allowed me enough space.

  • Google Maps is not always trustworthyThis is pretty self-explanatory. On more than one occasion, the route I had mapped out with the help of Google Maps, with the useful “travel by bike” feature, was inadequate in some way.

    For the worst of these problems, like the road over the mountain in Vermont that had been washed out in the hurricane, I reported to Google Maps after the fact. I also sent an email to the keepers of the Northern Rail Trail in New Hampshire to report a tree down across the path.

    But these sorts of issues will appear, I’m sure, from unexpected road construction to natural obstacles like downed trees or washed out roads, to traffic accidents or backups. One needs to keep their wits about them all the time.

  • I got stronger as I went alongThis certainly makes sense, but having not done a multi-day (more than three) ride before, I didn’t know for sure. But stage 7 through New Hampshire and Stage 8 into Maine were some of the strongest days I had in the saddle.

    After I got back, in fact, I had some of my fastest times commuting to work in the days following my return.

  • B&Bs are the way to goMy initial plan was to spend most of the time camping, except for the times I would have a friend to stay with, and the occasional (once a week?) stay at a hotel or a B&B. I researched and purchased light equipment, including a tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad.

    Marsha and I camped out number of times, and we stayed with friends, and we stayed at B&Bs, to get the full range of experiences. And I’ve got to say, it was so nice to be able to take a shower or a bath, and to sleep on a mattress and get a good night’s sleep after a long day’s ride. I still intend to camp out many times, and I’ll be carrying all the camping gear with me and will make use of it several times, but now I plan to stay at B&Bs or inns more often than I had originally imagined. As a bonus, I was often able to get a good breakfast to start the day, and fill up on ice and water all I wanted before setting out.

  • Take your time and see the sightsSimilarly, when I originally planned out the trip, I expected to bike six days a week, and take one day off. I may probably be able to do this, but with the Tour, I found that 5 days biking, 2 days off each week was a much more pleasant way of scheduling things. There were enough bad weather days, or things to see and do, that an extra day here and there made sense.

    This means, of course, that the trip will take longer than originally scheduled. That is part of the reason I left my job before embarking on the journey. I don’t want to do this huge trip, years in the planning and spanning such a wide variety of places and people, and then have to rush to get home in order to meet some artificial deadline. It would be better to take my time, and if the trip takes an extra week or two, so be it. Maybe it’ll go faster than expected. Who knows? But I like having the flexibility to allow the trip time to grow, if necessary.

  • Talk to peopleI found the bike with all the pannier packs, and the biking jersey and helmet, was a natural conversation starter. Several people would ask where I had come from or where I was going, and was interested in my trip. With the shorter two week trip, I compiled enough stories for a dozen blog posts, so I’m sure I’ll collect plenty of interesting encounters as I make my way across North America.

    Also, I found that the more people found out about the trip, the more open they were. It seems just about everyone knows someone who bikes, whether that is mountain biking, bike racing, daily commuting, or bike touring. As I have mentioned before, sometimes talking about it would get me extra benefits, like extra ice from waitresses!

  • GORP not neededBefore I left, I figured that trail mix, a mix of some dried fruit, nuts, and chunks of chocolate would be be a great source of energy. I know lots of hikers carry some along to munch on as they take a break throughout the day, so I bought all the ingredients and made up ten bags which I carried with me. I thought I would use them up as I went along, and then I could gauge upon my return what the proper amount would be to take with me.

    I returned with nine and a half bags out of the original ten. I lugged all those bags up and down the hills and mountains all for nothing. It is definitely a better idea to start out with just one bag, and then replace that at a grocery store along the way when it gets low.

    I found that if I took the time to eat something along the way, I would want a substantial meal, like a sandwich, rather than snacking as I would on GORP.

    Power bars, however, were great when I needed a shot of energy, if I had a tough climb ahead if my energy was low later in the day after hours in the saddle. I’ll make sure to carry a few power bars with me and restock often.

  • Be thankful for what you have, not upset about what you don’t haveIt was early on the second day, after starting out on a road with a nice wide shoulder, the road narrowed down to no shoulder at all. I was lamenting the lack of space, when I realized that when I had the wider shoulder I hadn’t appreciated it at all. It was only when that space shrunk and eventually disappeared that I noticed. I resolved at that point to appreciate the good conditions when I had them.

    It would have been easy to be unhappy or cranky throughout the trip. Why is there no shoulder here? Why is it so ridiculously hot? Why do I have to ride in the rain? Why do I have such a heavy headwind? Instead, I was much happier when I thought about good things rather than obsess about the bad. OK, so there is a small shoulder here, but I had several miles of wide shoulder before now, and that was nice. Besides, a small shoulder is better than no shoulder at all! And while there may not be much of a shoulder here, the sun is shining, and the weather is nice.

    In addition, whenever I noticed a picturesque vista, whether it was along a river, on a scenic overpass, or next to a pretty lake, I tried to stop and soak in the peace and beauty of nature.

    I find that this particular lesson applies in all areas of life.

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Tour de New England Stage 10: Arlington, MA

After a tiring, frustrating day in Stage 9, when I tried to work around a late start and several instances of getting lost and had to call a premature end to the day, I used a rain day and sleeping in my own bed to recharge.

So on Saturday morning, I had Marsha drive me and my bike back to the place in Georgetown where she had picked me up on Thursday in the late afternoon. Given that I was biking home in this final stage, I didn’t bother to load everything up in the pannier packs, so my bike was several pounds lighter as I started out.

I had taken the rainy day on Friday to study the map and figure out exactly where I needed to go (and where I had gone wrong in Newburyport and again in Georgetown) and so I wasted no time in getting going.

I’m not sure if it was due to the lighter bike, or the knowledge that I would be completing my two-week trek, or the day off, or the confidence from studying the map, but the miles flew by. I didn’t have all that far to go, and knowing that I would shortly be finished allowed me to push myself harder than ever, so this final stage was the shortest and the fastest of all ten stages at just under 30 miles completed at an average speed of over 18 mph. I was biking for about an hour and a half for the day.

While Thursday was a frustrating and tiring day, it all ended up being for the best, as the final day allowed me to finish feeling and performing at my best. It is really great to go out on a high note!

Once the trip was completed, I compiled all the statistics for the entire two weeks. I ended up traveling about 530 miles over the 10 biking days, or averaging 53 miles a day. I spent more than 34 hours on the bicycle, averaging 15.4 miles per hour. I ended up climbing 24,000 feet, or four and a half miles. I burned 30,000 calories biking, and my average heart rate was 142 beats per minute.

Throughout the tour, there were ups and downs, both literally and figuratively. Some things went better than I thought, and some things didn’t live up to my expectations. I’ll write up the general thoughts, impressions, and lessons learned in a final post.

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Tour de New England Stage 9: Georgetown, MA

Logistically, this may have been the most complicated day of the tour.

The trip was definitely winding down, with just two more stages to go. I had planned to bike to Newburyport and stay with friends at the end of Stage 9, and then back home to Arlington in Stage 10 to complete the circle.

Stage 9 took place on a Thursday, so I would be getting home on Friday. However, the weather forecast called for rain on Friday, and so I’d have to stay an extra day, inconveniencing my friends in Newburyport, or biking through potentially torrential rain or even thunderstorms. I didn’t really like either option, so I considered a third possibility: trying to make it all the way home in a single day.

As I mentioned earlier, I have biked through Ogunquit before, so I was pretty familiar with the route from Ogunquit to home, and while it would be a long day, normally I would think I could make it. The route would usually be about 80 miles, which would make it the longest stage of the tour by a fair amount, but certainly within an acceptable range, provided I got an early start.

However, there was an additional wrinkle thrown in. When crossing from Maine to New Hampshire, I would normally take one of two bridges between Kittery and Portsmouth. One bridge is reserved for highway traffic, and bicycles are not allowed, but the other bridge is perfectly nice and I have been across it several times.

This second, bikeable bridge was undergoing some maintenance, however, and had been closed to all traffic for the past couple of years. The detour for bikes was twenty to thirty miles out of the way, and I was unfamiliar with that portion of the route. If I were to get lost or have trouble finding the way, the 110 (or so) mile distance for the day could be a serious problem.

I mentioned during Stage 8 that I got to the B&B early, and I had a chance to rest and relax and watch a little TV before Marsha arrived. I watched some local news, and one of the stories was that the bridge in Kittery was going to be opened for traffic on exactly the day I would need to cross it! What luck!

With the more familiar route, and the shorter overall distance, I felt pretty confident I could make it all the way home in a single day. The only problem was that there would be an official ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the bridge at 11 PM, so I would have to time it right so that I would not get to the bridge earlier than that.

So I called my friends in Newburyport and politely declined their kind offer to allow us to stay with them for the night, and I worked out the time I would need to leave in order to be at the bridge around 11:30 or so, and I hit the road that morning when I needed to.

The trip went pretty well down route 1 to Kittery. Once in Kittery I got a little confused and took the wrong exit off a rotary that added a couple of “Oops Miles”, but I made it to the bridge just as people were starting to cross. I had imagined I might even be one of the first people to cross into New Hampshire!

As it turned out, the bridge remained closed to automobiles, but open at first to pedestrians and bicycles, and there was a huge crowd of people, walking and on bikes, on either side of the bridge crossing to the other. I had to get off my bike and walk it across the bridge, as it was too crowded to ride. The mood was quite jovial, as there were marching bands, and people were taking pictures and just generally enjoying the scene.

A number of people on bikes asked me to pose for pictures with other cyclists, as part of the Maine (or New Hampshire?) Bicycle Coalition, and even though I was feeling some pressure to get on the road as I still had a long way to go, I agreed. However, once it was clear that there was little organization and it could take a half hour (or more!) before everyone would be gathered together for the picture, I quietly slipped out the back and finished crossing the bridge and got on the way. It was already about 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon, and I still had some five or six hours of biking yet to do.

I made my way down the New Hampshire sea coast, which is a really lovely ride that I had done a number of times, and in Hampton Beach I met up with Marsha for lunch. It was a really hot, sunny day, so we decided not to get lunch from an outdoor vendor along the beach, but instead got a bite at a restaurant in a hotel just a couple of blocks away. The waitress was very helpful, and got me lots of ice and cold water to refill my Camelback and all my empty water bottles.

The lunch took a little longer than expected, though, and I didn’t get back on the road until after 3:00 o’clock. If I had been going to Newburyport as originally planned, I would have been in great shape, but I was less than halfway home. It was early August, so the sun was staying up quite late in the day, but I was still a little nervous about making it home before nightfall.

Still, I soldiered on, and ten miles or so later I ended up in Newburyport. As I said, I have ridden this way several times, going both north and south, but for some reason I got confused in Newburyport itself. The directions I had printed out from Google Maps were different from the route I was familiar with, and I couldn’t find the street the directions were sending me down.

At first I thought I should keep going and that I just hadn’t come across it yet, but after a couple of miles it was clear I had gone too far. So I circled back (which wasn’t easy with one way streets and highway off-ramps) and tried again. I still couldn’t find the street.

A few blocks away from where I was riding was the Newburyport Town Hall, so I decided to stop and ask for directions. I didn’t really find anyone readily available, but I did find some maps of the area that I thought would help me find my way. But the map was a promotional map showing what stores and tourist attractions were available, but wasn’t necessarily to scale and didn’t show all the roads in town. The road I was looking for, for example, was not displayed.

I was on High Street, and eventually I needed to be on Low Street, and I figured by the names that the two must run parallel to each other. So, I reasoned, I just had to find a cross street. I took the next street I could find that looked like a fairly major road, and eventually I passed Middle Street. This sounded promising! High Street, then Middle Street, next must be Low Street!

So I continued on… and on… and on…

After five miles or so without crossing Low Street I had to admit I was lost. I felt like I was going in the right direction, but none of the street names matched anything on my list of directions. What could I do? I turned around and traced my path back toward Newburyport.

Back when we had lunch together at Hampton Beach, Marsha knew I was concerned about the time, and she too was worried — she didn’t want me biking in the dark. So I had agreed to call her every hour to let her know what my progress was.

I stopped by the side of the road, tired and frustrated, to give her a call and tell her I was lost. I ate half of the sandwich I had gotten earlier, and before I called I considered asking her to look up where I was and how to get back on track. I found the nearest street sign, and lo and behold, the cross street of the intersection I was at was one of the streets on my route!

So I called Marsha and told her I had gotten lost but I knew where I was. However, I had added quite a few “Oops Miles” and the day was getting away from me. I agreed to call her every hour or so to keep her updated.

Now I was back on track, and even though I was physically and emotionally drained, at least I knew where I was going, which was a huge relief. After another 15 miles or so — another hour — I called Marsha again, and kept going.

I got to Georgetown, and the downtown area was the intersection of five or so different roads converging from different directions. I took the one that seemed the most reasonable — as usual in Massachusetts, the roads were not marked very well — but after awhile once again it was clear that I had gotten off the written directions and had turned on some side road.

At this point, I didn’t think I was going to make it home by sundown. I was exhausted, and the idea of backtracking who knows how far to try and find the proper turn, after everything I had already been through, seemed like more than I could handle at that point in time.

So I found a place to pull over and rest, and I called Marsha. I told her I wasn’t going to get home before dark and could she come and get me? It was a difficult call for me to make, because I felt like I had failed. I told her where I was (to the best of my ability, since, after all, I was lost) and I sat down to wait. The sun was getting low in the sky at that point, and I ate the other half of my sandwich and tried to rest.

She came and picked me up, with my bike and all my gear, and we went home. I was able to shower and sleep in my own bed, which was great, and sure enough there were storms on Friday as predicted, so I had an extra day to rest and recover from my ordeal.

After all was said and done, the actual biking distance ended up being more than 64 miles, the longest day of the entire Tour. The total mileage was almost the same as the day before, but my mental and physical state could not have been much different.

But there was still one more stage to come!

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Tour de New England Stage 8: Ogunquit, ME

After enjoying two days on the banks of the lovely Lake Winnipesaukee, it was time to start up once more. Marsha took a picture of me with my loaded up bike prior to my departure for the day.

The fully loaded bike

The fully loaded bike

The day was lovely, after the off day, I felt rested and eager to ride. The Lighthouse Inn, where we stayed, was literally just down the block from the lake, and my route took me to the shore and I rode along the large lake for several miles of fantastic scenery.

After I departed from the shoreline, I started to climb for the day, and that also led to some stunning views, as I looked down over Lake Winnipesaukee and some of the other bodies of water in the area. Marsha, who left after I did, ended up stopping for a hike near one of the lookout points after I had passed by.

The ride to Rochester, where I crossed over into Maine, was easy and uneventful.

I’ve biked through Maine, including through Ogunquit, on a number of occasions, but this was the first time I approached it from a direction other than along the ocean. From past experiences biking in Maine, I expected a hillier terrain, but after my initial climb early in the day, the route was mostly downhill.

As often seemed to be the case, some of the smaller roads toward the end of my day were not marked very well, and as a result I did get a little turned around and mixed up, resulting in a number of “Oops Miles”. However, I knew Ogunquit was on the coast, so if I traveled in the direction of the ocean, I knew I’d come across Route 1, which I did.

I ended up a couple of miles north of where I had expected to be, but without too much trouble I found the B&B where we were staying. I arrived well ahead of Marsha, so I checked in, and showered and was relaxing by the time she arrived an hour or two later.

The day’s biking distance was the longest yet, at just about 64 miles. But perhaps due to the 1000 foot descent and the beautiful weather, it was maybe the easiest day of riding as well. I thought that was a good sign, that my best day in the saddle came after biking for a week and a half.

Ogunquit was the most populated of the places we stayed after leaving Worcester in Stage 1, and there were plenty of choices when it came to getting dinner for the evening. As we were walking around and seeing the sights, we overheard a number of conversations of strangers in French, as we discovered the area is a popular vacation spot for the French-Canadians from northern Maine and southern New Brunswick. There was also a large gay population, and there were many advertisements for drag shows mixed with dinner theater.

After dinner, Marsha and I walked down to one of the long and amazing beaches in the area, and sat on the sand in the dark and listened to the waves breaking on the shore. It was a wonderful evening.

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Tour de New England Stage 7: Laconia, NH

Before we left Vermont, another change to the initial itinerary was called for. We had been camping out for three straight nights, and we were scheduled to camp for a fourth in New Hampshire. However, Marsha was not feeling well, and I was exhausted from the previous stage, so we decided to splurge a little and stay at a B&B in Laconia.

I looked online and found a nice place called the Lighthouse Inn, near Lake Winnipesaukee and they had an opening for the night, so we made a reservation. I needed to look up directions on how to get there instead of the campsite I had originally planned, and once that was done and I had helped Marsha dry off and pack the camping gear, I set off on Stage 7.

Almost immediately, I passed into New Hampshire, and in Lebanon I picked up the Northern Rail Trail, which ran for nearly 25 miles eastward across New Hampshire. The path was not paved and alternated between packed dirt and small crushed rock, but it was very nice to be out of traffic.

Early on, the trail ran next to Lake Mascoma, with some gorgeous views. I just had to stop at one point to sit on a park bench under a shady tree, as the sun glinted across the water. With a clear sky and no breeze to speak of, it was a perfect summer moment.

Once I was back on the path, I started to keep my eye out for somewhere to eat lunch. As luck would have it, a diner had posted a sign on the trail directing potential customers just up the street about a block off the trail, so I stopped to get some food.

After ordering, as I was playing with my GPS and looking over some of the maps for the day, I struck up a conversation with the two men at the table next to me. It turned out that just the week before, they had taken part in RAGBRAI (the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa), the famous non-competitive Iowa ride that gathers thousands and thousands of participants each year. The route alternates from west to east and back, and takes a different path each year. One of the two men was about to turn 60, and his daughter had challenged him to do the ride before then.

I grew up in Iowa, and yet I have never done this particular ride. I don’t normally think of biking as a group activity, and I prefer to bike on my own or with my wife Marsha. I was in a couple of competitive bicycle races in my 20s, but I didn’t particularly enjoy it and now I just do my own thing.

However, at some point I’ll probably make an exception for RAGBRAI. Most of my family lives in or near Iowa, and all accounts, including the two men at the diner, is that the ride is a tremendous amount of fun. They described it to me as a giant rolling party. The riding is not competitive (although I am sure there are some riders who race at the front) and each night at specified stopping points there are bonfires and singing and food and fun. It certainly sounds like something that would be worth experiencing. The just-shy-of-60-year-old said he was going to be doing it again next year, he had such a good time.

I bid them a fond farewell, and made my way back to the Northern Rail Trail. I was past the lake, but the scenery was still very nice. The quality of the trail, however, continued to deteriorate. In fact, I got my one and only flat tire of the entire Tour when riding in the crushed rock, and had to change tubes (I had a couple extra just in case) in the middle of nowhere. At one point a tree had fallen across the trail and I had to navigate around it. In addition, I was not able to go as fast as I would have if the trail had been paved, meaning my average speed for the stage was lower than it would have been otherwise. But it was mostly flat, and worth it just to be out from traffic. I was impressed there was such a long trail in rural New Hampshire.

As I approached the Inn, my route took me on “Roller Coaster Road” which is a name that sounded ominous to me, but it turned out not to be so bad. Marsha had gotten to the Inn before me and had checked in already. The proprietors were clearly used to dealing with cyclists, as I’m sure the area around Lake Winnipesaukee attracts lots of people biking the area. I stashed my bike in the garage, my lunch sandwich uneaten that day, due to the diner lunch and the relatively easy 60 mile day.

That's us, eating lunch on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee

That’s us, eating lunch on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee

It turned out that Marsha had caught a cold and was under the weather, so we stayed an extra day at the beautiful Inn for my third off day. The weather on that day was absolutely perfect and I was itching to be on the road, but I wanted Marsha to get better. So I spent the day reading a book purchased in nearby Meredith, and going over and over the route for Stage 8 into Maine.

I took a bath and soaked my leg muscles in some bubble bath and sea salt, which felt great, and had plenty of time rest and relax. I even got a six pack of cider and drank them all in 36 hours or so (empty calories! Perfect!). I soaked my stinky bicycle jersey and gloves, and generally took care of myself. There were lots of places to eat in the area, which we took advantage of when Marsha was not napping. But really, the best part of the stay was just sitting on our back porch, looking over the lawn into the trees, while reading in the shade. Idyllic.

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