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The end of the road.

I’ve delayed long enough in writing about the end of my bike tour. Time to get cracking!

Here I am at the Bar Harbor pier: the end of the road! My last day on tour was my longest at 88 miles.

I had a great trip. A wonderful, fabulous trip. Traveling by bicycle is such a neat way to see America. I knew that I was missing stuff when on car trips on the interstate highway, but I never knew how much.

One day in particular that stands out in my mind was in northern Ohio (which is really quite hilly, once you get off the interstate!) when I rode through a large Amish area. It was about 85 degrees outside and sunny, and EVERYONE was outside doing stuff. It made sense; who wants to sit inside on a hot day with no AC? Now, something that I really enjoy about riding my bike is that I get to smile and say “Good morning” or wave to people. On that day in Amish country, I estimate that I got to smile and wave “Hi” to more people than during the rest of the trip combined! It was a friendly, happy day. Those roadside baked goods stands are also pretty amazing.

I ended up camping less than I though that I would. This is the story of my life. I’ve never run into serious trouble when camping, probably because I bug out at the first indication of trouble. Got to do lots of nice camping in Ohio – the state park system in Ohio is such a gem. Then I got to New York, and found out that New York State Parks don’t allow anything to be hung from a tree. My camping hammock aside (they were actually cool with it because I have good tree straps) not hanging anything up meant that I couldn’t hang a critter bag to protect my food. This is a big problem in my book. I don’t need raccoons, coyotes, and every squirrel in existence visiting my camp all night and chewing up my panniers so they can eat my food. I also couldn’t do any laundry without rigging a clothesline, also a big problem when one is only carrying 2 changes of clothing. So all of my camping in New York was at private campgrounds. I stayed at

I took the ferry across Lake Champlain from Ticonderoga, NY to Vermont. This was my first experience with riding my bike onto a boat.

some really nice private campgrounds, and a few that were not so nice. Four weeks into my trip, I ran into a private campground featuring a pine forest, drunk campers (including one of the owners) and fireworks. That was a bit exciting for my taste. After that I decided that I had camped enough, walked into a post office on the Vermont border, and with the help of a lovely woman named Ruth behind the desk, boxed up and sent all of my camping gear home. Riding 20-odd pounds lighter certainly made those mountain passes easier in the bargain. After that I stayed mostly at bed and breakfasts or hotels. I had a lovely time at most of the bed and breakfasts and I’ll definitely be doing B&B stays in the future.

The view from the Maid of the Mist.

Visiting Niagara Falls was, of course, a high point of the trip. The Canadian side of the Falls area is full of international visitors, and talking to my fellow travelers was the best part of my visit to the Falls. The gentleman who snapped my photo for me was wrapping up a long roadtrip to every major league baseball park in North America. He went to games at all but two of the parks, and was visiting Niagara Falls on his way up to Toronto, the last stop on his tour. What a cool trip! On the Maid of the Mist tour boat, I also got to chat with an Australian couple who were taking four months to travel around the world. Maybe when we retire Jim and I can do that.

The Adirondacks were so lovely.

The high point of the trip, literally.

Riding through the Adirondacks was also in retrospect quite nice. However, because I was about to reach my breaking point with the campgrounds while simultaneously dreading the Appalachian crossing, I didn’t enjoy the Adirondacks nearly as much as I should have. I would like to go back there for a vacation someday. The Green and While Mountains also would have been nicer if I hadn’t been dreading the tough climbs so much. Four days of mountain passes meant no sugar, no alcohol, no dairy, no late nights, etc. and therefore no Ben & Jerry’s, no Vermont cheese, no maple syrup, and so on. Finishing the mountains gave me a wonderful sense of accomplishment. When I got to the top of Kancamagus Pass, I pulled off at a scenic rest area for about ten minutes to drink some water and revel in the altitude with its glorious scenery, and how I got there by the strength of my two legs. It was a bit disconcerting to see several groups of people come and go by car during that time. They would pop out of the car, walk up to the overlook, and then turn around, get back in the car and drive off like it was nothing special. To them, it wasn’t.

I left Cincinnati on June 9, and 1,766 miles later, I reached Bar Harbor, Maine, on July 12. My mom came out to spend a few days with me in Bar Harbor. After five weeks of traveling alone, it was so nice to see a familiar face! I ate tons of lobster in Maine (thanks, Nicki, for the heads-up about lobster rolls!) along with everything else; riding 60-odd miles a day for five weeks did amazing things for my appetite. Flew home on the 16th. My bike came home a few days later on the FedEx truck, safe and sound. As always, it was good to get away, and good to get home.

This guy didn't last long. He and all of his relatives were quite tasty; I ate lobster every day in Maine!

For anyone who is still reading, this concludes my bicycle tour coverage here on my blog. Future posts will be about knitting, which is my regular blog topic. I know that a few people have been watching and waiting for posts and photos, and it’s really too bad that I couldn’t get more computer access along the way; it seemed like every time I found a public library on the road, it was closed. I posted more photos on Facebook than here, because it was easy to post to FB from my phone. If you’re reading this because I gave you one of my cards along the way, please, feel free to friend me on FB – I would love to say hello again to at least a few of the wonderful people I met along the say!

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All ready to start. Everything is still clean!

I think that I’d forgotten just how friendly and polite people could be. It’s not that I don’t know polite Texans. However, when I headed off down the bike path in Columbus on Sunday morning, every single person I met looked me in the eye, smiled, and said, “Good morning!” When I lived here, I thought that was normal human behavior. One could only wish.

So where am I now?

I got into Columbus, Ohio on Thursday. My aunt picked me up at the airport and I went to stay with her and my uncle for a few days. (Thanks again!) FedEx delivered my Surly to their house on Friday. I invested in a hardshell bike box for travel, and I’m really glad I did. The box was very scuffed up and all of the latches were open. Fortunately, I had taken the additional step of padlocking each of the four latches. At the time, I thought that maybe I was being paranoid, but those padlocks kept the box shut! I get the feeling that a cardboard box would have been ripped to shreds. As it is, my bike is just fine. Spent several hours putting it back together and finetuning on Friday.

Saturday I hopped on the bike and rode around Columbus. Took my cousin to lunch, met a friend for coffee, and then later my aunt, uncle and I all went to the Art Festival. The festival became very exciting (in a bad way) when a serious thunderstorm blew through. Lots of broken glass and smashed artwork. I was glad to not be camping just then.

Saturday at the festival I got supper at Schmidt's. A brat, German potato salad, beer, and an enormous cream puff were just the right amount food.

1/2 of a creampuff. It didn't last long.

Sunday morning I got to go to my old church, which I always miss, and then I hit the road around 2 PM. Google Maps said it would be 35 miles to my pre-arranged camp site. Decided that instead of heading down the city streets the whole way, I would hop on the 670 bikeway and use the trail system. It was a few miles longer, but would have lots less traffic. Everything went swimmingly right up until the moment when I hit the “Detour” sign. Spent over an hour mucking around Downtown trying to pick the bike path back up before finally cutting down Front Street to Greenlawn (glad it was Sunday and not rush hour on a work day!). After that things went better, but I lost a lot of time and didn’t get out to my camp site near London, Ohio, until 7 PM. By the time I made camp, went into town for pizza and bug spray, and got back, it was 10:30 PM and my 35 miles had ballooned to 65. That’s the most I’ve ever done in one day. I’m sure I’ll do more soon!

I arranged in advance to use a Boy Scout campground on Sunday night. Lots of mosquitos but otherwise very peaceful.

Trail head in London, Ohio. I lived in London for 3 awful months. Fortunately it is much nicer to visit than to live there. As a cyclist I've felt very welcome and comfortable in the small Ohio towns - the hospitality has been wonderful!

Due to the late bedtime, I decided to sleep until 7 on Monday morning. Got back on the road at 8 AM to ride to my parents’ house. Ohio has a very nice rail trail system, and I was able to use it for most of the day on Monday. I have mixed feelings about the bike trail. It is for the most part nicely maintained, although I did encounter some storm debris. Buttery smooth pavement, no cars, lots of shade, no hills… what’s not to like? Well, the signage is a bit inconsistant. In some counties, the cross roads are marked at intersections, but most of the time, if I’m looking for a road, I have to get off the trail and ride down a block or two to find a street sign. Imagine driving down an interstate highway with all unmarked exits. How do you know where to get off? Also, all of the straight, smooth, hill-less, car-free miles get really boring after a while. The trees on either side form a long green tunnel. Pedal, pedal, pedal… my back hurts, my big toe is numb, now my rear end is reminding me of those 65 miles yesterday, and on and on and on… Just as soon as I make a turn onto a regular city street, all of my aches and pains disappear because I’ve got other stuff to think about. I talked to a guy at a bike shop in Xenia who said that you could put in an “easy century” on the paths around here. (For any non-cycling readers, a century is a 100 mile ride.) Yes, it would be easy in terms on not having to climb lots of hills, and those trees would cut any headwinds quite nicely, but I think that I would go out of my mind from boredom. Monday was 42 miles total.

Tuesday and today, I’m hanging out at my parents’ house, resting, setting up a new computer for them, and attempting not to eat everything in sight. Mom’s lasagna is still the best 🙂

Covered bridge near my parents' house. I used to ride here when I was a kid!

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Landed in Columbus

Just a quick post to say that I got to Columbus all safe and sound yesterday, and am thrilled to pieces to be staying with my aunt and uncle for a few days.

My bike arrived via FedEx this morning. The hardshell bike box I bought did great. It is very scuffed up and all of the latches somehow came open (good thing I had small padlocks holding everything together!) but the bike is 100% fine. I have it all put back together now 🙂

I want to add a question and answer to the FAQ I posted a few days ago. Many people ask me know much weight I’m planning to lose on this tour. I’m not doing this for weight loss. I’m quite happy with my weight, and anyone who has seen me lately will tell you that I’m eating everything in sight!

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For anyone not already in the know, I’m leaving this Thursday to start a long bike tour. I’ll be riding solo and self-contained, carrying everything that I need with me. I plan to ride from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Bar Harbor, Maine, using routes published by Adventure Cycling Association.

During my tour, I plan to write here about once a week, subject to computer/Internet access. A lot of people keep asking me the same questions about my tour, so I’m going to post a few of those questions and answers here, before the trip starts.

How many miles is it? How many miles will you go every day? How long will the trip take?
The official mileage for the route I’ve chosen is 1,345 miles. I am very comfortable planning to ride 50 miles/day. With a few rest days and some detours thrown in to visit friends and go places I want to visit that are off-route, I plan to take 5 – 6 weeks.

Are you touring to raise money for charity?
No.

How much weight do you want/plan to lose?

None. I am very happy with my current weight and fitness level. I am doing this for the personal challenge, not weight loss.

How are you going to get your bike to Ohio? Can you take a bike on an airplane?
Bikes can be checked as luggage with an airline, but the box is oversized and overweight, so there is a stiff fee attached. For this trip, I’ll be shipping the bike by Fedex to my uncle’s house. It’s cheaper, more convenient, and doesn’t involve the TSA searching and then trying to repack my disassembled bicycle.

How much does all of your gear weigh?
I don’t know, and I don’t want to find out. My guess is about 25 pounds without food or water. Remember that that’s everything that I need for 6 weeks – shelter, clothing, cooking implements, personal care, and anything I need to maintain my bike or fix it in case of mechanical trouble. If it’s 40 degrees and raining when I get to the mountains, I’d better have my jacket and some gloves!

Where will you stay? What will you eat?
My goal is to camp or stay with friends/family 6 days a week, and stay in a hotel one night, preferably on Saturday night. I strongly prefer to avoid campgrounds on Saturday night, plus if I stay at a hotel in a town on Saturday night, I can clean up and go to church on Sunday.
I like to cook for myself as much as possible. This means that I have to haul around a lot of food. I’ll be going through towns and a few large cities, so I can visit grocery stores to stock up along the way. I’ll probably eat out a few times a week as well. After a hot day of riding, it’s really nice to sit down in a cool restaurant and have someone bring me all of the ice water I can drink!

Aren’t you worried about safety? Are you taking a gun?
I live and commute in a large urban area. Realistically, I’m probably going to be safer on tour than I am at home.
In my opinion, taking a gun would make me less safe. It is common for bike tourists who carry to spend a few nights of their trip in jail, simply because the concealed permit process varies so much from state to state – it is logistically difficult to adhere to the regulations while on a bike tour. Getting a handgun into Canada would also be much more of a hassle that I am prepared to deal with. Also, I do not have nor wish to undertake the training necessary to safely manage and use a firearm in an emergency situation; I don’t think that turning a bad situation into a shootout would be doing myself a favor. This is my personal opinion. You are entitled to your own. If you want to debate about it, please find an appropriate forum elsewhere for doing so.
I do regularly carry pepper spray, to use against dogs. I absolutely hate hurting a dog by spraying it. The dog is just doing his or her job and defending the house – it’s the owners who screwed up, but the dog pays the price. However, in the end, I think that my health and safety are more important than that of the animal. Yes, I have used my pepper spray before.
(For anyone reading who is inspired to start carrying pepper spray for riding, running or going on walks: Practice before you leave home, don’t try to spray while you are moving, check the wind direction first if at all possible, and AIM FOR THE EYES.)

How will you shower? Where do you go to pee?
Most campgrounds have showers. If they don’t, they certainly have a source of water from which I can manage a sponge bath. Bathroom access really isn’t a problem; I don’t get that far from civilization! I’ve packed a trowel and TP on past trips, but never used them, so I’m not taking the trowel this time.

I’ve tried to think of all of the more common questions, but I’m sure that I’ve missed a few! Feel free to post questions in the comment section, and I’ll get around to answering when I can.

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Just a little trip, before I go on a Big Trip.

In front of the state capitol, on my way out of town

Next week, I’ll be packing up my bike and flying to Ohio to start a bike tour from Cincinnati to Bar Harbor, Maine. Since I didn’t get to go camping at all over the winter, a short local trip to shake down all of my equipment was in order.

I’ve got to say, late May is a less than ideal time to go camping in Texas. It was still 85 degrees and quite humid outside when I turned in at 10 PM. I have a hard time sleeping when it warmer than 80. I did enjoy hearing the owls, however. The road construction noise that started at 7 AM, not so much.

During the long trip, I’ll be posting to this blog at least occasionally. How often depends on how easy it will (or won’t) be to post from public libraries or other computer access points I encounter along the way. Those of you who know me in real life can also follow me on Facebook, where it’s very easy to post photos from my phone; I should be updating there a few times a week.

Campsite at McKinney Falls S.P., just south of Austin.

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