Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Done at Last!

We are back at Windsor Locks. Not a day too soon. We both feel very physically tired from riding such a heavy bike. Now to see if we can get it all back into the bags that brought it here and on to the plane.

Finally a wide, soft seat

We left the Hudson River Valley from Hudson, NY. Summer had finally arrived. Temps were in the 90's and the humidity was too. We had to find a way through the southern end of the Berkshires. We traveled east to a small town, near the MA border, Hillsdale, NY. We were sitting in the shade at the library eating some lunch when a local cyclist started talking to us. Our plan was to ride down a secondary highway, but he convinced us to take an alternate road. What a sweet route it was. We climbed up a moderate hill, where the views were fantastic and there was virtually no traffic, onto a 3 mile rail trail, from the state park, then onto another small road that was shady and quiet. All in all, 15 to 17 miles of quiet roads. It was blissful.

After that we returned to the Hwy, but it had good shoulder, so it was safe even if loud. Oh yes, I should mention that we hit our highest speed of this trip. We descended a long hill. There was a sign at the top warning drivers not to coast, but hey we could never pedal that fast. In a moment of low blood sugar thinking I did not apply the drag brake. I looked down at the speedo and whoa over 53 mph. When we checked the max speed that night it was 56.3. Again images of a front tire flat flash through my mind and I wonder what kind of carnage we would have left on the road. The opportunity arose one more time for a high speed descent the next day, but I wisely kept us to about 45 mph. I don't know if 10 mph makes that much difference on a bike, but it sure feels like it.
We camped that night in a really nice campground just outside of East Canaan, CT. The tent sites are normally $51 a night.(gasp!), but they love cyclists and we were charged a whopping $20. We were in a sunny site and it was hot, but summers in the NE are prone to thunder showers in the late afternoon. Within minutes it clouded over and was very muggy. We stowed everything in the tent and shortly after dark there was an announcement on the campground speakers that a severe thunder storm warning had been issued for the area. One of the seasonal campers that we had talked to a little earlier came over to our tent and told us they were leaving for home, but that we were welcome to seek shelter on their front porch if the weather got too violent. "Feel free to watch our TV," she said. We have actually sat out a thunderstorm before in our tent so we weren't too worried. Marty was actually praying for wind as he felt like he was melting in the heat of the tent. (We later determined that he was pretty dehydrated from the ride and was over heated. He really did not feel well and I was worried that he was getting sick. That would not be good as I am too short to captain the bike.) It rained, but the wind never blew and the storm never really developed. We sweated the night away in the tent.
We woke up to partly cloudy skies, heat, and humidity. Fortunately, we had a short ride into Windsor Locks, but we were not done climbing. Even though this day had less total altitude then the day before, the hills were steeper and even a bit longer. We would slog our way up one long hill, then descend a long hill pretty much all day. By now, we were very good at standing on the bike, so it was sit and grind a bit, stand a bit until we would reach the top. Cars were amazingly patient and gave us plenty of space. I never once felt threatened and it was a pretty busy road. It was however, very scenic so we stopped and got lots of pictures.

Can you spot the cell phone tower?

Here are some of the numbers We rode 1453 miles, climbed over 53,600 feet, and rode for 127.3 hours, but who's counting. We averaged 50.1 miles per day, 4.3 hours ride time per day, and 11.4 mph. Not too bad for a tandem bike that we are pretty sure weighs about 200 lbs without us on it.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Down the Hudson River

Hello again!
We are still camping and away from the internet, but that is changing. We are in a room tonight in the city of Hudson New York. Last time we posted in Westport NY, we found after all the campgrounds we have stayed in, the Barber Homestead Park in Westport NY to be the best. All-around great place.

(Lake Champlain from Barber Homestead Camp)

The next day was another short day to Ticonderoga NY. Another scenic area, and a large Fort to boot.

(Ft. Ticonderoga)

As we have traveled down lake Champlain and now the Hudson river, we are finding many of the small towns have nasty steep climbs right at the city limits. Port Henry was the worst, in that it was hidden at first and we had the stand on our creeper gear for several minutes to get up it. We were shaky for a half hour afterward.

The next day was on to Queensbury NY. It was off route by a few miles and is near a Six-Flags amusement park. The roads were grid-locked near the park, but the sidewalks were perfect for us. The next day, a local person told us about the bike trails along the canals in the area. The one we took was a "feeder" canal to the main Champlain canal. They are not paved but were great. Almost no one there except kayaks.

(Champlain Feeder Canal)

From Queensbury we rode to Schatghticote (near Mechanicville) NY. This part of the route is dotted with historic sites from the earliest history of the US. We stopped at the Saratoga Battlefield park.

(Saratoga Cannon)

Just in case you think we are nuts, there are other crazy pastimes that are available. In the campground last night we talked to a group of competitive 100+ year old fire truck people. They tour the east coast to see who's pumper wagon can squirt the furthest. About 200 feet is what 50 people working this one can do. It sounded like a novel excuse to party.

(Pumper Wagon, built in Waterford NY, 1889)

Finally, we cycled through Albany NY today to Hudson NY. Albany (and Troy) reminded me of East Cleveland in many ways. Our tandem really turns heads in the inter-city. We also noticed this dog.... It was on top of the Irish-American museum. We had a long discussion about this.

So we are two days away from the end of the trip in Windsor Locks, CT. As of today we have cycled 1368 miles. We will need a new rear tire. The weather is turning poor for the next day or so, but it should not slow us down. We'll post before we leave.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Montreal and back to the USA

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Hello Again!
Sorry to leave a big gap in the posts. We have been camping more and either had no power, no internet, or no energy. More on the third excuse later. Since the last post in Quebec city, we traveled alaong the St. Lawrence river to Montreal, south to the US border at Rouses Point NY, and then south alaong Lake Champlain. But let me but in some details.
After staying in Quebec city for a few days, we stopped at the information bureau and got some great bike maps. These made leaving the big city very easy on good biking streets. Just as we were enjoying the trail, we encountered a very steep downhill ending in a staircase. The rig does go down stairs, but it takes several trips (Smile)..

After we got down to water level, we enjoyed the scenic flat countryside. This terrain would continue for the next few days. The main route we followed between Quebec and Montreal was green route five, mainly along the old road known as Chemin du Roy. The villages, small towns, and open countrysides was very scenic. The only problem was a headwind, which would grind on us for the next several days.

As a side note, this area has reached a new level in “Children Playing” signs. Esther was very impressed with these.

Our daily stops were in Portneuf, Trois-Rivieres, and St-Sulpice. In Portneuf we met a couple also touring, Martin and Monique. We enjoyed talking with them and Martin had us convinced to take the route through downtown Montreal.

One of the best campgrounds was in St. Sulpice, where we camped at the edge of the St. Lawrence. We camped next to another couple headed for Quebec and we showed them the better way to enter the old city. At least someone can benefit from our mistakes.

The ride through Montreal was on a terrible weather day. Our plan was to take the bike route through town, but the weather changed our plans. It drizzled in the AM and poured in the mid-afternoon. We took refuge from the deluge in a “Tim Hortons.” for about 2 hours. The streets flooded and the visibility was poor, so we changed our plans and took the Jaques Cartier bridge south before town to shorten the ride. Some great views from the bridge, but we were like drowned rats at that point and headed to a motel in Chalmby. We are sorry that we missed the city, but it we were so wet and .....maybe on the next trip….

The next day the weather was sunny and warm! We cycled down the Chalmby Canal, a canal built 100 years ago to link Montreal to New York city. It was very scenic and off road. It was not paved, but the surface was really smooth. Skinny tires would have had no problems with it.

We crossed into the USA at Rouses Point NY, and stayed in Alburg Vermont, on the islands in the center of Lake Champlain. The next day we took the ferry to Plattsburg, NY and on to Keesville. The headwind was very stiff, and we were ground into dust by the end of the day. The sailboats we saw from the ferry were really reefed for the wind

The road along the lake is very scenic, and NY State has a signed bike route all along it (route 9). Our plan is to follow this route at least through Albany. We will then scout a route east through Connecticut back to Windsor Locks.

Lake Champlain

Ausable Chasm

After the last several days of hard cycling, we decided to ease up a little. We are in a campground in Westport, NY tonight (With power, internet AND laundry!) after a shorter day, only 35 miles. The route is great, but the hills are back, we climbed over 2400 feet. The Adirondack Park is beautiful, but has many short and steep rollers. We will persevere….

We will try to do a better job in the next week to keep up with this so that it isn’t so long next time. One week to go and we will make it!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Hello from Quebec!
Here at last. We have been here now for two days and are staying in the old city. The weather has been so-so, but we bought an umbrella and are out and about. It was a long ride to get here from St. Georges, but we booked ahead and made it here before dark. In every trip we have an epic day, and the 83 mile ride here may be it! It turned out to be longer than planned due to a bridge closure on a rural road. Although the construction crew was friendly, the bridge had no deck and we could not fly... So eight more miles. We were on a great bike trail for 35 km, but we got slowed down by heavy rain. Although we are prepared for that, many people along the way were not. We waited out the heavest showers in shelters with them.
The bridge crossing the St. Lawrence was a grand 100 year old steel structure, but only had a one meter wide walkway which we had to walk.... for a mile. The wonderfully signed route to the city vanished at the other end on the bridge, which gave us a chance to make new friends. The people here are very kind, and a gentleman on a bike led us to the route that took us to the downtown area. Good thing, we never would have found it as it was via a freeway ramp area. As in any epic stage, it ends at the top of a hill. The old city of Quebec is a walled city on the highest point of land around. It did not stop the British or us!
We did choose the steepest street into the old town (epic low-blood-sugar thinking), and stalled out half way up. We pushed our bike the rest of the way up with no problems. Since it was in the last kilometer, we all got the same time. Viva le tour! We soon after found our room, and all was well. The next day we scouted the best route up to the old town, so next time we come here or lead a group ride we are all set!
Staying in the old town has let us see the city without walking too much. We saw the changing of the guard at the citadel, toured the market and many cafe regions, and took many pictures of old buildings and gardens. We now have sore feet and are waiting out a thunderstorm in our room.
We are both impressed by how European-like Quebec is. Lots of walking areas, sidewalk cafes, cobbled streets, the French language in the air, but without dog poop on the sidewalks! It also seems like the drivers are less crazy. We have not had to jump off the sidewalk yet.
We leave tomorrow for Montreal, which will take three days. We will not stay in the city, but will do a short drive-by of it... If the bridges are open (smile). We figure about five hundred miles to go, and we feel like we are on track. We would like better weather... It is so humid here. Nothing drys. Well be in touch.

The video is of the firing of the cannon at noon from the Citadel.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Do You Speak English?

We finally crossed the border in to Quebec Province today. Immediately, no one is speaking English and the signs are all in French. Fortunately, we are used to that from traveling in Europe.
When we left off we had just arrived in Bangor. We rented a car for a day and drove to the Eastern most point in the US. It was a light house just outside Lubec, ME. It was so cold and foggy that we took a few pictures and drove to Campobello Island.

This is in Canada, but has some neat US history attached to it. It is the place of the boyhood summer cottage of FDR. As soon as we crossed the bridge to the island we gained an hour. We were able to drive to the cottage and just barely squeaked in the door before they closed for the night. We got to tour the cottage,(34 rooms is more like a mansion to me) and take a few pictures before we had to let them lock up. I wish we had taken the time change into account, so that we could have spent more time there. The visitor's center had a lot of cool historical things in it.

The next day we had a long 70 mile ride into Greenville. Most of the road was in pretty good condition and we even cracked 50 mph. I was really uncomfortable. I'm pretty sure our helmets are not rated for impact at that speed, besides I thought I smelled something burning and was afraid we were going to blow a tire. Marty reminded me that I control the drag brake.
We camped that night with the threat of a storm after midnight. By 6:00 am nothing had happened. I thought we had dodged a bullet. At 6:20, it started to rain and it was a deluge. When we realized it was not going to stop, we decided to get a room and wait it out as the forecast for the next day was for better weather.
The next day it had stopped raining and we rode to Jackman. It was the best road we have traveled on to date. Good pavement, a good shoulder, and hardly any traffic. We were on the lookout for moose, but we never saw any. We saw plenty of hoof prints, so we know that they were around.

We are staying the night in a small town about 100 km from Quebec City. Tomorrow we will ride into Quebec and stay there for 3 nights. We are very excited to see the old city. We've heard from several people that it is just beautiful. We hope the weather cooperates and that we are able to get out and about.
Tonight we thought we would go for a walk along the river here in this town. We were watching this dark cloud come our way. Marty remarked that it was coming in a hurry. Just about then the sky opened and we, along with everyone else on the path, were running for cover. We got soaked, but it wasn't so bad because it is pretty warm here.

That's about all for now. Our next posting will come from Quebec City.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Carriage roads of Acadia

We spent Monday riding around the carriage roads in the national park. Acadia national park was created by land donated by very wealthy people, one of them being John D. Rockefeller Jr. Mr. Rockefeller loved to build roads, and he built 45 miles of carriage roads in what is now Acadia park. These roads are not paved, but are smooth crushed gravel. 23mm tires would be fine on them.

Along the roads, he built 16 stone bridges with native granite.

They are in amazingly good shape. We rode to lunch in Northeast Harbor and back on these roads, stopping at a visitors center and other sites. About 30 miles. They are all smooth with gentle grades and fantastic views. See the first picture.

Nothing but walkers, bikes, and horses. Perfect....
Today (Tuesday) was a different story. It was a mileage day to Bangor, about 55 miles, half along busy roads. It is rainy for the next day or so. Our plan is to rent a car for a day to see more of the most eastern part of Maine. It would take us about four more days if we were to cycle it, and we don't have the time... or nerve. The roads in this area are narrow and busy with trucks. Several local residents said they hate to drive it! We'll be careful. One last note: We got the local fresh produce report! The cucumbers, summer squash, and zucchini are terrible. Small and soft. But raspberries are great and blue berries will be fantastic!! Our thanks to Annie's Pride Farm Market.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ba Ha Ba, (Bar Harbor) Maine

We arrived in Bar Harbor two days ago and have been so busy exploring we haven't had time to blog. The day we arrived was rainy and foggy. We woke up the next morning to bright sunshine the forecast called for 2 days of beautiful weather. There is so much to do here that we decided to stay an extra day to get it all in.
On the first night here Marty decided to try a Maine dinner. Lahbsta (Lobster) and blueberry pie. They brought the plate and there sat this bright red complete lobster. Along with that came a lobster kit. A bowl, a tiny fork, a cracker, and a BIB. Marty looked at it for a second and decided as a modern man he should ask for direction on how to get at the meat. A server kindly showed him how the locals do it. After that it was all instinct, since Marty is a seasoned crab eater. Me, I'm not much of a seafood eater, so I tried a small bite of Marty's and guess what I'm still not a seafood eater. I think I would have trouble eating anything with eyes anyway.
Hi! (Marty here). It's been a few days so I'll fill you in on that. The weather is still on-and-off here. The last two nights before we got here it rained and we choose to get a cabin instead of tenting. The biting insects were also glad to see us, but we came prepared for that. We stayed an extra day in Rockport to rest up. They had a regatta for "Friendship Sloops", a sailboat made in the 1800's for local use in fishing and light transportation. We did get caught in a downpour on the way back.....
The campground life is interesting. Many nice families and retired couples are common. We even had an Elvis show at the last one! The rain showers during the day help us be freindly. We stop more and talk to the locals. The tandem rig is beyond belief to many people. I think being such a spectical keeps us safer in traffic. Don't get behind us at an uphill red light..... The last several miles into Ba Ha Ba (Bar Harbor) had some of the worst pavement on the trip and many Boston drivers. The rims and racks lived through it, but it was not fun.
We are in a room here (Ba Ha Ba), so we can stash the gear and walk around. The town has a free bus system that goes everywhere, so we could get a cheaper room out of town and go everywhere without tranportation. We took a tour bus up top the top of Cadillac mountain, which is the high point of the area.

Great views. Did I mention the weather? It is sunny and cloudless... A one in a hundred day here. We also took a tour boat to see the local coast which included Acadia national park, lighthouses in the area, and mansions of the ultra-rich (they call them summer cottages). Names like Rockefeller, Martha Stewart(Apparently crime does pay and very well I might add.)..... Wow. Today we will ride some of the "carraige roads" in the park. These roads are smooth gravel roads made in the 1800's for pleasent carraige travel (by the elite residents). It should be fun. We will start inland toward Quebec City tommorrow, and the weather should be back to "normal" by then (Cloudy, cool, 40% chance of rain).
One of the local sailboats!

See you soon!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bath, Maine

Another day, more rolling hills, and very bad roads. We did get rained on for the first time today, but it was a short outburst that soaked us then moved on. We put our jackets on, only to peel them off as soon as the rain stopped because it was too warm.
We rode through Freeport today. For the past few days whenever we told some one that we were going to go through Freeport, we were asked if we were going to go to LL Bean. So when we got there we stopped in front of the store and took a picture. Other than that the town is just an outlet store haven. People everywhere sporting shopping bags. We did find an out of the way bakery and coffee shop for a bagel and something to drink. Then we hit the road.
The roads continue to be very broken up and uneven. We cannot get any speed up going down hills because we are afraid that we may break something. Without using momentum down the hills the uphills are that much harder. We climbed a few pretty steep hills. Good thing they are not too long.
The misquitos (I'm sure that I am spelling that wrong.) are horrible. I have been bitten all over my body, including through my clothing. I'm going to have to dip my clothes in insect repellent if this keeps up.
Check out this picture of bike wheel art. This guys yard was full of sculptures made from bike wheels. It was amazing.

Monday, July 13, 2009

North Windham, ME

Another good day of cycling. We have now surpassed the 300 mile mark. We are having great luck with the weather. People here are sure that we brought the good weather with us as it was terrible in June and we had such nice weather in June. I think we will have more good weather than bad as summer goes on.
We went through Kennebunk before lunch, but did not go down to Kennebunkport to visit with the President Bush (HW). We were on a roll. The route today is designed to take us around Portland. I guess Portland is not very bike friendly and if the traffic in the outter suburbs is any indication, we are glad to be in the woods. The roads are getting worse as we go north. I'm sure it is due to the winters here. Todays pavment score is D+. We did have very low traffic most of the day.
Riding a fully-loaded tandem is an attention getter. We talk to many people during the day about it. Today we talked to a Dutch couple visiting the US and also a hearing-impaired woman. Fun. So off we go. We are expecting two more days of good weather before things go downhill. It looks like just thunderstorm activity. It is fun in a tent!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Moody, ME(Near Kennebunkport)

We are about 250 miles into the trip and are now almost happy with how the tandem is functioning. We bought a new chainring and that has made all the difference in the world. Now if we can just get that last little adjustment to the rear derailier we will have it. The day of sitting and grinding in the small chainring has done a number on both Marty and my backside. Tim has finally got his revenge. The last 3 days has been very painful for me. We did a short day today and things are feeling a little bit better. Hopefully, tomorrow I will be as good as new. (Literally, think I am getting new skin down there.)

Last night camping, we got our first thunderstorms. The tent is great! We woke up to sunshine and still a wonderful tailwind. The weather looks to be a little bit of every thing over the next few days. Temps are in the 70's during the day and the 50's during the night. The beaches here really remind of us of Europe. People are flocking to them in droves. There are hundreds of umbrellas and old people with brown wrinkled skin. Only thing that is different are all the women are wearing tops. Good thing too, Marty needs all of his concentration when we are navigating the traffic and the people.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The bike mostly works!

Windsor Locks to Quinebaug, CT

Miles: 52 Time: 4 hrs 50 min Total Elevation: 3028 ft Avg Speed: 10.7

We rolled out of Windsor Locks at about 10:00 am. The sun was shining though the clouds and the forecast were threatening. We were cruising along nicely until the first small hill. Putting it into one of our favorite gears, Marty thought it would be a good time to practice standing with the bike loaded. Ooops we skipped gears, quickly unclipped and stood astride the bike, on the hill. We couldn't get it started again with out skipping the chain so we had to walk it to the top of the hill. Fortunately, it wasn't far. New chain, new cassette, new little chain ring, and one old and apparently very worn middle chain ring. So we spent the rest of the day using the big or little chainring. Tons of fun in rollers.
The country around here is beautiful. It is pretty rural with plenty of agricultural. Shade tobacco to be specific. If you want shade grown tobacco there is plenty to be found. If you want a bike shop to buy a new chain ring, good luck.
The people have been extraordinarily friendly. Even on very narrow roads, the drivers have been very courteous and safe when passing us. We've had people offer to help out if in any touble and they don't lock their doors around here. We are staying in a Bed and Breakfast on the Massachusetts border. The proprietor had to be out of town when we were arriving. She told us to go on in and to take the room on the 3rd floor. She told us she didn't do credit cards, only cash or check. We told her we would get cash as we didn't have a checkbook with us. She said "no worries, write me one when you get home." She said "I do that all the time and people always pay me." We got some cash. Our bike is sitting unlocked in her garage. I think that is a first for Marty.
Weather has been very iffy around here for the entire month of June. We lucked out today with temps in the low 70's and threatening clouds all day. We got to our destination before it started to rain, which it is doing right now. Tomorrow, Thursday is supposed to be nice with Friday being the best day of all. Temperatures will be mild and even kind of cold at night, mid 50's.
True to form, we got our first,"she's not pedalling" comment. We got the second one from a state patrol man of all people. Anyone one out there have a good comeback for it?
Tomorrow we literally go around the corner and we are in Massachusetts. Until then.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Hartford(Windsor Locks), CT

Here we are. We arrived last night at Bradley Airport along with all our bags intact. We ended up with 5 bags. 4 of them weighed in at around 45 lbs and then the wheel bag was the fifth. All bags had been opened and inspected by TSA. The inspectors need instruction on closing Ortlieb panniers. One of them was mashed closed.
We've spent the day putting the bike together and figuring out how to store the baggage for 6 weeks. We got a great deal on a storage unit. The are running a special. The first month is half price and the second month is name your price. The third month is normal rate. They are hoping people stay long enough to make it worth it. We got the first month for $20 and the second month for $10. That ends up being less than a dollar a day.
We have seen a mixture of weather today. Rain, thunder, lightening, and sunshine. When it rains here it means business. When its sunny, its hot! I'm sure that we will be in our coolest clothing with raincoats near at hand. It is supposed to clear and be nice for the next 3 days. I hope the weather people are right.
Marty has spent the day muttering and looking for bike parts as he is trying to assemble the largest jigsaw puzzle he has seen for sometime. Lest you think that I am slacking while the man does all the work, I've done several online tasks like find the storage, rent a car, buy lunch, find lodging for tomorrow night and lodging for when we return. Its all work, mine is just different.