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pedal plenty

notes on a north american cycle trip in 2008

Archive for the 'route' Category

Most easterly

It’s done. I am finished. I have visited Quoddy Point. Taken the obligatory pics of me and Haggis at the opposite side from this side.

And at The End, what is that like? It’s a little peculiar. All that cycling. All that distance. It doesn’t seem like it was me that did it. How could I have done that? Cycled more than 4000 miles across a huge continent. How did I sit on that saddle for hours and hours for days and days? I dunno. You just do it. Just like you just do going to work. Eventually you don’t notice you are doing it. It’s certainly made easier by traveling through a friendly and fun country like Ummerica (I promise that’s the last time it gets called Ummerica). It helps that a kind-of-Engerish is spoken here. And it helps to have the internet so I can keep in touch with everyone, write this silly nonsense and navigate by way of Google maps (how did people travel before Google Maps).

So, what next? Well, I can see Canada from here. I think I’ll go to Canada.

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Posted by me on August 4th, 2008

A bit blue …

I’m a bit blue today. Not in that sad, Joni Mitchell way but in the colour way. My body has started to turn blue. The onset of blueness began this morning when I set off cycling. It was only 68F (20C). Brrrrrr! If this continues I’ll need to get my merino sheep cardigan out (it’s a sports cardigan with loopy bits for your thumbs I’ll have you know, not a librarian style cardigan!) And then the haar (sea fog) came and it got even colder. I had to speed up to 14 miles an hour to keep warm.

But the biggest reason for me being blue is that I ate and drank a lot of blue things today. Here, in Down East Maine (I assume there’s an Up East Maine somewhere) is the official land of the blueberry. Ummericans LOVE blueberries. They make muffins with them in (I had one today), they put them on or in their pancakes for breakfast, they make jam with them etc etc. So I am going along minding my own business and look there are lots of people selling wild blueberries, and over there is the Blueberry Research Institute (you think I am kidding? I am not) and what the? What is that. A giant Blueberry cafe?

blueberrycafe.jpg

So I arrive at my destination Machias, starving. I have only had two breakfast today. I go immediately to Helen’s Restaurant where I wolf a fried clam sandwich, chased down with Blueberry soda, followed by a slice of very, very delicious blueberry pie. Later I have some Blueberry cream soda which is not the same as Blueberry soda and, I’m ashamed to say, another slice of blueberry pie. Now you will understand my blueness. Factoid: 95% of the world’s blueberry crop comes from this part of the world i.e. here in Washington county.

Today is my penultimate day of acrossness. Tomorrow I will be in Lubec the most easterly and north easterly town in mainland Umerica. I thought today I might see the Atlantic Ocean but the coastline is quite jaggy here, even more so than Scotland so all I have seen, through the Haar, are inlets. Umericans call the inlets bays where we Scotchlanders call them lochs. How educational this diary is. So, it seems that I won’t see the Atlantic from Lubec coz there’s a small matter of Canada being in the way. How inconvenient! I will see the Bay of Fundy though which is famous for the biggest …… You’ll just have to wait.

Posted by me on August 2nd, 2008

Slow down

I need to slow down, well not slow down just travel less distance. I have been used to cycling anywhere between no miles and more than 80 miles a day for weeks now. I am so ahead of schedule that, if I don’t slow down/travel less distance, I will be cooling my heals / SPDs for ages in Halifax before I head to Quebec for business. So yesterday I thought. If I just do these 125 miles I’ll be done. 125 miles is TOO FAR. The farthest I have cycled in one day is 117 miles and that was with a raging tail wind on the high plain in Wyoming. So I have decided to do 125 miles in 3 days. Today I did 37 miles. I lay in bed as late as possible (0630). I am driven from my bed by raging thirst and hunger. I show off how much I can eat to the folks in the motel (a bagel, a muffin, two bananas, OJ, 3 cups of coffee and a donut). I go back to my room and take another shower just for the hell of it (i.e. time wasting). Go on the internet to waste further time. And eventually I leave at 0945. I try hard to cycle slow. Well slower than normal. I meet other cyclists. I try to delay them from their cycling by yapping endlessly. And I arrive at my destination at lunchtime. I waste further time eating crab cakes. Hardly time wasted! So I’m done for the day at 1400. The fog / haar has come. So nothing for it but to relax reading about Lewis and Clark, chat online with my pals and stuff myself with haddock and scallops and strawberry and rhubarb pie (but not all on the same plate obv!).

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Posted by me on August 1st, 2008

Drowning, not waving

The weather for the next few days is for rain but no thunder and lightning storms, so I regretfully decide to leave Madge’s and her fridge of pie but not before having a final piece for breakfast. I take a box of the leftover delicious courgette (zucchini) croustade for fuel. So I hit the road and 10 miles down the heavens open. A biblical style rain storm. A torrent. It doesn’t let up all day. We’re not talking an unpleasant drizzle here. We’re talking downpour. The rain is so heavy it stings my legs. The rain is so heavy I can hardly see as the water runs down my face. I am NOT amused! Also, it is humid. It’s a well known fact that Goretex doesn’t work when it’s humid. I am as wet inside as I am out. My shoes are waterlogged. I am very miserable. I don’t like Vermont so much now.

And another thing! I have come nearly 4000 miles and have not experienced such evil, vicious hills. The mountains in the West have a decent grade of about 6% to 7% which is easily manageable in the middle ring of my crank (36 teeth) and bottom of the cassette (34 teeth). But for the first time I have to go into the bottom gear on my crank (26 teeth). This allows me to go up the hills but the gear is so low that the bike moves very slowly and becomes quite unstable. Some of these hills are quite long too. Hmm, Vermont? Going down in my estimations.

And finally. The roads! The roads are a disgrace. The Vermont DOT must be a lazy bunch coz the roads are lumpy and bumpy and degrading. The roads, in fact, are worse than Scotland and that is saying something. Vermont? Scratch that one off the list for another visit ;-)

Posted by me on July 28th, 2008

Those boys …

Today I cycled a few miles with Team Cobra39 Bike Squadron. Well, to be honest, Team Cobra39 slowed down to Team PedalPlenty pace so I could cycle with them. Those boys are fast. Today was day 29 for them and they are here already, 3000 or so miles into their trip. I am on day 60 and only 200 miles ahead of them. See, if only I could learn to fuel my body appropriately I could cycle 130 miles a day but Oh no, I shovel down pie and soft scoop ice cream. Gary and Matt, don’t however drag 30lbs of stuff behind their lovely Trek Madone 5.2s. Gary and Matt are backed up by Larry, the Team Director. He drives the car with the spare bike, maps the route, finds lunch spots, ensures les bidons (waterbottles) are kept topped up and takes all the photos.

Thanks for lunch guys. And thanks for cycling with me it cheered me up and distracted me from my homesickness.

So, after leaving Team Cobra39 I headed away from Lake Erie, Buffalo and Niagara Falls. I’ve seen the Falls before and the whole tourist circus that surrounds it so no need to do that again. I have now arrived in Lockport which is … eh … a port, with some locks. It’s at the West End of the Erie Canal.

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Posted by me on July 19th, 2008

Bedlam?

Today I cycled with Nancy and Vernon from Oregon. I met them a couple of days ago and cycled with them for a bit. Nancy has the coolest bike. It’s a recumbent. Riding a recumbent means never ever getting saddle sores. Never ever having to wear those ridiculous padded shorts. And never ever falling off and sprawling in the dirt. It seems a very civilized sort of bicycle compared to an upright. And the speed that the bike goes going downhill. Oh my. I couldn’t keep up. Nancy and Vernon are cycling across the country mostly for the hell of it but if you inquire a little more it’s to celebrate their up and coming 50th wedding anniversary. You do the sums. Let me tell you, it’s hard work keeping up with them. I only hope that I am still doing such crazy amazing things when I reach their age. Nancy / Vernon: I am heading out along the Erie Canal at your recommendation. Thanks for lunch and Happy Anniversary when it comes around.

While zooming along we met Jeff from Fort Collins. He likes beer and knows all about the New Belgium Brewery. Jeff is cycling around baseball stadiums and going to watch games. Then another guy joined up with us. Five cyclists all together. What’s the collective noun for a group of long distance cyclists? Hmm … a Bedlam?

So I left Nancy and Vernon in Ripley and headed to Dunkirk, via Barcelona and  A very strange route.

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Posted by me on July 18th, 2008

Thou shall hev a fishy …

Dance ti they daddy, Sing ti they mammy
Dance ti they daddy, Ti they mammy sing
Thou shall hev a fishy on a little dishy
Thou shalt hev a mackerel when thi boat comes in

State Highway 113 – the road is smooth, the road is quiet, the wind is behind me, I am fueled by melon and OJ. It’s not too hot yet altho’ a little humid. My road turns on to a main road where I run in to roadworks that make the highway narrow but I will turn off again in half a mile. But for that half mile I have to cycle very fast so cars don’t get delayed behind me. I am out of breath from my racing. You’d think I’d be fit by now. Well I am but not aerobically fit. I can cycle for hours and hours and hours as long as I don’t have to accelerate rapidly. I’m sure Scott will attend to my aerobicness, or lack thereof, when I return for my first post-trip spin session (expect stomach contents on the floor of the spin salon while Fraulein Direktor sits atop her bicycle looking smug coz she has trained all summer).

Pardon me, I was off on a tangent. I arrive in Milan. Not Italy but Milan, Ohio. A pretty little town where Thomas Edison was born but even better than that I get my first cappuccino since WandA. 19 days sans cappuccino is way too long. So, I am now heading to the Lake. Lake Erie. I am excited about seeing the water. I haven’t seen a significant area of water since the Pacific two months ago. Of course I have seen the Mississippi, the Lakes at the Teton Park, the Missouri, my bath water, the flooding around the Mississippi and Missouri (which made for some biggish, temporary lakes) but nothing the size of Lake Erie. And there it is. HUGE!

I cycle on the cycle route on Lake Road and wonder why the houses aren’t more swank. The houses are nice and traditional and quite modest with the exception of the occasional I have more money than taste Disney-esque turreted castle affair. In the UK properties on a lake would be much sought after and all very designer. All very glass and Scandi-Swedish wood.

So I am in Lakewood. There is a posh seafood restaurant up the road. But I have nothing even vaguely appropriate to wear. I doubt they’d let me in even if I work my clean cycling shorts. So it’s Sakura instead. Sushi. Ya! I haven’t eaten a fish since WandA. Far too long without my omega-3. I have a Manhattan – not the drink but a shrimp tempura roll with baked lobster on top and the usually unagi, dragon roll, mackerel, toro and of course, Sapporo. I go back to my motel $75 lighter but very happy and am in bed by 8pm. Tomorrow the negotiation of downtown Cleveland awaits.

Posted by me on July 15th, 2008

Brilliance

I am brilliant. Pure dead brilliant. I have become brilliant at the map reading. I have come more than 3000 miles and not yet got lost. Yesterday I navigated through the city of Fort Wayne (250,000) with a very sketchy map. I was brilliant. Not a single doubt regarding directioness entered my head.

And today. Well today I was Ms Supremo Navigator. Having detoured to see a soup factory (they have outstanding tourist sights here in Ohio) I keenly negotiated the back roads of the statee even though the roads are not marked on my small scale map. I am so brilliant that soon Garmin or Google Maps will be on the phone asking for my services. How have I become so absolutely, amazingly brilliant at map reading. Let me explain:

  • after 50 odd days I can judge distances very well.
  • I can tell what direction I am going in by looking at the position of the sun in the sky and guestimating the time
  • I pay close attention to the surroundings. I know that farms cluster along roads, water towers indicate towns as do mobile (cell) phone  masts
  • there are no men traveling with me. Men always tut and sigh and say Give me the map when women attempt to map read. Us women just take a little longer to read the map than they do
  • it’s not really difficult. I am only going in one direction. And that’s east. Homeward. Factiod: The sun rises in the east obv. I bought my lunch in Rising Sun today. The sun was in fact overhead coz it was midday. Silly name for a town me thinks

Posted by me on July 14th, 2008

Traumatised

I am traumatised. Or if you prefer. I am traumatized.

So traumatis(z)ed that I may need counseling. Why? Well on Highway 24 today there was a higher than normal number of roadkill. There’s always quite a lot of road kill but today I was having difficulty avoiding the bits of fur, limbs, guts, heads, paws, ribs, ears. It was almost as if all the wild beasts had decided on a mass suicide pact and thrown themselves in to the road. As Highway 24 is quite busy with trucks due to truck drivers being stingy bastards descended from the Scots and driving this route to avoid a nearby toll road, I had to concentrate hard to stay on the shoulder of the road all the time. This means I can’t swerve to avoid the dead things. I had to run over some dead things. Bits stuck to Haggis. It was horrific. It was zombie-ish. It made Haggis smell very bad.

I know that some children read this diary. Kids: Would you like photos of the dead things put on these pages? I’d be happy to oblige. Your parents probably wouldn’t approve but that’s reason enough to do it. Eh? Lemme know and I’ll take some snaps of the roadside blood bath.

Oh … Ohio. I am in Ohio. Another state. It’s nice here. It looks like England with lots of trees and nice fields and Dutch barns, which you don’t get in England but in Holland. The corn has come back again though. I thought it had gone. But at least it’s now corn on the left, road in the middle, some trees and wheat on the right.

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Posted by me on July 13th, 2008

Stop me, Stop me …

….oh, oh, Stop me, Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before. Nothing’s changed I still

Oh hang on a minute. Something HAS changed. Where’d the train tracks go? And it’s not flat. It’s rolling countryside. And is that wheat? Is that a horse-drawn carriage containing a gentleman in modest clothing and an Abe Lincoln beard. What’s happened? I have arrived … in Iowa and very nice it is too.

They make very, very fine pie in Iowa. In the company of fellow cyclists Greg and Craig we wolfed delicious pie in the diner at Benton. Yummy Gooseberry Pie. Gooseberry Pie is the new Rhubarb Pie. And tonight I had Sweet Potato Fries with my burger. Oh my! But they came with icing sugar (powered sugar) and honey. How strange.

Factoid of the day: I was in a town called Clarinda Iowa today. It’s where Glenn Miller was born. How educational is this diary eh? It’s almost as good a the Wikipedia except of course PedalPlenty has no errors or exaggerations.

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Posted by me on July 4th, 2008