Sunday, July 31, 2016

100: On the edge of a large, dark forest

Just about when we hit 5000 miles!
We hit two major milestones today: this is our 100th day on the road, and we passed the 5,000 mile mark. It's amazing, even to us, that we have come this far. Several times today, when we stopped for a meal or a break, we chatted with folks that were interested in our journey and surprised to learn we'd come from Southern California. So am I!
Looking like rain today

The ride was not quite so steep and rolling as yesterdays. While we had rain forecast, and did get sprinkles, it was not ever enough to even bother putting our jackets on and the clouds kept things cool.

We stopped at a convenience store to get a bite about 10 miles from our destination, and I was talking with a fellow who used to own a little hotel over here. He asked where we were staying, and when I said, "the Adirondack Hotel" he acted like it was a dump or something. He said the Lodge on Long Lake was "the nicest place" and suggested we might want to change our reservation.

A local landmark
But we got here, and this is what we found: An old-style hotel, originally built in 1850, and just perfect for us. We enjoyed our dinner in the restaurant, and our drink up on the balcony overlooking the lake, and could not be happier. And, how often do you get Victorian bric-a-brac with a moose?
At the front desk

 So - whatever floats your boat, mister!

The day's report:  Thendara to Long Lake, 52.9 miles/5039 to date

Long Lake at Sunset

Saturday, July 30, 2016

99: We're all alone . . .

Not our hotel, but pretty cool, eh?
Roger and I were talking with the proprietor of the little inn that we stayed in yesterday, and she said she had not had many cyclists this year. We were also thinking that we'd expected to see more tourists once we got back on the Northern Tier route, but except for Graylan the other day, we've not seen anyone doing a coast-to-coast tour since we got back to the states.

We wonder if we will see anyone else as we continue east to Vermont. We don't have too much longer ourselves on the eastbound portion of our trip, and we came to the conclusion that anyone starting out now for Seattle is going to be pushing the weather in the Cascades . . . hence, we probably won't see anyone else on the road out here. Most of the cyclists we met when we left the San Juan Islands were heading east, as we were. Most of them were zooming due to some deadline they had with work or other commitments. We ran across some others in the Midwest - and they may be well on the way to the west coast by now.

So we are wondering, when we start the southbound portion of our trip - who will we see? There may still be people doing some north/south routes, and they will have plenty of time to get where they are going before the weather gets too bad, so we're hopeful that we'll run across some other tourists. To tell the truth, we enjoy talking with them, finding out where they are going, and where they have been. It gets a bit lonely out here!
They never look as fierce in the photos!

Today's ride brought us up to about 1600 feet in the Adirondacks.  It was not too long - just 52 miles. But it was really up-and-down. On at least 17 of the "ups" we hit gradients of 10% or more. That just stops the tandem dead in its tracks! Those of you who are cyclists in the Redlands area will know the portion of 5th Street after you cross Wildwood Canyon Road where you go down and then curve right and go straight up that hill. It's sort of like that, except that most of these, you do not get that nice running start so we just do not have the momentum to make it up to the top.  We pretty much just grunt and grind it out. And we did that 17 times today. Ay yi yi!
Pick your numbers, kiddos!

Payouts and betting
The other thing I thought I would share today is this fun little game that folks up here play in the bars and cafes.  (We saw it also in Michigan, and maybe also Wisconsin.) It's a great voluntary form of taxation in which people select a couple of numbers from a grid of 80, and place bets on whether their numbers will come up or not when the next set of numbers is drawn. And the monitor in the bar is just set on this station, where the numbers get drawn over and over again, every 5 minutes or so. And all over the state, people are marking little cards, and giving the bartender money for their bets, and the little numbers are coming up - or not. This in a place where breakfast (two eggs, toast and coffee) is $4.50 every morning. I watched one woman in Wisconsin place her $2 bet for three consecutive draws. Nada for her.  Oh, well. I guess it's fun, somehow. The grandkids were helping her look for her numbers. Nice lesson for them, eh?  Here's what we do with our spare $6!

Lovely old home in one of these little towns
There are great old homes and buildings in most of these small towns, as well as houses that need a whole lot of love to be restored. Some of the old ones have doors on the second floor. Roger noticed one of them yesterday. I said maybe the front porch used to be a walk-out balcony, but what I learned yesterday is that many old houses had second floor doors because there was so much snow in the winter they just didn't even try to keep the ground floor accessible!  Now that's a lot of snow.

Another observation I made today, and it shocked me when I realized it: fall is coming! The golden Alexander that we enjoyed on the roadside in Wisconsin is done blooming and turning gold and going to seed out here. The goldenrods are blooming, there are bright red berries on many shrubs and vines, the cattails are up and lovely, the sorrel seeds are deep maroon or brown . . . even some of the trees have tints of gold or brown (probably from stress due to drought, but still!) It is lovely to see, but scary. Can we possibly be heading into another season again so soon?  Perhaps the warmth and dryness of the season has brought this on early this year. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

The day's report:  Redfield to Thendara, 52.2 miles/4985.7 to date

Tomorrow we hit two big milestones:  We will be on our 100th day, and we will pass 5000 miles!

Here's the route for you:  Up and Down from Redfield
Autumn is creeping into the landscape already

Friday, July 29, 2016

98: ATM Inside

Corn here is not looking so good. They need rain, and soon!
Forgot to mention yesterday how warm and steamy it's been up here. The locals are all complaining and apologizing for how hot it is. Of course, it would be silly to complain about temps in the 90s when much of the country is baking over 100. But the mugginess here is giving us a foretaste of what we are likely to encounter as we move east and south. It does tend to sap our energy. Yesterday was just 54 miles, but it felt interminable. 

Another reason for that is that we have left the flat canal route and are now climbing up towards the Adirondacks. We climbed about 3000 feet yesterday, all between 250 and 500 feet. That is to say, we gained a few feet overall in elevation by climbing the same 100 feet over and over. It was sort of like a roller coaster ride, with really steep uphills and short descents. On at least 5 or 6 occasions, I looked down and caught 14% on the Garmin. These were mostly on little bumps - 60 or 80 feet uphills that truly tested Roger's shifting skills. We did at one point have enough of a downhill to get up to 40 mph - probably the first time that has happened since we left Montana!  Today we climbed about 2000 feet, but at least we gained some real altitude, ending about 700 higher than we began.  This is the Tug Hill plateau, which gets 300 inches of snow most winters. 300 inches! I was trying to imagine what that would be like as we rode along today.  That's 24 feet - if it all came at one time it would completely bury the trees in the orchards here. Something to think about.

And then there is the curious (to us) issue of the cash economy up here. Way more caf├ęs and such up here are "cash only" than anywhere else we have been, except perhaps on the Canadian shore of Lake Erie, where our money wasn't any good anyway. We were dead out of cash yesterday when we hit the only bike store in 40 miles either side of our route to pick up a spare tire. We didn't want to enter the Adirondacks without one, and we had not been able to get one at our previous stop.

But that shouldn't be a problem, right? Since when have you been in a bike shop that doesn't accept credit cards? But this shop uses a Square for charges, and apparently his Square won't work with a card with a chip, which all of ours do now. He's ordered a new Square, but it's not here yet. So that's cash for the tire, sir. But wait! Roger has a debit card without a chip. Will the Square work with that one? No, it will not. So Roger heads over to the ATM to get some money that we can use on this strange and exotic land of upstate, rural New York! 

So Roger comes out of the store with the tire, which we bungee to the packs because they did not have a foldable tire - not one - and I ask for the receipt.  Because I am tracking our expenses.  And he says, 'no receipt.' OK.  What's the total? 'Twenty bucks.'  Exactly?  'Exactly.'  So that's how we do business up here. Cash on the barrelhead, no records for anybody.  Heck, for all we know, this was just some dude that wandered in to the store a few minutes ahead of us, and the shop owner is tied up in the back someplace!  If this were not enough, I will add that this was the oddest bike shop I've ever been in.
Music and games in the bike shop
There were a few bikes, true - but virtually no other bike-related merchandise.  Like, no clothing.  No gear, no goop, no accessories.  There was, however, a full drum set, complete with four cymbals. Racks of video games, DVD box sets of TV shows, boxes of electronic equipment and power tools strewn across the floor. While we were trying to complete our transaction, a woman came in with two youths. There was a used recumbent near the wall, and she asked how much it was. (There were no prices on anything.) The guy says, 'maybe like a thousand.' Yeah, whatever!

The customs here, they are so strange! I think we have maybe wandered into another country, yes? But such a deal they have for breakfast!
Look at those prices!

Maybe it's just another time. Perhaps we have passed through a worm hole into an alternate universe. Certainly we do not often pass the farm equipment on the road. But here in this alternate universe, we are faster than the horse-drawn reaper!
Horse-driven reaper

The old cemeteries are so cool. 
This is old country. In the cemeteries as we pass by, I sometimes see gravestones with death dates of 1860 or so. Those would have been people born two hundred years ago, or more. The home we stayed in a night ago was built in the 1840s, I think they said. So things around here have a kind of stateliness to them, even when they are falling down from lack of repair.

We passed through several small towns along the Ontario shore today with some nice buildings downtown, and great old houses here and there.
Downtown storefront

The Silver Queen gets a bath
Riding along the Erie Canal towpath for several days in the gravel had really gotten the bike dirty, so we stopped today to give it a bath.  Just part of what you do on tour.

The day's report:  Fulton to Redfield, 44.9 miles/4934 to date

The route map:  Fulton to Redfield
Our stop for the night: restaurant, store and inn all in one!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

97: Another great lake

Lake Ontario near Sodus Point
We left Jim and Carol's after some great blueberry pancakes, and headed due north to the shore of Lake Ontario. Like its sister, Erie, this lake is a bit shy. We could see glimpses of the lake past the homes right there, but didn't get a good look at Ontario until we reached the town of Sodus Point.

The Fresnel lens magnifies the internal light
There we were able to climb the steps to the light in the historic light house! All the lighthouses I have ever seen, and finally a chance to get up in one. The light itself is just gorgeous!

We rode through lots of apple orchards today. Pretty old barns and houses that provided sanctuary to slaves on the Underground Railroad were part of the day, also. It is humbling to recognize these places have been here for so very long, and played such an important role in our nation's history.

And then, I had the pleasure of visiting with my old friend from high school, Mike Lynn, who drove up from Ithaca to have dinner with us. It was so cool to see him - I told Roger he was now entering the "Wayback Machine"!

The day's report:  Pultneyville to Fulton, 54.1 miles/4889 to date

Our route for the day

Apple trees are planted almost like grape vines

Cool old barn

Kathy and Mike

Lighthouse at Sodus Point

96: Reflections on the Erie Canal

We had a pleasant enough evening camping on the banks of the Erie Canal. The only downside was the roving packs of young people searching for Pokemon characters now and then. But they all headed off to bed by 10 or so I would say, and it was nice and quiet after that.

The setting sun put a golden glow on the canal last night

Wehad a camping mate at this site last night. Graylan rode up during the day while I was setting up my tent. He was about whether to press on for more miles or stay, but after having some dinner with us he finally decided that this was the place to stay for the night. Graylan is on a tour from Newfoundland to Seattle. He started his tour two years ago, but crashed on the first day and had serious injuries. So it took him awhile to heal and get his act together again and undertake the tour a second time. He is calling this second attempt 'The Revenge Tour.'  I like his moxie!

Catching anything?
We continued along the Canal for some 40 or so miles, most of it gravel. I want to point out that this increases the effort to keep the bike upright and moving forward, and so my hat's off to Roger for steering us through the terrain, and keeping us on track.

It was so calm and clear this morning along the canal
We stopped for a hot dog and met some other tourists headed the other direction. We usually stop to exchange stories and find out where everyone is headed. These gentlemen were doing a ride through New York around the Finger Lakes. Al was on the original transcontinental ride with Adventure Cycling and is a life member with them.
Art and Al

Had to stop and pick some berries
Yum! Snacks on the bike
One of the cool things about bike touring is that you can pretty much do what you want as you ride along. So  today I saw some berries along the road, and we stopped so I could pick some. Oh, my! They were delicious, and made a great snack for us as we rode along.

We were approaching Rochester on the canal path when we happened upon Bonnie, who was our trail angel for the day. The trail has a detour, and she guided us through the zone on the locals' route, bypassing most of the mess. Her guidance also took us past the edge of the University of Rochester, where I did some work several years ago. It was nice to see the campus again.
Following Bonnie through the bike paths to stay on course

Carol and Jim with 90 year old tree
We stayed with Warm Showers hosts Jim and Carol, who have a 65 acre apple orchard on the shore of Lake Ontario. They let me into the garden to pick fresh vegetables for our dinner!  Heaven! I felt like I was home again.

They grow some heirloom apples and I am hoping to get some this fall!

The day's report:  Brockport to Pultneyville, 63 miles/4835 to date

The route for the day

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

95: Six degrees of Gary Goble

Do you know this man?
Now if you have ever played that fun little parlor game called "Six degrees of Kevin Bacon," you should know what this post is about. We were riding along the Erie Canal path (more on that later) and chatting with another couple (on separate bikes) who were interested in our tandem. They have a Burley tandem, but did not bring it on this trip east. They had met someone last summer, though - when they were in Colorado - that also rides a tandem, and mentioned that they should go see the factory, since they were so close. A DaVinci. And so we had to ask - did they remember his name? Was he slender, and nice-looking, with great grey hair? Yes, he was. And so I found a picture of our friend Gary from Colorado, who rides a DaVinci with his wife, Joanne, and said, "is this the guy?"

YES! And how amazing is that? Gary, do you recognize Zack and Eva from a year ago?
Eva from Las Vegas

And in the "small world" category, Gary (and Joanne) also claim a long-term friendship with Roger's cousin Sue Vreeland Sander, who played in the Denver Symphony with them.  They discovered this link because Roger's cousin Jacque, in touch with Sue about some things from her mother's estate that she thought Sue might like to have, mentioned that her cousin Roger was doing this bike ride around the country. And then Joanne mentioned to Sue at some point that their friends, Roger and Kathy, were doing this bike ride around the country. Could these be the same Roger?

YES! And that was how we came to be connected to a cousin that Roger has never met before.

A little later in the morning, we stopped to have a bite and met a woman who recently moved from Las Vegas to California. We enjoyed visiting with her, and learned that her boyfriend is a cyclist in Las Vegas. As are the couple that we were visiting with on the bike path!  So here is a challenge for Zack and Eva, and Cassie from California:  Let's find out if Cassie's boyfriend knows Zack!  If you are reading the blog, leave a comment with his name, and we will see how many degrees of Gary Goble we have here!

Another challenge:  Cassie's sister Julie Waters works at Cornell, where my friend Michael Lynn is a member of the faculty. So I bet that there is someone in common that they know, and that would be another couple degrees of Gary Goble!

Selfie, with canal
And now for the day's ride along the canal: great weather, tailwind, the surface not paved (mostly) but fine crushed gravel that was okay to ride on (mostly) and so interesting to pass along this great old canal and imagine the mules pulling the boats through the state. We sang several "worker songs" in commemoration as we rode. I had such a big grin on my face all day I attempted a selfie with canal.  What do you think?

We are camping at the Welcome Center in the town of Brockton. They have space available, and give you a card key for the restrooms (with showers!) that are there. Even a laundry room if you need it. So if you are passing through this way on the canal, you need to make a stop.  Just to say, "thank you!" even if you don't stay.

The day's report:  Lewiston to Brockport, 63 miles

Riding along the Erie Canal
Cozy camp right on the canal, thanks to the good folks of Brockton

Monday, July 25, 2016

94: Nothing to see here, folks . . .

Really. We are taking a rest day in Lewiston. Having gone almost 600 miles in the nine days since we left Traverse City, we just needed a day off the bike.

Roger has done a bit of repair on this Silver Queen (we had another broken spoke - disturbing) and we stopped in at the CVS to pick up some toiletries and what not.  We're just lazing about the hotel room, catching up on the financial stuff and blogging, and happy to be indoors last night when a great storm moved through the area. In fact, it was raining when we woke up, and nothing is sweeter than knowing that you don't have to get out of bed on a rainy day!

We have planned out the next week or so of our travels, and are looking forward to seeing old friends as we cross New York.  Then we'll visit with Roger's half-sister Lisa in Vermont, and make the turn to head back home.

Approaching the mid-point of our trip is an interesting feeling. Still so far to go, and yet we will soon be on the return portion - wow!

Okay - so there is something to see.  Here is a map with our progress so far!

93: Slowly I turned . . .

Roger and I are following many of the Adventure Cycling routes, but that does not mean that we have paid very much attention to the details of the day-to-day turn-by-turn instructions. Which is why I was delighted, and surprised, to see that our path would take us right by Niagara Falls.  Niagara!  How cool is that?
Dan and Lynn at their guest cottage

Dan en route
We said goodbye to our Warm Showers hosts, Dan and Lynn, and got an escort out of town from Dan.  It was another hot day, but the prevailing winds are from the west here, so we never had to fight headwinds. Most of our trip was on bike paths -first a very nice one (the Friendship Trail) from Port Colborne to Port Erie, and then the Niagara Parkway and trail along the Niagara River. This is the border between Canada and New York, and I will confess I got a bit teary-eyed when I saw the first of several bridges across to the states with both countries' flags flying side-by-side.  To paraphrase Rodney King, "can't we all just get along great like these two countries?"
Buffalo from across the lake

In fact, the Falls are such an amazing attraction that there are people there of every nation. The place was mobbed. Roger and I had visited once in the winter, and it is not nearly so crowded.  Here in mid-summer's high season, it was crazy.  We enjoyed stopping for a moment to take in the sights, then snapped our photos and headed on our way.
The Silver Queen makes it Niagara Falls!

I love the power of the rapids as the river approaches the falls

American Falls, and Horseshoe Falls on the right, from the bridge
The river continues through a beautiful gorge after the falls.

Back in the US of A
We had laundry to do, and found a laundromat in Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. Half a mile from the river, and it's just sort of a depressed, and depressing little town. Shop windows with bars on them, that sort of thing. When we arrived at our hotel in Lewiston fifteen miles down the road, what did we find right across the road? A laundromat!  Oh, well.  We had loonies to spend anyway!

And of course, all that water falling down the hills generates lots of power. The high tension lines coming out of the area were astounding. I've never seen so many.

The day's report:  Port Colborne to Lewiston, 47.6 miles/4709 to date

Lots of energy in falling water!