Day 60 – Vermont

We rode over our first covered bridge just before entering Vermont. 


Today was one of the hottest days so far, with the temperature in the high 80’s and humidity in the 70’s. My jersey was drenched with sweat as we pedaled 53 miles through the rolling back country roads of NY and into Vermont. As we came upon the road closure sign I checked our map to learn the detour would be long so we proceeded past the sign in hopes of passing anyway. Fortunately the nice road workers offered to carry our bike over the half constructed bridge and we were soon on our way again. 


After passing through Bennington we started ascending to our final destination of the day, an RV resort at the Prospect Mountain Ski Area at 2,400 feet in the Catskills. It was reminiscent of Stevens Pass as we ground out the vertical, sweating profusely and savoring the last few drops of Gatorade and water in our bottles, muscles aching all the way. 

Fortunately the hot weather was short lived and we enjoyed a cool breeze through dinner. It’s now raining hard with lightening striking all around, though tomorrow is projected to be sunny and in the 70’s for our ride into New Hampshire. 

John

Day 58 – NY and the Erie Canal

Taking a break at one of Erie Canal’s many locks


As I’m going through my usual morning routine of dressing, gathering gear, eating, and lathering with sunblock, my mood is overshadowed by my lack of sleep, swollen itchy eyes, and runny nose. I woke for the third morning in a row with my eyes crusted shut. This turns out to be prime ragweed season here and I’m VERY allergic. Having skirted through Minnesota without issue, I thought I was home free but apparently not. 

We’ve only got another 30 miles on the Erie Canal before we veer north to Saratoga Springs and Emily’s alma mater, Skidmore College. Tomorrow is a planned rest day so we’ll tour the campus, visit Emily’s favorite spots, and take in some horse racing at the local track. And of course watch the eclipse. 

Route planning and logistics has become exhausting. We’re off Adventure Cycling Association’s Norther Tier route now, so the process of using Google Maps and RideWithGPS is a tedious and time consuming compilation of bike blog notes, cycling tours and races, and just plain connecting of the dots with hopes for the best road conditions. Google Earth is helpful but more than once what appeared to be a concrete road turned out to be loose gravel. The Catskill “Mountains” will be our final physical challenge, though hardly a bother compared to the mental challenge this journey has become. We are ready to reach Boston and take a break!

It’s not all bad though. Our crossing into Ontario, CA on the small Blue Water ferry over the St. Clair river was fun. The ten minute crossing, costing only $4, dropped us in Sombra where friendly Canadian customs officials cheerfully scanned our Nexus cards and welcomed us in true Canadian spirit. Olivia was carrying the 12-pack of Molson Canadian I’d purchased at the tiny duty free store prior to boarding the ferry, which produced a snicker from the customs official.

We spent the next few days riding the northern shore of Lake Erie, with winds predominately at our backs. One night we stayed at a park with “Ontario’s largest sand pile” and swam in the lake, which was warm with big waves, and NOT salty. Very strange. 

As we continued our ride to the northeast we passed through quaint beach communities, reminiscent of Whidbey Island or Hood Canal. There were larger ports with boat harbors, touristy shops, and restaurants with good beer and local fish. 


We caught up to two bicyclists that turned out to be a mother and her 14 year old sun, riding cross country! Her husband is a teacher, driving their RV. We hit it off and had dinner together that might, and rode with them again the next day to Niagara Falls. 

We took turns drafting with our new friends, Denise and Kobe


Niagara Falls was a good spot for a rest day. We did the boat tour, went behind the falls, saw the 4D movie, and played tourist. The Falls are pretty but it was very crowded and overly touristy. 


Tomorrow, we rest before our final four days of riding to Boston. We’re getting excited!

Captain 
 

Day 44 SS Badger across Lake Michigan

Our days of riding the quaint Wisconsin back roads past endless dairy farms have come to an end. We rode into Manitowoc on the western Lake Michigan shore about 12:30pm to rendezvous with the Rig in preparation for our 2pm sailing on the SS Badger, last coal fired steamship in the U.S. Our 4-hour trip took us to Ludington on the Michigan peninsula. 

On Day 41 It Rained, Hard

We had enjoyed a wonderful four day break at Bass Lake, a small family reunion of sorts with many aunts, uncles and cousins with significant others from as far away as Australia. The weather was perfect for swimming and water skiing, with temps in the low 80’s. 

The Stoker enjoying some R&R


The Stoker is constantly eating


On Wednesday we departed Bass Lake to start day 40, passing numerous Wisconsin dairy farms with happy looking cows. The headwind was not welcome, our muscles groaning as they realized the journey wasn’t over yet. 

As we mounted up this morning for what should have been a relatively easy, the radar showed imminent rain so we dug out the rain gear that had been stowed the entire trip. We were soon pedaling in a steady downpour, combined with 53 degree temperature and a stiff headwind. It was COLD!


Before long we were soaked to the bone, and still 15 miles from a town big enough for a cafe. At one point we took brief refuge under a church porch but I convinced my Stoker we needed to push on. 

We finally made it to a diner and caught up with the Rig to dry off and change. The rain subsided in the afternoon so we continued another 25 miles, half on gravel roads due to a navigation error. Ugh! “Perseverance” was the word of the day. 

Tomorrow is another day! And Day 42 at that, 2/3 of the way through. Hoping for sun!

Captain John

Riding Montana’s “Hi-Line” Days 17-21

To the local Montanans, US2 is known as the Hi-Line. It’s also the main east-west rail corridor so we see many BNSF trains daily, along with an occasional Amtrak. We’re often successful at getting them to blow their whistles. 

Growling at an oil train

Back to the road though. We’ve come to appreciate the sections with wide shoulders and a rumble strip to keep vehicles from straying into “our” lane. 

A nice shoulder. Our own “lane”

Unfortunately, many other times we we were confronted with no shoulder, or one completely filled with rumble strip. 

NOT our favorite

It’s on these sections we ride the white line and constantly scan the rear view mirror for overtaking vehicles, waiting for the sound of the typically courteous driver to cross the center rumble as an assurance we won’t be mowed over. Otherwise we pull to the side rumble and stop, particularly if there is oncoming traffic. 
There are many interesting towns we pass through, their distant presence indicated by some green trees and a water tower. Sometimes there is a gas station where we can fill our bottles with ice water, other times just a few rickety houses and a grain depot. 

Once there was even a really good bar at our RV stop. 

The trains have really become part of our Hi Line experience though. As our Rig Driver likes to say, “there’s our friend again!”

We rode very close to the site of “Montana’s most famous train robbery” when Kid Curry, Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and Deaf Charlie held up the Great Northern Railway’s No.3 passenger train in 1901. 


We’ll miss the Hi-Line, as we’ve now turned south to avoid the oil fields near Williston North Dakota. 

Captain 

Day 19 – Mosquitoes! Or Not

We’d been hearing about them for days from passing bikers.  Saco is the dreaded town where the swarms of nasty skeeters will ride along on our panniers then jump up for some fresh blood, returning to their perch to digest their meal before making another attack. Our morning diner waitress, when we were still a safe 20 miles west exclaimed to Olivia “honey, they’re gonna eat you up you cute little thing!” One of the local ranchers in the diner even gave us a bottle of deet (the real deal) and wished us luck.

Olivia was ready for battle. She’d read up on what to eat to ward them off (garlic, vanilla), what color clothing to wear (not dark), and had a plan for how she would juggle the spray cans of repellent while swatting them off.

Olivia getting a final dose of repellent prior to “battle”

At 10 miles west of Saco the skeeters hadn’t shown themselves yet so we stopped at a historic site for one last rest and spray down because our plan was to ride fast to clear the mosquito area as quickly as possible (despite a nasty headwind that had come up).

Montana’s roadside historic sites always make a nice pit stop

To make a long story short (another future post), we suddenly had a bent rear derailleur hangar which delayed us an hour for repairs. It was getting hot, and late so off we went to Saco. As we rode through town the nasty skeeters still hadn’t materialized. Had they been warned of Olivia’s battle plans? More likely, as one local surmised, “they are all breeding since we just had rain. A few days from now will be unbearable”. Hmm, okay.

 

The thriving town of Saco

Every town out here has a water tower

Well, we never encountered the mosquitoes. Thank goodness because the headwinds had become so strong we were only making 10 mph. We’d have been destroyed! Instead we pedalled on, finally completing our 89 mile day at 6:30pm. In the end, we’d been defeated by wind and hills, not mosquitoes.

John

Day 18 – A Day of Firsts

We rode our first Century, 108 miles from Hingham to Dodson. The tailwinds helped but it was a long day in the saddle. 

Our first real dog scare occurred about a mile out of Havre. He had run up a big bank from a trailer home and was on us without warning, barking incessantly and lunging at us. Olivia has become a pro at pulling out the pepper spray quickly, thanks to other encounters with slightly friendlier canines. Fortunately the owner called for the angry dog and he was sparred a dose of pepper spray. 

Olivia at the ready with pepper spray

Have I mentioned it’s been HOT? Every day since Seattle it’s been well over 90 degrees. Well this was the first day it did not reach 90. In fact it was “only” 85. What a treat!

And finally, we’d had our first thunderstorm overnight so had mud and puddles to start the day. It quickly warmed and was sunny but we raced a rainstorm our last 20 miles of the day. The rain finally caught us though, which was a welcome relief. 

Oh, and it was my birthday! What a great way to spend the day 😉

John