Training

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Tom asked if I am doing any training for my thru-hike. I suppose
training would fall into two categories. One would be training in the
skills of backpacking. Well, I've been backpacking since my Boy Scout
days, so I haven't been doing anything special int hat regard. I did
start, a couple of years ago, revamping a lot of my gear to embrace a
lot of the light-weight hiking paradigm, so much of my basic gear has
been replaced. For instance, my old external frame Kelty backpack
weighed 6 1/2 pounds, empty! My new pack weighs something like 22 oz.

The biggest equipment change was the switch from tent to hammock. The
hammock is super comfortable for sleeping, and certainly makes site
selection a lot easier since I don't have to worry about finding
level, clear ground, but it does make managing my gear a bit different
as I can't just throw a lot of stuff inside the tent with me.

But I think what Tom was really asking about is physical training.
Certainly, I have never hiked day after day for months at a time, and
I am not sure how one would train for that, other than to hike day
after day for months at a time. But I do get out for the occasional
weekend backpack, and I know that I am capable of hiking 10 or 12 or
15 miles and getting up the next morning and doing it again. I am a
runner, and that keeps me in pretty good shape, although running is
not hiking. I completed my second marathon back at the beginning of
October.

My hope, my plan, and my intention is to keep running through the
winter, and hopefully find myself starting my hike in decent shape
physically. And I intend to start easy, holding my mileage to 10 or 12
miles per day at first, and giving my body time to adjust to the daily
workload. Hopefully that will help me avoid any overuse injuries.

I always find it hard to stay active in the wintertime. It's not the
cold that bothers me so much as it is the darkness. When I get home
from work at 5:00 in the afternoon, and it is dark outside and all the
streetlights are on, my body feels like it is nighttime and time to
shut down and rest. For some reason getting up in the dark in the
early morning never bothers me the same way, so I have shifted from
running in the evening after work to running in the morning before
work. That's not working out as well as I had hoped, and my running
has slacked off a lot over the last month or so, but I still plan to
sign up for the Half Marathon (or maybe I'll sign up for the full,
what the heck!) at Myrtle Beach in February, and knowing I will be
doing that is going to drive me to get out more often and build my
mileage back up.

I figure I won't be the most fit person starting a thru-hike this
year, but neither will I be the least fit. And one advantage of age
over youth is that I've learned the value of perseverance. As long as
I don't give up mentally (and everything I hear tells me this is
really a mental challenge far more than a physical one) , I should be
able to deal with whatever physical ailments might come my way.


~~~~~
Allen F. Freeman
allen@allenf.com
www.allenf.com

90 Days

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Ninety days from today, on March 18, 2009, I should be standing under
the arch in Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia, starting my hike up
the 8.8 mile long Approach Trail to the summit of Springer Mountain
and the southern terminus of the Appalachian trail.

I don't think this is any kind of surprise to the few people who read
my blog. I think I've talked about my plans to thru-hike the AT enough
that everyone knows. But just in case I'm wrong, take this as an
official announcement: My plans for 2009 include an attempt at a
thru-hike of the Appalachian trail. This is something I have thought
of doing ever since I first learned about the AT back in my Boy Scout
days, and for the first time in my life it is something that I can
actually do. We have no mortgage, no car loans, no loans of any kind.
Anju is off on her own and I am no longer a day-to-day, hands-on
parent. Jodi earns a good living, and while it is certainly not
trivial to walk away from 6+ months of salary, neither is it
impossible.

So come March of 2009, I will be resigning my current position and
heading for Georgia. If all goes according to plan I will reach Maine,
some 2,176 miles later, sometime in September or October. That is,
however, a big if. Only about 20% of the people who start a thru-hike
actually complete it. People drop out for many reasons; they get
injured, they run out of money, they get bored or discouraged by bad
weather. Sometimes a crisis at home brings them off the trail. That
20% is a sobering statistic. It takes a lot to put your everyday life
on hold to take on this attempt, and it sure would be a shame to find
myself off the trail and back home soon after I left.

Ninety days seems like a long time to wait to start this adventure,
but at the same time it seems like it is just around the corner, and I
have lots left to do before I leave. I won't bore you with those
details now, but I may write more about that later.

If you are reading this and you happen to be one of my co-workers at
Homesite, please keep this under your hat. Thanks!


~~~~~
Allen F. Freeman
allen@allenf.com
www.allenf.com

Marathon Man

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This past weekend Jodi and I were in Hartford, CT for the Hartford Marathon. I ran the full marathon and Jodi ran the half. For those of you who want the executive summary, I finished the marathon in 3:57:34, a 9:04 average pace, and Jodi crossed the line for the half in 2:23:28, for a 10:57 pace.

It was a gorgeous day for a race. The temperature was a bit higher than would have been ideal, but it was a bright sunny day and the fall foliage was highlighted against a stunningly blue sky. A big chunk of the marathon course is an out-and-back run up the east side of the Connecticut River from East Hartford to South Windsor. The road was lined with old New England homes set in yards with huge trees sporting their fall foliage. I don’t usually notice the scenery when running, but for this race I did and I enjoyed it tremendously.

Tactically, my race went really well. The start was a bit chaotic. This is normal in big races, as the thousands of runners have to sort themselves out by pace and the field stretches out ss you have a bit of room to run. In this case, for some reason several groups of walkers lined up at the front of the race, and in the first half mile I remember having to maneuver around three separate groups of walkers, who had themselves strung out 4 or 5 abreast walking while thousands of runners tried to maneuver past them. I don’t know why they didn’t have enough sense to line up at the back of the pack, but since they apparently didn’t it’s too bad the race organizers didn’t explain it to them.

Anyway, this eventually got itself sorted out and after the first mile I was about a minute and a half over my target pace of 9:00 minutes per mile. Absolutely to be expected at the start of a big field so it didn’t concern me at all. After the first mile I spent the next couple of miles closely monitoring my pace and trying to settle back into my target and get the rhythm started. At mile 3 I was about 45 seconds behind my target time. I chipped away at the deficit slowly and got
closer and closer with each mile, though a quick pee stop just before mile 10 left me 44 seconds behind again, with a 10 mile split of 1:30:44. I made this up quickly, probably getting a bit of a mental boost from the turn-around at the northern end of the out-and-back section just before mile 11, so at mile 12 I was 4 or 5 seconds ahead. I eased up slightly and crossed the 13.1 mile (half-marathon) mat at 1:58:06, which is a 9:01 pace.

I was thrilled with the 1:58 split. That had me on target for a 3:56 marathon, and I figured I would lose a minute or two after mile 20 when my legs started to rebel but would still have a cushion to come in under 4 hours. Around mile 19 I had to make another pit stop but still managed to hit the 20 mile split at 3:00:37, just 37 seconds slow of my target pace. I had started to feel the real fatigue at about mile 18 and that worried me because I didn’t expect to feel that
way until mile 21 or 22, but it wasn’t the desperate fatigue I felt when I hit the wall and fell apart last year at Marine Corps. The last few miles included some minor ups and downs as we ran up and down some overpasses and on the slightly undulating paths on either side of the river. I started to feel the beginning of a charlie horse in my left leg when running the ups but managed to stave it off by slowing up slightly and some judicious pounding on the muscle with my fist. A lot of people were walking in these last miles, and my body really wanted me to join them, if only briefly, but I knew if I gave in to the desire I stood a good chance of blowing my chance of coming in under 4:00 hours, so I resisted and carried on running. This is when I find wearing my Garmin the most helpful, as I could look at my current lap pace — I have it set to automatically lap at each mile — and see that I was slowing down too much and put in a concerted effort to pick up my pace.

Finally, we were back into downtown Hartford and heading up the east side of Bushnell Park. I was looking desperately for the 26 mile banner, and felt great relief when it came into sight. Around the last sharp left and there was the finish. A hard sprint under the Soldiers and Sailors Arch, and I was over the line! My final time of 3:57:34 means I lost about a minute and a half as I slowed in the last 10k. I’ll have to work on that.

We celebrated our races by having dinner on Saturday night with my daughter Anju, my two brothers, and their wives. That was a great time and a highlight of our weekend.

I think now we might look for a half marathon in the next few weeks to run just for fun.

Wandering In The Wilderness

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This weekend I went hiking. Until I got home last night I didn’t know that WAMU had failed. I didn’t know that Paul Newman had died. I hadn’t watched the debate. I didn’t even care. And guess what? The world didn’t end.

I spent Friday afternoon walking through the woods in the rain. It was beautiful. The world was green and red and gold dripping with bits of silvery water. The rain stopped sometime during the night, and on Saturday I walked through the still-dripping woods all day, calling on some old friends; Branch Pond, Bourne Pond, and Stratton Pond. I passed Bourne Pond mid-morning savoring memories of a weekend spent at the no longer extant Bourne Pond Shelter one chilly October weekend years ago when I drifted off to sleep to the sound of dozens and dozens of Canada Geese landing on the Pond to rest overnight, then awoke the next morning to a cacophony of sound as they all rose, circled once, and headed on south.

A couple miles north of Bourne Pond I came across some recent beaver activity that had flooded a stretch of trail and forced me to bushwhack around it, getting myself soaked from head to toe but leaving me with a stupid grin on my face. There were about a dozen white birch trees in a little grove next to the brand new beaver pond, and the beavers had felled each and every one of them. I understand birch is one of their favorite foods.

On Saturday night I was camped above the shore of Stratton Pond and just before rain forced me into my little tent for the night I walked down to the shore and watched a beaver swim across the pond. When he or she was next to the bank opposite me, he smacked the water three
times with his tail. I knew beavers did this, but I never realized what a big splash they make. Each time the tail smacked the water a geyser of water shot several feet into the air. It was really quite amazing.

On Sunday morning the rain tapered off and I found myself in a tight little world about 10 yards around, hemmed in with a heavy fog. I picked my way around the shore of Stratton Pond and started up the slope of Stratton Mountain. For some reason I was feeling really good and just cruised up the mountain in one steady push and arrived just as the sun started to burn through the top layer of fog. It was still early and I had the summit all to myself, just the way I like it. I’m selfish that way.

I met no other hikers on Friday. On Saturday I did cross paths with two men who had spent the night camped at Bourne Pond. The rest of the day I had the forest all to myself. On Sunday while I was on my way down Stratton Mountain and nearly back to my car, I passed a few day hikers on their way up to the summit.

It was a wonderful weekend.

Photos

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I finally got the few photos we took uploaded to my web server. You can find them here:

http://picasaweb.google.com/affreeman1959/2008BikeTourBostonToDC#

Some Final Stats

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Here are some cumulative stats according to my GPSr. My plan was to turn on the GPS each day when we started out, and leave it on until we arrived at the day’s destination. I pretty much succeeded in doing so so these stats cover our travel day including any breaks we took.

Total Odometer Miles: 697.67
Max Speed: 45.3 mph
Moving Time: 66hr 53min
Moving Avg: 10.4 mph
Stopped: 24hr 23min
Overall Avg: 7.6 mph
Total Ascent: 29,681′

Arrival

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Sorry for being a day late with this.

We left Ashland, MD around 8:00AM yesterday morning and had about 12 miles to go to hook back up with the ACA route. Actually, the ACA route used to pass through here and most of the roads we were riding are the old ACA route. It was a beautiful area with smooth though narrow roads lined with grand old trees and white fences running straight through the undulating topography delineating horse pastures. Unfortunately this area has grown a lot and these little roads carried heavy commuter traffic. Traffic was heavy enough that we couldn’t really enjoy the area, though we only heard one “Get out OF THE r-o-a-d” yelled at us, and that funnily enough from somebody in the opposing lane who wasn’t affected by our presence at all.

We were approaching the D.C metro area so none of the roads we rode were really quiet, but it was pleasant enough riding. We stopped for a second breakfast sitting at a picnic table outside the deli that cooked our breakfast, and had a nice conversation with a couple of workmen who had stopped for their lunch.

Eventually we reached a part of the route — Rt. 30 — where a major construction project was going on and the route was posted “NO BICYCLES”, but no alternate route was offered so we really had no choice but to press on. Most of the way we had a shoulder to ride on though for part of the way we had to cross the road and ride against traffic, but finally we reached a section with no shoulder to either side and both lanes constricted by jersey barriers, and there was nothing to do but take the lane and force the 50+mph traffic to slow behind us. Finally we were through it and turned off on a quieter road.

Mid-afternoon we reached Rock Creek Regional Park and turned in. We rode through this beautiful park until we reached the northern end of the Rock Creek Trail which leads in to Washington, D.C. We followed this trail south with a few navigational questions when there were unsigned trail intersections. Eventually we were far enough south to know that the spur trail through Bethesda should be close, and by questioning other trail users managed to find it and ride right into downtown Bethesda. From here it was just over a mile to Jodi’s sister’s house, and we arrived around 5:00PM after a 71 mile day, making a total of 698 miles since leaving Boston 12 days ago.

Right now I am sitting in my sister-in-law’s living room watching Stage 6 of the Tour de France and those young riders sure do ride farther and faster than we do, but they don’t carry their own luggage nor do they have to deal with motor traffic. Wimps!

Allen Freeman
allen@allenf.com
www.allenf.com

Off Route

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It was a hot day today with a high of 94. Instead of riding up and down all those hills through the Pennsylvania and Maryland countryside on sunbaked roads, we rode west to the city of York and picked up the Heritage Rail Trail which took us south 20 miles to the Maryland state line and then became the Northern Central Railroad Trail in Maryland and took us another 20 miles to Ashland. It was really nice riding the easy railroad grades and enjoying all of the shade. I can’t say I love rail trails or would like to ride them day after day, but it made a welcome respite for us today.

We are at the Hampton Inn in Ashland and have about 12 miles to get us back onto the ACA route in Reistertown tomorrow morning, then about 50 more miles to get us to Jodi’s sister’s house in Bethesda, so it looks like we’ll be finishing up tomorrow.

Allen Freeman
allen@allenf.com
www.allenf.com

Comments

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To those of you who have left comments on our blog, I want to tell you that Jodi and I read every one and are thrilled that you are reading along and hopefully getting something from it. We appreciate all of you.

Allen Freeman
allen@allenf.com
www.allenf.com

Susquehanna River

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It was a hot and muggy night. Does that qualify for some kind of award for a bad opening line? Well, it was a hot and muggy night last night. We were camping and it was quite uncomfortable in our tent, but we managed to get a decent night’s rest. We were up and made our breakfast and packed up the tent and other gear and were on the road by 8:00 or so.

We found ourselves riding through rolling farm country with Amish men working the fields with horse teams. The weather was as it has been for days, heavily overcast but not quite raining. We rode for a couple of hours and while climbing one of the many hills noticed a couple on a tandem with panniers up ahead of us. We eventually overtook them and chatted for a minute before continuing on. They were the first and so far only other touring cyclists we’ve seen on this trip.

Soon after it started raining lightly. Finally I asked Jodi to pull over and I put the rain covers on my panniers. This is usually enough to make the heavens clear and the sun appear, bit it didn’t work today. Soon we were riding in a downpour and got ourselves thoroughly soaked. Of course there is nothing wrong with being wet, as long as you’re not cold, and it was a warm rain on a warm day, so we were happy to continue riding. Soon after the rain tapered off and ended, we arrived in Manheim, PA and it being lunch time we stopped at a local grill for lunch. The air conditioned restaurant soon had us in our wet clothes thoroughly chilled so we wasted no time in getting back out on our bikes. The sun was out now so the chill restaurant was soon a fond memory as we sweated up more hills.

Our original plan for the day was to cycle to York Furnace and camp for the night, but our laundry from yesterday had not yet dried and now all of our cycling clothes were wet. The forecast called for more rain as evening came as well as overnight, so we decided to get a room somewhere and get everything dried out. Looking at the map there were few options so we decided to stop in Columbia, PA on the bank of the Susquehanna River. That made a short day of only 45 miles and we arrived here before 2:00pm and had a very relaxing afternoon. Just as we were about to walk to a local restaurant for dinner another shower came through which we sat out on the wide front porch of the Columbian B&B where we are staying.

Our 45 mile day puts us 572 miles from home.

While I type this Jodi has been looking over the map for tomorrow’s route and it turns out there isn’t any place to stay–neither camping or hotel or motel — other than the campground at York Furnace which is too close for a day’s ride, for at least another 75 miles, and that only if we take the alternate route into downtown Baltimore. If we stick to the main route we would have to ride nearly to Bethesda, our ultimate destination, to find a place to sleep tomorrow night. It looks like we will have to depend on the POI database in our GPS to find us something off-route when we feel like we’ve ridden far enough tomorrow.

Oh, I almost forgot. Remember that tandem couple I mentioned earlier? While Jodi and I were on our way out for dinner tonight they were just arriving at this same B&B! Paul and Jane are from northwestern NJ and are heading for Reston, VA. Hopefully we’ll get to chat some more over breakfast in the morning.

Allen Freeman
allen@allenf.com
www.allenf.com

Lancaster County

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After two big-mileage days back to back we decided to take it easy today.

We left Norristown along the Schuylkill River bike path and immediately crossed the river into Valley Forge National Historic Park. We took our time poking around the park and didn’t leave there until almost 11:00, then headed west and stopped at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Park after lunch. We spent a couple of hours there and didn’t leave until nearly 3:00, then pushed on a bit more until we reached a campground just across the Lancaster County line. The forecast had a 60% chance of rain today and it looked like it was ready to happen all day but it held off. Right now it looks and sounds like a thunderstorm is on its way so we may be cooped up in the tent reading very soon.

We made 47 miles today, putting us 527 miles from home, and probably about 150 or so miles from Bethesda.

Allen Freeman
allen@allenf.com
www.allenf.com

Saturday

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First, let’s catch up on Saturday. For some reason my little bluetooth keyboard wouldn’t sync with my phone last night so I never got to do this write-up.

On Saturday it happened; my brain slipped into touring mode. When we started out in the morning everything felt calm and peaceful and gentle. We rode lazily along quiet back roads along the Delaware River, and later on the D&R Canal Bike Path. We stopped for lunch in Lambertville after about 35 perfect touring miles. And yet again the ever-threatening skies held off and we got only the occasional stray raindrop.

After lunch we turned west and left the river headed for Norristown. Bucks County, PA is very pretty with prosperous looking, well-tended houses. It also seems to be growing fast with new housing developments going in everywhere, making the roads probably more trafficed than when the route was originally laid out. The roads here are laid out mostly in a grid pattern and we were traveling across the grid at an angle so we made a long series of right and left turns until we finally arrived in Norristown. The route actually skirts the town coming down to the Schuylkill River and it’s bike path at the western edge of Norristown, so when we got there we turned east on Main Street and rode into town looking for a nice place to stay. Well, we kept riding and riding until we rode right out the other side of town, and all we saw was slum after slum. Norristown is evidently a city on the wane and no place I would want to spend a night of my vacation, so we turned around and rode back through town and finally located a nice hotel out in the western suburbs located in the middle of mall hell; the typical suburban sprawl of big box stores and chain restaurants. After a tough 80 miles we didn’t care and had a great night in our comfortable hotel room.

Happy Anniversary Jodi Mary Silver, and thank you for agreeing to marry me!

As I mentioned we made 80 miles on Saturday, putting us 480 miles from home.

Allen Freeman
allen@allenf.com
www.allenf.com

Norristown

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Having keyboard trouble. wonderful, wonderful day today. 80 miles into Norristown today. Planning an easy day tomorrow. Hopefully more later.

Allen Freeman
allen@allenf.com
www.allenf.com

We left Port Jervis this morning and within minutes had crossed the state line into New Jersey and had started down the east (left) bank of the Delaware River. After a half dozen miles on a country road we turned off onto Old Mine Road which followed closely along the river bank through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area with the Kittatiny Mountains to our left. This was absolutely glorious riding. The road descended gradually through the forest; there was almost no traffic allowing us to ride along side-by-side; the weather was cool and heavily overcast; and we saw a bit of wildlife to complement the scenery. We saw deer a couple of times, and the usual assortment of rabbits and squirrels and chipmunks. Other than the spinning of our gears and our labored breathing on the few steep pitches, the major ‘noise’ was bird song.

We arrived at the town of Delaware Water Gap about 44 miles into the ride at noon time after crossing the Delaware River on the sidewalk of I-84, and stopped for lunch. The Appalachian Trail uses the same sidewalk to cross the river so there was a group of AT hikers eating at the same diner. It felt really good to have 44 miles under our wheels by lunchtime.

After lunch we continued down the Delaware River valley, but now on the Pennsylvania side of the river until we got to Belvidere, where we crossed over yet again and returned to the New Jersey side.

We thought briefly about stopping here but decided we still felt pretty good and we would continue on. After stopping for Gatorade and junk food at a convenience store we continued on and reached Phillipsburgh around 4:30. Phillipsburgh is a bit of a pit as towns go, so we crossed over the river yet again, into Easton, Pennsylvania, where we are comfortably ensconced in a room at the Quality Inn.

It rained a bit mid-day, just enough to prompt me to put the rain covers on my panniers. Shortly after we arrived here it started raining again so we went across the street to get a pizza and ate it in the room.

It feels like this was the day we have been anticipating since we left home last Saturday. Cool weather, comfortable, quiet, picturesque roads, and the miles clicking off without sapping us. We made a total of 78 miles today, putting us 400 miles from home. I think we have about 275 miles to go.

Tomorrow we will continue down the Delaware until we reach Lambertville, New Jersey, just across the river from New Hope, Pennsylvania. From Lambertville we’ll head west towards Norristown, just outside of Philadelphia.

Allen Freeman
allen@allenf.com
www.allenf.com

TriState

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It was a gorgeous morning when we left New Paltz. We quickly turned off the main road out of town and found ourselves riding through quiet, prosperous looking countryside. We rode up the valley of the Shawangunk Kill, paralleling the ridge of the Shawangunk Mountains.

It should have been a physically easy day, but what started in the early morning as a gentle breeze in our faces increased steadily throughout the day until we were fighting against a 15 – 20 mph head wind.

Lunchtime found us in Middletown, NY with about 30 miles under our wheels. After lunch we climbed up and over the ridge of the Shawangunks and down into the valley of the Neversink River. With such a cool name I had high hopes for this part of the route, but it turned out to be a bit less rural, much less prosperous, and just not as pretty to look at or as comfortable to ride as the previous part of today’s journey.

The headwinds continued and they were stiff enough that even though we were mostly heading gently downhill, we had to work for every foot of forward progress.

We reached Port Jervis, located where New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania all come together, at around 3:00 PM. Our original plan was to stop here to buy groceries for dinner, then continue on and hope to find a spot in a campground further on. But just about this time the sky was turning darker and the wind was picking up, and it certainly felt like some summer thunderstorms were on the way, so we checked into the Erie Hotel & Restaurant, which is a renovated railroad hotel next to the old train station in Port Jervis. Sure enough, an hour or so later the skies opened up, and then again, and yet again. Three storms so far tonight and it looks like more to come. Well, let it rain tonight. I just hope the headwinds are gone tomorrow and we can float down through the Delaware Water Gap effortlessly!

We made 59 miles today, putting us 322 miles from home.

So, with all this whining about hills and headwinds and frustrations about miles covered, do you find yourself wondering why we do this? Does it sound like we aren’t having fun? I promise you that we are. I’ve always had a hard time articulating exactly what is so satisfying about traveling this way. Partly it is that so many people are open and friendly to you when they see you arrive on a bicycle. Partly it’s the satisfaction of tackling a physical challenge successfully. Partly it is feeling the weather and the terrain in your body. There is no question that we were traveling up one valley and down another today. You may not be able to see the difference in the road, but we experienced it with our whole bodies and I can feel it yet in every fiber of my leg muscles. And those headwinds have left their mark in the tightness of the muscles in my neck. And these are not bad things. It is very pleasant to be physically tired at the end of the day, yet mentally and emotionally refreshed. A hot shower and lying down on a fresh, soft bed is heavenly. That’s all the pampering we need.

Okay, I’m probably rambling here and you all are starting to think I’m crazy, so I’ll stop.

As soon as we leave here tomorrow we will cross into New Jersey and head into the Delaware Water Gap. We will alternate back and forth between the New Jersey and the Pennsylvania sides of the river.

Allen Freeman
allen@allenf.com
www.allenf.com

Across The Hudson

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We left Millerton after a nice breakfast at the B&B. The trouble with luxurious lodgings is that we don’t want to leave. We didn’t get out of town until after 9:00. Of course, the day started with yet another kick-ass climb, but it was beautiful rural farm country in Dutchess County, New York. The weather was cooler than it has been, actually feeling a bit chilly on long downhills. We did get a taste of what we hope is to come when we had a 9 mile run along the valley into Stanfordville that was nearly flat. We made the best time of any nine contiguous miles on the whole trip covering the distance in about 40 minutes.

After that we had some more hills to climb as we made our way west to Rhinebeck. Rhinebeck is a beautiful old town on the east bank of the Hudson. We stopped here for lunch, then headed south along Rt 9 making our way past the old Vanderbilt Mansion until we arrived at the FDR home in Hyde Park. We got off the bikes and spent a couple of hours here including taking the guided tour of the home.

It was about 4:00 when we left the Roosevelt home, then we made our way south along Rt 9 again until we got to Poughkeepsie. The maps we have from Adventure Cycling Association include a small detail map which purported to show all the roads we needed to navigate in order to access the sidewalk to cross the Hudson River on the Mid-Hudson Bridge, but the map was a bit small for my old eyes so we missed one turn and had to backtrack. Nevertheless we managed the feat without undue issues and found ourselves high above the Hudson River with panoramic views north and south. It’s a view you can’t enjoy from a car as cars can’t stop halfway across the bridge and get out and look around.

Once we crossed the Hudson we continued west to New Paltz, where we are now staying in the New Paltz Hostel. We covered 61 miles today, which is pretty good since we spent a couple of hours playing tourist instead of cycling this afternoon. Hopefully the terrain will become a little less vertical now and we will start getting some decent mileage days in so we can stop thinking about miles and schedules so much and just enjoy the riding more.

The weather was just about perfect today and we can only hope for more of the same. Oh, and we are now 263 miles from home.

NOTE: This entry is from yesterday, July 1. I simply couldn’t post it until today as I didn’t have cell phone coverage in Millerton.

Today was a beautiful day. Our short day yesterday and a good rest at the Dutch Iris Inn in Granby rejuvenated us and I felt like I had my cycling legs back this morning. It’s a good thing too as we did several wicked climbs as we made our way from Granby west to the Barkhamstead Reservoir — which was picture perfect this morning — and on through Pleasant Valley then up to Winsted and even more up and up to Norfolk — where we had a magnificent lunch — then a bit of respite as we cruised through East Canaan and Canaan and finally climbed the wall between Canaan and Salisbury. We stopped in Salisbury at the spring water fountain next to the town hall to discuss what we should do and decided that we were so close to New York that we had to press on to Millerton. When we got to Millerton we pulled over to the side of the road to discuss whether we should seek lodging or ride a few miles north of town to the Rudd Pond camping area. The place we chose to pull over was right in front of the Simmon’s Way Village Inn so Jodi decided we should find out how much they wanted for a room. When we inquired of the innkeeper how much her rooms were she said $189. We told her that was too rich for us and she asked what we were comfortable with. Jodi said $100, and the deal was done. The way I figure it Jodi just saved $89 and can now afford to treat me to something. I fear she doesn’t see it the same way.

It rained a bit earlier and we figured we made the right choice not camping, but it’s mostly clear now and a beautiful evening as we sit on our second floor balcony looking down over the long lawn of the inn and watching life move back and forth along Main Street.

We made 49 miles today. Not great mileage-wise but we climbed a LOT so we feel good about our progress. Tomorrow we head for Poughkeepsie and across the Hudson River.

Oh, I’ve got no cell signal here so you’ll be reading this tomorrow or whenever I get a signal. Sorry about that.

Allen Freeman
allen@allenf.com
http://www.allenf.com/

Granby

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Last night was a hot and sticky one. I remember waking up and hearing another thunder storm coming our way. It made us grateful to be snug and dry in our cabin.

It was a restless night and when I woke up and saw it was finally light out I figured it was 6:00 or so, but on looking at my watch I saw that it was already 7:30. We got up and boiled water for oatmeal and tea, then packed up our gear and got ready to go. With waking so late we didn’t get on the road until 9:15. It was a mostly clear day but still hot and muggy. After yesterday’s killer hills the terrain today was much more reasonable as we headed through Crystal Lake and down into Ellington, where we stopped for second breakfast around 10:45. From here to the Connecticut River is pretty much flat, but after yesterday even the slightest up grade felt like climbing a mountain to me.

The route kept us on very quiet roads as we approached Bridge Street and crossed the Connecticut River in Windsor Locks. We had a couple miles of moderately heavy traffic as we skirted Bradley International Airport, then we were back on reasonably quiet roads as we headed up to Granby. We stopped for lunch and after assessing our fatigue and the terrain west of here, we decided to call it a day and get a good rest. We covered only 42 miles today, putting us 155 miles from home. That’s a little disappointing but somewhat common for the third day of a trip, in my experience. We are staying at the Dutch Iris Inn which is right near the center of Granby and is a luxurious place to relax. I am typing this sitting outside on the porch listening to a small fountain trying to combat the noise of traffic going by on Rt. 202.

So tomorrow it’s back to climbing hills as we hope to make good progress towards Salisbury in preparation for crossing into New York State.

Allen Freeman
allen@allenf.com
www.allenf.com

Mineral Springs

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An eventful day today. Well, maybe not really eventful, but definitely a full and tiring day. We left Westborough following the Adventure Cycling route and whoever designed the route just loves to climb. The rhythm of the day was climb, climb, climb, climb, descend, climb, climb, climb, climb, descend; repeat ad infinitum. Still, the route took us along pretty country roads and we enjoyed it completely. It was just the heat — 90 degrees and wickedly humid — and the hard work that made it trying. And we know that we’ll ride ourselves into better shape as the tour goes on.

We stopped at a diner in Oxford, MA for a great second breakfast, and it’s a good thing we did because we didn’t pass another place to eat for hours and hours.

After about 50 miles I was bonking pretty badly and Jodi slowed down to try to baby me along and help when she could. There were some wickedly steep and long hills and I walked a bunch of them. Finally, about 6 miles east of Stafford Springs, CT we came upon a bait and tackle shop at the top of one of the hills and pulled in to see if they had any cold drinks, which they did. The shop was run by a wonderful family who keep a book for passing cyclists to sign, which we did. In addition to cold drinks and snacks, they had ice and water to fill our water bottles. Heaven. Without them I am not sure if I would have made it the last 6 miles into Stafford Springs.

We stopped in Stafford Springs to buy food for dinner, then headed north out of town climbing 3.5 miles to Mineral Springs Campground, where we are now. Just as we were leaving town a thunder storm rolled in. At first we thought we might escape with just a few drops from the edge of the storm, but before we made it to the campground it was raining mightily and we were thoroughly soaked.

We asked the campground hostess for a tent site and she filled out the paperwork and told us where our site was, then told us she wouldn’t charge us anything since it was raining. How nice!

We cycled down to our site and then the heavens opened up even wider and we were in a deluge. We took the panniers off the bikes, piled them up, and covered them with a small tarp I always carry. Then we scurried over to our neighbors RV and asked if we could sit under her awning while we waited for the rain to ease up. We chatted for 5 or 10 minutes then the campground host drove up and came over and handed me a key and told us to go down to Cabin #2 and use that for the night. Wow! That was so nice. Campground cabins often go for $40 – $60 per night in this neck of the woods, and she had just given us one for free! Our total cost for this evening’s lodging is two quarters for the showers.

It’s 7:40 now. We’ve showered, cooked and eaten dinner, had a cup of tea and a pleasant walk around the campground (it’s stopped raining), and now I am going to settle down and read my book until I fall asleep, which should be about 5 minutes.

Oh, just in case you’re curious, we covered 53.5 miles yesterday, and 59.5 miles today, putting us 113 miles from home. We climbed about 2400 feet yesterday and about 3800 feet today. Maybe that’s why we’re tired.

Goodnight all!

Allen Freeman
allen@allenf.com
www.allenf.com

Westborough

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We left Quincy this morning and headed west through the familiar territory of the Blue Hills. Believe it or not we haven’t been on our bikes since Memorial Day weekend. That’s not the smartest way to prepare for a bike tour, but there it is.

As I said we started out through the Blue Hills, then we headed through Dedham, Westwood, Dover, Sherborn, and Holliston. There is some really pretty country through there and we had a wonderful time riding almost all quiet, rural roads. We must have seen at least 100 cyclists out in groups from 1 to several dozen. It struck me as a bit odd to see so many cyclists on a Saturday as Sunday is more the day for large group rides.

We stopped in Holliston at the Holliston Grill for our second breakfast of the day, then we continued on through the center of Hopkinton then headed southwest past Lake Maspenock. As we approached the start of a long, steep climb up away from the lake Jodi shifted into her granny gear and managed to drop the chain off the front chainring and it jammed between the chainring and the frame. It took us a couple of minutes to free the chain and get it back on the chainring and thinking we had solved the problem we started back up the hill. Jodi soon discovered that all was not well as the chain was skipping and refused to shift. At the top of the hill we pulled over in the parking lot of a local nursery and investigated. We discovered that one of the plates on Jodi’s chain had been bent. Jodi did what she could to straighten it and I checked the GPS for the closest bike shop. We found there was a shop in Westborough so decided to head there and get Jodi’s chain replaced. Believe it or
not the ACA route we are hooking up with actually goes through Westborough, though we were planning to meet up with it further south. We got to Westborough and the bike shop is located on Rt 9, which is basically a highway but with stoplights and stores along it. Not very comfortable cycling but we only had to ride it probably less than a mile to get to Frank’s Bicycle Barn, where Jodi had a new chain installed and we had them break off about 8 links of the old chain so we could carry them as spares. I have always carried spare chain links but when Jodi had her problems I realized the links I carry are from my old bike which uses a 7-speed chain and would not work with the 9-speed chains Jodi and I both have now. Duh!

By the time we got to the bike shop we had over 50 miles under our wheels for the day and considering our not so intense preparation for this tour were getting tired. The campground we were originally heading for today are probably 25 miles from Westborough so we decided to see what was available for lodging here. We are now comfortably ensconced in a very nice room in the Westborough Inn, and just got back from dinner at a local Italian restaurant. The weather is heavily overcast and super humid so I am not missing sleeping in our tent a bit tonight.

Hopefully the weather will hold and we won’t get rained on too much tomorrow. We are headed for the northeast corner of Connecticut tomorrow morning, then we’ll head west across the top of Connecticut. My guess is that we’ll end our day tomorrow somewhere near Windsor Locks where we will cross the Connecticut River.

It’s amazing how quickly we fell back into the rhythm of bicycle touring today. Within a couple hours of our start I could feel the old familiar rhythm in my pedaling and how I look at the world and the day’s task of getting from here to there and not getting irretrievably lost.

Good night from Westborough, MA!
Allen Freeman
allen@allenf.com
www.allenf.com

We’re Off!

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7:45 AM under cloudy skies with fog, and we're off!

Allen Freeman
allen@allenf.com
www.allenf.com

Packed & ready To Go

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I packed my panniers and strapped the tent to the top of the rear rack this evening. Jodi hasn’t really started packing yet but she has tomorrow off and can spend the day getting her bike squared away. I’m working tomorrow so don’t have that luxury. Packing today also gives me tomorrow to remember anything I might have forgotten, something that seems to happen more and more these days.

Anyway, here’s a picture of my bike packed and ready to roll. It’s not a very good photo as I photographed it indoors against the dark walls of our livingroom, but it’s dark and wet outside so this will have to do.

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Weather Forecast

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I don’t know why I do this, but I almost reflexively check weather forecasts while getting ready for a bike tour. And while we are touring if we find ourselves in a motel room it is just about mandatory to spend a bit of time with The Weather Channel. It’s really rather silly because we are going to ride no matter what, and once you’re out there it is rather obvious whether it is raining or not, and thus whether to put the rain covers on the panniers or not. So why waste all this energy wondering about the weather? I don’t know; maybe just because I’m human and I am looking for an oracle to tell me the future.

Anyway, it looks like we stand a pretty good chance of getting caught out in a thunderstorm or two sometime in the first few days of our tour. And it looks like we’ll enjoy sunny weather, and hot, coming up to the big Independence Day weekend. I wonder where we’ll be on the Fabulous Fourth!

Sat Jun 28
Scattered T-Storms
85°/70°
40 %

Sun Jun 29
T-Showers
79°/69°
60 %

Mon Jun 30
Scattered T-Storms
77°/63°
40 %

Tue Jul 01
Scattered T-Storms
81°/60°
40 %

Wed Jul 02
Sunny
84°/63°
20 %

Thu Jul 03
Partly Cloudy
86°/66°
10 %

Fri Jul 04
Sunny
86°/62°
10 %

Sat Jul 05
Scattered T-Storms
84°/60°
60 %

Preparations

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Jodi and I are getting ready for this summer’s bicycle tour. It’s not an epic trip like Tanzania two years ago, or our long-anticipated but not yet realized trip to Eastern Europe. We’re keeping it simple and keeping it local this year. On Saturday morning we will roll out of our condo parking lot and head towards Washington, DC. Actually, we’ll head to Bethesda, MD, just north of DC. Jodi’s sister and her family live in Bethesda and their house is our target.

We’ll be following a portion of Adventure Cycling’s Atlantic Coast route. I followed another portion of this route back in 1999 when I started from DC heading south with the intention of riding to my parents’ house in South Carolina. (http://www.allenf.com/EastCoast99.htm) That trip was aborted when I ran into Hurricane Floyd. Hopefully this year’s trip won’t be quite as eventful!

Our route will take us southwest from Boston towards north-eastern Connecticut, then across northern Connecticut (lots of hills!) and into New York State. We’ll cross the Hudson River at Poughkeepsie then head south swinging west around New York City and heading for the Delaware Water Gap. From here we’ll swing a bit west through Valley Forge and into Pennsylvania before heading south again. We’ll either go through Baltimore or swing out to the west to go around it, then head in towards the DC beltway until we finally arrive in Bethesda.
It looks like the whole trip should only be about 700 miles, a comfortable, easy, two week ride.

We have started to make piles of gear on the living room floor, and come Friday evening we’ll have to stuff it all into our panniers. We haven’t used what I refer to as “the big tent” in four years, so I set that up the other day to make sure we had all the stakes and poles and that everything was in good shape. Since I have spent the last year or so converting my backpacking gear over to ultra-light stuff, it seems like a monster. I’m glad we’ll be carrying it on our bikes and not on our backs! It is a luxurious abode, nonetheless.

We should have decent cell phone coverage in the area we are touring this year, so I will be bringing my Palm Treo and a foldable bluetooth keyboard which makes writing emails much easier. I’ll be using this to update this blog. If you’d like to follow along on this year’s tour there is a link to the right that will allow you to subscribe and be notified by email whenever the blog is updated.

Start Up

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Two years ago when Jodi and I went to Tanzania for vacation I created
a blog using Blogger to simplify keeping folks up to date on our
whereabouts. It worked well and I decided I would like to do the same
thing this year. Instead of using a hosted blogging service I have
installed WordPress on my own web server with the intention of using
that. Unfortunately I’ve had trouble getting it set up to be able to
post to the blog via email, and to allow readers to subscribe to
updates. I’m sure I could get this all straightened out eventually,
but we are leaving in only 5 days and there are lots of other things
that need my attention right now, so I am falling back on Blogger once
again.

I’ll be using my Palm to send email while on this trip. I have a Bluetooth wireless keyboard to use with it which makes typing a whole lot easier than trying to use the tiny thumb keyboard with my big clumsy hands. I could use GMail to send emails and thus be able to take advantage of email distribution lists to send posts to multiple people, but using Gmail means I have to actually have a signal and be online in order to create emails, and I can’t be sure that I’ll always have service at the time and place that I am writing the emails. So instead I will be using Versamail, the email client that comes installed on my Palm. Versamail doesn’t support email distribution lists, but I can write the emails while offline and then send them at a later time whenever I have a signal on my cell phone. By sending an email to a special email address, whatever I send will appear here as a new post. You can be assured of knowing when I add a new post my using the link at the left to subscribe.


~~~~~
Allen F. Freeman
allen@allenf.com
www.allenf.com