Archive for September 2009

 
 

September 22nd, 2009

Day 17 – the Unbiking day – off in Toronto

Miles biked – zero.

This is a funny post to be putting up today, as we are on our second day off at Anders’ folks house in Kalamazoo, but on day 17 we had our first biking-free day. Thanks to Tracy’s college roommate Adri we had a place to stay in Toronto and when we arrived there around 4pm, we were greeting by her long time boyfriend Jack, who also happened to be in town from DC (Adri is studying medicine in Toronto, but we lucky enough to plan a day off for the day we were there). Jack asked us as we rolled in “so, do you want showers, laundry, beer?” to which we replied “those are the magic words!”.

We had some fabulous Thai for that night, which was a nice change from our daily nachos and then went to bed not long after what has become our bedtime – 9pm.

In the morning, Caroline went off to see the city, including a nice run (literally) over to a cinema that was participating in the Toronto International Film Festival. She got to see Youth in Revolt, with Michael Cera in attendance. Sara, Anders and Tracy went to coffee and brunch with Adri and Jack at the coffee shop and restaurant that were only “a few blocks away” (says Adri, although the walk was about a half an hour) and enjoyed some delicious food before heading out on the town themselves. Tracy went to the climbing gym and Sara and Anders saw a movie (Inglorious Basterds). Then the crew all met up for dinner at the Mill Street Brew Pub for their requisite beer stop. No special tour, but a nice time out. And we got to take another form of transportation, the street car!

Click here to see more images for our day off in Toronto

Click here to see more images for our day off in Toronto

More from Toronto

More from Toronto

Adri, Jack & Tracy

September 20th, 2009

On a train, leaving Toronto behind.

Mostly, I think I like Toronto. The streetcars are quite a bit nicer than buses, but they do add an element of danger to riding bicycles which isn’t entirely nice. On the other hand, people do ride bicycles, and they ride in a sensible way. For one thing, when folks stop at lights, they line up rather than making a mass of jostling folks competing for the front, as folk do in new york. And cars are at least as aware of you as they are elsewhere. Pretty decent, on that front.

The town isn’t as otherworldly clean as I’ve heard claimed, but that isn’t a bad thing. It’s not a dirty city by any measure. If New York had alleys, I don’t think it would be noticeably dirtier. It doesn’t, and it is. I guess what I’m saying then, is — the place is cleaner, which I like, but I don’t think the fundamental ’sensibility’ of the city is really much more hostile towards filth & trash than any other urban north american area. Which is an actively good thing — I’m pretty sure that real civility is based in part on a tolerance for grime and rudeness and incivility. Honest graciousness relies on comfort in the midst of rudeness. That sort of thing.

The commuter rail has served us well, outside Toronto and Boston. I think I’ll miss it when we approach Minneapolis.

I need another jersey. I’ve looked a few places, but no luck so far. My requirements are simple — small, race cut, full zip, three proper pockets. You know — a jersey. For some reason bike stores do not seem to sell these things. I find plenty of 3/4 zip jerseys with two pockets that’d fit a 220lb man, but nothing for me. So if you know of a place along our route where there’s a better than 50% chance that I can meet this need, do lemme know.

One thing I neglected to mention, earlier, when it was a relevant thing to mention — somewhere a bit north of NYC, Carvel brand ice cream vanishes, and hood appears. My NJ friends may disagree, and they’re fully within their rights, but Hood beats Carvel as solidly as a rock busts up scissors. There’s just no argument, not in my book. And Tim Hortons beats any fast food joint we have in the states by a mile. The pleasure of eating food off actual dishes! It’s a real pleasure, that’n. More than worth the cost of a 1.02:1 exchange rate. I’m the only one who thinks their coffee is better than (of all things) dunkin’ donuts, but I believe this strongly. If I get another sausage on biscuit sandwich before we leave this country, I’ll be a happy camper.

and so: yr happy camper,
a.

September 19th, 2009

Days 15-16 Camping in Canada

Mohawk Bay to Port Hope 70 miles

Port Hope to Toronto 39 miles

You might not expect it, but waking up at an RV park is actually a pretty pleasant experience.  We are getting faster and faster at packing up our panniers and camping gear to get on the road quickly.   The night before at the pub we decided that rather than riding all the way to Toronto, we’d take the commuter train, the Go Train, from Oshawa into the city, avoiding the traffic around the metropolis and making our day off in Toronto just a little longer.  Since we haven’t had a day without riding the whole trip, we figured we deserve it.  Dave at the RV park was kind enough to start our day off with oatmeal cookies and a pot of coffee and gave us key chains for the road.  It was really sweetJ  We hit the road at a very reasonable 9:30am and headed down route 2 (the road we’d been on for most of our trip in Canada), with a slight shortcut through an Indian reservation.  Overall, the road was pretty flat, but again, more headwinds.  Tracy was right, hills can be tough but headwinds are a real killjoy.   We hit another Tim’s for breakfast 18 miles in, but too late for sausage biscuits, so we all got egg salad (another thing the four of us have in common, love of egg salad!).  Later in the day, we stopped for lunch at a grocery and got yogurt and bananas and granola but for the most part the day was uneventful.   We arrived at Port Hope at about 5:30pm and without too much decision making, decided to rogue camp at the marina next to the beach where about 20 men were doing catch and release salmon fishing.  We had a fabulous camp dinner of a cheese plate (great idea tracy!), and chili with couscous and avocado.  Aside from the sounds of the fishermen yelling “fish up”  “fish down” all night, it was pretty perfect.  We had a public washroom, a flat grassy area for our tents and a picnic table for dinner.  Oh… and it was free.

We woke up in the morning, sans alarm, but without discussion packed up quickly knowing that we didn’t wanted to get questioned by any authorities about our illegal camp site.  None of the maintenance men seemed to mind us, but they did get a kick out of Anders in the ladies room (he insisted that the mens room was intolerable, but I think he just likes feeling like one of the girls).  Our gear was packed and we sat down to a fabulous dinner breakfast less than a block away by 8am.  We just barely had enough cash for 4 breakfast specials (did I mention Canada is expensive?) but it was totally worth it after the 3rd coffee refill.

Our ride from Port Hope to Oshawa was longer than we expected (not 20 miles but 36) but it was cruisy, and we were all pretty excited that we were about to have a day off.  What was surprising on the train was how excited we felt to be closer to a city.  You can take the bikers out of New York, but you can’t take the New York out of the bikers!

Click here to see more images from Day 15

Click here to see more images from Day 15

Click here to see more image from Day 16

Click here to see more image from Day 16

September 19th, 2009

Day 14 – The Rough One – Ivy Lea to Mohawk Bay

Miles ridden: Ivy Lea to Mohawk Bay 70 miles

Waking up in Ontario, we had our first rain of the trip.  Per the usual (the usual plan, not what actually happens), we planned to get up early and get on the road by around 8:30am.   Hearing rain on our tents at 8, everyone just went back to sleep.  Finally packed up and ate oatmeal around 10 and then down the Thousand Island Parkway to our first Tim Hortons.  Anders has a very strong connection to the Canadian fast food chain (perhaps having grown up in MI and near the border?) so it was imperative that we stop there.   Only 9 miles down the road, we got coffee, hashbrowns and some very fabulous sausage biscuit sandwiches (Caroline, always the practical one, got a whole grain muffin).   Then another 21 miles to Kingston, the city we had planned to stay in that night, but since we were ahead of schedule, it was our midday stop.  Kingston was a lovely city, right on the water with lots of colonial style buildings that made it feel very European.   But the most striking  as we were biking into the city was the vast skyline of windmills in the distance.  We’re not sure how much of their power they get from them, but they felt very futuristic, kind of surreal.

In Kingston, we had a pretty awesome lunch at the Kingston Pub and Brewery.  They had cider beer on tap for Caroline (and Sara who tried the black cherry cider, very tasty) and we got a tour from their manager.   We’re sort of confused about the beer distribution laws here in Canada but from what we can tell, they make it very difficult for small breweries to sell their goods anywhere other than a brew pub, and so the beer available at the stores isn’t very interesting.

After Kingston, we didn’t really have a plan as to where to go or where to stay, and we are slowly coming to realize that without a plan, we drag our feet something ridiculous.  We finished lunch around 3pm, promptly got lost (we somehow passed a small airport and ended at a dead end) and had to bike an extra 5 miles to get back on track.  By 5pm, we’d been biking in what felt like the middle of nowhere at about 10 miles an hour due to some VICIOUS headwinds and there was much talk of somehow cheating our way to Toronto.  As our motivation dwindled, we decided to stop in Greater Napanee, a sort of tiny subburbish place, and figure out where the closest place to camp was.  We were directed to the only pub open on a Sunday, a little strip mall dive called T.A. McGregors, which turns out (as usual) to be the perfect place.  The owner and his wife were a huge help, not just in filling our pint glasses (and water bottles) but they printed us a map of Toronto, told us which train we could take outside of the city to avoid riding through the suburbs (something we had been dreading) and they called the closest RV park on our route and told them we were heading there to camp for the night.  Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers.

Feeling like we now had a goal, we hopped back on our bikes for another 5 miles to the Mohawk Bay RV Park.  The ride there was pretty amazing, our first in the dark, but riding towards an amazing sunset.  When we arrived, the owner Dave, surprised at first that the “bikers” that were coming were not on motorcycles, but bicycles, happily gave us bread for sandwiches, some apple wine, oatmeal cookies, chocolate bars, some Brava (a brazilian beer that they mysteriously brew in Canada) and a wheel barrel of firewood and newspaper, all for the pretty much the price of the camp site: $40.  And what a campsite!  We were right next to a dock on Lake Ontario, which a picnic table and a fire pit (where we made our first campfire) and Dave plugged in the Christmas lights lining the trees over our tents (which we’re somehow wired with electric outlets).  We had hot showers, dinner, drinks and went to bed happy after our 70 mile day.

Click here to see more image from the Kingston Brewing Co and Ivy Lea to Mohawk Bay

Click here to see more image from the Kingston Brewing Co and Ivy Lea to Mohawk Bay

September 16th, 2009

Video Faves

Here are three of our favorite trip video’s so far:

September 16th, 2009

Dragonflies and Garter Snakes

– again, much delay between composition and delivery –

It’s been just a day since I wrote the last text which is up here, but somehow it seems like quite a few more. Still in Canada; last night, we stayed in the Mohawk Bay RV park, after advice from a strip-mall faux-irish bar; tonight, we’re camped out behind the marina in Port Hope. Fishermen are set in place up and down the wharf; I only hope that nobody calls the police on us. Moving elsewhere would be true and real pain. But at the moment nobody seems bothered; I’m at a picnic table typing this in the dark, next to a couple who asked after my ‘petri dish’ (collapsing camping cup), and the rest of our party are in their tents reading, and all is well with the world. Tomorrow, to Toronto, via commuter rail (really the best way to navigate the 10-15 miles outside a major city), and to internet. Only three or four days without, but it’s hurting a touch.

I’m not sure the cause, but morale has been low these last two days. Yesterday much more than today — yesterday was rather touchy and skittish, to be honest. Today seems more beat, though. Nobody really wants to ride. I kinda do want to ride, which makes me feel a tad guilty, seeing the others. Very short day tomorrow, though, and then a full day off in Toronto; I have a feeling that’ll bolster things back up again. All good and necessary.

The fauna on the road shoulders has changed pretty dramatically, these last ten days. Back in new hampshire and vermont, we had a good many dragonflies sunning themselves (or slowly passing away) on the hot asphalt, very slowly heaving up and down. This gave way (at two in the afternoon!) to crickets, from vermont through upstate NY and at a few points into Canada. And for the last four or five days, we’ve had small vertebrate road-kill. Mice, mostly, or maybe voles, or other sorts of smaller rodents … and then a few small snakes. Dogs and cats are far sadder, of course, and raccoons and the like are also common, but somehow the teeny flattened rodents are uniquely touching. I’ve seen at least five, probably more, these last few days … before that, I’ve never noticed one..

The woman from the petri-dish-querying couple just came over, and offered me the ends of their pizza. It’s pitch black out here, and the pizza is delicious. Onions and bacon and probably something else; the laptop light is not enough to see it by. A nice complement to tonight’s meal, which was on its own probably the best of the trip — couscous mixed with canned chili and avocado, preceded by a ‘cheese plate’ — sharp cheddar and grapes and spicy capicola and salted almonds and yogurt covered cranberries. Damn fancy for camp food, and truly delicious. We may have showered in the sink, but lake ontario is three feet away and sounds like the ocean, and we ate as well as anyone in new york. Life is awfully tolerable.

And I should maybe now brush the teeth, onions and all. Yr humble one two and three,
a.

September 15th, 2009

Day 12 + 13 – Lake Placid to Canton, NY to CANADA!

Lake Placid to Canton, NY -

Canton, NY to Ivy Lea, Ontario – CANADA!!

We woke up to chilly temperatures in Lake Placid. Tracy and Sara set an early alarm to enjoy an hour of bouldering 7 miles down the road. Anders and Caroline stayed cozy at the lodge for an extra hour sipping delicious coffee and continuing to solidify their best buddy status. Then we hit the road for an ambitious day of riding. We were to cover 83 miles to make it to Canton, NY–a day ahead of schedule. Ultimately, this would save us from some back-to-back century rides on the other side of the border. Caroline’s friend, Heather, ran cross-country for St. Lawrence University located in Canton, and she was wonderful about contacting old friends and teammates, who opened their wonderful home to four weary (and hungry!) travelers. Jon and Sara—we thank you so much! We enjoyed a great barbeque with a whole gang of fantastic Saint Lawrence alums. It was a blast, and the tight-knit and domestic group actually made Caroline question her commitment to eternal city life.

From there, we were a mere 18 miles to the border. Happily we rolled along, and Caroline was excited about her first time leaving American soil. But WAIT! No bikes or pedestrians permitted on the bridge! Puppy dog eyes and winning smiles were of no use to the border patrol, and the four of us were left to figure out a way to get across the impressively ominous bridge. Once again, we had to rely on the kindness of strangers. Ronnie, owner of a truck, and on his way to Retriever Field Nationals, came to our rescue. He carried loads of gear, bikes, and quatre (we can’t help but speak a little French now!) grateful cyclists across the border. It was nerve-racking and exhilarating to explain our connection to the border patrol on the other side. In all the hoopla, Caroline forgot to request her first stamp in her passport.

After only 5 or so miles, we stopped to enjoy a quick picnic lunch. There, we met a lovely woman who recommended we take the 1,000 Islands Parkway for most of our day’s ride for a less-trafficked and more scenic route. We gladly took her advice and it was a beautiful ride. After another suggestion from a nice gentlemen at a bathroom stop, we stopped to camp at a provincial park in Ivy Lea. It was a great campground to rest our weary legs and get a good night’s sleep after a paced 61 miles. But, alas, there was NO BEER to be bought anywhere! Anders, on a bold mission, rode an extra 17 miles in search of a brew…but to no avail. Seriously, the man likes to unwind with a beer (or five). We quickly learned the laws of the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) and vowed never to let it get the best of us again!!!

Cheers!

Click here to see more images from bouldering and the ride from Lake Placid to Canton, NY

Click here to see more images from bouldering and the ride from Lake Placid to Canton, NY

Please click here to see more images from Canton, NY to CANADA!

Please click here to see more images from Canton, NY to CANADA!

and we have a special video favorite from Canton, NY:

September 15th, 2009

Day 10 and 11 – Our Pretend Day Off – Middlebury to Burlington and back to New York

Middlebury to Burlington  – miles ridden 42 miles

Burlington to Lake Placid – miles ridden 44 miles

I know you guys miss us, and we have a lot of updates to do, so we’ll start from the beginning (or where we left off).  When we left Middlebury (at a very late 11am or so) we did what was supposed to be our “short trip to Burlington” and a “half day off”.  Ha!  As it turns out, we did about VERY HILLY 42 to miles (including our trip into the strip mall section of South Burlington for a trip to EMS – man to we love EMS!).   Now, to be clear, we LOVE Vermont, but it was one day that we really wish we could have just sat around:)

We did have a great stop at Cookie Love, a roadside ice cream spot that specialized in your choice of cookie crumbles on your soft serve (I got the “addicted to love”, anders got the “puppy love”).  It was a funny moment, I was sure that I was only one DYING for ice cream, but the place happen to be at a turn (and we are getting in a good habit of waiting for each other at turns so that we don’t get lost) and wouldn’t you know it, EVERYONE was up for ice cream.  Now we know we have another thing in common:)

That night, after we showered at Tracy’s cousin Scott’s adorable house (where my passport had arrived via fedex – thanks dad!) we went out on the town!  since it was 9/9/09, Magic Hat was having a big party in the center of town.  What was funny was, Scott’s house was 2 block away from the actual brewery, but I guess we figured the party was good enough, so we went to the Vermont Pub and Brewery for a dinner we we’re more than in need of (we had the ice cream for lunch… and that’s about it.  We are getting about the whole fueling thing though).  We had some great pub fare and the most beautiful flight of beer I’ve seen – little sherry glasses on a wooden slat!

We sat around that night, joking about all the craziness we’d went through so far, and for the first time I think we all realized we really have become quite a team.  Tracy said it would take 2 weeks before our muscles would get used to riding every day, but I think that was about the same timing for us to get used to each other as well:)

We went to bed about 10pm that night, exhausted but feeling good.  Got up early and had a fabulous bagel sandwich before hopping on the bike path in Burlington down to the ferry terminal.  We may start late when we don’t have a plan, but when there’s a ferry to catch, we get out the door 20 minutes early.  The ferry was a beautiful 1 hour ride over to upstate new york.  I was surprised how much Burlington reminded me of Seattle, with the Lake Champlain waterfront at the edge of the city and the Adirondacks beyond.

On the other side of the ferry, we prepared ourselves for some real hills (we had made it through Vermont but we were sure there was more to come).  Turns out the Adirondacks we nothing for our hill legs.  We flew through the first 20 miles and had a nice lunch.  Then, right before we finished our soft serve (yes… more ice cream!) we heard a “pop – hisssssssss”.  Our first official mechanical.  i got a spontaneous flat.  After I had a tough time of changing the tube, Anders figured that the tubes I’d got at my local bike shop we’re the wrong size!  Ugggg…  so we changed it, but I’m just waiting for it to happen again.

Luckily, after lunch the relative flatness (or are we just better at hills?) continued and we made it into Lake Placid at a very reasonable 5:30pm.  Caroline’s friend Heather had a connection at a lodge right on the lake, so Caroline and I got another swim in.  sweet! and then we went of for mexican.

new name for the trip: brew (coffee) and bike and brew and mexican tour.

 

Click here to see more images from our ride to Burlington, VT

Click here to see more images from our ride to Burlington, VT

 

Click here to see more images from the Vermont Pub & Brewery

Click here to see more images from the Vermont Pub & Brewery

 

Click here to see more photos from the

Click here to see more photos from the

 

Click here to see more photos of our ride from Burlington, VT to Lake Placid, NY

Click here to see more photos of our ride from Burlington, VT to Lake Placid, NY

September 15th, 2009

Wild Turkeys

– way backdated, this –

The first thing to say is — there are many people to thank, and I’m very consciously not on thanking duty. So thank you all, very very much, and there should be text detailing how immensely you’ve helped us out appearing sometime very soon. If not, huge apologies, and you oughta yell.

We camped at a numbered and paid for campsite last night, surrounded by gigantic camping RV type vehicles … two weeks in, and the first time that we’ve paid for accommodations. Thirty bucks C, which may be thirty bucks or may be twenty-four — nobody really has any idea, and we have little internet connectivity, so at the time of this writing it’s unknown. At posting things’ll be different, but the text will stay.

I wanted beer after stopping last night as much as I ever have; we decided to walk first thing after getting set up to the convenience store down the road. The store was closed, and everybody else wanted showers and not to ride much more, so I emptied a pannier and left the rest of my weight at the campsite and headed out looking for beer. Which you apparently cannot purchase, after six pm, but I did put on another 25-30km or so (the units are not pretentious, as we’re in Canada) and talked to a bunch of canadians — mostly slightly overweight 16 year old boys w/ bad acne who astonishingly didn’t quite seem to understand how one acquired take out beer. Nice lads, of course — it just seemed like the same fellow was at every restaurant/convenience store I stopped at. Of course, the only places that would actually be able to help were LCBO spots, and they all close up at noon, or somesuch. Perhaps the teabagging nutters are right — if ’socialism’ means we can no longer purchase a six pack at the grocery (nevermind executions for our elders), maybe we should rethink this whole health care ‘reform’ thing.

While searching for beer, I almost ran over a flock of wild turkeys. Well, only one turkey came close to my wheel, but they hung out at the side of the road, staring at me as I approached … and then dove in front just as I started to pass. Fistful of brake and some great big thanks that I was riding without weight. It felt good to ride without all the crap on the back — it took ten minutes to reacquaint myself w/ riding out of the saddle, but after that, it felt like riding a bicycle again. I enjoy riding with all the gear, but it feels very different from what I think of as riding a bike. A little strange, but there it is.

And talking of bicycle riding (because what else is there to talk of?) — the girls are all getting much stronger. Which is pleasing for selfish reasons, of course, but also really satisfying to see. Warms the tummy, somehow.

So no beer, last night, first time of the trip. I had most of a pint of extremely vile cognac in my close bag (undeclared at the border, along w/ my pocket knife … gotta rebel somehow) and I took a gag-making sip of it before sleep, which would have been the only booze for the day, but then, a few hours after falling into the deepest, most content possible sleep, I hear (from riding partners a tent over) that a raccoon has been trying to get into my food bag. Which of course you would do, as a raccoon, and there’s no excuse for not better securing that stuff … just before I’d fallen asleep, I’d given thanks for it not being bear country, allowing us to be completely worry free, food-security-wise. Blinking dim. But back to the cognac — after repacking the food, and securing it under the rain fly, the yammering of the french folks one site over wouldn’t let me back asleep. The campgrounds really were rather funny — you really would think that canadians would be smarter than stay in places like that, but it seems they’re just as dim as us. Right over the border, sure, but the vast majority of the license plates read Ontario. So after a half hour of listening to that distinctly nasal canadian french, I went back at the cognac. Sweet self-medication. And it helped, I believe, w/ sleeping into the morning the next day — we woke up to rain — for the first time on the trip — and slept in an hour extra before taking off, letting it patter away. Truly not awful.

yr faithful something-or-other,
a.

September 10th, 2009

Team Photos

 

Team Photo 1

Team Photo 1

 

Team Photo with Alistair

Team Photo with Alistair

 

Team Photo 3

Team Photo 3