Look Before Opening!

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Look Before Opening!, Roland Davies, 1950s, DC (30 x 20″), The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents

Disappearing Diners

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From the time I first started bicycle touring back in the mid-90s, my modus operandi has always been to eat a small breakfast in camp when I wake up, then ride 10 or 15 miles until I come to a town and stop at the local diner for a big breakfast. Breakfast is about the cheapest meal you can buy on the road, and it’s a great way to get to talk to the locals.

But over the last few years I’ve noticed that fewer and fewer of these diners exist anymore. On this years trip we several times rode all day looking unsuccessfully for a place to eat. On the second day of our trip we rode clear across southern New Hampshire looking for breakfast. We actually passed two diners, both of which were out of business. We didn’t find a place to eat until lunch time, 47 miles later. We had similar experiences on several days of the trip.

My first thought was that diners have been replaced by McDonalds, but these little towns don’t have a McDonalds, or anything else apparently. My current theory, based on absolutely nothing but conjecture, is that most people who live in small towns don’t really live in small towns anymore. They sleep there, but every day they get up and drive to a larger town for work, and stop at the fast food place in that larger town on the way to work.

But whatever the reason for their disappearance is, the lack of diners has complicated the logistics of bike touring, and has also removed one of the most pleasurable elements of it.

With the triple-H weather and headwinds all the way, our goal for the day was to make the ~40 miles to Concord NH today. Leaving Meredith we were immediately confronted with a mile and a quarter long uphill, and even that goal seemed like it might be a bit ambitious. But the hills moderated, the sky stayed mostly overcast sparing us from the sun, and by noon we were already south of Concord eating lunch at a Subway in an anonymous strip mall along Route 3, 47 miles from Meredith.

The sun did come out for a while after lunch and it was wickedly hot when slowly spinning uphill with no breeze, but we were feeling good after taking the day off yesterday and we just kept going “another ten miles” until we found ourselves in Salem with 73 miles on the odometer. Our GPS showed a number of motels in Salem so we stopped at the first one, a Red Roof Inn. Looking forward to a shower, a meal, and a bit of cool air conditioning, we were shocked to find the motel full. Not only was the Red Roof Inn full, but so was every other motel in the area. Wow! We’ve traveled without reservations in many places and once in a while we’ve had to settle for a place we wouldn’t otherwise have chosen, but we’ve always been able to find accommodations.

Doris, the woman running the motel, called around all the neighboring towns and told us if we could find a room she would drive us there in her truck. But everything for miles around was booked. We sat and talked and ruminated with Doris’s help on different possibilities, and finally decided that we would leave our bikes at the motel overnight, take the Boston Express bus to Boston, and come back with the car tomorrow to pick up the bikes.

We had almost an hour before the next bus left, and Doris opened up one of the rooms not yet occupied and let us shower and change our clothes. She also gave us bottles of ice-cold water. She was a real angel to us! Once we were clean and presentable we locked out bikes away in their utility room and Doris drove us to the bus station up the street.

We rode the bus to South Station in downtown Boston, then the ‘T’ out to Quincy Center, and finally walked the mile and a quarter home stopping on the way to pick up some Chinese food for dinner.

It is Wednesday now, and this morning we drove the 40 miles back to Salem to pick up the bikes and drive them home on the bike rack. Not exactly how we envisioned finishing our tour, but being treated so kindly by Doris ad the rest of her staff make up for any disappointment about not riding the last half day or our trip. We brought a box of hand-made chocolates for Doris when we picked up the bikes, and even then she protested that it was unnecessary. She said if she can help one person each day, she’s happy.

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I woke up this morning, after a sound and solid 10 1/2 hours of sleep, and realized I was just too tired to crank my biycle down the road today. Jodi must have been tired as well because she readily agreed to a day off, so after breakfast at a local diner we checked with the front desk and secured our room for a 2nd night. There is a decent book store next to our motel so I picked up another book to read and we spent the day reading, napping, and eating.

I mentioned the two women who saw us eating lunch in Newport, Vermont a few days ago, and then again in Littleton, New Hampshire. Well, when we walked into the restaurant next door for dinner tonight, there they were! What are the odds of that happening?

We are only about 120 miles from home, but tomorrow is supposed to be wickedly hot and humid. The forecasted high is 95, which means out on the road in the sun it will be well over 100 degrees. To top it off we should have a 15 – 20 mph head wind. All that is just to say I have no idea how far we are going to get tomorrow. We could be home on Wednesday, or we may not get there until Thursday.

We slept really well last night in Dave & Pam’s guestroom, then enjoyed a huge breakfast. All this gave us a slightly late start to the day. Dave joined us for the first ten miles of the ride, which included the step climb up to Franconia Notch and the start of the bike path through the Notch.

Years ago cyclists could simply ride the shoulder of Rt 3 through the notch, but when I-93 was pushed through the notch bicycle access was prohibited. Since federal law requires that road development not remove pedestrian or bicycle access (well, it’s not really that cut and dried, but it’s basically so) the bicycle path was built. It was a fun ride, but I wouldn’t want to have to commute along the path every day. It has some ridiculously steep slopes, plenty of blind curves, and very short sight distances. In several places the 20 MPH speed limit is posted. I don’t recall any section where it would be safe to travel at that speed, especially with families and young kids cycling parts of the path. All that said, the scenery is great and we enjoyed the ride.

After reaching the end of the path at The Flume parking area, we took advantage of their facilities and filled up all out water bottles, then continued south on the shoulder of Rt 3. North Woodstock was crawling with tourists, we noted that the famous Clark’s Trading Post still advertises their trained bear shows. How disgusting! We kept on truckin’. We finally stopped for lunch in West Campton, then continued on through Plymouth and on to Ashland. From here Rt 3 swings northeast the southeast to Meredith, on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee, so we followed it. We were pretty beat after 63 hot miles, and got a really nice room at the Inn at Mill Falls for less that I suspected it would cost at a summer resort area. After a hearty dinner, a good night’s sleep is in order.

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After yesterday’s ride of only 20 miles that turned out to be so grueling, I think both Jodi and I were feeling all of our years and not really looking forward to today’s ride. And as it turned out, it was a rather pleasant day!

Reed cooked up giant buckwheat pancakes with fresh apple slices in them for breakfast this morning, then we said our goodbyes and got a fairly early start. It was nice and cool outside and while we did have some climbs as we made our way along Lake Willoughby on Rt 5a, we handled them pretty well. Soon we connected with Rt 5 and had only moderate rollers to contend with as e made our way to Lyndonville where we stopped at the Miss Lyndonville Diner for our second breakfast. The food was really good and the freshly baked wheat toast was outstanding.

After breakfast we continued down Rt 5 through Lyndon and on to St. Johnsbury, where we turned east on Rt 2 for a bit until we reached Rt 18 which heads southeast towards the Connecticut River and on into New Hampshire. There was a long climb on 18 and it was all out in the hot sun, but we made it without too much difficulty. Knowing that we would have to drop back down to cross the river and lose all that hard-earned altitude made the descent a bit bitter-sweet, but such is life.

Soon after crossing the river we came to a New Hampshire Welcome Center and stopped there for a break, some fresh cold water, and to get a New Hampshire road map. The gentleman manning the center was very friendly and helpful. Finally we continued on to Littleton, which is a neat little town and has a great diner– the Littleton Diner — situated on its Main Street. We stopped here for a big lunch. We both had a salad, then Jodi had the full turkey dinner and I had a large bowl of Shepherd’s Pie. As we were eating two women approached us and told us they had sen us at lunch in Newport the day before. They were astounded that we had bicycled so far, and I remarked on how slowly they must drive.

From Littleton we had only a few uphill miles left to get to Dave & Pam’s house in Bethlehem. I met Dave & Pam during my thru-hike of the AT in 2009 when the scooped me off the trail in Franconia Notch, brought me home and treated me like a king for two days before dropping me off back on the trail to continue my hike. Dave thru-hiked in 2010 and I was looking forward to being able to discuss our respective hikes. As I knew they would, Dave & Pam are treating Jodi and wonderfully and we are enjoying our visit.

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Last night I sent an email off to a Warmshowers (www.warmshowers.org) host knowing that we had to deal with Jodi’s rear wheel today and likely would not be able to ride very many miles today. This morning I got a phone call from Reed confirming that we would be welcome to stay with him and his room-mate tonight. With that settled, Jodi and I walked down the street to the Brown Cow diner for breakfast, then back to the motel to take a close look at her wheel and see exactly what we were dealing with.

It turned out that there were 3 broken spokes, all on the drive side of the wheel; the most common place for broken spokes. For any non-cyclists reading, I’ll try to explain. We’ll consider a front wheel first. The hub has flanges on both the left and right sides and the rim of the wheel is centered with spokes going alternately to the left and right flanges.Since the rim is centered in relation to the flanges, the tension on the spokes on both sides is the same.

Now consider a rear wheel. The rim is still centered in the hub, but because the gear cluster takes up space on the right side of the hub, the right flange that the spokes attach to is pushed towards the center of the hub, so the spokes that attach to the right flange are shorter than the spokes that attach to the left flange. Since they are shorter and at a steeper angle, the right spokes must be at a higher tension in order to keep the rim centered in relation to the hub. Since these spokes are under the greatest tension, they are the most likely to fail. They also happen to be the hardest to replace, since you must remove the gear cluster before you can replace a rear drive side spoke, which requires a special tool.

Well, I am no mechanic, and I don’t carry that tool, nor do I carry the necessary replacement spokes. What I do carry is an ingenious invention called a “Fiber Fix Emergency Spoke.” This is a length of cord with a Kevlar core that is very strong, and an ingenious little bracket that crews into the spoke nipple. Once the bracket is screwed into the spoke nipple you simply run the cord through the hole in the hub where the broken spoke used to be and then run it back up to the bracket and thread it through in a certain way such that it locks into place. Now you can use the included spoke wrench to tighten the spoke nipple and pull the wheel back into true.

Unfortunately, Jodi had 3 broken spokes, and we carry only 2 of these Kevlar spoke replacements, so we replaced 2 of them and got the wheel close enough to true that Jodi could ride the bike with the rear brake released. We left our gear in the motel office and rode our unladen bikes 2 or 3 miles to the Village Bike Shop in Derby, where we had the 3 spokes replaced and the wheel trued.

By the time we got done and rode back to the motel in Newport to retrieve our panniers it was past noon, so we rode down the hill to a nice restaurant situated on Lake Memphremagog and sat outside at a table with a shade umbrella for a very leisurely lunch. We finally left there around 3:30 for the ~20 mile ride to Westmore on the shore of Lake Willoughby. This morning Reed had told me they wouldn’t be home until 6:30 or 7:00, so we had plenty of time to get there. Well, the route we chose turned out to be quite hilly and involved miles of unpaved roads, so it turned out to be quite the grueling ride in the afternoon heat. We arrived about 6:20, making it nearly 3 hours for a 20 mile ride! Leaving our bikes in the yard we walked the short distance down to a town park on the shore of Lake Willoughby and hung out there until Reed and his roommate arrived home.

Reed cooked up a nice dinner of salad and sauteed veggies from their farm along with some locally produced smoked meat, then we spent some time in conversation until it was time for bed and he showed us where we could sleep on their floor.

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It is amazing how the terrain can change within a single day’s ride. Apparently Granby sits at the edge of the big plain that stretches from the Vermont line north to Montreal.

We left Granby on La Route Verte 1 heading mostly east towards Waterloo. The bike path was paved in this section and even though we were gradually gaining elevation it was good riding. The terrain gained a bit of topographic interest with easy rollers, and the scenery alternated woods and small farms. Much more interesting than the flat plain further west.

After Waterloo the pavement ended and the bike route was very loose gravel; almost at the limit of what can be reasonably ridden on a touring bike with road tires. We soon opted out and cut over to Route 112. We made pretty good time still heading east, but my the time we reached Eastman the little rollers were turning into real hills. We stopped at a small place in Eastman for lunch, which we enjoyed sitting outside on a large covered veranda; a club sandwich and fries for Jodi and a BLT on brown toast for me (Jodi shared her fries with me). In this area bread comes in two varieties, white and brown. Don’t bother trying to ask for rye; the choices are white or brown.

After lunch 112 continued to carry us east towards Magog, at the northern tip of Lake Memphremagog. Magog is a pretty little resort town but the hills leading here were growing into real mountains so we were getting tired. We rode through town on a really nice paved bike path along the water-front, then turned south on Rt 247 down the east side of the lake. The northern section of 247 is lined with a procession of fancy gates with intercoms guarding presumably long private drives that lead to big fancy lake-front homes. We never saw any of the homes, just their gated drives.

As well, the hills continued. Grind slowly up, coast quickly down, repeat. We stopped in Georgeville to sit on the porch of the general store and down 2 bottles of Gatorade, some cookies, and a Snickers bar. The long stiff climb out of town burned it all up. At the top of the climb we came to a temporary stop light controlling traffic through a construction zone. The light even had a count-down timer so you could know how long the wait for the green was. We had a break of just over 120 seconds while waiting for the light. Once the light turned green we had a 2 km descent at 9% grade (according to the sign) into Fitch Bay, followed by another long hot climb.

After a quick stop in Beebe to spend the last of our Canadian currency on another bottle of Gatorade, we finally reached the border crossing back into the US. We were both tired but today Jodi was especially spent. Instead of pushing another 20 miles or so to the campground we rode the shorter 5 miles into Newport and got a room at a motel.

Just as we were riding into Newport Jodi said she thought her rear wheel was out of true and rode in front of me so I could look. Sure enough, there was a definite wobble in her rear wheel. In fact, it was wobbling enough that it was rubbing the brakes with each revolution. No wonder Jodi was so tired!

A bit of investigation revealed 2 broken spokes, so we will have to deal with that in the morning. How far we ride tomorrow will depend on how long it takes us to deal with the wheel.

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We had a fun day in Montreal yesterday. We even took a Grayline bus tour, which is not something we would usually do. The bus tour got us out of downtown without having to cycle anywhere so we could see the Olympic Village and get to the top of Mont Royal, among other places. But even before that we started the day with a very leisurely breakfast which spanned a couple of hours. Service in restaurants is not fast, as you are expected to linger and enjoy your meal.

But today we were back on the bikes. Since our trip to Montreal took longer than expected we decided to forego riding to Quebec City and start heading back home, so we spent the morning retracing our route back south to St Jean sur Richelieu, then we turned east along a different leg of La Route Verte 1. Heading east from St Jean the route follows an old railway right of way and is mostly paved with crushed stone. The entire route today was pretty much dead flat, which you might think makes it easy but in fact becomes quite tedious. Since you never climb or descend you pretty much never alter your attitude on the saddle and you repeat the exact same pedaling motion all day. By the time we arrived here in Granby my legs were shot, though Jodi as usual was still feeling strong.

Along the way we stopped at a pizza place in a little town about 25km short of Granby for lunch. The older woman who waited on us spoke no English but with the help of another employee and one of their customers we managed to communicate just fine, and she was delighted with the little bits of French I could manage.

The trail we followed this afternoon went through the middle of “nowhere” with nothing but corn and hay fields as far as we could see, yet we constantly saw other cyclists along the trail. It’s amazing how many people we consistently see on La Route Verte even on weekdays.

We’ve got an 80+ mile (130+ km) day planned for yesterday, so we will try to get and early start and keep making steady progress. From here we’ll head through Waterloo then on to Magog, then down the east shore of Lake Memphremagog and cross back into the US at Derby VT.

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It is actually Tuesday the 10th as I write this. We got into Montreal just a bit after noon yesterday but the hostel we are staying at does not offer WiFi so I couldn’t update the blog. This morning we are sitting in a diner in the downtown business district having a very leisurely breakfast, handling all of our email both personal and business, and finally updating the blog.

To back up a bit, we left St Jean yesterday morning along Route Verte 1 which was a path along the Chambley Canal. Sometimes it was paved and sometimes it was crushed stone. Other than riding through a couple of clouds of huge unidentified insects, it was a quiet, peaceful way to start the day. The route can be a little bit tricky to follow when it makes its way through towns, but for the most part it is well signposted.When we were in Longueuil and Saint-Lambert, just across the river from Montreal we did have a bit of difficulty. In Longueuil the path spilt and there was no sign to indicate which way we should go. We had a 50 / 50 chance of picking the right way, so of course the branch we chose soon ended at a housing development and we had to turn around and go back.

In Saint-Lambert we were on the path until we reached some road construction that had the path blocked, and we soon lost the detour. We simply kept moving further upstream and cutting back towards the river, repeating this several times until we finally found ourselves past the construction and back on the bike route. Our route took us through the Parc Jean Dapreau and across the Pont de la Concorde, which was a nice entry into Montreal. Then it was a quick climb up Peel Street and a left past the Centre Bell — home of the Montreal Canadiens — to the hostel.

As we sit here eating breakfast this morning, we are debating whether we should continue on to Quebec City or start heading back towards Boston from here. It took us a couple of days longer than originally planned to reach Montreal. We should have enough time to go to Quebec, but it adds a bit of pressure to get back home by a reasonable date. If we skip Quebec and head home from here we would have the luxury of a day off someplace if we get tired or we run into weather not conducive to riding. We will make the decision in a few minutes. In the meantime, so long from Montreal.

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We made it into Canada today, but it wasn’t easy. The wind was against us the whole way. First, we had to ride the miles we didn’t ride yesterday since we cut our ride short at the Motel 6. That added 19 miles to today’s ride, for a total of about 75 miles. We rode Rt 2 north out onto the Hero Islands. The original plan was to take more minor roads along the west side of both islands, but with the wind roaring out of the NW we were more sheltered if we stayed on Rt 2 which stuck close to the east side of the islands, so we did that.

In North Hero we stopped at the general store / cafe / gas station and were greeted with a huge array of donuts and pastries and danish and scones, so we spent some time there filling our faces.

Crossing the bridge over Lake Champlain into Rouses Point NY was an interesting experience. The bridge is a construction zone and the surface has been stripped down to the original concrete. It is a tall bridge and we slowly climbed up towards the peak of the bridge straight into the roaring wind. Once we reached the top there was a red light and the western side of the bridge was reduced to a single lane due to the construction. Once the light changed we rode down off the bridge, then looked back and noticed the truck behind us was still way back up on the bridge. Once it got down to the bottom we noticed that he was towing a trailer that had lost an entire tire and was riding on the rim.

At the intersection where we were to turn north to cross into Canada we spotted a very busy diner on the corner s we stopped and had another full breakfast. As we approached the border there was a long line of vehicles entering the US from Canada and waiting to go through customs. Going our way, into Canada, there was no line and we rode right up to the customs station and were through in a minute.

The terrain north from the US border heading towards Montreal is a huge plain with farms stretching in all directions. Being flat and wide open the wind has free rein, and at times it nearly brought us to a standstill. Once in a while there would be a wind-break of trees which we surely appreciated. We made it into St-Jean about 2:30 along Route Verte 2. Coming into town we passed a classic car show. We spent a few minutes admiring the cars from outside the fence. Jodi checked about going in but there was a charge for entry and we hadn’t found an ATM yet so had no Canadian currency, so we pressed on until we reached our hotel.

We have a shortish day tomorrow into Montreal, where we have a room reserved at a hostel for two nights. We’ll see if we have any problems following the cycle route — Route Verte 1 — into the city.

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It was wickedly humid and hot last night while we were camped at Button Bay. We cooled off in the afternoon swimming in the pool, but it was difficult sleeping due to the heat and humidity. This morning when we got up the air was heavy and still, and soon after we set out it started raining.

We were lucky that it rained only lightly and intermittently. We were unlucky in that we couldn’t find any place for breakfast. We finally stopped at the weekly farmers’ market in Shelburne and got some snacks, then pressed on to Burlington. We stopped at a pub just across the river in Winooski for lunch. It was still overcast and threatening rain, so we decided to find a motel room instead of continuing on to the state park campground we had originally planned. All our damp clothes are draped over furniture around the room to dry, and Jodi is taking a well-earned nap.

We are about 50 miles from the Canadian border at Rouses Point, NY. We might make it into Canada tomorrow, but the wind is supposed to be against us, blowing at 15 – 20 mph, so we might not.

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Finally, a day without head winds! It was so nice pedaling without having to slog into the wind all day.

We left the campground and rode 10 miles or so to Middlebury, where we stopped for a very substantial breakfast at the Park Diner. Jodi had a stack of 3 blueberry pancakes with real Vermont maple syrup. I had hash and eggs and toast and home fries (and a bit of Jodi’s pancake).

From Middlebury we headed west on Rt 125 towards Chimney Point on Lake Champlain. Along the way we stopped at the general store in Bridport for a Gatorade and to pick up a few snacks. We drank the Gatorade and packed the snacks away until we reached Chimney Point. There is a small historic site here and we sat and ate our snacks. Once finished Jodi decided to tour the small museum, and I opted to sit in an Adirondack chair on the porch overlooking the lake, enjoy the breeze, and take a short nap.

Finally we roused ourselves and climbed back on the bikes and headed north along the east shore of the lake. A couple of miles later we came on an ice cream shop so stopped for a cone. After this, we finally pedaled the last ten miles or so to Button Bay State Park.

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Yesterday we did nothing. Somehow it filled the day, in a very relaxing way. In the morning we got a ride into town from Jeff and went to Up For Breakfast for, well, breakfast. Then we walked down the street to the Northshire Bookstore, which is a wonderful independent book store with an eclectic selection of titles. I picked up a copy of “Anthill” by E.O. Wilson. I didn’t know Wilson wrote fiction. After that we walked over to the grocery store to get food for lunch and dinner, then hauled our goodies back to the hostel. The rest of the day was spent in conversation with the Appalachian Trail and Long Trail hikers staying there, and in eating. I really enjoy talking to hikers as it lets me reconnect with many of my own trail experiences.

This morning we left the hostel fairly early; around 7:30. We headed north up the valley that runs up the west side of Vermont. There was little climbing and we were on mostly quiet roads with light traffic. We skirted around Rutland using minor roads to the west of Route 7, so avoided that traffic mess. We did ride 7 north of Rutland and for a few miles it was a narrow lane with no shoulder, bad pavement, and heavy traffic, but a couple of miles south of Brandon the shoulder reappeared and we could relax again. The only negative thing about today’s ride was the wind, which was blowing mostly in our faces at about 15 mph.

We stopped in Wallingford for breakfast at a place called Mom’s, and in Brandon we stopped at the grocery and picked up a large grinder and a root beer for lunch, which we ate in the town square, and food for dinner and snacks. All in all it was mostly a relaxing ride.

I stayed here at this campground on my first solo long tour back in 1996, and it is pretty much as I remember it. It’s fun reliving bits of past adventures. Tomorrow we are planning a short easy day to Button Bay State Park, which is on the shore of Lake Champlain. Our only worry is that being a Friday in prime vacation season, they may be full. If so, we’ll deal with that when it happens.

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We tried to get an early start this morning, so we left the motel around 7am and rode back into downtown to the only breakfast place we knew of, the Backside Cafe. Unfortunately, the cafe doesn’t open until 8am. We did a bit of reconnoitering to see if there was anyplace else to eat, but even the coffee shops were all closed. Didn’t Yankees used to get up early and get about he day’s work? Not anymore I guess.

Once the cafe opened we had a good breakfast, though it was a bit expensive. Due to the breakfast delay, we didn’t head out of town until nearly 9am. Our route followed the West River upstream, away from the Connecticut River. It was mostly a gentle grade at the beginning, though the darned demoralizing head wind was still with us. As we got further west and up into the foothills of the Green Mountains, the step bits of climbing became more and more frequent.

We planned to stop at the Dam Diner, which is near the Townsend Dam in Townsend, but when we got there there was a sign on the door announcing that it was “Closed Tuesdays.” Damn Dam Diner! So we pressed on to Jamaica where we stopped at the general store and bought a freshly-made sandwich, some cookies, and a drink.

From Jamaica the road finally tilted up rather steeply, and there were even a couple sections I walked up, though Jodi as usual powered up them on her bike. We reached the junction of Rt 30 and Rt 11, which is at the crest of the ridge, at 2:09pm. From here the road is a longish downhill coast all the way into Manchester Center. The steepest part is the first 4 miles or so, which took us 9 minutes. After coasting into town we stopped at the grocery store to get supplies for dinner: some sweet Italian sausage, green peppers, onions, pasta and sauce. Then we cycled the mile or so down the road to the Green Mountain House Hostel.

I first stayed at the hostel during my AT thru-hike back in 2009. Since then Jodi and I have been up here for a weekend of cycling every year, and this makes my 4th stay at the hostel.

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It was a beautiful morning when we left the campground this morning, cool and calm. We followed minor roads with good surface and no traffic. It was a nice way to start the day. Then we turned the corner and suddenly found ourselves confronted with a wall. Within moments we were dismounted and pushing our bikes up hill. Fortunately this didn’t last long and we soon were heading north on Rt 31. The hills were steep but not ridiculous. Then we hooked up with Rt 119 which we followed northwest into southern New Hampshire, then west across southern New Hampshire all the way to Brattleboro, Vermont.

The steep climbs at the beginning of the day had us quite worried about reaching Brattleboro at all today, but after a couple of hours the grades and length of the hills moderated and we made somewhat better progress. All along we were looking for a diner to get a second breakfast but the best we could do was a gas station/ convenience store / Dunkin Donuts, so we had coffee and a bagel sandwich. It’s a good thing we did because we didn’t find a diner until we reached Winchester at noon time, about 42 miles into the day. In Winchester there was a little old-fashioned diner where the daily specials included a Reuben sandwich & fries (for Jodi) and tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich (for Allen). I’m not sure why I chose that as I probably haven’t eaten tomato soup in many decades, but it just appealed to me and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

It was another 14 miles from Winchester to Brattleboro. During the day we had been debating whether we should turn left once we crossed the Connecticut River into Brattleboro and head south to Fort Dummer State Park to camp, or whether we should turn right and head to the north end of town where the motels are. As we were crossing the bridge it started raining, and we took that as a sign that we should turn right and choose a motel. We checked out the Holiday Inn Express, but that was way too expensive so we continued up Rt 5 to the America’s Best Inn. After a shower and a nap, we walked a bit further up the street, past the now abandoned Howard Johnson’s where I ate breakfast on my first multi-day bicycle tour back in 1996(?), to the Ninety-Nine for dinner.

Tomorrow we’ll head out along the west River then make the climb up and over the spine of the Green Mountains. I just emailed Jeff at the Gren Mountain House Hiker Hostel in Manchester Center to reserve a room for us for 2 nights, so we’ll take the 4th off and rest up before heading north from there. I first stayed at the Green Mountain House during my thru-hike in 2009, and Jodi and I have been there for a couple of days each year since then, as it’s a nice area to spend a couple of days cycling.

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We cheated a bit on the start of our trip. Instead of riding through the traffic mess of Boston we rode down to the Quincy Center ‘T’ station and got on the Red Line train all the way to it’s terminus at Alewife station. The Alewife station is right next to the beginning of the Minuteman Bikeway, which took us 10 miles west until we were across I-95, getting us out of the inner ring around Boston. We then rode into Concord center, which is a mecca for cyclists on the weekend, since the area in and around Concord and Lexington is replete with quiet, shaded, rolling back roads that are perfect for a day of cycling. The breakfast place we stopped at was teeming with cyclists so we got to brag a bit on our tour. A bit of celebrity goes a long way.

The route we rode today was mostly chosen by Google Maps bike routing, and it worked really well. The roads were pretty and the traffic was light. Unfortunately we were riding into a headwind all day, and combined with the usual first day weariness, we were quite tired by the time we got here.

We stopped for lunch in the little town of Ayer and to our surprise saw a loaded touring bike leaned up against the wall outside a little sandwich / smoothie shop. So we went in and shared stories with John while we ate. When we were leaving I asked the clerk if there was a grocery store in town and she gave me very simple directions to follow; “turn right at the firehouse then left at the first light and it’s just down the road.” Simple, but for whatever reason I never saw the firehouse so we went a bit in the wrong direction. It was almost worth it though, because when we finally turned around to go back we had a tail wind for the first time all day, and I really enjoyed cruising along at 15 mph with almost no effort at all.

We got back to where the firehouse is (it was obvious so I don’t know how they camouflaged it the first time we went by) and made the required turn I realized that the grocery store was directly on our intended route anyway, so if I had never asked for directions we would never have taken the detour and we would have found the grocery store anyway. Oy!

The campground here is nice and quiet. It’s hot outside but quite dry and there is a bit of a breeze blowing, so it’s actually very comfortable. At the grocery store Jodi bought one of those salad in a bag kits, with the salad, cheese, croutons, and dressing. We polished off the whole thing, then boiled up some free 3-cheese tortellini and topped it with a can of pasta sauce. My stomach is full to the point of groaning, but it feels good to have a full belly.

It will be wonderful if we don’t have to fight a head wind all day tomorrow. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.

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Riding Weather

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Sunday
chancetstorms Partly cloudy with a chance of a thunderstorm and a chance of rain in the afternoon. High of 91F. Winds from the WSW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 20%.

We will be heading pretty much WNW from Quincy today, which means we’ll have the wind working against us off our port bow all day. That will make the work of riding a bit harder, but on the plus side the wind in our face will make it feel a bit cooler.

We’ve decided to skip riding through Boston so we are going to ride from home down to the Quincy Center ‘T’ station and ride the Red Line out to its terminus in Alewife. The Minuteman Trail starts right next to the ‘T’ station, and that will take us another 10 miles out from Boston, until we are beyond the I-95 / Rt 128 inner loop, and we are heading out through Lexington and Concord. If all goes well we will be at Pearl Hill State Park tonight.

Still Waiting

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So, our Friday departure definitely is not going to happen. My bike is in the shop and I should hear from them today about what needs to be done. When I looked the bike over myself I saw only minor damage. The biggest thing was some paint scraped off the frame in a few places, and I have no idea what is involved in repairing that. Hopefully the bike shop will confirm that there is no frame damage, the fork is not bent, and the wheels are both good.

Physically I am not ready to rider yet. I get better every day but my hip is still sore. I picture myself standing on the pedals powering my 70 lb bicycle up the steep slope of Vermont’s Green Mountains, and I know I am not ready for that yet.

I also am in the middle of the paperwork necessary for dealing with the insurance company. I need to get that taken care of before we leave, so things don’t languish for the 3 weeks we are gone.  So taking all that into consideration, hopefully we will be able to leave sometime early next week. We are very fortunate to have the flexibility to adjust the dates of our vacation, but it is still a bit frustrating. Sigh…

Tour 2012 – Delayed?

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Jodi and I have been getting ready for this summer’s bike tour. This year we are going to keep it simple and ride out the driveway heading for Montreal then Quebec City and finally back to Boston. Originally we had circled next Wednesday as our departure date, but we are hoping to have a meeting with a potential new client sometime next week, and another recently new client called and asked us to do a shoot on Thursday. so we moved our departure date back to next Friday.

As usual, we haven’t ridden our bikes as much as we should this year, so we will be starting the trip under-trained. To try to remedy that a bit, yesterday morning we set out for an easy ride through the Blue Hills Reservation, which is just a couple of miles from our condo.

On our way there we were riding through a four way intersection with the green light, me leading with Jodi behind me, when a driver went around us on the left then turned right right through me. The classic “right hook.” If I remember things correctly (the adrenaline rush is amazing, and everything unfolds quite slowly) he hit me with his right rear door. I remember thinking it was very important that I not fall until his rear wheel had passed me, and somehow I managed to do that. Jodi told me it looked like I had almost recovered control of the bike but I eventually did fall after the car had cleared me, landing hard on my left hip and sliding across the pavement. I remember feeling frustrated, while I was falling, that I was not in control of how I was going to hit the ground because it was happening too fast. I was determined not to hit head first though, and hit with my hip first. I did hit my head, but with my helmet on I hardly even felt it.

Of course, the adrenaline was coursing through my body, and I looked and could see that the driver was still driving, so I jumped up and yelled at him “You better stop that fucking car!”. The car in front of him stopped, forcing him to stop. I’m not sure he would have stopped otherwise. When the driver got out of his car he was quite angry that I had cursed at him, and immediately told me it was my fault for not getting out of his way. I told him he was a moron and when the cops got there they could explain it to him. He never did ask if I was hurt.

Pretty soon a cop was there, then the paramedics from the fire department, and finally an ambulance. I got a ride to the hospital
strapped to a back board in the ambulance. Jodi and I spent several hours at the hospital, mostly waiting for a series of hip x-rays to
make sure I hadn’t broken anything. While still at the accident scene I was walking fine, and almost turned down the ambulance, but the
smart cop nudged Jodi and Jodi told me to go to the hospital, so I did. By the time we had spent a couple of hours sitting in the
hospital emergency room waiting for the x-rays, I could barely walk any more. I’ve got some oxycodone – acetaminophen (generic Percocet) tablets for the pain, which help a lot, but even this morning I can barely moveHopefully another day of sitting around will be enough for that to ease so I can at least move around on my own. I turned down the offer of crutches at the hospital, which probably would have been a good idea.

The cop came to the hospital and gave me the case number so I can get the accident report, and told me the driver was quite taken aback when he got a ticket. Apparently he was quite upset about the damage I had done to his car, and was still adamant that it was my fault because I should not have been in the road. I wish I believed he is exceptionally ignorant, but I think there are lots of people driving who share that belief.

I wish I could understand the thought process that was going on in his head. He knew I was there, since he moved left to try to go around me, so what did he think was going to happen when he turned right while I was to the right of his car? I don’t believe he consciously thought “I’m just going to hit that guy on the bicycle with my car,” but somehow he managed to mentally dismiss my presence and turn as if I wasn’t there. That’s the part I’ve never been able to figure out; how do people go from “I don’t think bicycles should be on the road” to ignoring their presence and possibly killing another person?

So, I haven’t seen the damage to my bike yet. It’s still in the back of Jodi’s car and hopefully I’ll be moving around enough that I can
help her get it out later today. Jodi looked at it briefly and told me there’s some minor stuff broken — the rear view mirror and the
tail-light — and that there is some paint missing on the top tube. Since it is a steel frame that will need to be re-painted to prevent
rust. Hopefully there’s nothing else, like a bent fork or tacoed wheel. Whether or not both the bike and I will be ready to leave by
Friday is a big question mark right now.

The doctor told me I should be moving fairly well by tomorrow, and if not I should come back and they would do an MRI to see if there were any hairline fractures that didn’t show up on the x-rays. Assuming I’m mobile I’ll go to the police station and get a copy of the accident report, then get in touch with the guy’s insurance company. I’ll also get my bike to the bike shop and have them go over it and write up any needed repairs. I’ve also got to get a new helmet.

So There I Was…

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So there I was sleeping in my hammock Sunday night, when all of a sudden
I am wakened by the sound of someone or something SCREAMING just 50 or
60 yards up from my hammock. Holy shit! The noise goes on for what
seemed to be several minutes, and for the life of me I could not tell
whether it was a person or an animal making the sounds. Quite
unnerving. I will also say that it immediately went through my mind
just how vulnerable I was lying there in my hammock. There is no quick
and graceful way to exit a hammock, and if someone was out there
intent on doing me harm, I was a very easy target. It really did sound
like a person, but they were not screaming words, just sounds. And
there were no lights anywhere to be seen, and I figured few people
nowadays would be comfortable moving around in the woods without a
light, so I started leaning towards it being an animal. Was it some
animal pissed that I was camped in their territory?

I unwound my headlamp from the hammock ridge-line and put it on my
head, but did not turn it on. Then I unhooked my sandals from the cord
at the foot of my hammock where I keep them and put them on before
dropping out the opening of my hammock to have a look around. It was
about 10pm so the moon was up, but I could see nothing in the area.
Being a bit of a chicken-shit I opted not to go tramping around the
woods investigating, so I basically stood around for a few minutes
listening and watching. Nothing.

Eventually I crawled back into my hammock, and believe it or not I
went right back to sleep. Then some hours later I woke to the sound of
some big animal moving past me and snorting, so I called out and
whatever it was moved away downhill towards the stream in Sages
Ravine. It sounded like a moose, though moose are very rare this far
south. Every once in a while one seems to wander down from further
north in Massachusetts, but as far as I know there is no resident
population in Connecticut. Given how everything sounds bigger at
night, I’m guessing it was a deer.

I looked around in the morning and could not see any distinct tracks, so
I guess I’ll never know what it was. It sure made for an interesting
night, though!

If you’d like to see some photos from the trip: https://plus.google.com/photos/117957848509101633801/albums/5739858958661759873

The Full Route

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Here is the full route we cycled in Israel. If you zoom any particular spot in too far it may not be as precise as it should be, as I filtered the data set to reduce the number of data points. If I hadn’t the server would have to work too hard to process the data and the page may never render.

If you look at the elevation profile you can see that we started at a decent altitude, but still climbed the first day as we made our way towards Mount Hermon, then we descended down below sea level at Yam Kinneret — The Sea of Galilee –. From here we climbed again as we made our way up through the Meron Forest, then descended to sea level at Rosh HaNikra on the Mediterranean. We stayed at sea level as we made our way south through Nahariya and Akko, until we reached Haifa and climbed Mount Carmel. From here it was through the Carmel Forest and down, then rolling along until we reached sea level again in Tel Aviv. From Tel Aviv we climbed again to Jerusalem before descending below sea level even more at the Dead Sea. Finally, from the Dead Sea we climbed up to the high Negev at Mitspe Ramon, then descended to sea level to end our ride in Eilat on the Red Sea.

Phew! It makes me tired just looking at it.

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The Stats

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Date Km Miles
10/4/2011 Kiryat Shmona to Tel Hai Guest House 7.9 4.9
10/5/2011 Tel Hai Guest House to Neve Ativ 40.0 24.8
10/6/2011 Neve Ativ to Karei Desche Guest House 73.1 45.3
10/7/2011 Karei Desche Guest House to Tiberias 53.5 33.2
10/8/2011 Tiberias to Shlomi Guest House 92.6 57.4
10/9/2011 Shlomi to Nahariya 23.0 14.3
10/10/2011 Nahariya to Akko 18.6 11.5
10/11/2011 Akko to Haifa 38.8 24.1
10/12/2011 Haifa 0.0 0.0
10/13/2011 Haifa to Beit HaLevi 92.4 57.3
10/14/2011 Beit HaLevi to Tel Aviv 61.2 37.9
10/15/2011 Tel Aviv to Jerusalem 79.4 49.2
10/16/2011 Jerusalem 0.0 0.0
10/17/2011 Jerusalem 0.0 0.0
10/18/2011 Jerusalem to En Bokek 113.0 70.1
10/19/2011 En Bokek 0.0 0.0
10/20/2011 En Bokek to Dimona 65.9 40.9
10/21/2011 Dimona to Mitspe Ramon 71.0 44.0
10/22/2011 Mitspe Ramon 0.0 0.0
10/23/2011 Mitspe Ramon to Eilat 152.0 94.2
10/24/2011 Eilat 3.6 2.2
10/25/2011 Eilat 19.8 12.3
10/26/2011 Eilat (Drive to Tel Aviv) 3.7 2.3
1009.5 625.9

 

 

Final Photos

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I have added the last of the Israel photos to:

https://picasaweb.google.com/117957848509101633801/Israel2011

 

 

Oct 26 – 27 – Eilat to Home

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Our journey home started inauspiciously when we packed up at the hotel and rode to the location shown on the Shlomo (car rental) website for their Eilat branch, only to discover a vacant lot.  Jodi was smart enough to figure they had to be somewhere by the airport, so we rode over that way and sure enough found it. Great attention to detail, Shlomo! Misdirecting your customers must cut down on the workload.

Picking up the rental car proved incredibly tedious, with lots of waiting around for whatever reason, then eventually I was lead out back to the parking garage and handed over the keys to the car.  I told the guy I needed to go around to the front to pick up my wife and our gear and he told me I could park there no problem, but he didn’t bother to tell me how to get there. I figured I would just drive around the block, but the roads weren’t organized that way and I promptly got lost. I probably had 5km on the car by the time I finally found my way there.

We spent the day driving north up to and along the Dead Sea, then west through Jerusalem and on to Tel Aviv. Coming into Jerusalem from the east there is a split just after the security checkpoint which takes you around Jerusalem. Unfortunately we missed it and ended up in central Jerusalem during the afternoon rush hour. It took forever to get through that and back onto Rt 1, so it was dark when we reached Tel Aviv and had to navigate to our hotel.

The next day we were up at 3:30 and on the road by 4:00. I dropped Jodi and the bikes and panniers at the airport, then headed to the drop-off location for the rental car. Luckily I had the correct address for this location and navigated my way there with the GPS.  Again the paperwork and check-in took a ridiculously long time, then the driver for the airport shuttle was more interested in sitting around smoking cigarettes than doing his job, and kept delaying until I finally yelled at him and he finally drove me to the airport.

There is lots of security at the airport and we had our passports examined multiple times and were questioned several times. We had to pay extra for the bikes and that entailed a trip to another desk for that transaction, then back to the check-in counter for boarding passes, then another detour to the oversize luggage area, so checking in took some time. Finally we had run the gauntlet and all we had left to do was endure our flights. For this return journey we were on a BA ticket but the second flight, from London to Boston, was on American. The BA flights were far superior to AA; more leg room, better food, and much better service. Finally though, we arrived in Boston to a cold fall rain, and after collecting our luggage and going through customs, we emerged from the terminal to find Jodi’s dad sitting right there with the car waiting for us. Thanks Mel!

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Elevation Profile
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