Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sightseeing around P-Town

Provincetown street scene.
The Pilgim Monument
WOMR studio
Marine Specialties store
National Seashore Bike Trail

Monday, June 29, 2009

Radio Bob live from Provincetown

Day 8 Sunday (another one!) I MADE IT... 549 miles total!

Only 66 miles to go today… a piece of cake… so I thought! It was COLD today in Eastern MA. Temps in the upper 50’s, with drizzle, rain and a stiff North wind (unfortunately, that was the way I was going!) And I didn’t have the correct clothing. I wore my windbreaker (it always sounds so flatulent when I use that word) and a T-shirt. So the T-shirt just got wet, never dried and the cold air that leaked through the so-called “windbreaker” just made the perspiration seem that much colder. I was cold and clammy throughout the 7-1/2 hours it took me to go the 66 (which turned out to be 72) miles.

My first mistake was getting lost…. There are two bridges that cross the Cape Cod Canal (built in 1909 to connect Cape Cod Bay in the North with Buzzard’s Bay in the South, avoiding the very dangerous shoals off of the Eastern Cape) Anyway, I couldn’t seem to get on the Bourne Bridge… which was the one that has the pedestrian/bike walkway… and when I finally did find the on-ramp, the no-bicycles sign made me wonder if I had the right bridge. I finally called the Sandwich Police (nothing to do with mayonnaise) who said I was on the right bridge… so next time I was there I just kept going and eventually found the bike ramp.

My next error was choosing the shore route in Cape Cod… route 6A. I thought it would be a fun, scenic road, serving the small communities of Sandwich, Harwich, Yarmouth, Dennis and Brewester). The road may have been sufficient for the few cars in the 23 skidoo era, but now it barely holds the tons of two-way traffic that now exist in this very built-up part of the Cape, let alone all that AND a cyclist. So for the first 35 miles I just poked along while the cars passed and passed and passed me while I sweated and froze at the same time. And I was pretty tired too from going over 80 miles yesterday. I was miserable!

After a few hours of this, I was ready to call it quits… but luckily progress intervened. There used to be a railroad (built in the 19th century) that brought passengers and goods from Boston to the end of Cape Cod. It was abandoned in the 1950’s and 22 miles of the railbed were paved over and turned into a bike/walking trail a few years ago. What a change! No more watching for traffic…. No more trying to stay in the 6” wide shoulder….. no more ups and downs (railroad beds must be fairly level and not have too much of a grade). The railtrail took me from Dennis to Wellfleet, then I switched to the Mid-Cape highway, which wasn’t too bad, for a highway… nice and wide, with lots of room for a smallish biker. I even gave some sanitary wipes from my first-aid kit to a mom who’s daughter had fallen off her bike and scraped her knee.

Anyway, I finally made it to within a few miles of Provincetown (Truro). Here’s a picture of a very happy Radio Bob, sipping some “Truro 1709” Merlot and eating some “Cape Cod” potato chips on the porch of my motel. I set the camera up on an empty ice cube tray, on top of the empty ice bucket on the railing of my place and used the self-timer to snap the shot. Unfortunately, after the 2nd shot, the camera fell down onto the beach below. I apologized to the gent and his family who are directly under my room, and asked if anyone was hit when the camera fell. He said that only the empty plastic tray dropped…. Much to my delight I found the camera inside the ice bucket!

I took the shuttle bus into Provincetown (one of the most fun places in the US) for dinner. A full report on P-town tomorrow. I’m glad to be alive!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Day 7….

A great day here in lovely Eastern Mass! The weatherman said that there would be severe stoms for the next several daysl So, I got on the road in Amherst this morning at 7:30 prepared to be involved with the t-storms the last hour or so. No thunderstorms, however, actually occurred!

The day was sunny and hot (with light winds) and I managed to end up here in Wareham (pronounced Ware-Ham (like the animal that provides us with a lot of bacon)… and put on 84 miles on my bike (a new record for me.)

The latter part of today was on old Route 28, known as the Cranberry Highway. This was one of the few ways to get to Cape Cod back in the Old Days. The bogs (as opposed to blogs) are privately owned… and all those berries go to Ocean Spray, an agricultural co-operative in Middleboro (or Middleborough) MA.

When I was in Middleboro, I had lunch #1 at a place wih the word “sub” in its name… they actually call them “grinders” around here (and frappes for milkshakes)… and called ahead for a motel in Wareham. Every motel was booked (at 1 pm!) so I chanced on a Bed and Breakfast. I’ve always been afraid of B and B’s… figuring I’d have to… I don’t know, actually talk to people, or convert to the innkeepers religion. But here at the “Cranberry Gardens” this is not the case. The folks are wonderful, the room is very cute and clean… and the wi-fi also works. After I had lunch #2 (chowder and beer) and Dinner #1 (kale soup and lazyman’s lobster pie) the B and B owners brought me in to meet their friends, have a little taste of the grape and discuss biking and Public Radio.

I also had a flat tire today (as promised by those cross-country bikers). It wasn’t that exciting, a fish hook or nail went in and out of my back tire, and then the air soon followed, but slowly. I installed my spare and continued.

Wareham is almost on Cape Cod… there are lots of summer cottages here, wonderful beaches, lots of hidden harbors to hide your boat. And one of the old Nantucket Light Ships. From 1857 to 1983 (thank you Wikipedia) these ships (with big lights on them) marked Nantucket shoals, and were the first US lighthouse seen by transatlantic ships on their way to the US.

A few people have asked how I select my route. I have a computer program (DeLorme Topo USA) that lets you select starting and end points of your route, and if you want to go the fastest or shortest way. I select shortest and force it modify its route. I eliminate Interstates, and try to eliminate huge cities. Then once you have a route, you can view the vertical profile (ups and downs) then try to re-route around mountains usually adding a few miles for the gentler climb.

For example, the shortest route between North Russell (my home) and Provincetown is through the Adirondacks. I didn’t want to tackle those hills on my first day… and wanted to see the Mohawk Valley, so I forced the route in that direction …. But added 50 miles to the trip. Today’s 66 miles should be pretty flat… first over the bridge over the Cape Cod Canal, then onward!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Day 6 Friday…

I’m still alive, but pretty tired. Only 54 miles of serious central Mass. ups and downs. It really seemed like I was ALWAYS going uphill. I finally figured out that its because uphills (5 mph) take four times as long as downhills (20 mph).
So not much news, I’m enjoying Mass! Here’s what I’ve been waiting for… the “Clam Box” ! They do something special with their hot-dog buns here in New England…. They use special flat-sided buns and butter and toast the sides… wonderful!
About halfway today it started to pour (rain), the bike as well as its rider were covered with about an inch of road grit… it was wonderful (not).
Today, to keep up with calorie intake, I had more stinking “power bars” then that great hot dog, then a second lunch in Worcester (my destination) … at a place where they give kids their meals free, but only if the Red Sox win the night before… sweet!

Eventually I finally arrived at Dave and Patty Doherty’s in lovely Worcester. It was great to see ol’ Dave again (after 40 years!) He hadn’t changed a bit. He’s now a Broadcast Consultant and has helped NCPR on a few recent projects. We had lobster dinners (with real lobster!) and watched some restaurant guests sing Barry Mannilow-like songs on the big karaoke stage… but I’m getting hungry again…maybe I’ll got out for dinner #2 in a few minutes.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Day 5 (Thursday?... I’m starting to lose track)

Got a late start today (9:52 am today!)… I wasn’t feeling too chipper after yesterdays late climb, plus I knew I only had to cover 52 miles today, so… what’s the point? (always a big question)

Why, only 52 miles? Well, for a few reasons: 1) due to the changing habits of travelers, motels typically spring up only at major intersections and major population areas. Gone are the days when the family hopped in their 32,48 or 57 Chevy and motored out in the woods to camp and commune with nature. Imagine what the Mohawk trail must have been like in the early '20s. I’ll bet the average family in their model “T” didn’t go very much further a day that I do now on my bike! Now its just head to the Interstate and get somewhere as fast as possible. Where I was riding today, there are still remnants of that culture…. cabin colonies, old Bates-like Motels, rambling Inns… all closed. So my choices were to stay in Amherst (which is where I am now, riding 52 miles) or I could stay in West Brookfield (80 miles) but no-where in between! 2) Friday I’m heading to Worcester to stay with an old College Pal and that is 100 miles from where I was this morning… so a 50/50 split seemed appropriate and 3) I don’t think I could have done more than 52 miles today!

Anyway, it was all downhill for a while… I had to use my brakes so much, that there is now a thickish black powder all over the bike from my disintegrating brake pads! This was all on the Mohawk Trail which had a few things left from the old days…. A few nice parks and a few giftshops, like this one.

Here’s my favorite sign… I love downhills, and hate uphills, in case anyone asks you!

So, apparently it all comes down to proper nutrition, about which I know nothing! All I know is that I was pretty tired today, because I believe now that I wasn’t eating enough. My first clue was waking up at 3:45 am starving! (this called for another Power Bar)… then by the time I got to Greenfield, MA today, my mind seemed a little soggy, and I realized I really wasn’t having any fun. A quick trip for a Burger, fries and ice tea seemed to help immediately. So I kept eating…. A big bag of trail mix, three power bars, an apple, two bannas, two trips to Friendly’s for ice cream, and a 10oz steak with trimmings at the local brew pub. In fact I’m feeling hungry again… its 11 pm and I just finished eating at 8!

I felt so good this afternoon, that I decided to do my laundry…. I don’t have a lot of clothing, two t-shirts, two pairs of “biking” shorts, a pair of “un-mentionables,” three pairs of socks, and a pair of “regular” shorts. So I washed all that stuff, which left me with only my bathing suit and a wind-breaker. For some reason they looked oddly at me in the Laundromat.

Today’s songs were a repeat of yesterday’s “Dancin’ in the Moonlight” and a new one for this afternoon: “What a Shame” by the Stones. Weird!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Radio Bob live from the Bershires

Day 4, Wednesday

Lots of things happened today. One of the best things is that I got to spend a few hours with a human being! Zak Robinson (my lovely wife Jackie’s cousin) rode with me for 20 miles this morning. It was pleasant and a little different. It seemed a little harder to focus on the task at hand, it was more fun talking to Zak than pedaling! Here’s a shot of what a real cyclist looks like, in front of a derelict pizza place in Pittstown, NY.

Dale Hobson asked me what songs (if any) coursed through my so-called brain as I drifted over the highways. Today I listened … in the morning my song was Bobby Rydell’s “Wild One”…. It just started and didn’t stop for a few hours… then in the afternoon it somehow switched to that 70’s song by King Harvest “Dancin’ in the Moonlight”… the melody from these songs seemed to fit my “cadence” perfectly.

Speaking of geeky bike stuff, someone wanted to know what kind of a bike I have… it’s a Fuji “Touring” model… completely stock except for “slick” tires instead of the knobby ones supplied, I bought it new just for this ride.

Anyway today I rode only 57 miles… but they were a hard 57 miles! Lots of ups and downs (I’m in the foothills of the Berkshires) … and mayb e by Day 4 I’m starting to “feel” it! In fact by about mile 40 I was really slowing down… I pulled over,rested, had yet another Carb Bomb, and rode slowly into North Adams Ma. (50 miles)

So as any irresponsible teenager would do, I decided to do something I knew I shouldn’t do… namely to attempt another 7 mile climb up to the highest planned point on my trip at 2,179 feet. (see elevation profile) This was TOUGH! I had to put the bike in the lowest of my 27 gears, and crept up the mountain at 5.0 mph! (I just barely passed a lady walking to her mailbox!) It took me almost 2 hours including lots of stops (for more Carb Bombs, etc) We’ll see if I can even walk tomorrow.

But at the top, what a treat awaited me! I had booked a motel room right at the summit, and as soon as I got to my room, it started raining cats AND dogs. When it stopped, the view was incredible… wispy clouds all down below me…. Wow!

Unfortunately, there are no restaurants at the summit, but the Italian restaurant in N. Adams will deliver orders greater than $25… you can just imagine the rest.

This place is located on route 2 which is also known as the Mohawk Trail. Its supposed to be on the site of an old Native American trail connecting New England with New York, and is one of the first scenic roads for automobiles in the US, developed in the early 20’s. The whole area is full of those hip-roofed cabins from that era… but it all looks a little sad, I don’t think the tourists flock here the way they used to.

Right next to the motel is the famous “Elk on the Trail” statue, put here in 1923 by the Elks Club as a memento to Elks Club members who died in the “Great” War. It looks like people still remember.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Day 3, Tuesday

Another beautiful day in paradise! This morning I got up early and hit the road by 7:45… the theory being to do some miles before the sun heats up things and the winds blow harder. Also the gent from the LA bike tour said they’d be on the road by 7 and I’d have to get up early if I wanted to use their floor pump! (I actually left before any of them) Apparently, my story of having only ONE spare tube made them feel sorry for me, because as I was leaving one of the riders slipped another tube in my saddlebag along with a bag of “Carb Boom!” energy gels. I tried one… it tasted terrible (mine was the Kiwi-fish food flavor), but gave me a nice happy feeling, as if I’d just had a big shrimp sandwich or something.

Apparently, you have to eat and drink almost all of the time while long-distance biking… I’ve had sort of “out of body” experience…. Things become simply “you” and “your body” and the “you” part is very concerned about the “body” portion, treating it like a machine…. Am I feeding it enough? Is it getting thirsty? Should I throttle back a little so it doesn’t overheat?

Since I’m in the “civilized” northeast, I carry only a water bottle, and a bottle of “sports drink” (don’t forget to give the body the electrolyte replacement it needs) and a spare emergency bottle of water. Serious cyclists use “CamelBaks”… these are water bladders that hold up to 3 liters, which you strap to your back and occasionally suck from the attached tube, enabling you to actually drink ALL the time!

I was on a pretty deserted road today (Route 5S) south of the Mohawk River, when I hit a bump and my emergency bottle flew out of my carrier and landed in a creek, some 25 feet below the road. I went into the ravine (on foot) and finally retrieved the bottle only to find that the inside of the cap had exploded and my precious water was contaminated, luckily there was a Stewart’s just around the bend…

Anyway, I went 71 miles today (cross-winds today) and ended up in Clifton Park (North of Albany)… let me tell you… the traffic here is horrible… but I did find a motel with an outdoor pool! That was heaven! The body thoroughly enjoyed it… as well as the dinner at the local Chili’s, where they had a buy one beer, get one free special. Life just couldn’t be any better.

I promise better pictures tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Radio Bob live from Nelliston, NY

Day 2 Monday

After a nice healthy breakfast of pancakes the size of pizzas at Lloyds of Lowville, at 8:52 again (coincidence?) I headed south helped along by very favorable North winds. I started to actually have fun… the sun was out, my legs felt fine, I enjoyed a tasty power bar or four. Time flew by and before you or I knew it, 69 miles later I was in Little Falls.

Little Falls is an old manufacturing town on the Mohawk River. It is loaded with huge 19th century factories (most of them empty) large houses (and banks!) At one time it was one the biggest cheese towns in the US, loading 360,000 pounds of cheese on the train one day in 1866. (no lie, I just read it on one of the nice info signs all around town) (OK it might have been one year, I don’t remember)

It is also the site of one of the first canals in the Americas, they built one here in 1795 so that small barges could navigate from Albany to Buffalo pre-Erie canal!

Anyway, as I was rolling in to the motel around 3pm, a couple of other cyclists say hello, and I find that they’ve just ridden from Los Angeles! (on their way to Boston) And had done 80 miles today coming from Syracuse. These people looked pretty slim, let me tell you! The best part of this was that the motelier gave me the group rate!

I had a chat with a couple of them over dinner… one of them (Mike) says he had 22 flats so far on their trip… and they did 100 miles plus through the desert when it was 103 degrees! And that the oldest of their group is 73!!

He also said that several people dropped out, due to injuries and accidents (two with cars!) Mike apparently has done this sort of long-distance touring all over the world… and when I asked him if he ever biked across Austrailia, he said "no," but there is a how-to book about it… the first sentence is: "you can bike across Austrailia, but 50% of the people who attempt it have perished."

My only problem is my route--I really don’t know where I'm going tomorrow, or the next day… somehow I have to traverse the Berkshires, but where? I’ll let you know.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Day 1, Sunday (Father’s Day)

No excuses anymore! I loaded up my panniers with clothes, tools, power bars, an Acer $300 mini laptop computer…. It all weighs about 20 pounds.

I start out at 8:52am and the first thing I find is that that extra 20 pounds, hung comfortably over the rear wheel, makes the bike handle somewhat differently. I know I should have practiced loaded up (like the pros advise) but I figured out it would be just fine. (always my motto!)

Anyway, so far, so good… the day is foggy (I turn on my cool white/red flashing tail light!) cool, and drizzly.

I drive through miles and miles of North Country Roads, not seeing anything very exciting… not even many cars (everyone celebrated too much last night?) I pedal through a few towns (Edwards, Pitcairn, Harrisville, Indian River, Croghan, New Bremen, Dadville…. Happy Father’s Day, by the way) The roads are in pretty good shape, Route 812 is a designated bike route (whatever that means) , Route 3 has a nice huge shoulder. AND I’ve got a very pleasant 5-10 mph tailwind helping me along.

I end up clocking 66 miles the first day… my previous record was 54. I think the tailwind really helped.

Day Zero, Saturday, June 20, 2009

Its time to begin Radio Bob’s Big Biking adventure. OK here I go… no I won’t!

I’ve always wanted to ride a bicycle to Cape Cod from my home in St. Lawrence County. Why? Maybe I’ll find out in the next two weeks… or simply do the smart thing and quit!

This ride will offer startling vistas, quiet moments for reflection, a healthful challenge, beauty and bliss by the ton. Or this ride will offer nothing but long, hot, grueling days of dangerous health-destroying pain! I suppose I’d like to find out.

The plan was to start today… riding about 50 miles per day… arriving in Provincetown, Mass (the outermost tip of the Cape) in 10-14 days.

I’ve purchased a Fuji “touring” bike and lots of gear. A touring bike is a little different than your average road bike… it has a longer wheelbase so that you don’t kick the saddlebags (panniers) which ride over the back wheel. It also has somewhat larger tires to carry the heavier loads of a touring trip, and lots of gears (27) for those steep hills. Its supposed to be strong NOT necessarily light… this bike is made of good ol’ steel, not Carbon fiber or Chrome-Molybdenum alloy, but heavy steel, just like your 1950 Columbia one-speed!

Anyway, today is the starting day… but it isn’t because of the promise of Thunderstorms in Lewis County (Lowville is my first stop) as well as the probability of headwinds (nothing worse than headwinds!)

Oh well… think I’ll have a beer!