Saturday, November 24, 2007

California here we come

A lot has happened since the three of us returned from our trip around Vermont/Quebec/New Hampshire/New York. Mitch started a new job at a law firm in New Jersey. Jesse started law school in Albany. I switched jobs in August; now I'm working in the IT department for a financial services company. I completed two triathlons last summer and signed up to do the NYC triathlon again in 2008.
Since we had such a great time on our Vermont trip we decided to plan another trip next summer. We'll be biking 378 miles from Santa Barbara, CA to San Francisco, CA starting Memorial Day weekend. We are going to follow the Adventure Cycling Association Pacific Coast map. Some of the things I'm looking forward to are riding along the Pacific Coast Highway, camping along the beach and stopping at every taco cart on the route.
Follow our progress in training, preparation and of course updates during our trip on our California Bike Trip Blog.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Trip Recap

I'd like to add onto Mitch's last post about the top ten moments of our trip by attempting to give a concise day by day recap of our amazingly fun and exhausting trek around Vermont/Quebec/New Hampshire/New York. Right now a lot of the stories in my head are jumbled and it's hard to remember what happened and where and in what order so I think this will help provide some context of what we went through on a day to day basis. Here goes nothing:
Day 1- We left Fair Lawn around 5:30am and drove to Burlington where we had a quick pre ride lunch in ridiculously cold July temperature. We had a bit of a race against time since we needed to get to St. Alban's by 6:30 to catch the last ferry to Burton Island State Park where we would camp that night. In terms of mileage (44) and hills this day was by far the easiest. We made several wrong turns but this was kind of expected since we were still in heavily populated areas so we had to follow a lot of turns. On our first really tough hill of the trip in Colchester Jesse got his heart rate up a little too high too soon after eating lunch and up came his lunch haha. Other highlights from Day 1 included the first incident with dogs chasing us (Mitch almost got knocked off his bike by an aggressive dog), a pack of stampeding cows a group of blindfolded horses on the side of the road, almost getting hit by trucks on the heavily travelled Route 2A and a driver in Milton who threw a box of cigarettes at us. I'm still not sure what that was about. The campground at Burton Island State Park was beautiful with the only downside being we didn't have a real dinner since the canteen was closed when we got there around 6pm.
Day 2- We woke up early and had an amazing breakfast at the campground. I was ready to eat my arm...I ate an omelet with home fries and an order of french toast. Somehow in the confusion of rushing to catch the 10:00am ferry back to St. Alban's we were given an extra omelet which I ate most of on the ferry. We saw a house outside of St. Alban's that was completely covered in frying pans! No idea what that is about. We also saw a house with the street address # 666 painted in red. I noticed one of the support bars on my bike rack was broken so we stopped at a bike shop in Swanton to have it fixed quickly. The bike shop owner gave us a recommended alternate route so we could find some lunch on the way up to Quebec and we stopped and had a really good lunch in Enosburg Falls. From there we went on to cross the border into Canada. The ride in Canada was pretty boring and torturous. There were lots of hills and there was literally NOTHING on the road. It seemed like a less manicured not as nice version of what we'd seen so far in Vermont. We camped out for the second night in a row in Quebec. As soon as we checked into the campground we scrambled to set up our tents before the impending rainstorm arrived. About 30 seconds after getting the tent set up a huge hail/rain storm ensued for the next 30 minutes. I'm not sure what we would have done had we not had any shelter from the conditions! The couple who ran the Carrefour des Campeurs campground informed us we were the first Americans to stay there this season.
Day 3- This day proved to be very difficult as we encountered our first set of really nasty hills. The prospect of a comfortable bed at a bed and breakfast in East Burke definitely kept me motivated. In a sign of things to come I popped the chain off my bike for the first time just before crossing the border back into the United States. We stopped in Newport Center to stock up on water and cliff bars in preparation for our first HUGE climb of the trip. A store worker looked at us incredulously when we asked how intense Vance Hill Road is. He said something to the effect of "Y'all are on bikes? It's quite a hill!" That was an understatement especially since my bike was giving me fits trying to change into the granny gear. I wanted to stop at a bike shop to have my chain and gears fixed but decided to not stop at the bike shop in Derby Line so we could press on with our long road ahead. About a mile past the bike shop I heard a snap and all of the sudden my bags were dragging behind my bike on the side of the road. My bike rack snapped off and was unusable. Mitch and Jesse waited with my gear while I rode back to the bike shop and had a new rack installed and had my gears looked at. The rest of the day was extremely challenging due to the hills. We rode over 60 miles in total before arriving at the East Burke Village Inn. The Village Inn was amazing. Our room was great and everyone there was really friendly. We had a nice big dinner at the Pub Out Back as they call it in East Burke.
Day 4- We started our July 4th off right with a great breakfast at the Village Inn of East Burke and then enjoyed about a 5 mile downhill ride from East Burke to Lyndonville. In the morning we stopped at a great country store in St. Johnsbury called "The Farmer's Daughter." We rode an amazing 50 miles before finally stopping for lunch in Woodsville, VT. A few hours later we completed over 70 miles of riding and arrived at The Pastures Campground in Orford, New Hampshire. The manager at the campground let us set up our stuff under a canopy/pavilion area since it was pouring out when we arrived which was much appreciated. We knew we had the most difficult day of the trip coming up so we tried to fall asleep early but were unsuccessful due to 4th of July fireworks and a pack of at least a dozen other more lively bike riders who arrived later on that night.
Day 5- Things started off bad and got worse on Day 5. About the only thing that kept me sane was the fact that we had another bed and breakfast to sleep in at our destination of Ripton, Vermont once we completed this very challenging day. None of us got much sleep under the canopy at the campground mostly due to the uncomfortable humid weather. We woke up around 5:30 to get a head start. Mitch popped a tube while trying to add air which delayed us a little bit. A few minutes later I suffered the only injury of the trip when I walked right into a speaker hanging from the pavilion ceiling. I got a pretty sweet looking cut over my right eye that definitely could have passed for road rash. Needless to say I was out of it after not getting much sleep. Our day started with a really nasty hill between South Stafford and Sharon. Amazingly a dog followed Jesse for about 3 miles up the hill. It was pretty funny watching the dog run circles around Jesse as he struggled at 4 MPH up the last portion of the hill. As we started the following downhill the dog started to follow another biker headed the other direction. We stopped at a pizza place in South Royalton to grab a quick rest and a quick bite to eat in preparation for the first of two huge climbs (the Rochester Gap.) When we came out of the restaurant a pack of shady teenagers told us someone threw a cigarette out near Jesse's bike which caused the tire to pop. It must have been quite a cigarette since his tube and tire were completely thrashed. It was pretty apparent that this was some kind of unfunny teenage prank. Luckily the nearest bike shop in Rochester (about 20 miles further west) sent Jesse's new hero Merlyn to rescue him on the side of the road as Mitch and I forged ahead over the Rochester gap. The climb over the gap was insanely difficult...definitely the hardest hill of the trip. It wasn't comforting knowing we had another climb of over 2000 feet coming up. The downhill was pretty fun and we caught up to Jesse after he enjoyed some relaxing in the town park in Rochester. I had to use my headlamp to use the bathroom at a gas station in Rochester since there was a town-wide power outage and I REALLY had to go to the bathroom haha. The Middelbury Gap was almost as intense as the Rochester Gap but this time Jesse got to experience the fun. The downhill after reaching the summit was probably the best of the entire trip and took us all the way to Ripton to our bed and breakfast.
Day 6- We started off with an amazing breakfast at The Chipman Inn in Ripton. We had baked eggs which was new to all of us but very good. Day 6 was probably the easiest day of biking in terms of hills and one of the nicest in terms of scenery but that doesn't mean we got through the day without incident. We started off nice and easy continuing our descent from the Middlebury Gap into Middlebury. Somewhere between Cornwall and Shoreham it started to pour. Within a few minutes our feet were drenched and we were pretty cold and miserable. We stopped at a gas station in Shoreham, a few miles before the ferry to Ticonderoga, NY. The deli workers inside the Mobil station were extremely nice and gave us some free food which enticed us to buy lunch there and we ended up staying for about an hour. We also met some friendly people from Upper Saddle River, NJ who have a summer home in Vermont. Once the rain subsided we crossed Lake Champlain into Ticonderoga, New York. We rode past the Ticonderoga lumber factory where the pencils everyone used in elementary school are manufactured. We arrived at Barber Homestead Park in Westport pretty early but again were faced with the dilemma of having no food for dinner. Luckily one of the campground managers agreed to take me to town to Ernie's to bring back some pizza. Ernie's is pretty much the only store/restaurant/anything in the town of Westport, NY. The accommodations at Barber Park were extremely nice. We ate our pizza in the pavilion area and met some really nice people from Maine who are professional loggers and campers. We even watched a few hours of TV before bed in the lounge.
Day 7- We stopped at Ernie's for breakfast on the way out of Westport in what we anticipated to be the easiest day of the trip. We only had to ride about 30 miles to Port Kent to catch the ferry to our final stop-Burlington, VT. It turned out to be an extremely difficult 30 miles. There were A LOT of big hills along Lake Champlain. About 10 miles from Port Kent Jesse flew down a hill and missed a turn. Mitch and I didn't feel like chasing him down the hill since we would then have to join him in climbing all the way back up. I assumed he was waiting at the bottom of the hill for us listening to his iPod so I flagged down a car to let him know he missed the turn. A few minutes later we saw him chugging back up the hill and we continued on a dirt road towards Port Kent. About 5 miles from the ferry Mitch popped a tube. We changed it and a few minutes later he popped another tube. This process repeated several times (5 in total) and we decided to walk the last 4 miles. I started to get antsy and asked Mitch to try one more time and see how far he could get. He only got about 10 feet! His tire was all shredded and his bike was unusable. Almost at wits end I flagged down a pickup truck driver who agreed to drive us the last few miles to the ferry. It wasn't an ideal finish to our 418 mile trek around Vermont/Quebec/New Hampshire/New York but it certainly was unforgettable. We took the ferry back to the King Street bike path in Burlington and officially completed our 7 day trip in the early afternoon. We were pleased to see Mitch's van was still parked where we left it and we checked into our hotel and went swimming. Later on that night we went out for dinner in Burlington which is an awesome city.
Thank you to everyone back home who followed our journey and a special thank you to everyone we met along the way. Most of the people we encountered were really friendly and took an interest in helping us any way they could; whether it was giving us recommendations on directions, warning us about a huge hill coming, taking a picture of us or driving us the last 3 miles to the ferry.

Monday, July 9, 2007

To Infinity and Beyond

As I sit back and think about this trip I want to first thank all of our faithful readers for following us on our adventures throughout the past week. Special thanks go out to Gram, Dad, Carmen, and Jeff T. for very entertaining comments that we are still laughing about today. I also want to apologize for the lack of posts Eastern VT and NH did not have a lot of cell service and therefore there was a lack of posts.

Now to the trip...we finally arrived back in Burlington on Saturday which we thought would be our most fun and uneventful day since it was such a short distance, however that wouldn't be the case. The day was going well and the rain was holding off on us until we would get back home to Burlington however my bike did not cooperate as the front tire busted about 5 miles from the ferry which would take us back to Burlington. We tried to patch it and ride on it and even walk on it for the rest of the way but our efforts failed about 3 miles out and we had to hitch a ride in the back of a pickup truck the rest of the way. It wasn't the way we wanted to end the trip but the fact that we were able to all make it home in one piece was all that we can ask for. I never knew how this trip would be since I was not an avid cyclist and only started riding 3 weeks before our trip, but after accomplishing all of our goals I am extremely happy and proud of all of us for organizing this trip and can't wait to do it again.

Here are my top ten moments of the trip:

1. Surviving 400 + miles, between 3 states and 2 countries, over 7 days with 2 of your best friends
2. Climbing/walking but mostly climbing the Rochester and Middlebury Gaps
3. 39.5 mph (what a rush while being scared as hell)
4. Being chased by and almost bitten or run over by dogs on every leg of the trip 5. Jesse climbing Strafford Hill with a dog he picked up on the side of the road
6. The Canadian Tandem Biking Duo
7. "Stop Staring at My Ass!!"
8. Experiencing what a B&B is
9. The food at the Mobil in the lightning storm
10. 4 busted tubes in .9 miles

This trip was definitely the most rewarding and inspiring trip I have been on. I have no idea what our next adventure will be or where it will be but after this trip I feel that the sky is the limit. As Buzz Lightyear says, "To Infinity and Beyond." who knows where we will end up next but keep an eye out as we continue to post on all of our experiences both present and future. Thanks for following. Till next time...see ya!!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Mission Completed

We made it back to Burlington earlier this afternoon. This was an amazing experience. We will post stories and all of our pictures eventually. Time to relax and recover!

Total Miles Biked: 418
Top Speed: 42 mph

We will scramble to combine all of the pictures we took this past week and post online in some kind of organized fashion. In the meantime you can view the pictures and videos I took in my FLJC to Vermont '07 Picasa Web Album.

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Friday, July 6, 2007

Crossing the border to NY

Sorry for the lack of updates. We haven't had much cell service lately. Its been an eventful few days we will share some good stories later. We are about to cross Lake Champlain to Ticonderoga, NY.
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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head

Day four is done. 73 total miles today and I am feeling every one of those miles. So far we've gone about 239 miles.

This morning we heard on the news we were goimg to see some more rain. We managed to make it all but the last ten miles before the downpour started.

When we got to the campgrounds tonight the owner advised us we could keep dry and sleep under a canopy area with a wood floor. We are pretty pumped about that. The rain is showing no signs of letting up.

Hopefully we will be seeing some fireworks at nine. Happy 4th of July!

Day 4 Update

Day 4 Update
Originally uploaded by mjschwimmer
Here's a great shot at a country store in St. Johnsbury,VT. We met some nice folks there from southern Missouri. After tasting the amazing homemade fudge Jesse declared himself "secret agent of fudge."

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Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Hills Are Alive

Today was a hellacious day we rode 64.1 miles before finally getting to our B&B in East Burke. We climbed in excess of 1500 feet today and we have the scars to prove it. There was absolutely nothing on the road today except for hills. We reached speeds of 35 mph on the downhills which was definitely needed. When we finally got in tonight we hit the local pub and ate like kings then I hit the hot tub to loosen up the muscles and jesse and mike showered and packed up for our 65 miler tomorrow. Its time to shower and stretch before I hit the sack. See everyone tomorrow!

Day 3 Update

Day 3 Update
Originally uploaded by mjschwimmer
We left our campground around 9 this morning. There have been lots of uphill climbs. About ten minutes ago the rack broke off my bike and my bags flew off! Luckily we had just passed a bike shop in Derby. My bike should be as good as new in just a few minutes and we'll be on our way. PS ridegewood bike shop is to blame for faulty installation according to Vermont's finest bike shop. Below is a pic of us leaving this morning.

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Monday, July 2, 2007

Lunch in Enosburg Falls

We are making great progress so far today. We are about ten miles from Canada after changing our route slightly per the bike shop owner's recommendations. We stopped at the park side grill to eat some lunch. Today has been great...beautiful weather! Jesse says "phhhmmmp."
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