Monday, May 31, 2010

5-31-10 Day 3: Brownville Junction, Maine to Farmington, Maine; 94 miles in 6:09

Ouch!!! Wow, back in the saddle in a real way today with nearly a century of riding. We camped at a pretty sweet State Park and then drove me back the 25 miles east to where I finished yesterday – at Brownville Junction. Bill joined me for the first leg as we just managed to skate through two Memorial Day parades, the first in Brownville and the second in the town of Milo. So the route took us south on Rt 11 to Milo, and then on Rt 6/16 southwest from Milo to Dover-Foxcroft and to Guilford. Each of these small towns was having its parade, and it made me think of every small town in America today having the very same thing. Pretty cool actually. So then we got on Rt 150 south from Guilford to Skowhegan, which at about the half way point is where Judy joined me and Bill hopped off the bike to drive.

With Bill, we were climbing from the gun, up short and steep and up long and gradual, just climbing and climbing across the Maine Highlands. Jesus this state is handing me my ass from the get go. Like I started out feeling really good this morning, and then by 40 miles in – sheeeeeit was I sore. Bill did an outstanding job in riding 53 miles with me, hung there the whole way but for the last two climbs.

Now let me say a few things about Northern Maine – garage sales, junkyards and smokers!! Maine………I love you, beautiful place, outstanding actually. BUT….damned near every other person in Northern Maine has so much shit piled up in front of their house, well, it looks like a freaking junkyard. Seriously, house after house with the yards filled, brimming over with junk. Let me tell you, the guys from the History Channel’s American Pickers, those guys need to visit Northern Maine – they’d be rich! Ok and then there’s the garage sales, again, every other house is selling the shit that’s piled up in the front yard. Ends up that neighbor number one buys shit from neighbor number 2 and neighbor number two buys shit from neighbor number one – and bingo they’re just trading shit! Finally the smoking, good God the smoking up here. Long grey hair tied back in a ponytail and an earing….and smoking. Long live the 60’s generation! Put those three things together and this is your Northern Mainelander. Nice folks, great attitude, but man, they kind of live on the fringe.

So after 53 miles of getting my ass kicked on the climbs Bill dismounts and Judy joins me…and sudddeny we hit very long graduals and flats on Rt 150, and then on our turn to the west on Rt 2 – same thing. No more nasty climbing. Felt pretty good for a bit, and then after awhile, about 75 miles in started to feel a bit hypoglycemic. Fought through that for 5 miles and then I was so-so. Judy got in two really solid hours with me and then stopped and got in the van with Bill. By 80 miles and with the 75-degree temp and sun – I was cooked. But Bill and Judy told me there was a camping area in Farmington, so I decided to keep it rolling so we wouldn’t have to backtrack like we did today.

I was totally whacked by the time Bill and Judy stopped to ask how I was doing, yet I still had 4 miles to go to Farmington. So I told them to just buy me a Gatorade and a sub and wait for me at the first little grocery store in town. Done! After a shot period of hell I was there, with Judy standing at the side of the road with an ice cold blue Gatorade and a sub. I was in temporary heaven. Had to sit down against a tree in the shade to just collect myself.

Got it rolling shortly thereafter to go just a few miles further on Rt 2 west to a little campground just outside of Farmington. Pulled in and I just went straight to a picnic table in the sun and downed three ice cold beers. Sitting here in my van doing the blog after muching down on Indian pasta with chicken, dogs, sausage sandwiches and sausage links. I’m sporting the full on Buda belly and feeling pretty happy. Ahhhhhhh on the road again.

And about working out after a ride like this……..are you kidding me? I was hoping to do pushup, pullup and upside down pushups to stay in upper body shape during this trip. NOT! No energy. So let them pecs start sagging and those guns whither to broomstick handles. I’m out……..Pete

Sunday, May 30, 2010

5-30-10 Baxter State Park, Maine to Brownsville Junction, Maine.

Man, woke up with some pretty tired legs today – welcome to the club!! So we got it going after some granola and yogert at about 8:30 AM, with about 35 miles of gravel road ahead of us in Baxter. Bill joined me for the gravel portion with Judy saying: “not me!!!” And it was slow going for sure, with major efforts to sustain even 11 mph along the park’s perimeter road - backcountry power climbing heaven! The scenery in this Northern Maine State Park is just awesome, with Mt. Katadin in the background just towering over everything. We saw fox, moose, and grouse for wildlife.

Had the road to ourselves for the first 15 miles of riding with the early start. Then for the last 20 miles things picked up with traffic coming from the south gate, but still it wasn’t’ any major hassle as the road was still damp from the last night’s rain – no dust – and the speed limit is 20 mph. I managed to see a couple of mooses in a river, and Bill had one cross the road right in front of him. Damn, those things are massive animals. You don’t want to piss one of those things off or spook them.

I did notice that I had a right knee cap kind of tweeked this morning, and it kind of got a bit worse as the day went on. I hate to fixate on that stuff on a ride, especially this early on, especially when you can get all these “ghost” pains that float around every so often. So I just took the climbing easy and didn’t hammer the flats. Could be that my Paragon, which I haven’t ridden in a while, is just a tad off of my set-up I did to my Felt 29er, which I’ve ridden extensively over the past few months. May need to just be a bit mellow and the body with readjust to the Paragon positions. Anyway, nothing major to worry about.

We knocked off the park perimeter road in about 3 hours – at an 11 mph pace. Judy waited at the gatehouse and got some cokes and grub out for us and then we got ready for another 18-mile ride south, back on asphalt to the town of Millinocket, Maine. Had a tailwind at our backs and we just sailed down the road, a wonderfully new stretch of highway out of the park. I think we knocked off that section in less than an hour. Then Judy jumped on her bike and joined me for two hours or riding south on Rt. 11, nowhere near as nice as the section that Bill and I road on, but at least there was minimal traffic and a tailwind.

About 5 hrs in I was starting to feel a bit beat. Good thing was that my kneecap was feeling really good, so I could push across the tops of climbs with no problem. Judy did a great job of hanging with me on this stretch of highway that just went forever through nothingness – just bogs and forest as far as you can see. We had about 30 miles of that before the first town we came to – Brownsville Junction. Now I had told them that I was good with another 80-mile day, and it just so happened that we ended up right next to a primitive little campground. I was good with it despite no shower facilities, but Bill and Judy didn’t want to jump in a river to clean off, so we loaded my bike up and headed down the road to a state park with shower facilities.

Have to say that now that we’re here, that warm shower does sound pretty damned good to me. They’re at the shower already as I’m finishing up this blog and then it’s my turn. All in all, great day, with warm sunshine and a very steady tailwind. Forecast for the next several days is pretty good. Will probably take me another 2 days to get through Maine and into Northern New Hampshire. So we’re right about on schedule with 80 miles a day right now. As I get stronger I’ll begin to bump the mileage up and inch up towards that magic 100 number.

Funny, well, not really, but Judy got eaten alive by the black flies, while Bill and I just got a couple bites here and there. At the same time the bulldogs, the horse flies, just go crazy for me, and to Bill at a lesser extent, but they don’t even buzz Judy. I usually have 8-10 of those harpies buzzing me while I’m riding and Judy has nothing? The further southwest we ride the less we’ll encounter this creatures, so maybe a couple more days and it won’t be so bad. Well, that’s it for today……….Pete

5-29-10 80 miles from Houlton, Maine to Baxter State Park, Maine

Before going into the first day on the road, let me go back to yesterday, which in my mind was a total cluster&%^$^#. We had a great start to the day out of Oneida SP only to drive into the massive traffic jam that lasted two hours. A wreck on I-90 caused traffic to be at a standstill for 20 miles. This set us back a bundle as far as our arrival time in Maine. Thanks God Bill was driving, because if that were me….I’d of had a total meltdown tapping the brake and throttle for 2 hours. Yup, commit me to an institute! So instead of us making our starting point for the ride that day, we ended up 2 hours back.

We camped at a place called Katadin Shadows campground, in a hollow in the shade where the mosquitoes were insanely vicious. Judy muscled out the gumption to prepare dinner with a gazillion misquitoes buzzing around her head. We ate by campfire and listened to the B-ball game where Boston hammered Orlando. We actually did a “camp and dash” because the campground office was closed when we entered last night, and was closed when we left. Not like we were trying to pimp them – I mean they didn’t even have envelopes to put money in, and the office opened at 9 in the morning. Not very smart business. So we checked at the office, and then just motored.

Made it to Houlton Maine the next day in about an hour and a half for the start. Our total mileage was 10030 miles from Hudson Ohio. Now this is the most inauspicious place to start a transcontinental bike ride. It’s right on the New Brunswick border, but a total non-place, a little wood mill out in nowhere’s land. The road just ended and there was no real border crossing area, just the end of the line in the USA. Beyond the mill was Canada. Beautiful sunny day for the start. And off we went, Bill and I riding with Judy doing the car as support. We started down Rt 2 west, right into a mild headwind, and I thought from the get-go that this is going to be my future for the next 5000 miles, westerlies out the ying-yang! Oh, well, did the east to west thing last year, this was my chance to experience the other side of the coin. We hit small rollers from the start and then rolled down to the jcn with 212. Then west on 212 for a 8-10 mile stretch. Next up was Rt 11 south to Patten, Maine – and this son of a *%^&$^^# was power climbing on steroids!! Massive climbs up and down with no flats. Just up and down. Nothing more. It reminded me of the Rt 44 in the Black Forest, but this thing was just off the charts – very similar to the terrain Barney and I did in Nova Scotia on the cape. God was it gnarly. I’m riding with no yak right now, so I was spared going into the little cookie, but believe me, there were a couple of climbs that had me right at the break point in the big pie plate in the back. Pitch it up 2-5% more and it would have been little cookie with no trailer!

I mean I was trying with all my might to take this first day on the mellow side, not going too hard and too fast, letting my legs adapt to the volume and intensity gradually. But even going mellow, this ride HURT! I want to thank Bill for picking the route today – and totally putting the mash on my legs. So the 17 miles to Patten were ferocious, out of the saddle climbing that was incredible. Patton’s where we turned onto Rt 159 west to Baxter State Park, a gradual climb for about 8 miles. By that time Bill had said (&(^*%&$% to riding and climbed in the van to switch off with Judy, so they met me about 5 miles from the entrance to Baxter Park. Judy jumped on the bike with me and marveled at the ……..yes the Bulldogs that were swarming around me. Yup, day one and those (*&*^*&%&$ bastards were in full force here in Maine. Only thing was that 10-20 were swarming around me – not the 100 that I experienced in Manitoba a year ago.

They were bouncing off of my helmet like pellets, but no bites. Judy – maybe just one or two at a time around her. So obviously I have something going on that attracts those things. Rt 159 eventually turns into gravel as it winds its way up to the park entrance. This was some fun riding up to the park. When we hit the gravel Judy was in the “no mas” mode, so at the gate she switched with Bill and once we got checked in, he and I rode the 11 miles to our campsite. This is a lime gravel road that’s about a lane and a half wide with a 20 mph speed limit. No big climbs as we worked our way to the camping area – until the final two miles we had to turn off of the main road and ride to the camping area. Then it was a long gradual climb to the top.

I finished the day with 80 miles of riding and some totally wasted legs from all the climbing. Bill nailed down 50 miles and Judy probably got about 20 miles. Got to our campsite and had to haggle with some anal park ranger who had to double check our information in that we had booked at the north gate. Dude was just too funny in being true to his job. I was fried, and crashed inside of Bills Lento shelter with a couple of beers while Judy prepared dinner.

Now we avoided a confrontation when the ranger informed Bill that he couldn’t pitch a tent outside of the shelter. Nope, not in the books. So Bill and I eventually manipulated the tent inside of the shelter and got him legal. That’s about when it started to rain, and we exited our campfire and sat inside of the three-sided shelter and shot the breezed drinking a few beers and wine as a steady rain materialized.

Baxter is a beautiful park and very remote from civilization. We’re camped next to an alpine lake with the flanks of the mts just to the north of us. We’ll ride another 32 miles tomorrow on a gravel road out of the park, and then…….gravel or asphalt……I don’t know, but I do know that I’ll be climbing like a fool again. Need to nail down a 100-miler tomorrow and each day thereafter to make good time.

Friday, May 28, 2010

One the road to Maine

Got things going today with the drive to Maine. Beautiful day, hot temps and a van totally loaded down - and Judy, Bill and I were off. Made a quick stop in Chagrin Falls to the Ski Hause for a couple of items for my trip. Took I-90 east and made it as far as Oneida Lake in mid New York State, about 6 hours east. Stopped at about 7:30 PM and camped at a wonderful little place called Verona State Park on the shores of Lake Oneida. Awesome sunset over the lake as we sipped beer and wine and dined on some dogs and a caesar salad while sitting lakeside. We had some neighbors who were kind enough to give Bill several pieces of firewood, so we were able to get a small campfire going to take us into the evening. “Skeeters” chased Judy into the van early while Bill and I tipped a few more beers and laughed at the Savage Nation talk radio show – wow, that dude is definitely out there!!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ready to roll

It's been a really great two weeks of riding. Got to feel I'm ready to really crank it on the Trans USA after this past weekend in the Black Forest with Judy, Pete & Jane and Jared. Got in like 17 hrs of riding in 4 days in the awesome Northcentral Mts of Pennsylvania. Then add in the hammering that Pete, Jared and & I did to each other on Friday and Saturday's ride and it made for some crazy tired legs. On Friday the five of us rode west across the mts down to the banks of the Susquehanna River and then back east over the mts again to our camp in Cedar Run at Petticoat Junction Campground. We climbed up the gravel Slate Run Road and Manner Fork Road going west, and up Abe's Fork Road and Dry Run Road going east. That pup was a 6-hr ride, and Judy admonished me a couple of times for my always enthusiastic route choice.
Saturday's ride was crazy fast with a ton of Z3 CT. Judy held back to just climb up Francis on this day and not go with my ambitious mileage estimate. This day's ride entailed a climb east on Francis road through a 15% plus grade at the top for the final mile. We did the incredible 12-mile Road-West Branch Young Woman's Creek Road descent that took a solid 40 min of flying down the mountain at 22-29 mph. Our climb back out was a testosterone fest for the guys with Jane saying, "see ya at the top." We must have climbed Z3 up a 2-5% gradual climb for a good 14 miles - then we hit the tough stuff, round about 15%+ for the final 3 miles. Thankfully Pete was feeling Friday's ride so him and I did not attack each other on the steep section. Jared and Jane pulled up to the top not long after Pete and I, with everyone putting in really solid efforts. We flew back down with Jared pulling, and 4.5 hrs later our average for a 71-mile ride was over 15 mph!! Sunday was a couple hour noodle along the Pine Creek bike and hike. Spectacular weekend for sure.
The week before I managed about 27 hours on the saddle back here at home. So today, just a week away from hitting the road for Maine for the start of the trip, I'm feeling like everything is good to well. Trying to nail down a few last details of the trip. If we start early on Thursday morning of next week we should be able to reach the Maine-New Brunswick border by Friday late afternoon - which would mean a Saturday start for the crossing.
Looks like we'll stay in Northern Maine, cross Northern New Hampshire, and I'll continue on my own by Vermont, going just south of Burlington to cross into New York on the eastern edge of the Adirondack mountains riding south to Pennsylvania. From there could be Rt. 414 to the Pine Creek Rail Trail to Slate Run, across the mountains and west to Ohio. I'd like to make it back here to Hudson in app. 3 weeks, hang for a couple of days, and then set out for the next leg of the Journey. This part looks like west through Ohio up to Maumee and onto a bike and hike trail that's about 80+ miles long and running west towards Indiana. Plan to ride west to about LaGrange Indiana, then shoot north all the way up Michigan to the UP, and west once in the UP. That should do it for now with the itinerary. Got to make it back here first!!!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Let the butt curing begin

I've really been working on getting in those long back-to-back rides to begin to callus my rump up for the long, day after day bouts of cycling that lay ahead. Go in three 3-hour rides, a 6-hour ride and a 4.5-hour ride in a row. Legs feel really ass feels like raw meat. Got to toughen that rump up in the next month so that it's as callused as the palm of my hand! Got "whimp-ass" over the winter and spring.
On yesterday's 6-hour ride I ventured into eastern Portage County and discovered the Headwaters Trail, a Rails To Trails trail that's about 9 miles in length. Stumbled on the thing when I was cruising through Mantua on Limeridge Rd. It's definitely not for road bikes due to the cinder, gravel and dirt, but perfect for a mt bike. Really impressed on how this trail just takes you through the middle of nowhere in the woods. Loved it! I took it east to it's end point in Garretsville, and then road west to it's end point in Mantua.
All in all I'm feeling like I'm twice as strong as when Ryan and I began our TransCan trip. That's good, because with Bill Ross and Judy with me for the first week on the TransUSA trip, I'm going to take advantage of the support and try to knock off consecutive 100-mile days across Maine and New Hampshire - hopefully a lot of it in the gravel. I'd like to recon these states for non-pavement routes to use on the American Dirt Project.