As most of you know, I am no longer doing the working thing, but
rather the travel thing. With that, my current junket is a solo,
unsupported, bicycle trip across the US. I left New York last week
and hope to end up in San Francisco sometime in the beginning of
October. It depends how much goofing off I do along the way and we
all know my penchant for that while traveling.
Today I am taking a rest day in Brunswick, Ohio, about 20 miles
southwest of Cleveland. The best thing about being in Ohio is that I
am out of Pennsylvania and the Allegheny Mountains. The Alleghenies
will draw nary a comparison to their Rocky brethren a few thousand
miles to the west, but that mountain range is no slouch either. Not
on a bike anyway. Either way, the ripping descents are worth the
The ride has been loads of fun so far, despite 90 plus degree heat,
rain, wind, mountains and my first flat tire exactly 31.5 miles in
to the trip. I kind of expected all of those things. While checking
in to my hotel yesterday and giving my address I got my first "You
rode your bicycle all the way here from NY"? Good stuff. The most
difficult part of the trip so far has been getting out of Manhattan.
I opted to leave from Battery Park up the west side greenway and
over the GW Bridge in to New Jersey. Strange to see my last three
places of employment as I was pedaling out of Manhattan: World Trade
Center, Jersey City and Times Square.
Some of the more interesting places I have stayed/visited so far
(and it isn't saying much) are Stroudsburg, PA – the heart of the
Pocono's (no, I didn't stay at the beautiful Mount Airy Lodge). I
rode through the Delaware Water Gap. Stayed in Lewisburg, PA, a
quaint little town on the Susquehanna River, with, incidentally,
zero homicides in 2003 (they wouldn't tell me about 2004 or 2005).
Went to Penn's Cave. It was like most other caves, cool and dark. I
stayed in State College, PA, home to Penn State. Although, on a
Sunday night in August you can imagine that there was not much going
on. I cruised through Mennonite country (think Amish but not quite
so Luddite). I was talking to a kid as he was riding home from
church. I would have pegged him as Amish were it not for the fact
that he had a cyclo-computer on his bike. Pretty interesting
conversation really. I also stayed in Punxsutawney, PA, or "Punxie"
as the locals call it. I hate to end the magic, but the resident
weather predicting groundhog, Phil, is pretty much a different
groundhog every year. It's not even like they wait for him to come
out of the ground looking for his shadow. They take some random
groundhog and throw him under a few rocks in some sort of makeshift
dwelling. Oh, and there is no tooth fairy either. The only time I
really feared for my life, not that getting out of NY wasn't scary,
but the first time I actually feared for my life was passing through
Youngstown, Ohio. I try to keep an open mind about things, but even
the better areas I rode through were sketchy at best. In Ohio I also
hit my first National Park of the trip, Cuyahoga Valley National
Park, home to the river that burned...several times.
In doing a ride like this there are a few things that you learn
rather quickly. The first is this: avoid any and all roads with the
words Hill, Mount or Wind in the name. They were put there for a
reason. They weren't just picking names out of a hat. In speaking of
roads, I have ridden on or past approximately 327 "Main Streets" to
date and encountered one of my favorite road names after a crazy
climb in western PA, "Shades of Death Road". At the time I thought
it was aptly named.
What do you think about while pedaling your bike all day you ask?
Actually, you have to concentrate far more than you might think. You
have to be mindful of debris, potholes and the traffic that is at
times buzzing quite literally, 12 inches from your left elbow. I
spent a good portion of the first few days contemplating the physics
of the rolling resistance of tires on surfaces and the factors that
can affect it. I knew there was a use for High School physics. The
road surface can make the difference of a few miles an hour which
may not sound like much, but that adds up over 4,000 miles (6,400 KM
for you Europeans). I won't bore you with the minutiae though.
You get to see a lot more of the country than you would if you were
going by car, which includes the road kill (which I now have the
ability to sniff out at about 200 yards). It would take forever to
list all the things I had seen run down splayed on the shoulder of
the road, but it includes Birds, Amphibians, Reptiles and Mammals
(both large and small). One also notices far more litter on the side
of the road. A little disappointing, but that doesn't mean that
every beer can I pass on the road doesn't want to make me pull in to
the very next hole in the wall with a neon beer sign in the window
for a tall and frosty.
On the ride I only had two dog races so far and fortunately, both
ended really before they began. In both cases, when the dogs bolted
from their yards after me, I was on a slight down slope and just
kept pedaling. I am contemplating pepper spray, but every additional
ounce means more pedaling.
I generally try to stay on the right side of the law, but this trip
required fracturing a few laws. It was mostly limited to running red
lights, speeding and ignoring "Motorized Vehicles Only" signs. It's
not like I knocked off the local bank or anything.
You can tell you are making progress on the ride as you pass
people's mailboxes that have the little newspaper tube for the small
town newspaper and the name of the newspaper changes. You can also
gauge progress but what sports teams the general population likes,
but that just takes longer. Some of my favorite small town newspaper
names are The Punxsutawney Spirit, The Liberator and The Plain
I guess that is enough for now. I am going to meet up with a friend
of mine in Cleveland tonight and hope to cover the 300 something
miles to Chicago in the next 4 or 5 days. From there I am planning
to take a little break in the Windy City (Sarah is flying in for the
weekend). I am also planning on stopping by a family friend in
Wisconsin for a day or two, but I will take mass transit. Until next
time here are a few general stats of ride to date:
Days Ridden: 9
Total Miles: 530
Average Daily Miles: Do the math yourself
Most Miles in a Day: 80 – Largely due to inaccuracies in my mapping
software, two roads were non-existent and two roads were dirt roads.
Doesn’t help me.
Max Speed: 49.7 MPH - In Ohio actually
Steepest Hill Climbed: 17% grade, also in Ohio. Who said Ohio is
Longest Descent: 2.5 miles – The back end of the Allegheny Mts.