Thursday, August 5, 2010

A little rain must fall

Day 41. Liverpool to Little Falls New York. They say that into everyone's life, a little rain must fall. Well, today was that day for us. On the whole, I think we've had about as good weather as one could hope for on a trip like this. We haven't had horrible heat (I think our hottest day was into Boise Idaho), and whatever heat we had didn't last for too long. It was only cold a couple of times (thank goodness). We only had a little sleet (but no snow) at the Togwotee Pass when we crossed the Continental Divide, which wasn't too bad. The winds have been both good and bad, but I'll bet they've been more good than bad so far. And, up until today, I only got rained on 3 times. Once was during the hail storm into Rapid City on our epic Mount Rushmore day. The other 2 times were in deluges in Sioux Falls South Dakota and Rochester Minnesota. Today wasn't a deluge. It was just a nice steady 4 hour rain. The kind farmers love but cyclists (or at least this cyclist) hate. Actually, it wasn't that bad (other than having to worry about road conditions).

Before I get to today's ride, I must comment on our dinner last night at locally famous Dinosaur BBQ. It was awesome. If you're ever near one in Rochester, Syracuse, or NY City, go. It's not fancy (oh my, it's not fancy), but the ribs were excellent. You can get 6, 9, or 12. We ordered 6 each because we weren't sure, and it was more than enough. Big, meaty "St. Louis-style" (whatever that means) ribs that were so good. They give you cornbread (very tasty) and 2 sides
(I had cole slaw and mac & cheese). My son was right. Dinosaur BBQ was worth going to. I'm happy to report that Dave and Baltimore Mark each had 12 ribs, so I am still trying to figure out how they managed to get on a bike this morning after eating all that (but they did).

Oh yeah, one other thing before we get to today's ride. It seems that Todd (from Hong Kong) accidentally wore his riding shorts inside out all day yesterday. I didn't see it, but he good-naturedly took a fair bit of ribbing when he got in. He was a good sport about it, but I don't think he'll make that mistake again.

One other thing as well. In case any of you don't know, this is still dangerous business, this riding coast to coast thing. Yesterday, one of the riders got hit by a pickup truck. She's OK but has a badly swollen elbow. Today, in the rain, Bruno (one of the two Swiss police officers on our ride) lost his concentration for a second and fell hard. He's also OK (I just saw him and gave him some gauze pads for his road rash/bruise) but he is in pain, and will be in pain when he starts riding tomorrow. Man, cyclists are a tough bunch. We're having an amazing adventure, but the risks can be pretty high. There's no other way to put it.

So we started riding today and the first half hour or so was fine. Rain was in the forecast, so most of us brought jackets or whatever. About 10 miles into the ride (around 7:45AM), the skies opened up and it didn't stop raining until just before noon. Unlike the other rain storms we've ridden in, this one wasn't so heavy, but it didn't clear in an hour or so either like the other ones. In the rain, the key is to give yourself lots of room and to stay away from other cyclists. So, that's what I did today. I rode pretty much alone to the first SAG at the 25 mile mark, and then I rode with Baltimore Mark to the second SAG at a pretty little gazebo in the middle of a small town. Sorry I couldn't get more pictures, but I was worried that my iPhone would get ruined in the rain (check out Baltimore Mark's goofy rain-sodden look in the picture above).

Today we must have crossed I-90 about 10 times as ABB sought to keep us on good quiet roads. It was cool seeing all the areas I have driven through on our way to Colgate to visit Adam and Samantha. At one point today, I pulled up to a stop sign where a side road meets a busier state highway. We were south of I-90 just past the towns of Verona and Vernon. I looked to my left and saw a gas station and had a weird sense of deja-vu. Then I realized that the busy state highway I
was crossing was the road that you take from I-90 and Turning Stone to Oneida to get to Colgate. I've driven that road many times, but it was very cool simply arriving at it by bike, unexpectedly, and recognizing it. I rode my bike from the Pacific Ocean to here. Wow.

Then, a bunch of us kind of gathered around Utica but I wanted to leave some space between me and the other riders, so after riding with them for a few miles, I dropped back. Well, that's my story anyway. The truth is I couldn't have kept up with their pace even if I wanted to. I don't seem to be as strong as I was 5 weeks ago, yet others seem to be getting stronger. We still have 4 days to go and over 300 miles left, but I feel like I'm fading fast. We also have our 2 toughest climbing days in front of us on Saturday and Sunday as we cross Vermont and New Hampshire (yes, they are bigger climbing days than even the Rockies), so I better "find it", and "find it" fast.

When I left for this trip (and for the months building up to it), I constantly thought that there might be an "aha" moment where suddenly, without warning, I'd be struck by some meaningful insight into life while I pushed myself to my own limit. I didn't know what it would be. I didn't think I needed to do this trip to (like Billy Crystal in City Slickers) discover that family is all that matters or (like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz) that there's no place like home. But I wondered if there was something to be found out here on the road. You certainly get tons of time to think while you're riding these kinds of distances. There's no lack of opportunity for reflection (even while you are concentrating on the road, navigation, traffic, other cyclists, and the weather). We have talked about "meaningful moments" a bit at dinner, when we're riding, or whenever.

The only insight about human nature I can really get at based on this ride is the power of a central common goal. Despite immense diversity, it is incredible how fast and strong bonds can form when a group of people rally to a common goal they all totally buy into. That's it. I'm not sure I didn't know that before. But I did underestimate the power of this force.

But, mostly I've drawn a blank. Zilch. Zippo. I guess (to paraphrase a famous Simpsons episode) we're just a bunch of people doing something. That's OK though, because the "something" that we're doing is pretty extraordinary. I'm not going to get ahead of myself since we're not in the Atlantic Ocean yet, but this has been the adventure of a lifetime for me. I've had one item on my "bucket list" for over 40 years, and this is it. Hopefully I'll get to mark it off as "done" in 4 days.

FYI – the DQ Blizzard and milkshake count is static today, but the Snickers count is up one because I am eating one as I'm writing this blog (I skipped lunch today!):

13 Snickers
14 Blizzards
6 milk shakes

Now on to today's mail:

Irwin from Toronto writes: "For the record, my mother's name was not Henrietta. It was Ethel Dorothy. Her mother couldn't pronounce Ethel, so she called her Yetti, which eventually became Yetta. I actually never heard that story Dad. Thanks for setting the historical record straight.
Here are my Garmin stats for the day:
This is Joe's blog:


  1. Great blog----we did the north ride in 2007. We actually had no rain, sleet ,or snow the whole 50 days---Perfect weather

    Stay focused-- finish strong -- savor the days left (you will miss them)

    Be safe



  2. Hey Mark. Not sure if you're going to get this but hang in there. Avra and I have been thinking of you a lot this summer and are amazed at what you've accomplished. You've outlasted me by 40 3/4 days so far and I wish you luck the rest of the way. I bet the last few days are going to seem long so our thoughts will be with you. Just think of the finish line. I'm sure it will feel great. We're proud of you. Marty & Avra

  3. Mark - I have no doubt that you will "find it" - the finish line is in sight (if perhaps hidden by a few hills) and I know that even if the body is fading a bit, your sheer will will carry you to the Atlantic. We're looking forward to seeing you back in T.O.



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