Saturday, August 7, 2010

The whole state is cute!

Day 43. Latham New York to Brattleboro Vermont. The title of my blog post today relates back to a scene from the movie Baby Boom starring Diane Keaton. It's the movie where a hard-charging management consultant career-woman named J.C. Wyatt adopts an abandoned baby. Taking care of the baby derails her career and she ends up moving to Vermont where she starts making gourmet baby food from the apples in her orchard. In the scene I am referring to, J.C. is in a store trying to sell the proprietor her product when a quartet of Manhattan YUPPies walks in:

YUPPY woman 1: What a cute country store!

YUPPY man 1: The whole state is cute!

Well, that movie got Vermont all right. This state is flat out gorgeous. I've been here a few times for skiing and to look at schools for Lauren and Samantha. It's beautiful, and as the character in the movie accurately conveyed, the whole state is indeed cute.

Before we get to today's adventure, one more comment on yesterday's lovely accommodations. Ramada should set their Albany property ablaze. Now. Napalm would do the trick I suppose. I had company last night, and I don't mean the human kind, if you know what I mean. The room had lots of cobwebs and hadn't been dusted since the Eisenhower/Diefenbaker era. The whole motel was filthy and run down. I will say, the staff was very nice (to me anyway) and were very accommodating when I asked for a couple of things (seriously – I'm not being sarcastic). I did however laugh to myself when I read a little sign in my room this morning that I didn't see yesterday. It said, "If you need anything, just ask the front desk and they will be more than happy to assist you". I needed something all right. I needed a CLEAN ROOM! Hey Ramada – make some noise with a vacuum cleaner and Endust at your Albany location. Buy a Swiffer for crissakes. The guests (and the roaches) will thank you!

Anyway, it's all part of the experience. For the most part the motels we've stayed in are just fine. I had my fingers crossed when we left today that the Brattleboro hotel (a Holiday Inn Express) would be better (it is way better – one of the nicest places we've stayed in so far – spotless and great internet). I will spend the rest of my traveling days appreciating nice clean hotel rooms. I will never take something like that for granted ever again.

Today was packed with all kinds of adventures. The weather was absolutely perfect again when we set out. Our ride immediately took us over the fabled Hudson River (check out the picture above – sorry I couldn't do better; the bridge was busy and there wasn't really a phot-op spot, so I just snapped a quick picture). The Hudson is one of the key rivers in America's development. It's interesting that we have crossed five rivers (some several times) that were all so important to the expansion and development of the country. We've crossed the Columbia, the Snake, the Missouri, the Mississippi, and now the Hudson. I wonder how many Manhattanites (including my son Adam) see the Hudson everyday and truly understand just how important it was in the 1700-1800's. It was a key military and commercial waterway, and holding it was very important in the Revolutionary War. The past few days we've spent a lot of time along the Erie Canal and today we crossed the Hudson. Between those experiences and the other river crossings, it's like a 7 week long American history field trip. Pure heaven for a dorky history buff like me.

I had another first today as well. When we crossed the Hudson River, we left Albany and entered Troy New York, the birthplace of my sister Jo-Ann. Hey sis – now I've seen your hometown! I'd never been to Troy before. We rode right by RPI (Baltimore Mark is an RPI alumnus) which looked like a very pretty campus. RPI is a big hockey rival to both my daughter Lauren (St. Lawrence) and my daughter Samantha's (Colgate) universities. My son Adam played against RPI in his water polo tournaments while he was on the Colgate team. My Dad also taught there in the early 50's (the 1950's that is, not the 1850's – sorry Dad, I had to take that cheap shot!). It was cool to see where Jo-Ann was born. We rolled through pretty quickly though since we had a lot of riding and climbing to do today.

Today's route saw us start climbing almost immediately. The route sheet said we'd climb over 5,000 feet today (my Garmin actually registered 5,180 feet of climbing) which would be about on par with our big climbing days over Mount Hood, Teton Pass, and Togwotee Pass/the Continental Divide. However, there were a few differences today. One, the weather was perfect. I mean perfect. Sunny skies. Light winds. Warm-ish but not hot temperatures. Two, we climbed a lot, but we never were over 2,500 feet of elevation, which is a big difference versus Teton Pass (8,000-ish feet of elevation) or Togwotee Pass (9,600 feet or so of elevation) where your breathing is labored due to lack of oxygen. Three, we are road-hardened now after 3,500+ miles in 7 weeks. The climbs were tough today to be sure, but they were quite manageable. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I actually enjoy the up and down of climbing more than the grinding long miles on the flats. The scenery is way more interesting, and there is a beginning, a middle, and an end to the climb. Way better. Way way better.

Anyway, we crossed the state line into Vermont around the 30 mile mark today. This is our 10th state/province so far. I don't care how many times we cross a state line, each time we do this, it's cool (it's also cool to cross time zones too). We stopped for the usual team photo where I also snapped Alex flexing her muscles as she was about to start some serious climbing. Also flexing some serious riding muscles today was Rod from Maine. He's a very nice man (I'm guessing he's in his 60's) who wins the "closest to the finish" award for this group since he lives about 15 miles from where our ride ends. Rod is a fairly strong rider who has gotten stronger as the ride has progressed. He was way out in front of us today and when we yelled to him to alert him that he had missed a crucial turn en route, he rode up to us and thanked us for getting him back on track. As we saw him burst away from us, we joked with him that we wanted him to go for blood tests a la Lance Armstrong and he said that his daughters and grandchildren were waiting for him at the next SAG. That was really heartwarming to see him rush off to his family. It's amazing what your emotions can make your body do. We met his 2 daughters, his 2 son-in-laws, and 2 grandchildren (as well as his son-in-law's mother, aka his "machetunum"). They brought awesome snacks to the SAG including date squares, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and muffins. I fear that my Duchess may have been dethroned as "Visiting SAG Snack Queen" after today's feast. Thanks Rod – you have a beautiful family.

Vermont's scenery is so awesome. It's somehow rugged and blissfully serene at the same time. Classic white churches abound and each little town we passed through (Bennington, Wilmington, and Brattleboro) has nice stores, tended gardens, flowers, cafes, and antique shops. Everyplace just seems to have this cool vibe. If you can stand the winter, I can see why people love to live here. I love the winter and I know the skiing is fantastic (but c-c-c-c-c-old). I would very much like to come back here and do some more exploring when we have the time.

So, we're starting to wind down. It's like those space missions where the astronauts "prepare for re-entry". We've been in a "cycling orbit" around the real world for 7 weeks. That's right, I arrived in Astoria 7 weeks ago, rarin' to go. I dipped my wheels in the Pacific Ocean 7 weeks ago tomorrow. I have to admit I haven't been entirely sure that each day I could do the distance or climbing dictated by the day's route sheet. I have had plenty of self-doubts about my cycling abilities and my inner mettle. I've made it this far, but I'm not there yet. I have a tough day of climbing tomorrow and 50 more miles on Monday. It's still dangerous on these roads, but my doubts about my cycling and my inner toughness aren't there anymore.

I wonder where they went???

FYI – the DQ Blizzard, Snickers, and milk shake count is static today:

13 Snickers
14 Blizzards
6 milk shakes

Now on to today's mail:

Wonderboy from Toronto writes: "With the ride winding down, what's going to become of me? Are we still going to hang out together?" No. Not for a while.
Here are my Garmin stats for today's ride:
This is Joe's blog:

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