Adirondacks: Snippets from the trip



Planning



A couple of years ago after doing a three day credit-card-stay-in-hotels trip on my racing bike, I decided that I’d like to try “real” touring. This spring I sprung for a new Trek 520 touring bike. From there, I spent some time puzzling over maps looking for reasonable routes. My initial plan was three days (loaded this time). Somewhere along the way I decided that five days was a nicer number. Distance-wise, the plan was for 60 miles a day – I didn’t want get too ambitious for my first tour. When I settled on the Adirondacks route the mileage crept up into the 70's per day for logistical reasons.

Five days, four nights and 350 miles was the final deal. I’d stay at a hotel for the first night and camp at State Campgrounds the next three. I would have preferred camping for all four nights but finding places to stay was pretty much driven by where I’d have to stop for the day. Since there are not exactly a lot of road alternatives in this area, I was fortunate to find the campgrounds conveniently spaced.

I considered being dropped off or picked up to shorten the mileage but starting and leaving from my house had a certain appeal to it. The cool thing about loaded touring is the feeling of self sufficiency -- Pedaling along with all that you need -- a person could just keep right on riding and riding if he were so inclined. Ahhh, bliss.

Training I averaged about 150 miles per week in the months leading up to the trip. My bike-commute to work helped to run up the mileage. (8 miles in, 15 miles (the scenic route) home).

My commute consisted of varying intensity workouts. Although the slog-along slow days didn’t do much for my cardiovascular conditioning or thigh muscle development – the daily commute was I think critical in getting my sit-bones in shape. I think that there’s not a saddle made that is perfectly comfortable – the best you can do is to find one that doesn’t actually hurt, and then get used to it.

On the weekends I’d usually try to get in at least one long ride of 50 to 70 miles.

On the days I didn't ride, I did bit of running (3 miles or so). The main reason I tried to cross train was that I was more worried about accidental injury than training injuries. It seems I throw my back out at least once a year whilst doing something stupid like reaching for my toothbrush. I figured the better all around condition I was in, the less likelihood of the stupid boo-boo either before or (yikes) during my trip.

Another side effect of the daily commute was building a bit of mental toughness. Doing it every darn day, whether I really felt like it or not, in sometimes less than perfect weather was at least on a small scale similar to what the touring ride might be like. Quite honestly though, I looked forward to my commute and rarely wasn’t in the mood to ride. Just say that out loud and see how silly it sounds “Not in the mood to ride” borderline absurd.

In the weeks building up to the trip, I did a couple of 70 miler's and tried to include the biggest hills I could find. In the week just before the trip (when my new panniers finally arrived), I did my first mostly-loaded ride. A loaded bike feels sluggish. Surprise, surprise.

One way or another I logged about 1600 training miles prior to the trip.

Whether Weather matters



It had been an extremely wet and hot summer. One of my concerns was getting caught in five days of dreary gray or worse some wicked thunder and lightning storms. Twice I went for long training rides when the weather guessers were predicting thunderstorms with the express purpose of getting caught in the rain; Each time I came home miserably dry. Murphy being the kind of guy that he is kept the wet where I wasn’t.

I've commuted in the rain many times. I’ve no reason to believe that my rain gear would fail me for longer rides, but since "breathable" and "waterproof" are on the opposite ends of the spectrum, I could imagine worse case scenarios of hot humid wet conditions where I'd have to decide between riding in the open rain and sweating to death under a poncho. As with many things – what’s good for a short duration may not be the optimal solution for a long duration.

A bit about the Bike



The geometry of the touring bike is a bit more stretched out than your typical “racing” bike. I’ve been plagued by neck and back aches when going for long rides on my racing bike so I figured the right thing for this very long ride would be a bike actually designed for long rides. (Being in the mood to buy a new bike didn’t hurt the decision making process either). The frame of a Touring Bike is also built a bit sturdier which makes for a more stable ride when fully loaded down with packs. I think I appreciated the extra sturdiness; the geometry I think is more hype than anything else. Fully loaded, I was carrying about 40 extra pounds.

What really helped me in the pain in the neck department was that I bought a Stem extender which raised the handlebars about 8 inches. Wow. What a difference. (And to think that it only took me 20 years to figure that out.) One more comfort feature that I’m pretty proud of is my uniquely modified Aero Bars. They look a bit dorky, but add a couple of extra hand positions.

Day 1: Syracuse to Watertown (73 Miles)



False Starts



One last tightening tug on the rear pannier strap and it broke. Damn! Luckily knots are one of the things that I know and I was able to fix it. Not a good way to start the day. Oddly enough, it didn’t even rattle me. Given the journey I was starting, if I couldn’t handle a broken strap then maybe I ought not to go. My second oops before I was even out of the driveway was that I forgot sun screen for my head. My vented helmet gives me geeky looking tan lines on my very thin-haired scalp. Starting the trip with a sunburned head would not be a good thing. Neither last minute whoops dampened my mood. I was excited to be getting on the road albeit (gasp) 10 minutes late. The saga start time: 9:10 AM

On the road



Around mile five I started to lament about the last minute additions to the pack. Although I had gone on partially packed training rides, this was the first time on the road with the real deal. The bike felt more than a bit heavy and sluggish and the weather guessers were right about the wind -- It was at least 15mph and straight at me. I couldn’t help but have a few last minute thoughts about what the heck I was getting myself into.

By mile ten I was past most of the familiar potholes and starting to make friends with my bloated bike.

At twenty miles I bonked a bit. Of course it might have been that I was just anxious for an excuse to break into my stash of "Cafeinated Chocolate Gu". Tasty stuff and it picked me right up.

A bit corny



For some reason I think that a picture of the bike in a corn field would be cool. The stalks are easily eight feet tall and deep lush green. If more people could see these lush green fields, I'm betting there would be less creamed corn for sale on aisle three.

Never got around to stopping for a picture. Once you settle into it, a good mile melting rhythm has a momentum to it that is not easily broken.

Moo



I still moo at cows when I pass them. Doesn’t everybody? They usually give me a good long glance and seem to accept me as a two-wheeled goofy looking kin.

Touring Vs Racing



During most of my training rides I tended to push to the limits. Even the longer rides I usually treated as workouts and would ride hard enough to work up a good sweat and be exhausted at the end.

It felt odd to ride at a slower than usual pace. I’ve got to keep reminding myself that I've plenty of time, and of course unlike the training rides, I will not have the luxury of taking the day off if I should over do it.

Post Card Travel



In a car you tend to bump over little bridges with no more than an ouch and maybe glimpse. On a bike you get to peek back into the trees and wonder how far back the brook goes and wonder about its source and sometimes see a waterfall. There's something to be said for slow motion travel. Even a bike may be too fast. Maybe the hiking bug will bite me next.

Fickle Winds



The head wind is really a bummer. Head winds whisk away your energy. I’d rather have a good solid hill. With hills you can build a relationship. Hills are comforting and steady. Battles with hills usually end in a draw. I win for having conquered it -- The hill is still there when I’m done -- Unchanged.

Who stole my house?



Arrived at the hotel (or where the hotel was supposed to be) around 4pm. I made the reservation on the web and had the coordinates of the Budget Inn programmed into the GPS. When I arrived, the Inn was no place in sight. In the spot where it belongs was a Travel Lodge motel. After circling the block a couple of times I boldly walked in prepared to be scoffed at. It seems they changed the name a few years ago. The nice man behind the desk didn’t seem very interested in the out-of-date web page.

Dinner Choices



I'm pretty darn hungry after a long day of pedaling. One option would be to stay holed up in the hotel and gnaw on energy bars (ok, not really an option, but I always like to bound problems and analyze alternatives). I didn't pass anything interesting on the way in, but I think I saw some civilization within walking distance. Riding the bike to dinner seemed wrong -- Very very wrong. Since this would probably be my last civilized meal in a few days I walked on past the fast food places a-plenty and settled on AppleBee's Bar and Grill.

The silly hostess asked if I wanted Bottle or Tap (on tap is always better). Her follow up foolish question was tall or small? Sheesh, where do they find these people! The first Tall-from-the-Tap slipped down pretty fast and easy. It usually takes a while to re-hydrate after a ride, and I know beer isn't the preferred method of hydration, but sometimes you just have to go with the flow. Since this is my "last meal" before the camping part begins I go for the fish and chips -- something I most certainly will not be attempting over an open fire.

Day 2: Watertown to Cranberry Lake (76 miles)



Good morning, day two! Much warmer today, and my friend the wind, though shifting a bit seems to be mostly still from the north. It shouldn’t be as much of a pain today as it was yesterday.

Ahh the feel of fresh legs in the morning -- Nothing like it. I felt a bit stiff but mostly OK. If I were a whiner I could regale you with tales of minor chaffing and other sundry aches and pains, but mostly I felt good. Yesterday was the "escape". Today, and the next couple of days, I'm into the real part of the ride. Did I mention I felt good!?

Morning temperature was in the 50's and I was almost going to wear the windbreaker but decided to start without and see if I'd warm up. Good thing – some huge hills start the day. A good steep hill is a reasonable strong coffee substitute and warms you up quite nicely too.

Heading east into the bright sun I was also tempted to don the sunglasses. A day of squinting can sap a lot of strength. I opted to go bare-eyed; the morning was just too darn pretty to be tinted. Additionally, since I had to wind my way out of town, sunglasses can sometimes allow pot holes to hide in the shadows.

ZIG-ZAG



Impromptu Course Correction? Last minute route modification? Lost? Never!

I only programmed way points into the GPS, not the entire road so it isn’t unusual to look down and see my current position slightly to the left or right of the straight-line connections that go from point to point.

At the top of the second big hill I started to get this sinking feeling that I was on the wrong road. Last night’s hotel was on Route Three, and I was to take Route Three all the way to cranberry lake. Couldn’t be simpler, right?

It was one of those doubly marked deals -- through town two highways sharing the same signs. I started out on Route3/Route 26. After the second big climb of the morning I noticed the signs suddenly only reflecting 26 (no more mention of 3).

The tiny GPS screen is good for close up decisions but scrolling around to see if this road would get me to where I needed to be is a real pain. A waved to a nice gray haired lady pulling out of her driveway and asked her if this road would get me to Cranberry Lake. She said it wouldn't be a problem, ten more miles and it would intersect with my original route. We talked for a bit and as I was confirming the directions one last time she asked with a hint of condescension and incredulousness in her voice "you are riding all this way and you didn't bring a map?" Well, I guess she had a point. Note to self: Next trip bring along an old fashioned impossible to fold paper map. If not to use, at least to use as prop in situations like this.

Yep, about ten miles and I was back on the planned route. Stopped for coffee and a muffin to celebrate.

Long Stretches



I love the long stretches of open road where the only sound is the tires humming to the road and the faint metallic whir of chain meshing with gears.

Goosed by a truck

Trucks whoosh by making their own wind and take a pocket of my air with them, blowing my shirt off my back and nearly up over my head.

Wheels wobble but they don't fall off

The wobble in my front wheel is worse today. I must have packed a bit differently. It's particularly noticeable when I ride on top of the handlebars. Very annoying.

Bug-Napping

I picked up a grasshopper on my front pannier. He rode along for a mile or so. At first I thought it fun, but after a while I started to worry that maybe his little bug-mother might be worried, or maybe this bug *was* the mother and I was taking her far far away. I felt better when it turned around and faced forward. At least if it could see where it was going I could feel less responsible.

Fear of Being Bored

Just about everyone I've told about the trip has gotten around to the "Why" question. I still don't know. I think it's the “because it's there” mountain climbing thing. Another question I get a lot is “what will you do? Won't you be bored?” Before the trip -- I had no answer.

One of my long time phobias is fear of being bored. I think I inherited it from my dad. I don't remember his exact words but vividly remember an incident with him being very mad when someone threw out some of his magazines. Dad worked long long hours and I don't think I ever saw him really sit and read. Even so, when he found that someone had thrown out some of his magazines he said words to the effect that he was saving them for something to do in his retirement.

I admit to being a bit afraid at the start that I would be bored and wondering if I could stand spending so much time with myself. Now, after the trip, I can't tell you what all I thought about but I can say that I was not bored. Not for a single second.

Parts is Parts

One of the things to do continually throughout the ride (and especially in the early miles) is to take a simple inventory of body parts. One at a time check with each part and make sure it's relaxed and OK. Sometimes the results may surprise you. Like sun screen, you won't notice a misplaced or stiff body part until it’s too late. My neck and back (usually my problem areas) feel remarkably good.

A single black cloud

Out of nowhere a single black cloud appeared. The rest of the sky was spotted with puffy clouds but right over my head came a single very black cloud. It rained on me for about 5 minutes. It was near the end of the day and the rest of sky showed no signs of supporting the rouge cloud so I didn't mind (it actually felt a little bit refreshing). It did make me think a bit about my packing strategy. I had read enough tips on touring to have my rain jacket on top just in case it was needed, but I really hadn't give much thought to the order of the rest of my stuff. To the extent possible I should probably have things like the tarp on top and add a little more method to the madness. Just as it is important to not have to rummage through your underwear in a rainstorm to get at your rain jacket -- it stands to reason that setting up camp in the rain probably has a certain sensible pecking order to it. It's hard to plan for foul weather on a good day. I'll put it on my list of things to worry about. Other than making a mental note to remember to bring the rain jacket into the tent tonight, I decided to worry about efficient foul weather packing another time. I'd let experience teach me.

The Right Response

Pulled into the campground at 3:30. The ranger-girl checking me in sort of peered around me at my bike as she took down my home address and asked "You didn't ride all the way from Syracuse did you?" I told her of my quest and her response was near perfect. "Wow. Cool". Most folks say "wow! .. why?"

Sort of funny, just as she was finishing up and giving me the camp rules and directions to my site she got a strange look on her face and started to apologize. “Oh, I'm so sorry”, she said, “I gave you a site at the far end of the park.” I assured her that after 70 miles another mile or so wasn't going to kill me.

Flies with teeth

While checking in, black flies (house flies with teeth) bit the crap out my ankles. I wonder if I was providing nourishment for their little bug bodies or were they biting just to be mean. I also wonder what they eat or who they bite when I'm not there. Is a bug’s life so haphazard as to depend on a person happening by just at the right time to prevent them from going to their little bug beds hungry? I put on some bug juice when I got to my site and was bothered no more.

The Trucking Life

Right before turning into the campgrounds I passed a Semi truck parked on the road with the driver futzing behind it. I waved and went on my way. While waiting to check in, a guy on a bike pulled up behind me. The trucker guy packs his bike (and a kayak he tells me) in the back of his truck. Not a bad way to travel.

Buckles with knuckles

I sort of noticed when I stopped at the last water stop that when I held my hand out for change my fingers sort of curled in an odd way. Later on when setting up camp I found that I had pretty much lost control of the outside fingers on both hands. If I kept my hands curled (in the shape of the handlebars) they felt ok, but if I tried to straighten them out my hands were numb and without strength. I clawed my way through unbuckling the packs and setting up the tent doing my best to try to get feeling back in my paws. For a while they seemed to be getting worse and I was worried.

I had read about folks getting numb hands (and other numb body parts). On other long rides I had suffered mild numbness but it usually went away almost as soon as I got off the bike. This numb was a new (and a much more severe) numb.

After setting up the tent I was generally feeling pretty crappy. Partly from the numb hands and bumming about whether I might have to call off the rest of the trip. Permanent injury was never part of the travel plans. It was a bit chilly and along with general fatigue that sets in after a long day of riding, I could tell I was still a bit dehydrated. Since arriving I had had only one bottle of water which I knew was not a good thing. I decided to break out the camp stove and make a cup of soup. The warm cup felt good on my cold stiff paws and something warm in my belly felt pretty good too. The bouillon was an afterthought – it’s now promoted to the regular list for next trip.

I decided to try not to worry any more about my hands and see how they felt in the morning.

Free Trees

Firewood around state parks is never a problem (if you have a car). There are usually numerous places that'll sell you a log or two. Hauling logs on the bike isn't so very practical so I was delighted to find that the previous campers had left behind a nice bundle of firewood.

Soul Food for

I was looking forward to getting creative for dinner but unfortunately the country store next to the camp grounds had pretty slim pickings. I ended up with hot dogs. Although they may not be so good for the belly, roasting a dog on a stick over a crackling fire is very good for the soul. No complaints!

Mighty Neighborly

The guy camping next door noticed I rode in on a bike. On his way into town stopped and asked if I needed anything. I said I was all set. Later he walked over and we got to talking and he asked if he could offer me a beer. I said yes! We sat around and swapped man-stories for a bit. I was feeling pretty secure since I had after-all just pedaled in. He eventually won with stories of back country mountain biking where he dropped his bike into ten feet of water.

Day 3: Cranberry Lake to Raquette Lake (71 miles)

My hands felt a little better in the morning and after struggling with all the buckles decided that there was no reason for real worry. Since they had improved, I convinced myself that I wasn't permanently hurting anything. I'd just make an extra effort to change hand positions more and try not to lean on them so much. When curled around the handlebars they functioned just fine (I could shift and work the breaks so riding safely was not an issue).

If making hot soup the night before (albeit only from bouillon) had not convinced me -- hot coffee and oatmeal for breakfast sealed the deal. Bringing the camp stove was a VERY good idea. For coffee I brought Turkish Coffee. Basically you pulverize regular coffee grounds ‘til they are powdery. Pour in boiling water and wait until all the grounds have sunk to the bottom. Very strong and very good. Just don’t get greedy about getting that last drop or you end up with a mouthful of mud (which sorta wrecks the good coffee experience).

Sitting on a log sipping hot coffee whilst watching the mist lift off the lake -- Not a bad way to start a day.

It took me two hours to break camp and get on the road. Partial blame goes to the numb hands and the other blame goes to the darn pretty morning. Even though I was in no hurry I didn't feel very organized. I think I need to work on the whole efficiency thing. Even though I have a lot of crap I'd like to think that if it were pouring down raining I could manage to get out in less than two hours. Maybe I'd try a new method tomorrow morning. Something to put on the think-about-list as I headed out to start the day.

Mummy on a log

To save weight, both the sleeping bag and air mattress were of the mummy variety. They were both a bit more claustrophobic than I thought they would be. I don't know where my feet wanted to go but they sure didn't like being trapped in the bottom of the mummy bag. Another issue with the mummy mattress was that is was sort of like balancing on a log.

As easy as falling off a

Aside from falling off the log a few times, I slept pretty well. It was a reasonably warm night. If it weren't for the bugs I could have slept under the stars.

I think it’s a law

What goes down must come up. I started off the morning with some nice downhills. Since I hadn’t reached the highest elevation of the trip yet, I knew I'd be paying for the delightful descents later.

Problem Solved

My wobbling wheel is no more. It turns out that the bag strapped tightly to the handlebars with camera and stuff in it was the source of the problem. I rearranged it and left it flopping loose and the wobble went away. It sort of makes sense -- a big weight on the top and the panniers on the bottom of the stem create an unstable twisty fulcrum physics thingy.

Panic Attacks

After Monday's goof, I occasionally get a mild panic sense that I'm on the wrong road or going in the wrong direction. The GPS is my reassuring security blanket.

Not on this trip, but I have on occasion after a stop at a store, started off in the wrong direction. I tend to be a creature of habit and when driving tend to stop at station on the right side of the road for easy in easy out considerations. I don't always have the luxury of a right side stop when on a bike. When I break my stop on the right side rule, out of habit I have come out and turned right, which is of course wrong.

Playful hills

Rolling Hills are fun to play with. Try to get enough speed on the down to make it up the next. I'm sure the downhill feels a bit used and the uphill feels a bit cheated. As much as I like the playful rolling variety I've a healthy respect and fondness for the ones with steep character, too.

Uppy-Downy

Today was an uppy downy day, with more ups than downs. Tomorrow is projected to be more of a downy-uppy day with the trend mostly down. Although I've found that it's not the trend that gets you, it's the surprise steep places that jump from nowhere.

Hill Rules

I get a bit squeamish about crashing downhill any faster than 30-35 miles per hour. On the practical side, a crash at 30 probably hurts just as much as a crash at 40 but be that as it may, 30 is about my limit.

My typical position for descending is with my hands feathering the brakes keeping my speed within comfortable limits. The sweet spot of the descent is when I approach the bottom and see that the way is clear to the end -- I shift my hands away from the brakes, crouch for an extra burst of speed, then sort of sit up and enjoy swooshing onto the flat. Letting that last bit of gravity decide my max speed is a small thrill. It is what it is.

When speed slows to around 20 it’s time to start pedaling to maintain the momentum as I approach the next roll up and click smoothly the pedals into lower and lower gears. The game is to try to keep the same pressure on the pedals and cadence as constant as possible. On longer climbs, perfection is to find the right gear and settle into a perfect climbing rhythm.

Near the top is often a short steep stint that depending on mood either slips me into the next lower gear (assuming I have one left) or for fun I stand up and power over the crest. Nothing beats the exhilaration of completing a climb and just at the peak sitting back on the seat and click-click-click smoothly shifting back up into downhill cruising speed.

Even if I decide to not pedal down the hill, it's still a good idea to shift into a higher gear. It can be very disconcerting to try to pedal at the bottom going 20 plus mph in a 5mph gear. Knees and free-wheeling feet flying all over the place. Yikes.

wrong wrong wrong

I brought a radio, and my Palm Computer. Not once was I even tempted to use either one. It just felt wrong. When planning I struggled mightily with “the purpose” of the trip. Though paved roads and a GPS doesn’t exactly qualify the trip as rustic, I still had to decide what to escape “with” and what to escape “from”.

An open Mind

By the third day I've run out of cluttered thoughts. Now I am just being on a bike. Thinking about everything and nothing. Very peaceful.

In the first day I found myself thinking of work and immediately tried to banish the thoughts. Since then, I decided that if work thoughts wanted a turn, it was alright. Some drifted in, had there say and drifted back away. It's better that way. That’s the beauty of having all of this time.

Hum if you don’t know the words

Odd how old tunes would drift in and out of my head. Some lingered a bit longer than I would have liked, especially since I rarely remember more than a catchy partial verse. I noticed that if I tried to get a song out of my head it would stay even longer. It seemed more effective to just let them run their course and let them stay for as long as they liked.

Knobby Tires Go Slow

In the distance I saw a biker. I gained steadily and pulled up beside him. After exchanging the usual where you been and where you going I bid him good day and pedaled away. I passed a couple of other touring folk later in the day (going in the opposite direction).

Proper Planning

After yesterday’s hot-dog deal, I was determined to not suffer the same fate again. I stopped early and bought a beautiful steak, an ear of fresh picked corn and a spud suitable for baking. One of my last minute packing additions was an insulated school-lunch bag. I poked the steak in the bag and thought what better to keep it cold than a big ole can of beer? I figured that if it turned out to be the other way around and the steak kept the beer cold, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to sip a tepid beer whilst lamenting my spoiled meat. As it turned out, they both kept each other nicely chilled.

Insulting the Meat

I had mixed emotions cutting the meat kebabs with my bike-tool knife. On the one hand it felt good to be making do with my minimalist toolset. On the other hand, it seemed a little wrong to be cutting the beautiful (soon to be confirmed delicious) piece of meat with a pen-knife. I think next trip I'll add another ounce to the pack and pack a real knife.

Camping people are Good People

A prime campsite right on the beach and nice neighbors again too. They offered me firewood and beer. Camping folk renew your faith in human nature. I didn't have a decent place to cook the steak so ended up cooking it shish kebab marshmallow style. I felt like a caveman sizzling meat on a stick over an open fire. I had brought salt and pepper but there was no need. The steak melted in my mouth and was delicious. Roasted corn and potato equally so.

MVP award

The Most Valuable Packed award goes easily to the insulated bag and the shish kebab skewer.

The skewer took virtually no room, added no weight, and was the perfect tool for cooking a steak.

Dusk

Another nice sunset. Not spectacular, but any time you can watch the sun go down from your hammock -- that's a good night. Nothing better than the quiet time when the final throes of sun paint wispy clouds pink and the mountains go from green to black. The pine tree tops look particularly stark and jagged against the fading light.

Man Fires

The borrowed logs were enough to cook my meal but not enough for the requisite evening fire and stick poking. After the sun went down I went for a walk through the park to live vicariously through other peoples’ fires. I was happy to see that most were well tended by men with sticks.

Happy Campers

I think the closest thing I heard to an unhappy kid was a boy denying to his dad that he did something or other. I was out of earshot before he got around to blaming his brother.

Writing Right

I think I've re-discovered my fondness for putting pen to paper. Something magical about words when they flow from pen to page with your own hand. I filled many pages with random musings (some of which you are reading re-typed now) but mostly I wrote for the joy and satisfaction of writing. Writing tends to be more careful and deliberate than the act of pecking words out on the keyboard. It feels very good to sit and write. Since it was quite dark, it was also a good way for me to play with my fancy camping light.

Doctor Doctor

My hands were still numb and fumbley but not as bad as last night. I’ll worry when I get back, but for now, I was so thoroughly enjoying myself that the worrisome numbness wasn’t much of a worry.

Real Dark

Before crawling in to bed around 10, I couldn't help but notice the night sky. I had forgotten just how many stars you can see when away from the light-polluted city.

Day 4: Raquette Lake to Delta Lake (75 miles)

Couldn’t have been much more than 50 degrees when I got up. The sleeping bag was rated for 45 degrees and I think that they weren't kidding with the rating. On the bright side, I did figure out how to tie the sleeping bag to the air mattress which helped with the falling of the log feeling.

Although chilly, walking down to the lake with the sun coming up all pretty and calm I was tempted to take a morning dip. (I resisted the temptation.)

Career Opportunities

Had a nice chat with my camp neighbors. They asked a lot of questions about the bike. I may have sold them on the pleasures of touring. Maybe I've a future as a bike salesman. Or at least maybe I can bike around and get folks to give me free wood and beer.

Walt's Diner.

I stopped for my morning meal at Walt's Diner. Black coffee and a slice of fresh apple pie (at the counter of course). The proper way to eat at a Diner is to eat at the counter and if you should stop in for a real meal, you get something with gravy. The only exception to the gravy rule is if you get the special. Although if it's a real diner the special will involve gravy anyway. Someday when I'm feeling brave I'm going to ask where meatloaf gravy comes from.

Long Lumbering Lumber trucks

I think I bonded with a diesel today. Starting out from a stop sign there was a very steep hill. I beat the truck off the line. I was pedaling at maybe 5mph, the truck was doing maybe 6. Slowly, ever so slowly he worked his way past me. It was a long truck and seemed to take forever for him to completely pass. Though he eventually won, it was sort of fun for the short time that I was holding my own with a truck.

Toddler Zen

Towards the end of the day when the chaffing and gumby legs remind me that I’ve been sitting on a bike all darn day, I recall profound wisdom oft proffered by four year old's who instinctively know that "Are we there yet?" is a binary question. Only one answer is right. All other answers, no matter the attached caveats – do not matter. When you've ten more miles to pedal, your butt doesn't care that you are “almost" there. Can I get off this bike yet or not?

A long hard day of riding. Although the trend was down there were some pretty intense climbs. It's the “surprise” short steep climbs that get to more so than the long slow ones. The long ones simply mean you plug along in a lower gear and go slow. The steep ones are like rounding the corner in a building and being *surprised* by ten flights of stairs.

I only encountered a couple of really brutal hills. Most were of the long-slow variety. I made it through the entire trip without having to give up and walk. Pretty darn close and pretty darn slow a few times, but the hills never won.

Pinky

Just call me claw. I'm used to it now. I get off the bike and can't straighten my hands. The pinky on my left had hangs sort of pitiful and limp. I never really appreciated having all my fingers. I've been taking my pinky for granted all these years. It's especially strange trying to wash my face. I nearly poked my eye out. It worked pretty good to use one hand to hold the other sort of like a wash cloth.

Bears

I wonder if the bears are wondering what a biker tastes like? There were tons of bear warnings around the campgrounds. Along with the usual "don't bring food into your tent" there were some other more extreme suggestions such as do not wear the clothes that you cook in, into the tent. I’m paraphrasing a bit, but I swear one sign nearly said: “To be really safe, fast for three days, take a naked mud bath and gargle with rocks to insure no bread on your breath prior to retiring to your tent for the night.” I was reminded by the old joke:

Ted: Yikes! Here comes a bear!

Ned: reaches down and tightens the laces on his sneakers

Ted: What are you doing? You can't outrun a bear!

Ned: I don't have too. I just need to outrun you

I figured I was pretty safe. I'm sure that there were tastier, nice smelling meals, sleeping in other tents.

Ranger Skippy

I checked into the campground and lucked out with another prime site. Minor problem in that there was no picnic table on my site. I rode back to ranger-skippy and he promised to send someone right over. (No disrespect, but the “ranger” was probably no more than 17). I set up the tent, went for a shower, came back and still no table. I rode back to the ranger station (a mile away) and the new skippy on duty sympathized but could not leave his post to help. I asked him to call the last guy and ask him if he was eating dinner yet and if he was *sitting down*, because I was about to go back to my table-less site and have dinner whilst standing.

I was actually in too good a mood to make too much of a fuss. I went back and ate dinner in the hammock. The only real pain would be in the morning, since the table makes a good clean dry staging area for packing up.

After last night's gourmet caveman fare I was looking forward to another feast. Unfortunately the last decent grocery store I passed was a little before noon and I failed to stock up. I settled for salami, cheese and crackers washed down with a beer. I always wondered who bought those single (usually very large) cans of beer from convenience stores.

A.A. Alert

Just for the record, I did not plan to have beer every night. It just sort of happened.

Lounging Luxuriously near the Lapping

My hammock is literally ten feet form shore. Gorgeous night, fire remnants crackling to my left and water lapping on my right I decided to doze for while right where I was.

Fire can fend for itself? Fact or Fiction.

Watching the fire from a distance it occurred to me that it seemed to be doing surprisingly well without being poked -- go figure. When I checked on it, I was pleased to see that although it had fended unattended, it was not as tidy as it should have been. A few log ends were left stranded on the edges that if I had been nearby I would have flipped into the burning fray. Poking stick in hand, I nudged the orphaned ends into the center and was rewarded with crackling approval.

I woke up a bit chilly around midnight and decided I should crawl into the tent. Hammocks are comfortable, but I thought it prudent to straighten out my back since I still had some riding to do.

Day 5: Delta Lake to Syracuse (55 miles)

Last bit of coffee and oatmeal for breakfast -- yet another reminder that this was the last day.

The trip's not over yet. Funny how "only one day left" or only 70 miles left sounds. At the end of a day, it's only 15 miles left. Everything is relative. I've been burned more than once by underestimating what remains of the day. After 65 miles, only 5 miles does sound like almost done except when 2 of the 5 happen to be uphill. Which reminds me Look at yesterday’s elevation profile; you’ll notice a couple of wicked-steep climbs right before the huge descent.

Pretty flat day. Grumbling clouds in the distance hint that I might just get wet on this trip yet. The humidity was on the brutal side. Definitely the hottest day so far.

Since it’s so flat and straight, I took the opportunity to shift up into my highest gear. What with the slow-touring motif (and oh yeh, the hills) I’ve had little cause for the monster sprockets.

Right to the be there

Last few miles, now on familiar turf, the roads felt different. After five days, I think I felt like I’d earned my lane of the road. Comfortable and confident, I coasted home.

Epilogue

What a trip! I thoroughly (thoroughly!) enjoyed it. I can’t think of anything that could have improved it. As adventures go, it was darn near perfect.

The weather was as close to perfect as it could have been. Yes, a bit windy and cool to start, and nasty hot and humid at the end, but no soaking rainstorms or other equally ugly natural phenomena. I’m sure that some bad weather would have created a more exciting story to tell – Better a good trip than a good story.

The roads were generally very well suited for biking with nice wide shoulders.

The distance per day felt about right. I rode roughly from 9am to 4pm each. I was no doubt tired by the end of the day, but not extremely so. I’m not sure how the distance would have felt if I would have had to face ugly weather.

Woo-Hoo! Not a single flat tire or mechanical mishap.

Except for an extra T-shirt or two and the radio and palmtop, I pretty much packed correctly. I wanted for nothing and used most everything. Since the weather was so nice, I’ll probably give a bit more thought to packing efficiency and rain gear next year (since that aspect of the trip was (thankfully) not put to the test).

The numb hands are the only real issue I have to address for the next ride. They plagued me for nearly a month after I was home.

I think a seven day; 500 mile adventure is next on the list. Wanna come along ?

And finally

The answer to "Why?"

There are many many levels and facets to bike riding. This trip captured many of them, or at least many of the ones that I enjoy.

Big Picture:

On a grand scale, although not a mountain or a marathon, it was a goal planned for and attained. The “I did it" factor. Regardless of the means, the end: The days, the distance, the deed appealed to me.

Brush Strokes:

Then on a somewhat smaller scale, the intermediate milestones equally pleasurable: each day, each mile, each hill -- all small victories worthy of celebration. Instant gratification.

The means:

The end being good, I happened to like the means as well. I think riding a bike represents a perfectly efficient and sufficient melding of man and machine. Every turn of the pedals is beautiful elegant simplicity. It's a Zen thing.

Toys:

Gadgets, then there's the gadgets. Current, maximum and average speed, distance per day, the odometer, altitude... wow. Sprinkle in elapsed time and a track of exact GPS coordinates and you have yourself a plethora of edible trivia.

Mom Nature:

Outside is big. Big is cool. Outside is cool. Being in the big outside is way cool. Seeing the horizon and knowing you are going to go beyond it is a way to experience, appreciate and be a part of the bigness of it all.

Running away from home:

Self sufficiency. Yeh, I stopped at stores for food and water, but in a relative and real way, there was no one to turn too. Depending on no one is a rush.

The elements:

I was excited about facing whatever weather came my way. I happened to get lucky and have near perfect conditions, but I was prepared for (and I think I would have actually liked) a little adversity.

A good solid workout:

It was physically demanding. By the end of each day I was sweaty, tired, and totally used up. It's the best kind of tired.

Project management:

I liked the planning and preparation. The attention to detail to required to pack just the right things is a fun puzzle to solve -- analyzing trade-offs between weight, size and function. Maps have always fascinated me -- working out where I'd rather zig and where I'd like to zag to get from point A to point B.

Potential Unpleasantness

You have to deal with (via planning, equipment, or attitude) some unpleasantness -- Everything from the literal pain in the butt bike seat to scary fast cars, big barreling trucks, rotten rough roads, wicked wind, raw rain, chafing in spots you'd rather not chafe, sore muscles, flat tires, rude motorists and dogs that chase.

I like Being on a Bike