Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 3 to Montreal Through Lake Champlain!

Sunshine, sweet potato fries and inspiring lake scenery--what a day for riding 65 miles across Vermont!  I awoke in the Rose Room of the Emerson Guest House, very romantic, although completely wasted on my tired self.
The Rose Room in Emerson Guest House, Vergennes, VT
Bill, the owner of the Emerson made us delicious Vermont cheddar cheese and spinach omelettes with crusty multi-grain toast and fruit, so I was off to a great start.  The ride from Vergennes to Burlington took me through classic country roads, including the scenic Greenbush Road, where the quaint town of Charlotte, Vermont soared over Lake Champlain with magnificent views of NY's Adirondack Mountains across the lake and Vermont's Green Mountains on this side of the water.
Greenbush Road on way to Burlington
In Burlington, Vermont, I met up with Dion and explored the funky Church Street pedestrian mall, including eating lunch at an outdoor cafe, Sweetwaters, where we shared crispy sweet potato fries and a small flatbread pizza. I was almost too rested to continue my ride.
Dion wanted to check out a tent in an Outfitters Store in Burlington--as if! 
I pedaled on and I was so glad I did.  The sun shone enough to make up for its disappearing act during the last 2 days, and the scenery was breathtaking.  I rode through Lake Champlain's islands of South Hero and North Hero and I wanted to stop every ten feet for another photo op.  The fresh water lake glowed in the late afternoon sunshine.
South Hero, Vermont in middle of Lake Champlain
South Hero on other side of the road--I could see the lake from both sides.
The islands of South and North Hero were named after Ethan Allen and his brother Ira, two Revolutionary War heroes.  Ethan died in South Hero after he hung out all evening in his cousin Ebenezer's tavern tossing back a few drinks with friends and then while "driving his hay wagon" home across the frozen lake he had an accident and died--thus, the mantra against drinking and driving goes as far back as 1789. Anyway, the views just kept getting better as I crossed into North Hero, with its affluent homes, golf courses and to-die-for sweeping lawns ending lakeside with sleek boats on private docks and jetties.
North Hero
View of lake from Aqua Vista Cabins on North Hero
I pedaled on through all that beauty to the Ransom Bay Bed & Breakfast in Alburg, Vermont, just 5 miles from the border to Canada.  I am still in Vermont, but my dreams are of Montreal, Canada tomorrow on my last day in the saddle!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day 2 to Montreal on Hills and Slopes

I woke up this morning at our Finch & Chubb Hotel/Marina on the bottom of Lake Champlain to a lovely day.
View from our room in Whitehall, NY this morning.

I left Whitehall, NY and rode 8 miles to the Vermont border, thinking only of Ben & Jerry's ice-cream (Vermont's premier export item)!

Dion reminded me that the name "Vermont" includes the French word for mountains i.e" mont," and that I should mentally prepare for hills and slopes.  Yeah, whatever!  If I could survive the rain yesterday, I could handle a hill or two, right? Well, they say God only gives you things you can handle.  Yesterday it was the rain, and today it was not one, but 4 separate rain storms, AND numerous mountain slopes and hills.  Like the rain wasn't bad enough. 

Anyway, since I had my brand new rain gear, I persevered, however I hid out in one Dunkin Donuts in Fair Haven, VT, during a torrential downpour.   It's funny that my shadow never passed the threshold of a DD store before this trip, and now every single day, a DD magically appears as my safe haven, literally! Respect to all of the Dunkin Donuts across the nation!  I promise to be a loyal donut-buyer from now on.  During my challenging ride, I still found time to marvel that this is "Vermont" country where Green Mountain coffee reigns, along with farmlands, fresh blueberries and endless bales of hay.
Farmland along Vermont's Route 22A
Fields of lavender and the Green Mountains in distance

I made it to Vergennes, Vermont, to a lovely Bed & Breakfast, Emerson Guest House, where Dion waited outside on the lawn for me, ready and willing to perform search & rescue tactics if need be. The city of Vergennes is named after Comte Vergennes, royalty from France who created a fictional company so that France, via Louis XVI funds, could smuggle 80% of the weapons the colonists needed in order to defeat the British in the Revolutionary War.  The prime king pin on this side of the Atlantic Ocean working with Vergennes in organizing this massive scale weapon smuggling project was none other than Benjamin Franklin.  The lesson here being that sometimes underhanded methods are necessary to achieve worthy goals.  Not sure how this plays out for today's ride, but I'm sure there's a connection! 

Dion and I dined on a delicious dinner at the Black Sheep Bistro in Vergennes, followed by, not one but four desserts, one for each rain storm I survived--2 mini cannolis, a chocolate flourless tart, a coconut chocolate bar and something else I can't name and which the overload of sugar is preventing from total recall.  In any case, it was a great day of riding, of surviving, and of eating every delicious morsel I could get my hands on before bed.  I think I'm using this bike riding excursion as an excuse to over indulge in chocolate.  Dion's final words as I complain that I won't fit into my bike shorts tomorrow is "control your mouth."  I wonder if he only means eating. lol

Monday, July 25, 2011

Day 1 to Montreal in Rain Storm!

I did NOT train for this!  I did not think the worse would happen on my very first day! There I was flying through Schenectady to Saratoga Springs, moving swift and sure, my heart rate barely above a whisper after all the hard core training rides I did in Oneonta, NY, the city of hills.
Mohawk Scenic Bikeway in Schenectady, NY--there was nothing to see here!

"Ave of the Pines" as I enter Saratoga Springs, NY
But did I encounter any hills? Ha--nothing that ole Winnie the Pooh would complain about to Piglet. However, my worst nightmare came true.  Thunderheads rolled in, lightening streaked the sky, rumblings from heaven filled my ears and then wham, I was drenched with rivers of icy water pouring from the sky.  It went in ears, soaked my skin, blinded me and passing cars and trucks added insult to injury by splashing me with even more water.  I'm talking hurricane level rains, no kidding!
Dunkin Donuts parking lot in Saratoga Springs, NY
I sought shelter in a Dunkin Donuts where I drank cups of hot tea and changed into my one extra shirt.  I ate a bagel, and sent out text messages to Dion and my son Jared hoping that one of them would say I should use common sense and abandon my ride today, which would mean not riding the first leg of my journey.  Alas, Jared's kind words back to me were, "lmaoooo, that sucks, go finish your ride."  Dion texted me, "thinking of you in the rain, sweetheart" WHAT! Where was the voice of reason here?  I gave up my DD sanctuary and ventured out only to be soaked again in five seconds.  As I shivered through the near flooded streets of Saratoga Springs, I prayed to see a bike shop or someplace selling rain gear--sadly, I did not have any foul weather gear with me (some preparation!) And then, there before me, was the perfect store selling Columbia rain jackets and warm hiking/biking wick jerseys.  I quickly donned a lovely new shirt, and a perfect apple green rain jacket with a hood pulled up over my helmet. I rode the rest of the way to Whitehall, NY (about 45 more miles or 3 1/2 hours) in the pouring rain.  When I arrived, the rain stopped and the scene was lovely!
Whitehall, NY as I rode in.

I am so proud of myself! I am not a person who likes to be cold, hot, wet, or uncomfortable.  I have lived too long, worked too hard and know too much to be "put out."  Today's experience sure knocked me on my spoiled butt.  What a rude awakening and yeah, it made me pedal faster and stronger and I can't wait for tomorrow's ride.  I'm not even praying for sunshine this time.
Whitehall, NY -- On Lake Champlain, where the Navy started.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

One More Day!!

Excitement is coursing through my veins!  I have waited to do this trip for three years.  Something always came up and derailed me--not this time!  I am counting down the hours before I leave. Today, I  mapped out each leg of the ride, including the towns I most likely will use as rest stops.  I'm planning to rest every 20-25 miles--well, not rest, but eat some food for energy and amp up with cold beverages.  I also double checked my B&B reservations.  Dion will be arriving first at each lovely Bed & Breakfast in the trusty Jeep.  He will have to wait patiently for me to chug chug chug in.  I bought new bike clothes to start my journey, including cushy bike pants that make me look as if I have a load in my pants.  I wasn't too excited by them, but I'm sure that will change by mile 35 tomorrow!  I've also spent hours today Google mapping the trip and coordinating it all with paper maps and a bright yellow marker. I will have a cell phone, camera and maps but no GPS.  I don't want this to be too easy!  I wonder what's in store as I ride to Whitehall, New York tomorrow.  Whitehall is located at the very edge of Lake Champlain at the border of Vermont.  I'm going off to bed now to rest up and pray for sunshine and no flat tires.  

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Garlic, Wine and Gourmet Food in Fly Creek, New York!

I enjoyed short (15 mile) rides this weekend before resting all day tomorrow for the BIG START on Monday to Montreal.  And I couldn't think of a better way to end my training than to ride around Lake Canadarago (hint hint--the word Canada is in the name) and then stop off in Fly Creek, New York, home of Fly Creek Cider Mill.  The Mill had fresh pressed apple cider (I drank a perfect ice cold glass) and a large gourmet food store selling homemade fudge (I bought 1/2 pound of Heath Bar Toffee), and even its own rose wine (12% alcohol) which I sipped and grabbed a bottle to take home.  Riding lakeside, I encountered Jeanie selling yummy garlic, squash, zucchini and other farm fresh vegetables she had personally grown (organically) on the farm right next to her stand.  I couldn't resist and bought garlic and the largest zucchini I could fit into my bike bag.  It's now being grilled by Dion and I'm waiting patiently to enjoy it with the wine and fudge!  Now this is what I call a bike ride! 

Friday, July 22, 2011

It's the Journey Not the Destination!

Training has intensified!  Three more days before my Albany to Montreal bike ride on July 25th.  This week, I have ridden 54 miles, then 60 miles, then yesterday a heat wave whopper of 49 miles.  I'm scheduled to ride 68 miles on my first day to Montreal, but I have yet to ride that far on a bike ever!  There's a distinct pattern emerging during these 5 1/2-hour training rides through country roads and corn fields.  The first half hour I shift about on the seat searching for that elusive, comfy "spot" -- which I realize simply does not exist, and I must just "settle" in and enjoy the ride.  For the next two hours, I gaze in awe at the beauty and vastness of New York state.  People think of NY as a place of taxi cabs, busy streets, skyscrapers, and the Yankees, but the New York I'm seeing is one of friendly farmers giving away squash the size of my arm on their front lawns; and ready to pick blueberries calling my name. I'm a sucker for the homemade ice cream stands, too.  My favorite is in a big red barn, ironically named "Pie in the Sky," but it doesn't sell any pie, just buckets of ice-cream instead.  During the 3rd and 4th hour on my bike, I start writing dialogue for my new book in my head, and playing out whole scenes, wishing I could hot-wire my thoughts straight to a laptop.  It seems that my creative juices kick as I near exhaustion and my mind doesn't want to dwell on the numbing monotony of pedaling and pedaling and pedaling.  Then, the 5th hour--wow--that's when I begin asking myself, why am I doing this? I pray, "God, please get me back home and out of these sweaty clothes and into a hot tub.  Get me off this bicycle!"  I long for a glass of cold wine and a plate of hot food! I whisper, "Please don't call Dion to come pick me up!"  About this time, I inevitably see a large pick up truck drive by (there are many of them up here) and I realize that I can easily throw my bike in the back and hitch home.  But I persevere.  I remain on course, and I keep pedaling, feeling Zen-like and enlightened.  But, alas, that only lasts ten minutes.  As soon as I see the road sign that says Oneonta -- 2 miles, I whoop, holler and plow on longing for my bed and bath again!  So, what am  I learning? For starters, it's that we can keep going no matter what, and that although our minds will try to trick us into thinking we can't make it, into stopping and giving up, but we can conquer those mind tricks and succeed.  We must challenge ourselves or we will stagnate and plop down on a bar stool and toast to past successes and heck--that's just another way of saying it's all over.  So cheers to all of us--those buying their first homes! getting married! writing a screenplay, writing a book, applying to college, and working on their individual goals--keep pedaling everyone!  And do stop for some ice-cream along the way.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Susquehanna River--Native American Country!

The Native Americans have a famous saying:  you can't know a person until you walk two moons (2 months) in his moccasins.  Well, I'm not walking at all, I'm riding my bike, but it still holds true as I never thought deeply about the inspiring and tragic history of Native Americans in this country until I began riding my bicycle all over Upstate New York, which is Indian country, no doubt about that.  Almost every town, road, river, creek, and even the name of the county--Otsego County -- derive from an Iroquois word.  As I ride and meet people of Native American descent and stop in museums and read road signs and tributes, I have learned that this area is where the Iroquois Confederacy was created--5 warring Indian tribes (the Mohawks, the Senecas, the Cayugas, the Oneidas and the Onondaga, who shared a similar language and culture) decided to join together and establish a united nations promoting peace and productivity long before the white folks arrived in the early 17th century. In fact, when the first white "settlers" arrived in northeastern and central New York, the 5 tribes making up the Iroquois Confederate nations were enjoying a settled, agricultural life.  Of course, that didn't last long . . . check out Edmund Wilson's book,  Apologies to the Iroquois, for a full run down of how the great American idea of "liberty" forgot itself when it encountered the Indian. So, as I ride my bike through all of this beautiful Iroquois land, I imagine it in yesteryear.  It isn't hard to do with the dark green forests surrounding the roads, its sacred trees (the Iroquois planted Trees of Peace) towering high, and the muddy waters of the Susquehanna River flowing by.  I mull over the Iroquois creation myth of how pregnant Sky Woman fell (or was pushed) through the sky and landed on Turtle's back and created Turtle Island aka "Earth" giving birth to twins (good and evil) and later ascending to become the Moon.  I have not ridden two moons in anyone's moccasins as yet, but I'm getting there.  Interestingly, as I ride alone, I feel the spirits of the strong independent Iroquois women cheering me on.  Iroquois women enjoyed equality with their men.  Iroquois women chose their clans' leaders, and could own property before and after marriage and could keep the fruits of their labors.  American women, on the other hand, had to fight hard to be able to vote, and are still fighting for equality in the boardroom, the sports arena etc. etc.  Who is uncivilized?   Sky Women Rock!  On a last note, I am giving just a "sound bite" on Iroquois history here--in fact, it involved bloody battles, including the infamous Beaver Wars, as "bad mind" or the "evil brother" also reined along with "good brother."   However, as the Iroquois tribes also live near Montreal,  I can continue my ride northward through Iroquois lands,  and carry on with my soul's connection to these burdened but beautiful people. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Otsego Lake: The Last of the Mohicans Remembered!

So, there I was ready to rock 'n roll on my bike when I reflected that, as a writer, Lake Otsego was the perfect training ground for my biking--after all, it was the principal feature in James Fenimore Cooper's novels, Last of the Mohicans, The Deerslayer and The Pioneers.  While Cooper referred to the lake as Glimmerglass, and depicted many axe wielding and long rifle survival tactics at this locale, I was expecting peace, tranquility and just a bit of sweat.  Well, the lake did glimmer like glass as I pedaled madly around its shores.  I rode close to the edge of the lake almost the entire 31 miles and the water had that same crystal clear blue-green hue of the Caribbean.  That was surprising!   I did detour off my main route by taking a Dead End Road through State park lands and forging my way through the  forests feeling very much like The Deerslayer himself, aka Natty Bumpo or Hawkeye.  "One shot, one kill" was his motto, but for me it was "one path, one pedal." In other words, the fastest, least exhausting route.  I did see tiny chipmunks with black stripes down their backs running across my path in the forests, along with deer and I heard the sounds of bobcats and bears (or thought I did) as it was quite lonely out there.  I happily got back to the main lake road, leaving my shortcut through Glimmerglass Park, with the dirt, roots and leaves tangling in my spokes.  I felt as if I was being watched by Fenimore Cooper himself from afar, the great frontier writer shaking his head in disgust at my escape to civilization.  But along the winding road, before I hit town again, I smiled at the towering trees and the forests hemming in the roadway and I gave my deepest respect to  Glimmerglass and its worthy role in American literature. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Lake Otsego, Cooperstown, NY

Today I am heading up to beautiful Lake Ostego in Cooperstown, NY to ride its circumference of 31 miles.  So far, I've been doing 24 mile rides from Oneonta, NY to Cooperstown, NY, enjoying scenes of rivers, hills, cows and fields of grass and corn.  Each time I arrived in Cooperstown, I would sit at outdoor cafes and drink wine and eat panini sandwiches of mozzarella cheese and ruby red tomatoes and pretend that I wasn't actually training for anything special, but just out for a lovely spin.  I would call Brandt or Dion to come pick me up in the Jeep and carry me and my bike home.  But now, there's only 2 weeks left before I start my 4 day ride to Montreal, so I have to get serious.  Today's lake ride is the beginning.   It follows Route 80 around Lake Otsego and I expect rolling hills, but we'll see.