Tuesday, September 24, 2013
My journey on two wheels last week was one of the greatest challenges and experiences I've had so far. Everything just came together so perfectly. I had never thought seriously about jumping into a self-supported cycling tour, although the idea has appealed to me. I love the idea of being able to attain such a level of independence and stepping away from "the grid" and all that it entails. But did I really have it in me to DO THIS?
The opportunity was shared by a member of one of our neighboring bicycle clubs who was organizing a self-supported cycling tour of Cape Cod. No hotels, but carrying all of our gear right on our bicycles: tent, sleeping bag, clothes, EVERYTHING! I knew that I didn't have the gear. In fact I have never camped out in any significant way before, except an overnight with my father and using a sleeping bag in a lean-to way back in middle school. Our bike club president TEAMAGIS offered to loan me all the equipment I would need. This was going WAY out of my comfort zone. I was both excited over the prospects of stepping into a whole new world of cycling that would thrill me, but also nervous over whether I would be able to adjust to all the potential challenges, most notably being a wuss about cycling in the rain...lol!
About a week prior to the tour TEAMAGIS very kindly offered at least a couple of hours of her time going over her equipment and running through a demonstration of setting up and taking down the tent. Did I take time to run through this on my own? Yes, but not soon enough...by the time I attempted I found myself getting stumped midway through the tent process. However another member of our touring party was familiar with this tent and I knew I could get a helping hand from him.
I joined the bike tour in Plymouth:
All loaded and ready to roll!
My gear weighed in at 30 pounds and my bike felt so incredibly sluggish & loaded down I didn't know how I would be able to MOVE this thing! Walking my bike along just felt like I was maneuvering a TANK. But amazingly, once I got on the bike and started moving I discovered Newton really knew what he was talking about when he referred to "an object in motion tends to stay in motion"...! I was psyched over how I was able to move with much more facileness and speed than I ever thought I could maintain. Fleet & sweet!
South of Plymouth we arrived at the Myles Standish State Forest with long stretches of bumpy road through sandy pines. I was revved and tended to zoom out ahead of the pack...of course I joined the ride about 30 miles after they had started and only picked up on the last 12 or so miles of the day. Our tour leader let me know later on: "Fast! You're going to fast! These miles are going to pile up and you're going to feel them. Take your time and join in with us." Which is absolutely one of the things I love about cycling with others...the company, camaraderie. To reconcile this with my need for speed I found myself developing a rhythm in which I would bike around others but at times drift toward the back of our pack (there were 8 of us and at times 9 when TEAMAGIS joined the tour on Thursday) and then SPRINT on through the group to the front. One of the fellows kidded about me being "Rocket Man!" :-)
During my first night in the tent it felt like we were dive-bombed by a helicopter which must have been in search of something, but I tell ya, it felt like I was waking up in the middle of a Speilberg movie! And it was COLD...38 degrees that night! I learned the hard way that a short-sleeved t-shirt wasn't going to cut it during the night. Despite being fairly comfortable in a sleeping bag on top of an air mattress and using ear plugs, I had trouble sleeping soundly outdoors for the first few nights...it wasn't until the final two nights that I was able to get an uninterrupted night of sleep. But it was only a day or two into the tour that I was getting into the "groove" of setting up camp, taking down and ride, ride, ride!
I listened to no external music during the whole tour, but as many of you know I often have my internal "radio" dialing in on a tune that will "stick" and a perfect song popped up in the beginning of this tour, a bright, cheery song with a "world" feel to it and the lovely Delores O'Riordan of the Cranberries joining with Jah Wobbles in "The Sun Does Rise":
Success with my first tent set up! I only needed a few tips from the other fellow who had a tent that was a slightly larger version of the same tent I was using. Same color, same design...and this sameness tripped me up the 2nd night at Horseneck Beach as I mistakenly thought he mistook MY tent for HIS, when I actually was mistaking HIS tent for MINE! I even took his shoes out of his tent to put in mine, thinking I was putting them into HIS tent...OMG was I embarrassed! Doubly so when on another occasion I unzipped what I thought was my tent only to find him changing in HIS tent!
I just loved all the gorgeous sunsets and took endless variations of pictures of the beautiful surroundings which graced our rides through the Cape.
Now the choice of THIS tent set up, however, had us all shaking our heads in wonder:
Here we are on the tail end of our single rainy day on the Cape Cod Canal trail around Bourne with the bridge which could elevate to different levels. We were extraordinarily blessed by only a slight drizzle which was on & off and let up entirely in the afternoon.
One of the cool things that occurred with this tour was the re-uniting of a couple of former classmates who had lost touch with each other since high school. One is a member of our bike club, the other a resident of Massachusetts who was familiar enough with parts of the area in which we rode. He was familiar with lots of things about the wildlife and history and shared cool tidbits about the peculiar bird along the canal and other areas which I learned was a cormorant, which had a dark, almost reptilian look as many would sit on top of a pole and spread its wings to dry as it did not have the water repellant oils that most birds have, which enables it to swim in the water very low with only its head sticking out of the water and bobbing out of sight into the water for long periods of time as it went after its meal.
Swans graced some of the small, quiet ponds filled with lily pads and still as glass. On another day an old song "Smile" came up on my "radio"...a lush, romantic rendition by Toots Thielemans, an exquisite 90+ year-old harmonica player from Belgium who is still going strong:
Near this salt marsh there were lots of broken bits of clam shells scattered around the road and this tour member from MA further educated me on how the gulls would pick up the clams from the ocean and drop them on the road to break them so that they could eat the meat. I wondered what gulls did before we paved roads for them?
Overnight at Martha's Vineyard Campgrounds one of our members' wallet had disappeared and was found. We suspect a raccoon stole off into the bushes with it. In another encounter with nature while taking down the site & loading up our bikes we had left some snacks out; cantaloupe, natural almonds & somebody's coffecake. Unbeknownst to us during our pack up we had a winged guest! I turned around and saw a gull hungrily snarfing down...the almonds? No, the cantaloupe?That coffecake was HISTORY! Sugar salt fat strikes again! I guess humans aren't the only critters vulnerable to this! :-)
Ferry rides were a big part of our tour, riding to and from Martha's Vineyard and while out on Martha's Vineyard we took a day trip our to Chappaquiddick (yes, and everybody got their historical elbow dig in...lol) which required the teensiest ferry ride. We saw the impeccably maintained Mytoi Japanese Gardens while on our way to Wasque Beach which I believe is on the Cape Pogue sound. There were some challenging rides through sand which was riddled with fist-sized rocks.
I unfortunately learned the following day that my rear tire had much less life left to it than I thought. Those stones must've pummeled the tire so much so that it was losing air and soft the following morning. Rather than taking any chances we changed the tube and kept our eye out for a bike shop and I later bought a replacement tire, wishing I had avoided this grief and bought it beforehand, however my local bike shop led me to believe my existing tire would work. At least we averted any problem of repeated flats out in the middle of nowhere!
The campgrounds at Martha's Vineyard offered a roaring campfire each of the two nights we stayed.
I noticed throughout the Cape the look of the homes and all their myriad variations on a driftwood grey theme:
Such a serene view by one's home...
Oh! And I think I found my 2nd career for my retirement!
Will pedal for food! :-)
And a bike tour wouldn't be complete with some bossa creeping into my radio...love the rhythm of Celso Fonseca's "Meu Samba Torto" which kept me bopping along:
There were certain points of the tour where we would start up a paved bike path or trail in which there were no turns or ways to split off from the group in which the tour leader would announce for my benefit, "hey we got 9 miles of trail here, feel free to go for it!" Which I happily did...whoosh! Off I went! Especially on a trail which is mostly lined by trees arching overhead and blocking any significant views. No flowers to stop & smell...? Time to feed my need for speed! Some others would join me occasionally too, which was great to have company, but I was pretty much the consistently incorrigible one...lol!
And for good reason: Just read in Huffington Post today: "100 Ways To Live To 100": "In a 2011 study of Copenhagen cyclists, men who pedaled fastest lived about five years longer than men who pedaled slowest. The fastest female cyclists averaged about four extra years. Among both genders, average cyclists lived somewhat longer than the slow pokes, proving the point that physical activity is good, but vigorous activity is even better." Zoom zoom ZOOM! :-)
It's a fun article: www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/23/10
We tried to take in as many lighthouses as possible, the one above being the Highland Lighthouse near Truro. I learned from our tour partner from MA that we also pedaled by the site of the first source of fresh water that the pilgrims had located after landing on the Cape.
During our last day on the Cape we made the most of it: after setting up camp we beat it to the beach at Herring Cove:
One of us found a baby squid!
Here I am with another member of our tour:
We learned from our MA native that there was a trail we could ride from Herring Cove to the northern most point above Provincetown which was Race Point. And the WAY cool thing about this trail is that it wound up, down and all around the huge sand dunes in the area...the way a mountain bike trail might, except: all very nicely paved! Woo hoo! We were OFF!
Time for another SUNSET!
And we headed back to camp to prepare for a ride into Provincetown for dinner and seeing the nightlife:
And the one woman from the tour who joined several of us fellas just had to poke some fun and said, "all right guys, line 'em up by the Toys of Eros!"
Provincetown morning, waiting for our ferry ride back to Boston:
A sign among the eateries of Provincetown: Lobster - The Other Red Meat!
Tune for the last day: such a fine songstress, Janis Ian, "Light A Light":
Arriving in Boston harbor:
From there we rode through Boston via some pleasant trails leading up through U of Mass in Boston and heading into Braintree and Hingham where our journey ended at Wompatuck State Park.
The weather for all but one day was stupendous...70s, sunshine...and the nights warmed up into the 50s. Our tour leader put together such a seamless and smooth ride for the whole tour...we were truly blessed by his talents and diligent preparations. He scoured via Google's Street View every route that we took. All of us riders were rock solid in our skills and there was nary a single mishap with either our riding or mechanically with our bikes, other than my tire. Everyone was very pleasant, kind, helpful and generous with plenty of humor and wise-cracking...wonderful folks! It was such a perfect introduction to the world of self-supported bicycle touring!
I am so pleased that I took a chance to push the envelope and challenge myself with this tour!
For those interested in more pics, here are over 100:
What a finale to my summer! On to autumn...still lots of great riding left to the year! :-)
ps...more pics as shared by another member of the tour, including a cool video of the canal bridge in action, raising and lowering:
and yet MORE pics including sections of Martha's Vineyard where I did not travel...such as out to Gay Head:
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Here are some interesting thoughts I came across about writing which unbeknownst to me until I read them, echo what I think writing, aka blogging, does for me:
"Everyone should write because writing makes us decide what we believe — and so it makes us decide who we are. Life is mysterious, and unstable. Writing forces us to draw lines. It’s humbling because we will never hit the mark perfectly. But we must try to get as close as we can. Great writing, as Tolstoy had it, is writing that teaches us how to live. And Faulkner said that the writer must not forget it is “the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing, because it is the only thing worth writing about.”"
"the craft of writing means addressing these problems, and addressing what we really believe, and who we really are. The art is secondary. Doing the work is what matters most."
"with time and mortality as facts of life there is only one judgement that means anything: to ourselves — who we were, and what we believed. By writing, we can live with this always in mind."
Blogging helps me to define myself, what's important to me, what brings meaning and SPARK into my life. The self-reflective process of writing takes all the jumble and meanderings of my heart and mind and puts it out there from the beginning to the last period, making as much sense of it all as a body can at that point in time.
On another note...we are eight strong and ready for touring Cape Cod! Can't wait! Jittery with anxiety, anticipation and excitement!
Loved catching the bald eagle arcing through the skies over our office today in Binghamton...I often try to imagine what it must feel like to soar through the air the way birds can do.
Late, gotta get to sleep!
Sunday, September 08, 2013
I loaded up my bike with tent, sleeping bag and dual panniers (all graciously loaned to me from TEAMAGIS, our bike club's president!) for a ride to the Colorscape festival in Norwich yesterday. Met up with a few bike club members in Greene, one of whom is fellow SP member STRIVERONE who has decided to join our ranks and is now a member of the Southern Tier Bicycle Club...woo hoo!
He and I are fairly well matched on the bike as well, pretty complementary pace. I was fretting about the extra payload slowing me down a lot but STRIVERONE said, nope...didn't look like I was going any too slow...lol! Except of course on the hills...oof, thx goodness for those granny gears! :-) Cycling isn't STRIVERONE's main event, however...he just ran TWENTY-SIX MILES the day before...! I could not IMAGINE running such a distance!
But it's pretty cool to have two formerly morbidly obese dudes biking all over the countryside yesterday, 60+ miles for me and 40+ miles for him. We mostly shook off the other bike club members...lol.
Starting to get ready for the BIG RIDE coming soon...my self-supported, thumbing-my-nose-at-hotels bicycle tour of Cape Cod! More than way nervously assembling everything, double-triple-checking. Awfully glad to be going with seasoned self-supported touring pros. Hoping I don't feel TOO self-conscious and make TOO many mis-steps.
PRAYING for no rain! And actually, right now it doesn't appear that there will be...but I know better than to count on weather forecasts so far out in the future. Temps are looking around 65-75 range for day time and 42-60 range for night time...which should be do-able.
Thursday, September 05, 2013
Since returning from my weekend in paradise I have been incredibly busy and just as incredibly dumbfounded as to how to articulate how special and wonderful this weekend was. Words are all I have, however and they will have to do.
Three essential ingredients for this weekend: 1) beautiful, like-minded, like-spirited, people with LOTS of heart! 2) equally gorgeous outdoors and 3) my heightened self-awareness and eagerness for savoring every possible moment to the fullest!
The 16 of us staying at the hostel (the building next to the lighthouse) came from varied backgrounds, some of whom I knew fairly well, some whom I met for the first time as there were folks from other bike clubs nearby (Ithaca, Syracuse, Auburn and Pennsylvania). As I learned more about folks I was struck by how many came from either artistic and / or people-oriented careers such as drama teaching, art therapy, artist, speech therapist, school teachers and professors. When one pulls 16 people together you figure there are BOUND to be at the very least some small differences, perhaps arguments.
There was none of that here. Our collective "fit" with each other was hand-in-glove! Such a strong undercurrent of respect, good-will and ability to revel and take delight in nature and the outdoors. There were so many times when either others could finish my sentence or I theirs when speaking about the bald eagle that had just been sighted, the delicious breeze off the sparkling waters, pushing off the sand with one's toes walking along the beach, the seagulls taking flight and showing off their skill in hovering in the air like kites in the wind off the lake. You could see this in each others' eyes, smiles, feel it in the goosebumps that thrill down your arms as you realize how much you are sharing together at that same moment in time.
They"get it." I "get it." We are in sync!
I had the great pleasure of car-pooling with two other bike club members, one of whom I have had the pleasure of many bike rides together and offered to drive his Volvo wagon, the other who was totally new to the club and whom we met for the first time. The three of us greatly enjoyed the conversation during our 160 mile drive to Cape Vincent and again on the return home. Here they are on the ferry:
We stopped at a local grocery store as we needed a few last minute things and spotted in the produce section a whole case of over-ripe bananas marked to only $2 for the case. I'm thinking: 16 soon-to-be-hungry cyclists back at the ranch ready to kick off our weekend...? Yeah, these bananas are gonna GO! :-)
Friday afternoon we warmed up for the weekend with a 30-some mile ride through three bays south of Cape Vincent: Sawmill (near Chaumont), Griffin and Black River Bays. Our bike club president, fellow SP member TEAMAGIS has been VERY happy with her new 'bent and was FLYING out in front during much of this ride and I was quite content to buzz right along with her. :-)
Each of us brought a dish to pass for a pot-luck dinner on Friday. What totally delicious and (mostly) healthy food folks brought! And QUANTITY! It turned out that we ate nearly all of our meals for the weekend from Friday through Monday from the food that folks had brought!
And the best part was: there was very little room to eat indoors. So we ate here instead:
Soaking up more of those wonderful outdoors! Or we sat along the row of Adirondack chairs that lined the end of the pavilion facing toward the water and Wolfe Island with its 100+ wind turbines sprawled out for our viewing pleasure:
Saturday was our long ride, over 70 miles as we did the big Thousand Island tour across to Canada via Wolfe Island and two ferry rides (one to Wolfe, the other from Wolfe to Kingston). In Kingston we toured through the Royal Military College:
The day was overcast and the sun never came out. As we left Kingston, bound for Gananoque it began to rain. Not hard, thankfully, but a steady drizzle. When you're riding it doesn't take long, however before you start to really get soaked. I tried to be patient and out-ride the rain and reached a point where I told myself: if it doesn't stop pretty soon I am NOT gonna be pleased!
And then it stopped! :-)
We enjoyed a pleasant lunch at Gananoque and rode on to the Thousand Island Bridge where we crossed back over into New York. Although it was overcast, the view off the bridge was still breathtaking! Pictures just don't even come CLOSE to capturing how cool it was to be squeezing our way through the pedestrian walk way over the Thousand Island region. You could see tiny little getaway homes and cottages tucked into islands where the only way to reach them would be via boat:
Parts of the walkway were so narrow that one had to rear up the bike on its back wheel and walk it in front as there was no room to walk it beside you:
After reaching New York State it would be a straight shot back to Tibbett's Point...but there was one "must" stop:
River Rat Cheese in Clayton!
One of the experienced folks who spent a number of previous visits to Tibbett's said that the cheese here was "to die for"...they had itsy-bitsy samples of their 12-year-old aged cheddar and boy was she ever right! At $20 a pound, I wasn't about to indulge in much, but bought a teensy bit to bring home.
Then it was time to BEAT IT back to the ranch as my backside was ever-so-feeling those miles I was racking up!
After showering and changing I hauled out the guitar I brought along and was pleased to find I hadn't forgotten TOO many songs which I dusted off through the night. Folks really enjoyed the music as did I...it had been WAY too long since I played. Fingertips were nice and tingly with new calluses on the way by the time I finished.
Speaking of music: I noticed a very peculiar thing about this weekend and music. Despite having brought my mp3 player and having oh, around 1400 songs loaded onto my iPhone I never once listened to music. Not only did I not listen to music literally, even while riding my bike I did very little if any listening to my inner radio as well.
I think I didn't dare listen to music and take away from any of my experience. I didn't need music...I was too busy BEING music!
Although there was no memorable sunset either Friday or Saturday due to the cloud cover, it was still so peaceful we would sit around in our Adirondack chairs until 9, 9:30 or so before getting ready for bed.
Sunday's ride was much brighter and sunnier...we were WAY ready for that! The ride was around 50-60 miles and instead of going east from Kingston we went west to Bath, Ontario. This took us through Kingston which was a fairly pleasant ride through the city. What we really appreciated, however was the amount of distance riding along the waterfront and soaking up the sun, water, the fresh breeze blowing in across the water. Our ride leader had picked just the right pace for this ride and instead of feeling antsy and wanting to race ahead as I often am, I was very content to pedal along with others, chit-chatting and sometimes just exclaiming out loud over the beauty of the day, the sights, everything...
Here we are back in Kingston waiting for the ferry:
Sunnier views from the ferry on Sunday:
Despite having splintered into little offshoots of riders scattered 'round Canada, we all gathered back for our ferry ride together. One gal was so excited over having discovered a back roads route as an alternative to the main highway which connects Bath and Kingston. How well I recognized the thrill and excitement of having braved new, uncharted territory and coming up with a "find!"
Sunday night we had our sunset! I took a number of shots of it as the sun moved down to the horizon. You can see all the pictures I saved at this website (please note: for some reason the HTML from the link does not work when you click on these shutterfly links as the colon which follows the https does not get inserted when you simply click on the link. To get them to work properly you need to copy and paste these links OR insert a colon ":" after the "https" after you click on it:
They look best in "slideshow" mode as full screen. Better YET, one of the others at Tibbetts posted HIS pics as well, which include a few of me (playing guitar, on bridge, on ferry):
(BTW, Mike has done SEVERAL RAGBRAI's in the past, LOVES RAGBRAI and is gonna be my "connection" when I'm ready to make the leap and join in the blast of what many regard as the Mardis Gras on wheels!)
I've changed my SparkPage to reflect one of my sunset shots. Here is another:
We later celebrated the sunset and primed the pump for more conversations and connections late into the night with a roaring campfire, 'round which we gathered.
Here is Wolfe Island with all its windmills that I'm told provide all the power for the city of Kingston...how cool is that?!?:
On Monday we had to be out of the hostel by 10 a.m. Was that the end of our day?
We were off to Black Pond! A secluded nature preserve to the south:
Here is a pic of those of us who went:
While the preserves were lovely, what was the REAL delight was the sandy beach that it opened up to! Here we were on a Lake Ontario beach, free, few people...woo hoo! This took me back to my days as a kid on Lake Michigan and I thoroughly enjoyed walking and walking along the shore with another bike club member...we kept a great pace, just under a jog, each sharing a bit about ourselves and each couldn't help but to exclaim at times over how precious this experience was, listing all the nuances of the shore which we savored...
While riding back we remembered one of the fellows talking about the delicious barbeque that was served up at Dinosaur Barbeque in Syracuse...it was heading for dinner time so we agreed: we couldn't just "go home!" Let's do Dinosaur! :-)
Had a wonderful dinner together at the end of which the wind whipped up a little. We had done take out and were eating at a picnic table at a nearby spot as Dinosaur was totally swamped.
Back home, unloading, unpacking we celebrated our weekend, bid our farewells with group and individual hugs and filled to overflowing with such love and goodwill toward each other and everyone who had shared our weekend together.
This is an annual event that I hope never to miss for many, many years to come! I hope everyone can experience something like this as often as possible. I hope to build such occasions into my life more and more!
ps...totaled around 160 miles for the weekend...but yanno? I forgot to mention that when I wrote the blog originally. This weekend was most decidedly NOT about the number of miles, but what went into those miles...!
Saturday, August 31, 2013
Just a quickie update: terrific day of cycling, over 70 miles throughout the Thousand Islands! Ferry over to Wolfe Island and again over to Kingston. Rode to Gananoque and down through Wellesley Island. Walking our bikes over the bridges taking in the breathtaking view!
Then a speedy zap up the NY side through Clayton, Cape Vincent and back to the Tibbetts Point lighthouse where we're staying.
After we knew the way, a straight shot down the NY side I broke away from our group (6 of us) for a really pumped up, speedy ride back on the last 20 miles. Three things propelled me:
1) It's a blast to go fast! :-)
2) I like to challenge my body and torch more calories,
3) just like Paul McCartney at the end of Helter Skelter screams "I got blisters on my fingers!" my backside was hollering at me to "get the heck off this bike!" The faster I pedaled, the sooner I'd be off the bike! :-)
Today was the take-it-all-in day, tomorrow will be more of a noodling, smell the roses day.
We had a little rain today from Kingston to Gananoque but not so much to make us unhappy. The day was overcast, but cool.
Pics to follow when I get home!
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