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Cross Country USA: New York to Maine

Days 42-46: Cazenovia, NY -> Portland, ME. 3,368 total miles and 134,138 ft of total elevation.

Day 42: Cazenovia, New York Five days left in this “Crazy 47 day ‘see the country weight loss program’ trip” as one of my fellow cyclists dubbed our endeavor.

A day off the bike is a treat in that one re-discovers the joys of walking. How refreshing to stroll the one main street in Cazenovia, find a coffee shop, sit on the porch, enjoy late September warmth while sipping an artisanal hot chocolate. realize one’s weary cycling fanny does not like the hard metal chair, chat up Rae and Brent as they showed up for coffee and then perambulate with Silk back to the Brewster Inn. A triumph all the way round. I’ve missed walking.

Silk was a lawyer for a few hours, I re-organized my kit so that I could more easily find what would be needed for a few more rainy days, followed that up with a 90 minute nap and before we knew it we were walking to dinner to the Brae Loch Inn with Pat and Sandy where live Celtic music was on offer.

The mac and cheese, salmon, burgers and salads were fine enough and Sandy, Pat, Ian, Silk and I made our way back to the deserted Brewster Inn’s gift shop with its magnificently stocked ice cream freezer loaded with pints of various flavors from a local concern. We chose a few pints to share, scored some spoons and bowls from the kitchen and had the Inn’s big pub room to ourselves as we dug in.

Today’s themes:

The prospect of rain.
The prospect of serious hills post-lunch.
Riding the day after a rest day isn’t some grand reprieve from fatigue.
When will the rain hit?

Doubt I was the only one with these four themes running through my head. Oh yeah, I’ll add a fifth to make it an even quintet: what combinations of kit should I wear if the rain doesn’t hit until the afternoon?

This morning at breakfast it was all about, “What are you wearing?” The avid meteorologists-in-training were consistently saying the same things to whomever would listen, “It will rain but not until after lunch.” The glowering skies in Cazenovia were giving way to blue and rosy hues so our morning groups launched under promising conditions.

Final consensus: rain pants over tights or go without rain pants.

There’s no denying rain pants on a bike are amateur hour looking and yet considerably helpful when one is talking about endless miles with soaking wet tights. Cold weather means tights are de rigueur and a cold rain means rain pants are a smart choice over those tights.

So Silk, Sandy and I started out with rain pants wondering if they were the right thing. After our brief lunch stop at mile 55 with Sandy checking the hourly forecast, we realized we were sitting in the cat bird seat. We’d be encountering rain within just a few miles after lunch. No need to scurry around to a van, find one’s bag, pull out rain pants and don while hopping around hoping one’s bike shoes and booties would make it through the lower leg opening of the rain pants.

First pro tip: buy rain pants with a very long lower leg zipper.

Second pro tip: put a ziplock baggie around one’s cycling shoes using knife or manicure scissors (Sandy!) to cut holes for cleats to fit through.Don booties. Shoes stay dry!

After a brief and happy meet-up with sculling training partner Ken at the lunch stop, we three set out to conquer the soon to come hills and cope with the rain. Happily the brilliant orange and red leaves, bronzed ferns, and shining in autumn garb cat tails were striking with the pigeon gray skies all around. The rain came down, we powered up the hills and flew on the descents getting wetter by the minute but with dry feet and legs. Silk and I had a couple of fun push me/pull you uphill duels. Sandy enjoys the way the hill melts away as she watches us tussle.

All in all the 92 miles slid by and we were triumphant upon our near to 2pm arrival to the Irondequoit Inn in Piseco. We were the 3rd, 4th and 5th to arrive and it was quite something watching sodden, cold and tired cyclists come stumbling in over the next hour. Persistence personified.

Poor Ian was underdressed and his bright pink hands were curled into claws when he staggered in. Hot showers and a cozy wood stove soon put everything to rights. As Ron noted in his journal, “This was a nice ride until it wasn’t.” Cold rain enveloped him the last 25 miles to the Inn. He said the rain served to highlight his one poor choice in clothing; he didn’t bring gloves for cold, wet weather.

More rain tomorrow as we migrate to Ticonderoga. After that we will have sun and autumn colors in VT and NH. Four days of cycling remain.

Day 43: Piseco, New York Morning at the Irondequoit Inn dawned still, freshly washed and with pink promising skies. My frequent checks of the hourly conditions in Piseco and Ticonderoga meant it was a bifurcated day in terms of clothing. With temps in high 50’s and pink skies at 7:30 am then showers and dropping temps showing throughout the day. The perennial question, “what to wear?” predominated. Wearing the yellow Showers Pass jacket meant hotting up and sweating. No rain jacket at all would be ill considered.

I bent to the task of assembling two day bags: one for rest stop 1 and one for lunch. That way I could strip down to a dry base layer and don or doff the appropriate jacket, rain pants along with helmet cover and beanie as rain became imminent. I started with light Rapha rain topper and tights. No rain pants. No beanie.

The morning was an autumn aficionado’s delight: brightening skies, damp roads, leaves on fire, no wind, sparkling rivers and brooks, glistening grasses. Sandy and I rode as a duo today and as we swung along we both felt the power of the day. Not a day to be gotten through. An 85 mile, 4000 foot day to savor. So it might rain? We were ready.

Highway 8 took us a long way today and it was a winding, low traffic, excellent tar colorful flyway. The roads pulled us onward. We climbed and dropped, we went around corners with maple and sumac reds popping. The oranges and yellows layered evenly all around. We were riding through a silent watercolor. When the sun came out spraying her light through the trees our small slice of the world shone. Photos can’t capture what we were riding through. Taking it all in every mile of the day proved to be the only way.

We crossed the Sacandaga and Hudson rivers today. Guide Brian was staged on the former to snap our pics as we rolled through.

Lunch was a brief affair punctuated by pulling on rain pants, helmet cover and exchanging my brick colored Rapha jacket for the blazing yellow Showers Pass topper. After checking the hourly weather again it was obvious we’d be riding right into the rain. Took us but a few miles and then we were pelted. Sandy called to me, “I’m fine with this! I love it!” That set our tone and we buoyantly powered our way for the next few hours before crossing into Ticonderoga.

With 2.85 miles to go we came across the Wind Chill Factory. Sandy was alerted by Pat that as we approached Ticonderoga there would be a noted ice cream joint. We were wet and cold. Did we stop? Yup! Was it good? Absolutely! Another organizing principle on P2P was the pursuit and chase for ice cream in whatever towns we found ourselves in. The usual suspects of Pat, Sandy, Silk and me plus easy recruits Ian and Jacque and a few stray others meant we had some seriously memorable treats as we progressed across the US of A.

Sandy and I shoved off with a sugar buzz, descended into town, looped around the small roundabout entering town while admiring the stunning Liberty monument and found our way to the Best Western. As we closed in I realized anew that VT would be just minutes away tomorrow and the end of the trip was happening right now.

The day ended on a wonderful high. My long time PDX bestie Heather grew up 20 miles north of Ticonderoga. She left Hartford where she is now living and drove up to surprise me at the Best Western. Thanks to TT’s exhaustive P2P website, she knew what hotel I’d be at. Given all the P2P reports I’d been sending out along the way she had a pretty good idea of how long I’d be out on the road and about when I’d be pulling into the Best Western.

Wow. Big sign. With me thinking, “What? Heather?!” A kismet surprise that had me grinning. Heather housesat for my sweet Portland, OR house and wonderful kitty Petey one summer and autumn when I was in VT. She made a paper “Good luck Mom” sign and Petey sat near it to send me good tidings for my Head of the Charles race. A memory that always makes me happy.

Heather hung out and kept Sandy and me company as we monitored laundry and stretched on the upstairs hall carpet plus she stayed for dinner. After dinner Sandy, Pat and I piled into her Mini Cooper and she drove us to the Wind Chill (Heather knew all about the Wind Chill from her nearby growing up years) so Pat and she could get some ice cream. Pat had a tough day. Her iPhone came off her handlebars and she didn’t realize it until some miles later. Guide Brian who was at rest stop 1 circled back in the minivan and spent 90 minutes driving the first 17 miles of our route looking for it and coming up empty. Gallant effort. Ice cream helped soothe Pat’s tension and left us all smiling.

Day 44: Ticonderoga, New York The chilly seven minute Lake Champlain ferry crossing from Ticonderoga over to VT got our day started. With a quick stop at the Welcome to Vermont sign we lit out for Hanover. Silk stopped for some photos early on and I just kept going and going.

I rode solo all day, bypassed lunch and the rest stops other than to refill water at rest stop 2 and was in a happy groove, I was appreciating the silence and my ability to look around and see everything without having to engage with anyone else all day long. I felt fantastic powering up Brandon Gap and let it all unspool from there. The 88 miles flashed by and with 5600 feet of climbing I was bent to the task with concentration and effort.

Lovely Hanover with its inviting Hanover Inn was our night’s lodging. Once arrived I went for a long walk over to the Connecticut River to see the gorgeous Dartmouth boathouse, across campus down to the familiar track and then back to the Green enjoying a hot chocolate while watching the students traipse past. With two days remaining I felt the push and pull of knowing the finish was so near.

Tomorrow our penultimate ride will take us up and over the Kancamagus Highway and also Bear Notch. Lots of miles, lots of elevation.

Day 45: Hanover, New Hampshire The Hanover Inn was a sumptuous and elegant overnight respite and we woke to river valley ground fog, thick and cold as thieves. Happily our fore and aft blinking lights can cut through the densest fog so we felt safe heading out. It was also 34 degrees.

Our day ahead? 7500 feet of elevation as we cut through the White Mountains via the Kanc. It was destined to be a century day because Silk and I decided to add on the extra 3 miles. The sun was going to be shining. We were willing. Why not?

Kit choice today: purple Rapha winter jacket, arm warmers underneath, leg warmers, shoe booties, beanie under helmet and winter technical lobster claw cycling gloves (so shifting could happen). Plus a buff around my neck. Brrrrrrrrr.

Sooner or later once the real climbing started it became a sweat management morning: Unzipping my jacket on the climbs, zipping back up on the rip roaring descents. Soon enough the sun burnt off the fog and I doffed the beanie, the arm warmers and the winter riding jacket. Went with the brick colored topper coat and soon that was also bundled into my jersey pocket.

We flew in and out of lunch in less than ten minutes and were the first to start tackling the climb up the Kanc. Silk and I know every wrinkle of that climb having trained on it too many times to remember and it’s a long slog. 10 miles, I think. Then the zippity 6 mile descent before the up and over of sinuous and alluring Bear Notch with its delicious I never want it to end descent. Combined with the earlier up and over Route 18 in the Moosilauke area meant we really earned it today. There are some diabolical minds in the trip planning department at TT. Amy Davison I’m looking at you! Big time elevation today. A fitting earn the stripes wind down effort near the end.

Silk and I arrived in North Conway and the Comfort Inn with plenty of daylight to spare. A treat!

Agog at the concept: tomorrow is our last route to tackle. Unbeknownst to Ron, the idea was floated by Mike and we all agreed: Ron will be the one to lead us into Crescent Beach. Gobs of friends and family are sure to be there to ring cowbells and cheer us in.

Day 46: North Conway, New Hampshire -> Portland, Maine Today was a whirlwind of color, excitement and flurries of activity.

I had two technical issues with my bike at the start in North Conway which needed Guide Brian’s mechanical skills. I had to hold off while our group went on ahead. Guide Brian bent to the task of sorting out my gearing and the electronics and he got me on the road in record time.

I was so looking forward to riding with Sandy, Ian and Pat but time was precious today and off they went. Silk and I rode with Guides Brent and Rae and we reveled in the 68 mile jaunt absorbing the dazzling colors in Baldwin particularly as we approached Portland. By the time the four of us whirred into Scarborough there was just enough time for Silk to grab a few slices of pizza lunch while I changed into dry kit. Now near the coast the slightly warmer temps meant shedding leg warmers and heavier jackets.

With Ron leading our razzle dazzle group we formed a serpentine line behind him as we rolled the final few miles from Scarborough to Crescent Beach State Park. Bruce came by with his GoPro and we all one by one saluted, waved, smiled and fist pumped our moods.

Ron pushed and pulled us and we loved it. Our last ride. 21 of us strong. He had a tear in his eye as we grouped around him and jubilantly rolled into the beach en masse to the clamor of cheering and ringing cowbells. Friends and families holding signs, smiling, waving, hugging. It was a scene.

Bike cleats and socks went flying, champagne and beers were poured, toasts were made, bikes were hoisted and we stood in the ocean with them. Guide Blake was taking photos and all around were families beaming in wonder all thinking the same thing, “They rode all the way across the country!”

The rolling waves hosted us as singly and in groups we lifted our bikes and cheered for ourselves. We finally collected into two groups and stood in the ocean: one group of our ten women (the most ever on a P2P journey) and the other of all of us together.

Portland to Portland 2022. We did it. It’s a puzzler to sort out the truth that by pedaling one day after another we rode across the USA. There’s a lesson in there somewhere and I’m catching glimpses of it.

It feels like a dream. A savage, resilient, deep, tender, beautiful, soaring, gritty, will I turn it into something dream.

Portland to Portland. Trained for, executed and now done.

Imagine that.

Stay tuned for a Final Dispatch from Lynn.

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