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Atlantic Coast Adventure: April – May, 2011

Tod Rodger has had riding the East Coast from Florida to Maine on his "bucket list" for years and decided this was the year to do it. He is joined by his long-time friend Bill Scott. They enjoyed months of planning, spending hours plotting on Google Earth, and pouring over the routes of others to come up with the ideal route. Their bikes were left in a self-storage unit near the Jacksonville airport when we drove north earlier in the month after a winter in Florida.

Their connection to the internet is Bill's phone, so they're not doing a blog as they go. This log is compiled from emails of photos and experiences dictated into Bill's phone, with occasional longer entries to flesh it out when a computer is available.

Jump down the page to: Week 2 >> Week 3 >> Week 4 >> Week 5 >> Final
Last updated: May 19
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April 12 to 19 — Week 1

Tod and his friend Bill are having a great time on their bike trip up the Atlantic coast. They flew to Jacksonville, Florida, on Tuesday, April 12 to retrieve their bikes from a self-storage unit near the airport. It was raining lightly when they arrived, and they had to bike in a light drizzle for the first twenty minutes. Since then they've had wonderful biking weather.

They have been riding 30 to 80 miles each day, staying in motels most nights. And, yes, they are biking without support so have everything in panniers and rack pack, including sleeping bags and tent. Some highlights from the first week are:

Tonight they're at a motel in Andrews, S. Carolina, where they found a Chinese restaurant with an all-you-can-eat buffet — great for two guys who have been biking for a week. [Back to top]

April 20 — week 2

Stopped for lunch on the Peedee River where we met these school children from Andrews, the town where we stayed last night.

They were impressed with our big adventure. We had lunch in rocking chairs on the porch of the Nature Center — cookies and bananas. It's warming up to 90 degrees, but we have a tail wind for the next 18 miles to Conway where we will break for the day.

April 22

We are starting Day 11 of Tod and Bill's Excellent Adventure. This is the first cloudy morning with threat of rain later today, but we have planned for it with a long 85-mile day yesterday and a short 35-mile day today to our first Warmshowers host in Wilmington. Warmshowers is an internet organization of touring cyclists who host each other overnight. It is based on reciprocity, so Lyn and I are also looking forward to hosting other touring cyclists after I return home.

So far the trip has exceeded most of our expectations. Weather has been excellent; maybe 30 minutes of occasional sprinkles one afternoon. Mostly starting out in the 60s and working up into the mid-80s. Most days have included moderate tailwinds; I hope I'm not tempting fate by saying that. We are really hoping for favorable winds (always strong) going up the Outer Banks.

Most of the roads are excellent, pretty, and low traffic; although there are always short stretches of nasty roads. Today we enter Stage 3 — the beaches of NC, which we will follow for about a week, including the Outer Banks. Stage 1 was the salt marshes of GA and SC. Stage 2 was the inland Low Country of SC (ex-plantations, farms, pine woods) to avoid heavy traffic and bad roads around Charleston and Myrtle Beach.

Accomodations have ranged from motels and chain restaurants at I-95 interchanges to a bargain off-season 2-bedroom suite across the road from the beach with a dinner at Latitude 31 on a pier at the Jekyll Island Club — a gorgeous historical area established in the 1920s by NY wealth and restored and maintained today by a $5 toll to get on the island (which bicycles don't pay!).

We are also saving lots of money on gas, although we make up for it on other kinds of fuel.

More highlights:

One disappointment has been camping — for several reasons: KOA wanted $32 for a tent site; we stayed 2 miles down the road (closer to restaurants) at a servicable EconoLodge for $32. It has been no-see-um season in this humid area, with a sprinkling of mosquitoes. We have to pack the tent and stuff wet from dew, and then later open things up to dry in the sun. And finally, our bodies are not as supple as they used to be. I suspect we will send camping equipment home from VA — where the hills start.

No problems with bikes or bodies — which is always good news. We're a little ahead of plan, which we could easily lose with any problems with bikes, bodies, or weather. It's a rare long tour without any problems; part of the challenge is how you deal with them. We've met and talked with many interesting people all along the road, and are looking forward to more homestays. Most importantly, Bill and I are still friends!

There is lots more to tell, but we've got to get breakfast and get going. [Back to top]

April 23 (Easter)

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! Last night we stayed with a wonderful hostess in Wilmington, North Carolina. We were fed and taken to church. What a warm and wonderful experience it was. Turns out she is a touring cyclist extraordinaire who has already taken two of her children across the United States by bicycle for their 16th birthdays. We were humbled! Lisa has a nicely decorated kitchen — as you can see. Notice the professional bike stand.

Today started out cool and cloudy and ended up hot and sunny. We had a tailwind again — about 15 miles per hour. We had to detour around Camp LeJune up to Jacksonville, NC, so we did 60 miles and were in by 1:30. We had a second breakfast — Tod always has a second breakfast — and sat at a table with a man named Danny who has lived down here for 20 years after moving from Long Island.

Tomorrow we stay with friends of friends in Morehead City, then on up the Outer Banks. Pray for tailwinds again. We may catch up with Dave Ratay who will be staying in Kitty Hawk for several days. Happy Easter to all!

April 25 (Monday)

Stayed in Morehead City last night with some friends of the Barkers. Beautiful home on Bogue Sound, great food, conversation, and hospitality. Also rode to see very pretty and historic Beaufort.

We rode 50 miles to catch the noon ferry out of Cedar Island, North Carolina to Ocracoke, the start of the outer banks.

Ocracoke is a very cute town. The rest of the island is national park. Bill and I were both excited to experience the Outer Banks for the first time. Luckily, we had good strong South winds; strong North winds would have made it much longer and more difficult. The little town of Ocracoke is truly delightful, and we had a fascinating visit with our Warmshowers hosts, Kitty and Gary Mitchell. After being bitten in the village by no-see-ums, we were somewhat concerned to see no screens or AC in their home right on the water. What a spot! Kitty assured us the breeze kept things cool and the bugs at bay. We weren't so sure since we walked downtown for dinner, got eaten alive by mosquitoes along the harbor, and walked back to their home. But Gary had found a screen for our window and a fan, and we enjoyed a very comfortable night in their recording studio. Gary is a professional musician, who records for himself and others — very good "Carolina folk music." Fantastic eggs and spinach breakfast.

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April 26 — start of week 3

Today was a long day! We left our Warmshowers hosts in Ocracoke and rode 85 miles along the outer banks to Manteo, on Roanoke Island, dodging thunderstorms. We stopped for breakfast in Hatteras to avoid one, then stopped again for an hour at Hatteras lighthouse to avoid another. Never put on the rain jackets, though! We've only worn the rain jackets for 3 hours in 3 weeks! Lots of sun, wet roads, and a 20 mph tailwind. Along with the ferry and stops, it was a 9-hour day before we arrived at our motel at 5:30.

The pic of the day is Cape Hatteras light. In 1999 it took them 23 days to move it 2700 feet in order to save it from erosion.

April 27

This morning we hung out at motel in Mankato, North Carolina, to wait for a storm cell to pass over. We've been watching the weather channel and we are all keyed up. The radar shows nothing for 100 miles around here.

We rode a beautiful route today suggested by our hosts on Ocracoke island — 75 miles, with some pretty solid headwinds — and ended with a great dinner at the Waterfront Grill in Edenton, NC. This is another beautiful, small historic town right on the shore of Albermarle Sound. We criss-crossed the many streets of historic homes. This is Tod and Bill at the waterfront in front of a 1700s home. We had some long bridges to ride today — between 2 and 5 miles. Take a look at a map and you will see the bridges.

We saw a sign about bears, but we didn't see any even though I sat on a stump with an open jar of honey for half an hour. Maybe next time.

Tomorrow we go straight north with 20 mile an hour south winds and should be in Virginia by lunchtime when the weather is supposed to turn bad. It looks like 2 days of dicey weather, then good for the weekend. Roads are mostly very good, bikes and bodies still working well — and we are still friends.

April 28

We got up early (7:30) and hustled 54 miles in 3 hours (18 mph on fully loaded bikes!) to avoid severe thunderstorms and possible tornadoes later in the day. Nothing like a 15–20 mph tailwind — and adrenaline — for power. We arrived in Suffolk, VA, at the home of Jim and Vicki Cruze by 11, and enjoyed a very pleasant half-day of rest with them as the storm system passed through. Jim has done a lot of riding and touring so he knows how much we appreciate a friendly place to stay. This was more gracious hospitality from Warmshowers hosts.

About a week ago we rode through a street that had been devastated by a tornado just a week previously, so we are a bit sensitive when there are warnings anywhere around. The closest today was about 50 or more miles from here. Our odometers showed we've ridden 1000 miles so far. [Back to top]

April 29

Today we rode from Suffolk, Virginia, to Hopewell, Virginia — a little over 70 miles. With help from our host, Tod put together a route through farm country in the James River basin. We must have seen only 20 cars in 40 miles. This is "sit on the porch and drink iced tea" country.

Our hosts last night, Jim and Vicky, took good care of us during the tornado watch. This morning we passed a couple of homes that had been damaged by the tornadoes a couple of weeks ago. Awesome and terrible destruction. Here's a picture of Bill in front of one of the beautiful homes along the route.

And a picture of Tod in a store at about 50 miles. This was the first store we saw — antiques, doll repair and bakery. The bakery part had Bill slamming on the brakes. I needed some carbs. We got sandwiches, brownies, and good advice. Everybody goes out of their way to help us.

We are safe and sound in a Hampton Inn. [Back to top]

April 30

This morning we rode through Richmond, had lunch in a delightful animal park (Baymont?) for kids, and rode along stately Monument Ave with its monuments and restored homes, which reminded me of Commonwealth Ave and Beacon St [Boston] in full bloom. We also rode through some much less attractive neighborhoods, reminding us of the discrepancies in our country.

I always knew Ashland as a typical ugly set of motels, gas stations, and malls at several ugly interchanges on I-95. However, two miles to the west is a lovely village which was built along the main line of the railroad. Strange to see gorgeous homes on two- to five-acre landscaped lots right along the railroad. The railroad built the town in the 1850s and offered free passes (20 miles to Richmond and 40 miles to DC) to wealthy people if they would build homes on big lots along the tracks. Then came the Civil War. Randolph-Macon College built a very attractive campus on the grounds of a former mineral springs resort.

In Ashland we saw signs everywhere saying that it was the center of the universe. We asked some residents why and they had no idea. Here we are in front of the library. The large sphere is a solid piece of granite carved with a map of the world and suspended by water squirting up from underneath. You can turn it in any direction, but you can't pick it up!

May 1

Today we rode from Ashland to Fredericksburg, VA. It was about 50 miles before we found a store and by then we were almost to Fredericksburg. No stop for a second breakfast on Sunday! Beautiful backroads and great riding though. Good weather and light headwinds (they often come together). Fredericksburg is another city I knew for its I-95 interchanges. However, drive three miles east and you find a lovely, historic village with many good restaurants, shops, gallerys, antique stores, etc. In six Civil War battles there were 100,000 casualties near here.

Bill's other brother Fred and his cousin Warren picked us up at the motel and drove us downtown for a good family dinner at an Italian restaurant, ice cream, and a walk around the historic center. It was nice to see them. Our route was running about equidistant between their homes — each being about a 1 hour drive from Fredericksburg. Here are the 3 of us on Caroline Street in historic Fredericksburg.

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May 2

This morning we rode through the beautiful campus of the University of Mary Washington, which Bill had visited with his son several years ago.

Our route took us on lots of pretty country, hills, woods, farms, good roads, and low traffic — until the last 15 miles into Occoquam, Dale City, Lorton, with an uncomfortable finale riding on Route 1 in Mt Vernon. An uneventful evening with a good Thai dinner nearby. Light headwinds and good weather. Occoquam is a tiny gem of a village on the river next to a secret pedestrian bridge (photo) that allowed us to miss a busy highway bridge.

May 3 — start of Week 4

Tuesday we left our motel on very busy and ugly "historic Route 1" in Mount Vernon, rode 4 miles down the pleasant Mt Vernon Parkway to the president's home, and then 15 miles up the Mt Vernon bike trail right along the Potomac. Beautiful and pleasant. Poked around the streets of Old Town Alexandria and along the waterfront town homes. Right past Reagan Airport and across the bridge to the Lincoln Memorial. Our few hours riding around DC were very special — even emotional. You have to be impressed by the center of government in our country. Reading the Gettysburg Address was very moving, but I was most surprised by my emotional response to looking up my classmate, Steve Kelsey, on the wall at the Vietnam Memorial.

As we approached the White House (not very closely!), a flotilla of local cops hustled to shut down all intersections on H street, leading west from the WH. Presumably, someone important was coming or going. I wondered what level you need to be to have the streets shut down for your drives around town. Great (and expensive!) sandwich at an outdoor cafe on G street, as we watched very stylish pedestrians. Then back to the river to pick up the Capital Crescent Trail up to Bethesda. We never knew there was so much wilderness right in the middle of DC. Arrived right on schedule at 4:15 at the home of Dave and Heather Barker (son of my classmate and travel agent) for a wonderful evening. Dave rode across country at 24 and was a classmate of our son Doug's, so we had a great time sharing memories and tours. Delicious big dinner and breakfast. [Back to top]

May 4

Wednesday, we did our first real rain riding in a cold rain for 2.5 hours from Bethesda, MD. By 11 it had stopped, and by afternoon the sun was out and we were starting to dry out. Even our shoes should be dry with another couple of days of sunshine. We could have delayed our start yesterday and missed most of the rain, but we had planned dinner here in Cockeysville with Bill's brother, sister, and niece and family. We rode through very pleasant country — the first two hours up the very pretty Rock Creek Trail with lots of puddles and NO bicycle traffic. Then it was McMansions on two- to five-acre groomed lots in the far burbs, and finally horse (equestrian?) estates with 100–200 acres of groomed fields and fences in the Worthington Valley. We arrived at 4 to clean up, do laundry, and have a wonderful dinner at a famous ribs place a few miles down the highway. This was also very helpful, because we have discovered that the most dangerous part of our day is walking between our motel and restaurant. These areas, especially around inter-state highway interchanges, are NOT designed for pedestrians — no crosswalks, no pedestrian buttons on traffic lights, 4–6 lanes of traffic in a hurry, etc.

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May 5

Thursday morning in Cockeysville, MD, on the northern suburbs of Baltimore. Gorgeous sunny cool day. We checked our tires this morning and found threads starting to show on Bill's rear tire, so we are waiting for the local bike shop to open at 10 and buy a new tire. A flat is easy to fix, but the consequences of ripping a tire open coming down a hill, or travelling 50 miles on a rail trail (as we will do today to York, PA) are not pleasant. Fortunately, yesterday we decided we could/should not do 80 miles today to Lititz, PA and we are breaking it into two easy days. The tire problem makes that decision seem even wiser.

It's 10:30. Bill and I were going to meet at the front door at 9:45 to go to the bike store 2 miles down the busy road to find a tire — assuming they would open at 10. I show up at 9:45. He's not here. I call him. He's gone on his own to find the bike shop. Tells me to wait, because he can't find it. I ride down to the start of the trail 2 miles in another direction, where there is a bike shop which we believe is only open on weekends as a rental shop. On the way down I stop to look at my cue sheet. A Lexus pulls in behind me and a woman gets out holding up my fanny pack. I had not buckled it in to my pannier, and it had bounced out at the bridge at the bottom of the hill. My fanny pack is unzipped from previously getting out my phone. Stupidity on top of stupidity. I ride back to the bridge, where she told me she found it, and find my wallet. Nothing else is missing. I am torn between gratitude and frustration.

I find the rental shop, and it is indeed closed. The rule is that when separated, we return to the last place we were together. Here I sit, sort of drained, waiting for something to happen. While waiting I have time to flesh out our log on the motel's computer.

We should have checked the tire yesterday, although the fraying might not have shown yesterday. We could have called his nephew at his bike shop and had him bring a new tire to dinner last night. Could have, should have, would have.

We are demonstrating once again that bike tours always involve some problems, and dealing with problems is part of the adventure. Very comforting.

Aside from the tire and very dirty bikes from yesterday, our equipment and bodies continue to hold up well. We were two days ahead of plan, but are giving up one day today to rest a little, take care of the tire — and it also allows us to merge schedules with Illoways and Frasers in the next few days.

Finally off from the motel at 11 with Bill's new rear tire. Sunny, cool weather with light NW headwind. 20 miles up gradual grade on the beautiful Northern County Rail Trail to summit and fantastic breakfast at 2 at New Freedom Train Station (just north of the Mason-Dixon Line). Ed had just opened last week and was outside hawking customers — which were few and far between on an early May weekday half-way between Cockeysville, MD, and York, PA.

Cruised down 20 gentle miles into grungy York at 4:05, just missing the Visitor Center. Two separate cops recommended not staying or eating downtown, but directed us out to motels and chain restaurants on Route 30. It was ugly at commuter time. We skipped a dumpy Super 8 and worked our way around back roads to get 3 miles up Route 30 to a nice Best Western near an Olive Garden — maybe the second time we've eaten at a chain this trip. We weren't in until 6, but had a nice evening from then on. Very long day for short ride — most of which was on a beautiful rail trail that avoided many short steep hills.

You cannot buy beer at a gas station in PA. You have to go to a bar unless you want a case and the bars sell six-packs. [Back to top]

May 6

Another short day with complications. Fast 15 miles downhill with wind to Columbia and our crossing of the Susquehana River. [Bill's holding his camera-phone at arm's length.]

Then short steep hills through lovely rolling farm country. Found a huge breakfast at Mt Joy Diner. We bought 3-egg omelet, but they must have used 6 eggs plus several potatoes. We're early for a short day, but Bill noticed a wobble in his front hub. We added 11 miles to a bike shop in Elizabethtown, where a very helpful mechanic adjusted his hub in 15 minutes. Arrived in lovely Lititz at 3 and stopped at the famous Wilbur Chocolate Factory downtown to sample and buy. Very good. On to our Warmshowers with Jim and Dot Nissely in their home in a very pretty Lutheran retirement village. We all enjoyed a wonderful five hours of drinking, eating, and swapping stories. Dot and Jim have toured by bicycle and other means all over the world — including several locations we have in common. Truly wonderful hospitality.

May 7

Yet another day with complications. We had to be up and out by 7:30 so Dot and Jim could leave for their grandaughter's graduation. Bill couldn't find his prescription sunglasses, and it was not an environment for calm logical thinking and searching. We finally left without them, knowing they were either buried somewhere in Bill's panniers or left somewhere in the house. It put a little damper on the morning, but Bill found them buried under his shoes when we stopped for a late lunch. More beautiful sunny cool weather, short steep hills, and rolling farm country. Many attractive Pennsylvania Dutch stone homes. We saw a few Amish buggies, a young boy pushing a scooter along a busy highway, and a farmer pulling a plow with five horses. We wondered what the reward is for this old-fashioned way of life. Around noon we seemed to transition from true farms to equestrian estates, as we rode closer to Philadelphia. Because of our early departure, we arrived early at the beautiful farm of Stock and Eleanor Illoway. Stock and Sherm Barker were roommates at Harvard. We are now relaxing very comfortably, looking forward to a steak that was recently walking around this farm.

May 8

We left Phoenixville and rode through beautiful quiet roads to Valley Forge, around camping area (NOT battlefield), Visitor Center, and interesting movie about winter at Valley Forge. Then crossed the river and rode along the Schulkyll River Trail to Norristown. Cross-country through pretty suburbs to Tod's cousin Barbara's in Yardley. They arrived a few minutes after we did, and we had a delightful dinner and evening together. David explained and displayed his 3-dimensional weft-twining art, which is amazing.

May 9

More gorgeous weather. Alternated riding along canal towpath and River Rd up Delaware River. Stopped at Washington Crossing. Explored touristy New Hope and more real Lambertville, where Bill's mother was born and brought up. Called her, took photos, and emailed them to her for instant response.

On to Frenchtown, where ALL restaurants were closed on Monday, according to the owner of the Frenchtown Inn (which was highly recommended by many). We rode up a tough two-mile hill to Warmshowers with Chris and Karen Mitchell at their beautiful hilltop farmhouse that they've renovated, Chris is a high school teacher, and Karen develops mapping software. They took pity on us, fed us a great stir-fry dinner on their deck, and put us up in their barn loft where we spread our sleeping bags on chaise lounges. Chilly, but no bugs. Here's the barn and Tod making his bed in the loft.

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May 10 — start of Week 5

More great weather, huge breakfast at Frenchtown Cafe, and riding along canal on tow path. It's getting hillier as we progress along the Delaware River.

We crossed back over the river (photo) into Pennsylvania at a the really nice town of Belvidere. It is the county seat and has a town square in front of the courthouse with massive old shade trees. We learned why there are canals on both sides of the river. The Delaware Canal (west side) brought coal down from the Lehigh River Canal in Easton. The Delaware and Raritan Canal (east side) connected the Delaware River with the Raritan River in New Brunswick — and on to New York City. This canal extended farther north, primarily to bring water into the lower canal and make it navigable.

The scenery gets more dramatic approaching The Gap, and the tiny town of Delaware Water Gap is very cute with very limited services. We ended up with a room at the very tired Pocono Inn and a great dinner at the Sycamore Grill.

We stopped at a bakery on the way back to the motel yahoo and gladly gave in to temptation.

We couldn't resist this after those yummy desserts.

[Do these guys look happy!? Tod calls each night just bubbling with joy — and proceeds to tell me how tired he is.]

May 11

After a pathetic breakfast at the motel — the most miserable continental breakfast we have ever seen: instant coffee, stale bagels, no eggs or anything hot — we had a great breakfast at the bakery down the street — eggs, sausage, and French toast from home-made raisin bread. They also made us huge sandwiches to go.

We walked across the river on the I-80 bridge (also the Appalachian Trail) and rode through the Delaware River National Recreation Area for 40 miles along the river, up valleys, and over hills with great scenery and NO traffic. Picnic lunch at Hen's Feet Corners. We're now staying at a motel in Matamoras, PA — across the river from the Port Jervis campground where Tod injured his foot two years ago and we had to abort our ride.

May 12

We had a very relaxing ride today through some Dutch country in southeastern New York State. It's getting even more hilly. As we ride east from here we will be riding over north-south ridges that were left by the last glacier. Up 'til now we'd been riding mostly north — rolling along with the ridges and valleys. We had a two-mile climb up to Mount Hope, NY, and then we rode generally eastward over the challenging Shwanagunk Ridge to another valley, another ridge, etc. No traffic and beautiful scenery. In the town of Gardiner we found a bakery that served rich chocolate ice cream. Earlier on the route we had found pancakes, so the ice cream was, well, icing on the cake. Off to the north we could see an impressive ridge with stone outcroppings.

In New Paltz, NY, we stayed with Warmshowers hosts David and Hollis Dukler, with a beautiful view out to Sky Top and the Shwanagunk Ridge. David does social work with high school students, and Hollis is a realtor. David was riding the East Coast, but had to fly home after being hit by a car (while walking!) and breaking his arm in Charleston, SC. Wonderful meal on the deck as the sun set, swapping lots of stories and touring philosophies. Bill slept on a futon downstairs, while I slept in their new pop-up trailer in the back yard.

Here is Bill in front of the Majestic View Farms, followed by the view from our host's deck.

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May 13

Cloudy start, as we rolled into the historic district of New Paltz with its stone houses from the Heugonot settlement of the late 1600s. Rode the 1.3-mile, very high, railroad bridge over the Hudson River into Poughkeepsie. This is the longest pedestrian-only (including bicycles) bridge in the world.

Great second breakfast at the 1950s Eveready Diner across from FDR's home in Hyde Park. Lots of hills heading east. Sprinkles caused us to don rain jackets, but we never really needed them. How do you like my rainhat?

A few rough miles on Route 44 followed by gorgeous paved Harlem River Valley Rail Trail. We enjoyed excellent coffee and the richest brownie we have ever had at Irving Farm in Millerton. Then a few more miles on Route 44 to Lakeville. Lou (Chaplain) and Kathy (pre-K teacher) Pressman, who are friends of Barkers, hosted us in their home on the campus of Hotchkiss School.

Beautiful! They took us for a cook-out supper at school, gave us very comfortable beds in separate rooms, and provided us with the best breakfast of the trip at the school dining room. To top it off, Kathy even made us oatmeal cookies (which became very important on Saturday). I don't understand how Sherm and Carol Barker have so much leverage on so many people, but they have all been fantastic.

May 14

Cloudy all day, but NO rain. Hilliest day of the trip, but beautiful scenery, riding, and low traffic. Bill noticed a loose bottom bracket in Norfolk, so we searched the web (on his phone), found a bike shop in Granby near our route, called to make an appointment, and pressed on. Arrived in Granby at 2, received excellent service and new bottom bracket in 1 hour, and still arrived at motel row near Bradley Airport by 4. Bill has had several mechanical problems, but he has done a great job scheduling them where there have been bike shops and on days when we have had some time leeway. Although there is some kind of basketball tournament in town (in May??), we found a room at the Hampton Inn, and they provided a courtesy shuttle 2 miles down the road to an excellent meal at the Tunxis Grill. We split one dessert!

We had lots of discussion about where to stay tomorrow night (where lodging is very scarce in the middle of nowhere) and whether we can run 95 miles to his home in Harvard in 1 day instead of 2. Weather looks iffy, as it has for several days. Why make decisions before you have to. Stay tuned!

May 15 to 17 — The Final Days

We’re home and dry, after finishing with two wet and hilly days across Connecticut and up to Newmarket. Much more rain and hills in the last two days than in all previous 34 days combined.

Sunday, May 15, (Day 34) we holed up for 1.5 hours in a friendly café in Stafford Springs, while a storm cell (red and orange on the radar) passed over. Most of the day was fog, drizzle, and light rain, as we dealt with a roller coaster of short steep hills, back roads, and very little traffic. We pushed on for a long day into Bill’s home in Harvard, which was very welcoming.

Monday, May 16, I took advantage of a free day in Harvard to visit our old church, library, and enjoy watching the King’s Speech. Lyn and Bill’s sons and girlfriends joined us for a celebration dinner at the home of Bill and Kathy.

Tuesday, May 17, (Day 36) we left Bill’s in light rain for the final leg to my home in Newmarket. We hit a half-hour of heavy rain in Acton, and then another hour of hard rain for the final leg from Exeter to Newmarket. The reward was a greeting party of a dozen neighbors, who waited for us in the rain with champagne, fireworks, and cookies. It reminded me how special our community is. Then another small celebration dinner at our home.

In summary, it was truly a fantastic trip — even better than I had expected or hoped for. For 36 days we averaged 14 mph on the bikes, 60 miles per day, and about 6 hours of elapsed time on the road each day. This trip would measure 1,200 miles on I-95, our route mapped out at 1,800 miles on back roads, and we actually rode 2,060 miles (sightseeing, looking for lodging, etc.).

The highlights, perhaps in some order of priority: We arrived safe with all our body parts intact. Bill was a great touring partner, compatible, and never complaining. The 14 families who hosted us (a few long-time friends and family and many brand-new friends) were wonderful — unbelievably generous, supportive, and helpful. Our aging bodies held up well — very tired every evening and refreshed the next morning. Our bikes held up well, with only a few problems that we caught in advance to avoid bigger surprises (replace bottom bracket, adjust wheel hub, new tire). No flat tires. Good weather for 33 of 36 days. Tailwinds were strong and headwinds were modest. Interesting and helpful people all along the way. Mostly quiet pretty roads with relatively few short connections on ugly highways. Motels and restaurants pretty well spaced at about 50-mile intervals.

It’s very hard to highlight the best places, states, or areas. Many have their own unique and special qualities. Jekyll Island is a cyclist’s paradise (at least off-season) with bike trails, campground, motels, and good restaurants. The Outer Banks were a treat of barrier beach islands — a mile wide and 100 miles long — with a tailwind. Virginia is lovely rolling farm country. Riding bike trails in and out of Washington was very pleasant, and the mall area is very special and moving. The 40-mile rail trail from Cockeysville, MD, to York, PA, is beautiful. Valley Forge is beautiful and moving. The Delaware River is delightful on quiet roads and bike trails along canals. The 1.3-mile bike trail bridge very high over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie is impressive. Dutchess County, NY, is lovely farm country. And Connecticut has lots of ridges and valleys formed by the glaciers!

Sunday, May 21 — The rain finally stopped and I rode the final leg to Kittery Maine today, thereby riding in all the states along the east coast of the USA.

Thanks again to all who have supported us — both directly and indirectly. Especially our wives!