Archive for December, 2008

Part 4

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008




Chicago, Illinois

Day 35 {Monday}

0 miles

 Off day!  I got to sleep in, Julia went out for her morning walk and brought back the coffee that apparently runs America.  In the afternoon it was down to the Michigan Avenue clinic for some x-rays.  Nothing looks too threatening but I am now wearing a brace on my wrist, the doctors are concerned my shoulder and arm pain could get worse and need to be followed up by my doctors back in New York.

 Anyway I really love Chicago.  I looked but didn’t see Oprah.  I did drive around, downtown for an hour or so, running up and down different avenues seeing all this stunning architecture.  I even saw the buildings that were photographed for the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album by Wilco.

 Dinner for me was steak & eggs, pancakes and fries.  I didn’t eat the eggs or the p-cakes, but did slather butter all over my steak and ate the whole thing.  I’m sad that tomorrow morning we exit Chicago and Illinois.  I need at least another off day!



Chicago, Illinois to Elkhart, Indiana

Day 36 {Tuesday}

125 Miles

My first drum set was a vintage green metallic Leedy & Ludwig (1950’s era) kit, all original rims, lugs and casings, including working heaters that was made in Elkhart, Indiana.  Too young to appreciate them then, but today I’m excited to see the town where these beautiful, hand-me down tubs where born.  Wearing the immobilizer while cycling is alright, I can at least hold the grips tighter which gives me more confidence and stability, not to mention its rather tough looking with this black industrial brace on.  

The traffic was thick and we were in a hurry to meet with a few ladies who wanted to join us for a ride out of Chicagoland.

White Castle was our meeting point.  Julia and Pete had never had a slider.  Being only a single visit veteran to the castle a few years ago in Brooklyn, I was the only one who could order.  A fine lunch, however two sliders are really not enough for 125 miles so I had two more and an order of chicken rings.  Chicken rings; are small breaded circles of white meat substance.  Hmm-high living!

I of course got another flat.  Shocking, no. Annoying yes.

With all of the flooding the major roadways were closed thus making route 20 very, very congested and difficult to get through.  Today was the ideal climate for cycling, not too hot with a light cool breeze. While longing for the open roads of western Illinois, I was anxious and excited to arrive in a new state.  My elation dwindled as Pete and I were accosted by a malicious truck driver’s unrelenting desire to get us to fall of our bikes.  He failed.

The stunning setting sun made me fall in love with Indiana.  The orange glow of New Carlisle felt like a place I could call home, it is also where our clocks ticked back to Eastern Standard Time, yet another telling sign that we are closing in on the end of the road.

Dinner was in a delicious brewery, where a pitcher of beer was actually cheaper then a single pint.  So we all had our own pitcher.  


Elkhart, Indiana to Holiday City, Ohio

Day 37 {Wednesday}

85 Miles

Another beautiful morning, the riding was smooth, a little windy but a joy to be rolling.  The quaint towns of Indiana are exactly what I imagine quintessential Americana to be, it’s literally as if the sun shines red white and blue here.

To avoid flats I am trying on one of Pete’s Kevlar tires, which is actually seven centimeters to large for my frame.  Doesn’t sound like much, but it makes cornering rather challenging because the nose of my shoes interact with the spokes violently.  I fell off in the middle of the street because of it; I can’t wait to get this tire off! 

Julia and I split perhaps the best chocolate chip cookie sandwich at Shipshewana, the largest Amish community in the world.  I let Pete get a 30minute lead on me – I wanted to ride alone at my own pace and listen to music.  I hate to say the music I listen to when I ride isn’t what I normally have on my record player.  I tend to go after a little heavier rock, maybe some mathrock, grindcore or anything with Busta on it.  So today I rocked the Dillinger Escape Plan followed up by the Used.

As the riding got swift I started passing horse and buggy in between cars in the lanes -meaning I was able to keep pace with automobiles for extended periods.  It felt incredible to be going this fast, I love the feel and reaction my bike has to speed.  The sound of the bike as it cuts through the air is my addiction. 

Pete stopped for a rest, as his achilles has really taken on a vicious swelling and is causing him intense pain.  He claims it was all the walking in Chicago in his new crocs.  Whatever it is, it looks terrible, a bulging bright red sack on the hind part of his ankle, I’m grossed out, but part of me wants to poke a needle in it – at least maybe he’d get some relief.

Riding together, I popped another flat.  Upon removing the tire we found a minuscule piece of metal, I of course had to run over it with my rear tire, the non-Kevlar protected.  I have only one tube left and its not new, it has a slow leak, but I think I can ride on it long enough tomorrow to get to a bike shop.  I hopped on my mountain bike for the rest of the afternoon into Ohio, planning to change the tube in the morning.

We roll into Ohio amongst a beautiful prairie sunset.  The sky, screaming with a breathtaking blood, red orange, I am made acutely aware that shorter days and the harvest are approaching faster than I’d like.  Feeling grateful for not having to ride nauseous these past few days, I’m riding with the same excitement I had back in Oregon, I feel blessed to be out here, borrowing these roads.

Our hotel was beautiful, almost gothic despite it being new.  For dinner we had to drive to the next town, because Holiday City, Ohio isn’t much of a town and certainly is not a city, it consists of two gas stations and two hotels, ours is obviously the five star stay, but it really is immaculate. 

Hooker was the name of our frenetic waitress. She showered us with boundless love and gave us memorable time, in the city that looked exactly like the town from Back to the Future.  Being sick and tired of burgers, or chicken sandwiches, Pete and I both had a “thanksgiving dinner.”  The absurd amount of tasteless food made us both feel like gluttons, but it was fun. 

After dinner, Julia and I had to do an interview with David Wilson, who is writing a feature on us for the Purchase Magazine.  We were on the phone for over an hour.  There really isn’t sleep on the road.  Ever.  Especially not for Julia.


Holiday City, Ohio to Fremont, Ohio

Day 38 {Thursday}

85 Miles

Wow, what a morning!  The sunrise today is as beautiful as last night’s sunset.  I snuck out early to repair my flat, switch out the bulky tire and make a couple of brake adjustments.  While out at the car, a hotel employee came over for a chat.  He asked me a lot of questions before noticing my guitar in the back of van, which provided him with an excuse to tell me about his true calling, his true passion, country music.  I was surprised to learn about all the country jams they have out here in the middle of nowhere, but what really turned me on was his insatiable thirst for music, it turns out he just turned 60 and only recently picked up the guitar, four years earlier.  I spent the rest of the day wondering what if all musicians where that inspired? (!)

When we were able to get on our bikes, I instantly noticed that my rear tire had already begun to run flat.  The tube’s leak wasn’t as slow as I had hoped!  To make matters worse the nearest bike shop was forty miles ahead, into a head wind that according to NOAA was blowing in our faces at a steady 20 to 23 miles per hour according.  At four miles in of struggling, my rear is running on the rim.  I had to pull off and catch the van to get air in it.  I also want to put the PAT on my handle bar to see how that’ll work in severe wind.  Pete wasn’t in the mood to have to stop so he went on.  That was the last we rode together today.

I grabbed my hand pump, tied on the PAT and set back out on my way.  I had to stop about another three miles, with only seven miles on my cyclometer my mind starts to take over and relentlessly starts beating me up saying get on the 29er and get to the bike shop without all this stopping. 

I got on the 29er.  Now my road bike weighs less than 17 pounds, my 29er is a little more than 35.  With such high winds in my face, admittedly the 29er was a huge mistake.  The distance between Pete and I grew to almost 18 miles.  I stopped for about an hour to fix the clipless pedals on the 29er which creates an even larger space between us. 

About 10 miles away from the bike shop I had had enough of the pain and struggle I was enduring on the 29er, so it was back to my roadie.  I put an additional 20 pounds of air pressure in my leaking tire with hopes that it could last a little longer, perhaps even enough to get me to the bike shop.

The bike shop didn’t exist.  After making a wrong, turn and loosing the chase van, I did find a ski shop that had a bicycle annex.  I was able to buy their remaining two tubes – luckily they were my size. 

Pete was now in Toledo, Ohio at least 25 miles ahead of me.  I was bummed that it had taken me the better part of the day to go these 50 miles.  Fully inflated I was cruising as hard as I could, given the traffic, stopping at lights and another couple of wrong turns, it was back to the mental struggle to not beat myself up for not being able to catch up to Pete.  I started to give up.  I wanted to stop riding for the day.  I was psyching myself out, attacking my resolve.  When I heard from Julia that Pete was only a few miles from Fremont, it was almost 6 pm and I had convinced myself that I was a failure, with 12 miles left to ride, it would have taken me less than an hour, but I stopped and put the bike on the van.  I quit.  I let the pain and frustration make my decision. 

Our dinner was at the only Chinese restaurant in town.  Our waitress, Sue who had been there for 35 years was spectacular.  We engaged her and peppered her with questions about the town, unfazed she left nothing out and included stories of her family, grandchildren and her late husband, the chief of police.

All in all I learned that even though I’ve taken this trip, I’m still me.  I still hold myself to perhaps too high of a bar and that I shouldn’t beat myself up as much and at the same time I need to learn how to give myself a break.


Fremont, Ohio to Cleveland, Ohio

Day 39 {Friday}

87 Miles

Today started early.  We had a photo shoot in the parking lot of the hotel at 8 am.  Then Julia, Pete and I had a newspaper interview while on the road.  Sue, the waitress from the last night, hooked us up with a radio interview.  She had called the hotel and tracked us down and caught Meghan as we were all getting ready to roll.

We had an interview set up with a local reporter who was close friends with the parents of a cyclist who was killed two weeks prior.  The father wanted to meet us.  I was unsure of what this experience was going to be like.  His child, 18 years old, was killed on his bicycle two weeks ago, hit head on by a drunk driver.  He was a freshman on the cycling team, away from home for the first time at college.  Pete and I shook his hand over and over again.  His strength, unlike anyone I’ve ever met held on to his emotions to tell us stories of his son.  Told us how he had traveled to the jail to meet the 23 year old driver of the suv that took his child’s life, told us how he had forgave him and hoped he could do something meaningful with his life.  I was speechless and am still moved by him, I will never forget this morning. 

Well, our ride was going pretty well, I stopped at another bike shop to buy some tubes and discuss cycling with the owner, while Pete got out a head of me again.  When I got back on the bike, I was flying, 24 mph.  It was awesome.  I was passing cars, leading the escort vehicle at a construction zone that was a seven mile stretch.  I felt like changing the music in my ears so I reached around my back and pulled out my ipod and pda.  While fidgeting with my gadgets, I hit a patch of loose stone and at 26 mph went sailing over freshly paved tarmac.  The road rash was unique, just pealed skin, no gushing blood.  It stung a little, but I didn’t really care.  I was mostly shocked that not one of the few hundred cars, lined up for their turn through the construction zone asked if I was all right.  One lone truck driver just looked at me shook his head and giggled as I gathered my things and hopped back on my bike.  Just then Pete called and told me he was having a union break and drinking a soda a few miles ahead saying he’d wait.

When we got riding again, he saw my bright red skinless left elbow (&area) and exclaimed, “How’d that happen, Jackass?”  Funny both he and Julia call me “Jackass, ” which would only be cool if my name was Steve-O or Knoxville.

The closer we got to Cleveland of course the traffic picked up.  Given that this is Friday afternoon rush hour and we’re on major sub and urban thoroughfares its bound to get dicey.

It did.  About 15 miles or so left in our ride, I was struck by a minivan.  When I saw the green van cut a few feet in front of me, I yanked my brakes and unclipped, I knew it was going to hurt.  My front tire got clipped and the bar end of my handle bars jabbed me directly on the left side of groin/pelvis, not more than a couple of centimeters from my where my leg and pelvis had separated the last time I was struck by a car.  When I looked back at Pete he was under the bumper of another car, we gave each other a typical “You’re ok” nod, as we knew it was ass-kicking time.  The driver had turned into the bank they were headed for.  I instantly took my helmet off and threw it at the car, striking its rear window.  Yelling for them not to go any further, I realized I was walking very well.  Pete was already at the window of the driver, who turned out to be an older woman on her cell phone, completely shocked and unknowing and uncaring that she had just hit us.  After we told her how dangerous what she had done to us was, she really didn’t care and just wanted to get on with her business.  Beside myself, I sat down on the curb and took a few minutes to calm down.  I checked over both bikes and made sure Pete didn’t get hurt either.  Although he would never let on if anything was bothering him.

With that behind us, it was back on the bike.  I was getting cold and my back and leg were really sore as we made our way into this beautiful city.  Our hotel and dinner were complimentary tonight so we decided to live it up a little.  Still in our cycle clothing we sat out side a brewery and had a nice relaxing recap of the day.  Then it was on the Macaroni Grille for another free delicious meal. 

Our hotel was the Holiday Inn Select, a little bit nicer than the amazing Holiday Inn Expresses we’ve been staying in for the bulk of the trip, the beds were massive and rooms were nicely appointed.  After my shower I noticed the discoloration of my pelvis and the golf ball that was growing there.  I looked in the mirror, raised my left elbow and shook my head.  Today things could have been a lot worse, but we got through another day on the road. What a great day really!


Day 40 {Saturday}

Cleveland, Ohio to Erie, Pennsylvania

102 Miles

Hard to get out of that huge bed after only a few hours; I feel that I may never be able to sleep enough to make up for these long days.  I’m always so tired.  The hotel hooked us up with breakfast then it was back on the bike.  I’ve been wearing the helmet camera a lot lately, but am really psyched to be wearing it today, giving a clear depiction of cycling though this placid city morning. 

Downtown the streets were empty with glorious morning sunlight breaking past the concrete cut canyons of buildings and streets, while the drone of a sleeping city made our ride feel magical, if only for a few minutes. 

Shortly on, towards the eastern part of town, it was revoltingly apparent where a line had been crossed between the “good” and “bad” sections of town.  It was as if a police state had taken over and the city’s alders had forgone its duty of keeping a sustainable condition of life.  Not to mention the basic civics of usable roads that include working traffic signals and buildings with power.  It was early in the morning and a fire truck with blaring sirens and flashing lights, was cutting cars off, Pete and I were looking for a fire, trying to smell the smoke, because the truck was rolling about as fast as us, 16mph.  Being so close to the air piercing horns, it was painful, our ears were cracking from the pressure– and then the truck stopped, stopped traffic too, as two firemen got out of with bags of groceries, and dropped them in front of the firehouse.  Then snickering they got back in to truck to resume the blaring of their sirens and horns.

I was appalled.  Not to be outdone however, we saw a man being arrested, shook down, searched, cuffed and scared.  The streets were littered with obstacles, potholes, pavement that bubbled up like tumors, loose stone and broken glass covered the road way like sand.  It was a long haul getting out of Cleveland.

The traffic got much thicker when the neighborhood changed to typical suburbia again.  I must say its far worse to ride through the burbs than any city I’ve ever rolled in.  Granted it was a Saturday morning, but really more like a parade of SUVs and we got caught at what seemed like every light.

We could hardly break 15mph with all this ridiculous stop and go traffic.  A an old man beeped his horn and pointed at me, trying to get my attention so I followed him into the parking lot and asked him what his problem was – he said that we should be riding on the sidewalk, I told him that it was actually illegal and he huffed and went on his way.  I’m tired of engaging lunatics; I’m tired of sharing the road with them and trusting their humanity to keep us safe.

Lunch was awesome, I love fast food and today was Chick Filet.  My first Chick Filet meal was in Texas back in January, I’ve raved about it since and have been craving that chicken fried goodness this whole trip.  Today I took full advantage of our suburban isolation and rode until we found one.

We had to hurry because outside of Erie tonight we were meeting with Julia’s mother, sister and Meghan’s father Pat who were going to ride with us into town and we had to hurry because we needed to time it accordingly with the sunset.  Also we were heading to an Oktoberfest party at the BrewErie.

One more quick stop in Ohio at Bernie Baker’s bike and art shop.  Bernie builds recumbent bicycles and is a wonderful still life painter.  I had a blast fumbling around his shop, I even got to sit in his private modified Velokit – the Velokit is an enclosure that wraps around your recumbent bicycle ideal for inclement weather cycling, especially excellent for folks who ride their bikes to and from work daily.  Bernie’s is a little different, featuring a windshield wiper, vents and an all weather lightweight fiber, providing even more protection.  I loved it and want one.

 As the afternoon wore on, we crossed into Pennsylvania.  The temperature was perfect, the sunlight a gorgeous orange and then all of the sudden we were smack dab in the concord grape vineyards.  The timing was perfect as it was harvest season and the aroma of fresh grapes overwhelmed our senses and refreshed us for the rest of the day’s ride.

Our guest riders rode like the wind, I’m impressed, it was really nice to ride with family the last few miles.  After a quick interview for one of the local television stations it was on to Oktoberfest, which was actually a lot of fun, decent beer and excellent weinershinztle, along with an Oompa band and great friends, this is the best Oktoberfest I’ve ever attended!


Day 41 {Sunday}

Erie Pennsylvania, Off Day

0 miles

A typical beautiful Erie morning to wake up to, another reporter came over to talk about the mission and film us riding around.  I had some bike repairs to make and some shopping to do, before it was off the Meghan’s father and close pal Pat’s house for a nice home cooked dinner. 

We are staying in Julia’s mother, Kathy’s home.  Kathy being a very generous supporter of our trip loaned us her van for all of the 12,000 + miles we were traveling, that grey Honda Odyssey has become our rolling home base, office, refuge, beacon and relief.  I could not imagine a more perfect car, other than an H1 Hybrid, if one existed.

It was good to be with family for an afternoon and eat some excellent food.  Pat even baked us a pie, with a bicycle carved in the crust.  Awesome! 


Day 42 {Monday}

Erie, Pennsylvania to Buffalo, New York

94 Miles

Wind! Wind! Wind! Wind! Terribly strong wind in our face or as big brother stammers, “in our puss!”  However it’s said it’s horrible and makes for some very tough riding.  Although I speak for everyone and anyone who’s been out in this part of country, it is rather hard to be upset or angry in this exceptionally stunning part of our planet, especially this time of year.

Jogging back a little, Erie was tough to leave, a lot of traffic and tough to say goodbye to family, but the show goes on.  We grooved as smoothly as we could today given the oppressive power of the breeze.  One amazing aspect of the thunderous air that fought us like a tyrant was that it came with such a wonderful bouquet of the ripe concord grapes.  As angry and frustrated as we were with having to use three or four times as more effort to go at a slow pace, the aroma was ironically breathtaking. 

It was bittersweet if not a lot more bitter (for me) to cross back in to New York State.  We did so with such little fanfare, a few photographs, hugs and some commiserating between Julia and I off camera, its tough to be getting close the termination of this journey that has brought us closer as a couple, but mostly as people, all of us for that matter.

We stopped to have lunch in a gorgeous park, where I gave an interview for the local Syracuse newspaper via cell phone.  The reporter was awesome and seemed really excited about what we were trying to accomplish.  I love that!  I love it when people are turned on by the mission and take it upon themselves to sink their teeth into getting the message out to the masses, which will save lives. 

Autumn in the northeast is ridiculous.  The colors are astounding and we were rolling through the peak.  I’ve driven these roads a lot and been out here often, but being here by bicycle is truly a gift, amazing to really get a sense of the land, smell the harvest, the dirt, feel the not yet totally cool air.  I could ramble on for days.  We stopped a short while in Fredonia, in front of the building where I recorded my first album after college.  I half lived here, Buffalo and Skaneateles that summer, recording and riding my bike everywhere I could.  It was a strange time, none of us had any money and we were living on our own, well, with a lot of help.  That was my last summer upstate before moving to New York City officially and in a lot of ways was the last summer of my childhood.  Within a few months the world would change and so would my outlook on most things.

Anyway the further east we rolled, we crossed a reservation and meet some pretty cool, American Indians.  Pete drank a mountain dew and ate a bag of combos to help get him the last 40 miles.  He told me an awesome story of how he stole home plate on his high school baseball team.  We talked about physics and didn’t stop rolling for over 30 miles, our longest continuous spin in a few states.  It just happened that way, we just didn’t have to stop, no traffic lights, left alone by cars, it was as if we were on a particular mission to Buffalo and actually we were.  We were meeting some more family at Duff’s in Orchard Park.  Duff’s is the home of the Buffalo Chicken wing and every time I get to Buffalo which fortunately is often, I manage to get a Duff’s stop in, and tonight would not be an exception.  In the parking lot as we rolled in we were met by Julia’s grandparents and a few aunts and uncles along with a television crew.  After a brief interview, a few photos with the waitresses it was time to chow and boy did we. 

Our hotel was nice and fancy, a huge bed, the only problem was the hotel was a labyrinth, it was a real mystery to find our rooms and get there from the parking lot, it was annoyingly comical.



Day 43 {Tuesday}

Buffalo, New York to Lima, New York

83 miles

We woke to another absolutely beautiful autumn morning, another great day to be out on a bike.  Before the wheels could turn I desperately needed to clean my cog from being over lubed by the last repair in Iowa.  I should have done so much sooner, the build up was severe and messy.  The ride was much smoother after the cleansing.

The riding was uneventful today, mostly just beautiful autumn and a little warm which was also nice.  About 25 miles from our destination we stopped and had some delicious ice cream.  I was getting excited for the hotel tonight because it was our last “mom and pop” and I had driven by it on a few recon trips.   In my mind it seemed like a real classy bed and breakfast type of place.  It turned out to be quite the surprise!  The rooms haven’t been changed since the 1930’s, an aspect the current owners are proud of, the beds were all painful, there was a toilet was in our room, with a sink.  The shower was next to Pete’s bed in the next room.  A third room, with strangers in it had to share with us as well.  Fortunately they didn’t have the need and we never saw them.  Pete and Meghan’s room had a television, with only one station.  Our room didn’t have a television or a light bright enough to read which didn’t matter to us as we had to head out after dinner to locate some wireless internet and find something for my left eye, my good eye, which was really hurting. 

Before I talk about the hotel any further I want to mention that Julia’s aunt Christine had made signs for us along the roadway about 5 or 6 miles out of town, which were really touching.  She had also created a gift basket full of wine and delicious beer that was waiting for us on the porch of the hotel.  As Pete and I rolled into town she had gathered a bunch of folks to clap for us too, which was also really touching, thank you Christine!

Julia’s uncle Dana and aunt Sharon along with their son, Dylan joined us for dinner at the hotel.  The menu wasn’t very extensive except for the 55 different soups they offered.  Soup! I find it suspect that a person’s passion is Soup.  I like a good soup now and again, but let me recite some of their flavors, cheeseburger soup, macaroni & cheese soup, Meatloaf soup, Potato and Squash Soup among a few other classics.  I stuck with a messy chicken sandwich that was surprisingly good and worth biking to Lima for, however I was bummed that fries were not offered.

Later on at Tom Wahl’s a local chain restaurant Julia and I found Internet, doughnuts, root beer and fries, we were actually given every French fry left in the fryer, what a great group of folks there at Tom Wahl’s.  On our way back to the hotel I saw in the dark the ghost bike memorial for Jonathan Dechau, a 33 year old father of two, cyclist who was killed by a woman downloading ringtones on her cell phone while driving.


Day 44 {Wednesday}

Lima, New York to Skaneateles, New York

70 miles

We woke up early, no showering for me, not last night nor this morning, I wanted to get out quick and early.  The sleep was restless as the truck traffic was non-stop all night, keeping all four of us rather awake.  I ate a stale bagel and drank some black coffee from a no-name gas station and then it was back on the road.  The riding was comfy today, we knew we were heading to our childhood home, it had been 3000 miles of road, and we were on the short ride into town.  Well it wasn’t that short as we had to time it right for the media and our friends and family who were planning on greeting us as we arrived in town. 

Lunch was at a winery, we sat outside on the porch and ate the remainder of Pat’s pie, its no wonder why I haven’t lost any weight on this trip given all the goodies I gorge myself with daily.  I think I had three pieces of that pie today, not to mention a dozen or so twizzlers, a coke, and about six cookies.  In my tight Canari’s I must look like the Michelin man, I afraid of seeing myself in the camera.

In Geneva, New York there is an awesome bike shop, which I have looked forward to stopping at since we started riding and, of course, today it’s closed!  The only day a week they close is Wednesday.  Despite being disappointed it was still cool of them to have our poster in their window. 

Well our next stop was just outside of Waterloo at a Byrne Dairy where big brother Pete got his first flat!  I fixed it for him but not without a lot of laughter and stuffing the afore mentioned six cookies down my fat throat.  His Kevlar tires protected him well across the United S. of A. but was no match for upstate New York.  In all fairness the tires were amazing, we found at least a dozen bits of debris that would have shredded my tubes, so he was really fortunate to have such an awesome set of rollers, thanks Vittoria!  Being sentimental we retired that tire and put a brand new fresh one on for him.

Our last stop before getting to Skaneateles was in the canal town of Seneca Falls, where Pete treated us to a history lesson on this Erie Canal town.  We had a little over 20 miles left to roll and this was a really nice little break, to sit by the water and think of what it must have been like 150 years ago. 

A few miles outside of Auburn, New York, our supporter Todd Diel rolled up to us on his beautiful Harley Davidson with a fist in the air and massive chest pumping growl! An awesome welcome to say the least, the first thing Todd said about our bikes when he rolled back up to us was, “looks cool, but there isn’t enough chrome boys.”

As we rolled into town it was great to see my parents, friends of theirs, life long friends of Pete’s, Erin and her parents and Mrs. Fagal, my fifth grade teacher who has been a tireless supporter of our efforts and mission.  The reunion was just perfect as it didn’t last too long and we were able to sneak back to my folk’s house for that long awaited shower.

Later in the evening a few dozen more people turned up to meet with us and have a nice gathering.  My mom had made sauce and meatballs for us that were excellent (on order from my attorney –seriously call him, Vincent Corbacio of Hillsberg, Sharp, Corbacio & Vitiello)   

It felt good to be around a lot of people and it never at all felt too heavy, folks were all in their own conversations and not focusing on us, which was the best for me, I was able to sneak outside and sit in the cool autumn and watch the stars.  Then a tired came over me that I couldn’t explain so it was off to bed.


Day 45 {Thursday}

Skaneateles, New York

0 miles


Today was not necessarily an off day.  It was an early wake up and rush down to State Street School in Skaneateles, to meet and talk to a group of third graders.  I felt what I had to say was rather lame but all of the children were so excited and great to be around.  Their questions were excellent and all promised to wear helmets for the rest of their cycling lives, which overall is all that matters.  Mrs. Fagal brought her class in first which was nice and gave me an opportunity to meet them individually and learn their names.

While there a local tv station came by and ended up doing a really great story on the trip, film and mission.  Tanja Babich the reporter did a really excellent job and I was really touched by how much she cared about the film and our goals.

So then it was off to Jordan Elbridge to meet with a group of eager 6th graders, led by our pal, teacher Christopher Palen.  Another really rewarding experience with a group of excellent kids!  They each took turns lifting my bike and asking what kinds of tricks could I pull off.  I can jump over a lot of obstacles on and off road and go really fast, but I’m not good at doing any serious stunts like Wade Simmons or Travis Pastrana,  I hate to disappoint so I’ll try and work up something for next time.

A brief lunch break back at my folks, then it was off to Skaneateles High School, to meet with 11th and 6th grade students, with teachers Peter Chapman, Liz Hyatt and Mitch Major. 

It was nice to see a few of my former teachers, including Ms. Georgia Peach who taught me how to think differently.

Over the last week or so, I’ve grown a gnawing pain in my left eye.  Julia took a quick look and made me make an appointment in town, so it was off to my childhood optometrist.  As it turns out wearing contacts everyday for the last two months with grease and road grim on my hands have led to a bulging corneal ulcer in my “good” eye.  I suffer form significant keratoconus in my right eye so having this new ulcer is making seeing hard.  My cautious doctor frightened me stating I could do permanent damage to my one good eye.  It should clear up with mediated drops and no more contacts for at least 3 months.

Later on in the evening we gave a presentation at the downtown library – there were a lot of faces there so thank you for coming, paying attention, asking your questions and taking a step toward being safe.

Before heading off to bed, I had to fix Pete’s brakes, swapping out his pads, with the worn cable I hope my rigging holds.


Day 46 {Friday}

Skaneateles, New York to Waterville, New York

60 Miles

Woke up to a typical central New York rainy day.  As we got our things together said our goodbyes and made it on our way, Pete’s cable gave out and his brakes ceased up.  I felt like I could adjust them, so back to my dad’s garage to spend a very frustrating hour making no headway in trying to make up for the stripped cable.  The pressure was on, as we had a date with the Lafayette Middle School 18 miles away up hill, it was the student’s recess and they were expecting us. 

Then my dad had a stroke of genius that allowed us to make it happen for the kids.  Pete and I hoped in the car and drove just outside of Lafayette, then we movie faked it in to town on the mountain bikes.  We did this while Pete Sr. took big brother Pete’s bike to nearest bike shop to have them fix whatever I had made worse.  I’m really not a mechanic, I’ll tinker and try and repair something but like my uncle Joe, if I do end up fixing something, there will be (original) parts left over.

As we rode in the front of the school, the children charged us like a mosh pit.  It was an assembly line of high fives and autographs.  Autographs!  Bizarre and lovely, I will cherish those few minutes for the rest of my life.

We snuck back to the car and returned once again to my folk’s house, to begin again properly.  Today was the most important riding day off the trip, personally to both Pete and I.  The hills between Skaneateles and Waterville, New York are the most difficult in the country.  Yes not as high at the Rockies, not as dangerous as the Cascades, but a looming series of arduous, steep knolls that have haunted both of us our whole lives as cyclists.  I rode a short strain from Cazenovia to Cardiff about 26 miles back in May (West to East) on my 29er.  I topped off at a speed< 70 mph down a hill that had taken me 17 minutes to climb the other side.

On the first climb out of Skaneateles, Pete was tight on my rear; I stepped up off the saddle to crank harder as my left foot slipped out of the clip jerking me hard causing me to crash to the pavement in one swift motion.  Pete’s front tire buckled on my mangled bike because he was sharing my line, he ended up in a somersault over me, slamming his shoulder elbow and back to the tarmac.  We both laid there for what felt a lot longer than five seconds, then I got up quickly and moved our carnage from the road way.  The van was coming up and found us on the ground.  Ok but upset, I felt guilty for taking the big guy out, not to mention hurting him.

As the rains grew harder and harder, there we were shivering up and down this beautiful pass, my brakes were so weak, I had to squeeze my the levers to handle bars to actually slow me down, my pads had finally worn and in the rain were now very dangerous.  I love danger, but this is getting stupid.  I couldn’t keep my bike under 40 on these slick roads.  Imagine a burn out, at that speed, well, I was trying not to, but the shimmer on my skinny bald tires held the reminder for me.  So I took of my glasses so I couldn’t really see them all that well.

We had a quick visit with an old college professor of mine and toured his new home.  He was surprised to see us and very generous and happy that we stopped by.  Shortly thereafter I suffered a flat.  My fingers struggled in the icy rain to remove the tire to swap out the tube, so it took even longer to make the repair.  Another endless climb followed as the rains picked up.  Having taken my glasses off, I was starting to get a little dizzy, so to avoid spiking another headache I was riding my head down.

What seemed out of nowhere and for no particular reason I picked my head up just in time to see that I was about to hit a mailbox.  Square in the chest the black plastic farmhouse shaped box broke apart and fell to the tarmac with me. I stayed on the ground for a minute, cursing and kicking my bike into the ditch.  Pete passed me, nobly refraining from laughing in my face.  Angered and even more defeated I did get back up on my bike and continue riding, if not for a few minutes of rightful rage.  My chest thumping anger even scared off a dog that was barking at me.

We make it to Cazenovia and stopped in McDonalds for some delicious fast food and warmth.  Another hour off grey sunless riding remained before we retired for the day. 

Our hotel for the night was the same hotel Pete and I stayed in with our Dad on our bike trip out to Cape Cod back in 1992.  We were wet and grimy then too, except without a chase van so we had to bring our bikes directly into the room.  Sad to say the hotel seemed to have stayed the same, no elevators and difficulty getting around, but the rooms were large and surprisingly relaxing.


Day 47 {Saturday}

Waterville, New York to Albany, New York

111 Miles

Up early and out riding, a little soaker but our new cool weather cloths from Canari arrived at my folk’s house and today they made their protective debut, suspending us from the elements.  There is something costume like wearing these fresh tights, leg warmers and shells.  We were on a hustle today we had to reach Richfield Springs for an interview before lunch and then about 20 miles outside of Albany a group of riders from the New York Bicycle Coalition were going to escort us down to the capital where we were giving a speech at a fundraiser for the NYBC.

Before we could get rolling both our bikes needed some repair.  Fortunately on the annex of an auto body shop was a bicycle repair shop.  For $8 we had Pete’s bike restrung with a new brake cable, my 29er’s disc brakes tightened and my roadie brakes adjusted.  The shop was sweet and the owner/wrench was a character.

Before our typical pbj lunch we met with the reporter and had some photos taken.  Ten miles later I got another flat.  While changing the tire we realized we were running out of time considering the amount of miles we had to make.  In our haste to get back out on the road, Julia left her very expensive tripod on the side of the road, of course we didn’t realize until much later and sent my parents out to retrieve it, while they were rushing to meet us in Albany.

The NYBC folks greeted us with cheers that were very kind, but made me feel uncomfortable, considering they were going to have to wait a little longer because I got another flat.  Julia’s father Len, had driven up from his home outside of Baltimore to ride this spit into Albany with us, got to mount my 29er.

The ride in was pleasant, a lot of good conversation, although I mostly listened.  Len rode hard, perhaps a little harder than necessary.  I felt terrible as he was not all that accustomed to riding a big wheeled bike with a bizarre gear ratio, which kept skipping on him. 

Riding with a group through a city is nice.  People stop and get out of the way, not everybody but most do, it was like Critical Mass, at least what CM was intended to be, not what it has become in a lot of cities, there was no violence or obnoxious cyclist screaming at motorists, just people working together being safe.  The closer we got to the venue for the fundraiser the more riders we gathered.  What an awesome way to close riding in our home state!

Except for my folks not being able to make it, Julia loosing her tripod and not having the proper adaptors for our computers to show the slide show it was an excellent discussion about safety.  It didn’t really feel like I was preaching to a choir, it was far more constructive and positive.  The interaction made me feel far more confident about the mission as a whole.

Our complimentary stay at the Crown Plaza courtesy of Joe Kelly and Lodgian, was just in the shadows of the State Capital building, quite the view!  After a quick shower and change it was off to Chris and his fiancé Mary’s home for a dinner and party.  My parents, Julia’s father Len, Erin’s parents and a few of big brother’s other pals from Albany all hung out and had a nice evening bbq.


Day 48 {Sunday}

Albany, New York

0 Miles

Off day! Julia and I slept in a little.  Well at least until 8 am.  After the party last night Pete went to his home in Glens Falls for a day of relaxation.  Julia and I went out to breakfast with Len and took a short walk around Washington park, which is across the street from the Downtube Bicycle shop where I got my first 29er (the first bike I bought for myself).

After breakfast it was laundry time, of course our luxury hotel couldn’t accommodate us, but our trusty gps did and found us a facility next to a nice and delicious spicy burrito joint.  Since my brother has lived here for many years, I felt like I was somewhat familiar with the city.  In fact I love the city, the presence of government, but also the bohemian sense of metropolis that Albany embodies.  It reminds me of the west village in New York, just reduced to a few blocks.  I applaud Albany for its dedication to bicycle safety and creating an environment of safer road usage.

The ABC affiliate did a really nice story on me, which aired on the 6 o’clock news.

Dinner was in a gorgeous old brewery by the Hudson, excellent food and decent beer.



Day 49 {Monday}

Albany, New York to Springfield, Massachusetts

94 Miles

Morning came far too early.  Our friend David Wilson, the reporter and president of the Westchester Cycle Club drove up from his home in Rockland to ride along a little and finish his interview.

He was very inquisitive taking notes on everything we had in the van, on our bodies, our bikes, Julia’s camera gear and anything he could write about.  He rode with us about 15 miles and ate a few of Erin’s brownies before turning back.

After crossing into our final state the sky cleared as Pete and I retraced some of our steps from our trip with dad to the cape.  Of course we traditionally relived ourselves on the Appalachian Trail, took some photographs in revolutionary war cemetery and did a lot of reminiscing over the last 18 years.

After lunch we really found our groove, the autumn sun was perfect as was the sweet chilly air.  We were really moving, until I lost control of my front wheel and couldn’t correct, I took a super man across the tarmac, tearing off some skin on my knee and elbow.  My jersey ripped away and my Zoic baselayer, sheared off, blood was everywhere.  Pete who happened to be in front of me raced back and the car that was behind me stopped to see if I was ok.  This was my seventh fall and perhaps the gnarliest.   

After a dramatic discussion I was not allowed to ride the remaining 30 miles.  Pete did, as I stayed in the van, dabbing blood and stretching.

Our night’s rest came from another complimentary Crown Plaza and we had an awesome meal at a local Springfield brewery, so today wasn’t all that bad, just painful.



Day 50 {Tuesday}

Springfield, Massachusetts to Boston, Massachusetts

84 miles

The final leg of route 20!  We gave an interview for the Springfield paper in the rear parking lot of a radio station.  I spent the interview changing my cleats and clipless pedals because I suspected my falls had more to do with something mechanical not the hitting of my head like the rest of the team suspects.

Since suffering a concussion I didn’t know I would be prone to them reoccurring all that easier.  Maybe I did black out the last time I don’t recall what had happened, I remember starting to fall and glancing at my speedometer and thinking I’m going too fast for this not to hurt.  Imagine if we could harness that power of thinking in a split second and then of course defy gravity.  Oh well I can dream.

Anyway the riding today was much like yesterday, smooth and comfortable.  Then out of nowhere my hanger breaks… derailleur hanger snaps clean off.  The end of the bike unless I can get or at least find a derailleur hanger for a Raleigh 2008 Cadent FC, while in the middle of Massachusetts, this is not good.  

So I swap the pedals back on my 29er and mount up for the last 60 miles, stopping at any bike shop asking for help.  No luck!  No Raleigh dealers and my contact at Raleigh is away at Eurobike.  It looks like I’m going to have work even harder to finish the trip if even at all.

With everything going on, I’m also suffering from some severe diarrhea and now have to give an interview, suffice to say the majority of it was from a McDonalds bathroom, fortunately for them it was a phone interview.

Pete called in reinforcement and Erin found us Bicycle Bills in Alston, who hooked us up with master frame builder Arnie Mostowy.  Arnie said he would have a look, but we still had to finish the ride first.

The closer we got to Boston the more treacherous the roads became.  It was rush hour, the traffic was scary, and it was close call after close call.  All the years of riding in New York City seem like a walk in the park compared to today.  The drivers in Massachusetts are reckless, irresponsible and downright dangerous, there is nothing redeeming about their driving habits.  For the first and only time on the whole trip and since my accident have I ever been afraid of being on my bike.  I will forever be sickened by the nasty gestures and the disgraceful behavior the drivers of Boston greeted us with. 

All that said we flew into town, riding hard and with our heads down, the rains kicked up and then left us with a crisp and swift tail wind blowing us to the eastern termination of route 20 and the culmination of our dream.

It was surreal rolling to the END ROUTE 20 sign.  All the risky cycling we had done for the past 20 miles had retreated to the back of our minds and now we were filled with elation. A few hundred photos, hugs and cliché phrases we said, but it was a huge wordless sensation to meet the end of the way.

 Post celebration we drove over to Bicycle Bill’s where Arnie greeted us from behind the security door with cracked Budweiser’s and a huge open smile saying, “Welcome to Boston.”

As it turns out Arnie stayed on well after hours for us to turn up.  He took us down to the shop, where there was a frame jig and more tools than I have ever seen in a bike shop.  He never wavered in confidence about fixing my bike, what seemed like out of thin air he eyeballed some measurements and created a new hanger for me.  On top of that he didn’t charge me at all, but did say that it may not last.  As I sit here and edit this two days before Christmas 2008, that piece is still holding my bike together, even after another 1000+ miles of riding.

Despite the terrible drivers in Massachusetts, Arnie and Bicycle Bill’s redeemed a whole city and state. Well, that and another free night’s stay at the Residence Inn.


Day 51 {Wednesday}

Boston, Massachusetts to Marconi Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

105 Miles

Another beautiful sunrise and a never-ending breakfast.  Our last day on the trip, it has not hit me yet.  I racked my brain trying to come up with something profound to say, something enlightening to feel, but I’m overwhelmed.  I have just ridden my bicycle 3466 miles, in 51 days thereabouts.  I have seen things I never imagined.  I put my tire in the Pacific Ocean and drew a line due east to this point.  I don’t want it to end.  I never want it to end.  I have run out of country, out of road and out of time. 

The sun was setting as we road through the National Sea Shore’s winding roadway, as we rounded the final turn and saw my parents, their closest friends the Baules and Erin, with arms raised it was a tough moment.  Down the erosion stairs on to the beach, I didn’t know how to react.  I didn’t know what to do for the film, all the plans seemed to fade, so I mounted my bike and rode right into the water, the icy waves sinking my bike into the soot and I actually couldn’t ride anymore.

I wake up in pain everyday, it hurts me to sit, to walk, to lay down, it keeps me awake at night, keeps me feeling dark all day, all because someone carelessly ran me over one morning nearly two years ago.  It’s because of them, indirectly, that I am here, that I made it across the country.  That day changed my life, physically and challenges me mentally everyday, but I will never allow that to stop me from doing anything I want to, ever.