Shelagh’s Guide to Procrastination

Well, given that I started the blog nearly nine months ago, I have decided to let myself be the one to finish it with my own final entry.

So, you probably figured out that we’re home. We made it (ages ago), and we are still alive, and we have completed a somewhat clunky transition back into our regular life at home. Clunky, because life on the road was only about eating and sleeping and planning your next meal and bed, and pedaling and pedaling and pedaling. Like the not-quite-stable man I saw biking by in Key West on that first day of the trip, life on the road was about pedaling and pedaling and pedaling. (“I will not get off the bike; I will NOT!”)

Whereas life at home is about stuff. I don’t think I realized this before we did this trip—the extent to which life at home is about things: pieces of paper and pieces of clothing and books and computers and CDs. My return to this reality has been clunky. I don’t like having so many things. I want to get rid of things. I want a dumpster or a garage sale or something. I miss the bike and its simplicity. I miss choosing my clothes from one of two bags that carry five outfits, one of which is for sleep and two of which are for biking. Those outfits were absolutely enough for us. We didn’t lack for anything. And this is one lesson of the trip, for me: stuff—we have too damn much stuff.

Jerry’s done a beautiful job of describing our last days on the bikes. I’ll just add that when I saw Camel’s Hump, that iconic little mountain that’s visible from our town and resides on our shiny Vermont state quarters, I cried. Just a little. Not in a sloppy way. But, as much as the trip showed me that we have entirely too much stuff, it also showed me that I live in the right place. I love where I live, and I felt like Dorothy as I returned to it. (She was a cyclist as well, you might remember.) There’s no place like home.

So we got home and we unpacked (though this took days and days for some reason; I was loathe to put the panniers into the basement). We asked our pets for forgiveness. We walked around our property, taking note of the parsimonious signs of the spring of 2014. We made it to the wedding! We visited with friends. They asked a lot of questions. Here are some answers:

What is the first thing you did when you got home?

  • Shelagh: hugged Bondi, our dog. For about three hours. Also the cat, but only for about half a minute, because that’s what he wanted.
  • Jerry: walked the yard.

What blog posts did you never write?

  • “Gel Flow, My Ass”
  • “The Wheels on the Bus Go Over the Cyclist*”

How did people react to you, on the road?

  • A lot of people ignored us or gave us a wide berth. They seemed to think we were odd. Not sure why.
  • We found it really interesting that probably nine out of ten people who asked if we needed anything, asked where we’d come from and where we were going, asked if we were all right, expressed interest and curiosity, were African American. Not sure why or what this was about, but it was a thing.
  • Given the opportunity to talk about what we were doing, everyone was kind and open and supportive. Some people thought we were crazy, but they’d wish us well. These wishes were regionally specific. I think I’ve already said this. In the south, they were much more likely to be religious in nature: “Go with God,” “Godspeed,” “I’ll be praying for you,” that sort of thing. By the time we got to New England, the wishes were much more along the lines of “Be safe,” “Have fun,” “Good luck.” We appreciated every good thought.

Where were the drivers most and least respectful?

  • Jerry and I talked a lot about this, because we’d been told to expect certain things in certain areas. And it was true that there were almost no touring cyclists whatsoever in the south. We saw two women with panniers on our very first day out of Key West, and then much later—maybe in South Carolina—a guy who was going to Alaska eventually, but was swinging south before heading west. So not a lot of cyclists in the south. But that seemed to have no bearing on the drivers’ level of caution and respect. People were equally respectful and disrespectful regardless of region.
  • Our very worst five minutes on the bikes were in New Paltz, New York, where a record three drivers honked, cut us off, or gestured rudely within a five-minute period. It could have been anywhere, but it was there. I don’t know why, and I don’t really think it had much to do with New Paltz; it seemed like a coincidence.
  • * Much more scientifically measurable than the New Paltz driving record was our realization that, over the entire trip, our worst vehicular treatment was by school buses. Do not ask me why. You’d think they’d be careful drivers, with children in their care, but it seems they have their charges installed inside, and they are not responsible for the health or well-being of others. Also, they’re on a tight schedule (but so are UPS drivers and moving vans and city buses, who weren’t notably dangerous to us). So school buses were our worst vehicular interactions.

Who met you at the house when you arrived?

  • Our son was home for the weekend, but he’d gone out. We hadn’t told people when we’d get home. Jerry didn’t really like the idea of a welcome party. “We’re not heroes,” he said. And that’s true. But in retrospect, I think I’d have liked a welcome party. Just being honest here. It felt a little anti-climactic, riding down the driveway, just like we were returning from Price Chopper with a gallon of milk and a head of romaine. That said, we did invite friends over that night, and the celebration was great fun, and they showered us with smiles and kisses and hugs and Proseco.

Will you do this again?

  • I doubt it. Not in this same way. If it was possible to go back in time and either recommend this trip to my January self, or warn her that she should cancel, I’d whole-heartedly tell her to do the trip; it’s probably the best thing we’ve ever done. But now, we’ve done it. I could see doing other, different bike trips. But I don’t need to ride along the Keys again (just from a biking perspective—not so awesome), and two months is a long time to ask your dog to keep the faith.

Why didn’t you ask for donations, do the ride for a cause?

  • Jerry already addressed this one, but I’ll do it again. We were insecure about our ability to do this thing. Not that we didn’t think we could do it; more like we just weren’t sure. Other than buying the maps, we weren’t following any rubric; none of our friends had done this particular ride or could tell us about it. We’d never biked in this way. So we decided not to fund raise.
  • Now that it’s over, we are telling inspired friends that they should feel free to give to a cause, not necessarily in our name, but in the spirit of adventure. If you’re looking for a cause, we recommend these, which were important to the families of two very dear friends we lost earlier this year:
    1. Cochran Ski Area in care of the Williston After-School Ski Program, 910 Cochran Road, Richmond, VT 05477
    2. Vermont Respite House, 99 Allen Brooke Lane, Williston, VT 05495; and the Department of Pediatric Oncology, Vermont Children’s Hospital, Fletcher Allen Health Care, 111 Colchester Ave., Burlington, VT 05401

Will you keep the blog going?

  • No, we won’t. The magic of the blog (if that’s not too self-congratulatory a word) was that the trip created it. The trip is over, and the blog is finished. Though it took me a month to write my own final entry, and many more months to post it—I think because I didn’t really want it to end; also because I can procrastinate like nobody’s business—it’s over now. I’ll miss it, but that’s part of why it was special. That said, I am probably going to be blogging about other things on my website, The new blog there is The Silent G. I hardly ever write blog posts, but I hope that soon changes. Inspiration, I’m sure, will strike VERY soon!

So I think that’s what I have to say. It’s been great fun, pedaling and pedaling and pedaling. I’ve enjoyed writing about it, and knowing you were keeping us in your thoughts and following along on our adventure.

My final bit of advice, other than get rid of some of your stuff, is this: if you have a chance, if you are blessed with the good fortune of having a choice, take an adventure when it comes your way. At times it will probably scare the spandex off you. But that’s what makes it great.

xoxo,                                                                                                                                               Shelagh


Posted in Biking, Cats, Dogs, Family, Friends, Home, Vermont | 2 Comments

1000 Miles Later

“Now’s the Time”

  ~ Charlie Parker

It really is time. It’s been two weeks,* life is getting back to what used to be normal and perhaps it’s time to wrap this baby up and put it to sleep. How do I know that it’s time? Last night my mom told me (was she complaining?) that I called her more when we were on our bikes than I do now. To be honest, in the little book that I kept track of our distances and elevations, I did not keep track of phone calls to mom. So, while I can remember pretty much every meal on the road I might not be able to document each phone call that I made.

* N.B.: Jerry wrote this in May. He’s been asking Shelagh to post it to the blog ever since then. Shelagh being the poster of blogs. It is now October. She is posting it. Go figure…


There are some things that need to be taken care of before I leave this blog. First, I should mention that my blog mind has gone dry. There are no more ideas coming to me, funny or otherwise. All that follows had its beginnings on our ride, just putting it to paper now because, well, because it’s time.

First, the thank you’s.   We didn’t build this. We didn’t build the bikes, the roads, the bridges, the restaurants, the B & B’s. If I ever conveyed otherwise, my apologies. There were so many people along the way that helped us, so, let’s start. Thanks, mom and dad, obviously without you this would have been impossible. Mom was amazing. She was always interested in hearing about our travels, always suitably impressed, and never once told us that what we were doing was too dangerous or well , you know. I wish that Dad could have been here to talk to during the ride but I think that I know what he would have said. He would have called every day and told us how impressed he was with what we were doing and how proud it made him feel. Then he would have told us that we were both “meshuganah” and that it was all my fault. So it goes.

Thanks to all for their bike help. Gene Bell who dismantled our bikes and got them ready for shipping, and Leni and company at Island bicycles in Key West who got the bikes in perfect shape for us (and warned us that a big chain lock was the only chance that we had to make it out of the Keys with our bikes). And to Eric Simmons, who has spent the last six months giving us all sorts of advice and tools to keep our bikes going. Who ever thought that we would need a second bike pump? Eric I guess. Thanks to the bike organizations that made our trip work, Adventure Cycling, The East Coast Greenway, and Rails to Trails. They’ve created a few lifetime members in our household.

Thanks to the hotel, motel, and B&B folks along the way. You can’t imagine how helpful they were. Not once did we have anyone complain about our bikes, never a problem bringing them in our room or wherever we felt was safest. We had multiple B&B and AirB&B hosts inform us that while we were in their state they were responsible for us, just call if we had any problems. And our friends that took us in(n). Looking back it seems that you were always our next destination, always that point that we were dreaming about.

And one big “thank you” to the Universe for evolving in a way that included us. There were certainly many times during the riding that I wasn’t sure if things would turn out that way.

Careful, if you keep reading you might get to the part where they ask for donations. When we were in the planning stages we were asked many times if we were doing this as a fund raiser for any cause. At the time it was always very difficult to say “no.” I felt kind of useless and self indulgent. But, to be honest, I wasn’t really confident that we could do the trip. The last thing that I wanted was the pressure of people having contributed money weighing me down.

But we did, so here goes. Our last weeks before we left for our ride were very sad for us. We lost two very good friends from cancer. Max Elliott died after a four year battle with bone cancer. He was far, far too young to leave us. And our friend Julie Grunvald died after many years of coping with multiple cancers. Our last “social” events before leaving included attending their funerals and sitting shiva for Julie. At Julie’s funeral, many spoke of her love for the ocean and it seemed that we spent our first half of the ride looking out and thinking about Julie.

Max’s parents Riley and Sandy have told anyone who inquired that contributions could be made to the Burlington Hospice in Max’s honor.

Julie’s husband Lloyd has likewise suggested to friends that donations in Julie’s memory could be sent to the Cochran ski area.

And so, if you have any interest in honoring our ride through a donation to charity, we would be pleased to have you contribute to either of these causes in Max’s or Julie’s honor. Or give to a cause of your choice; so many out there could use a little help.

Now’s the Time To Say Goodbye To All Our Company

~ The Mickey Mouse Club

 Thanks for listening.


Posted in Biking, Family, Friends, Vermont | Leave a comment

Extra, extra!

They made it. Against the odds (Las Vegas, 4:1) the Savvy?Travelers made it home to Vermont. They appear to be physically unharmed and no more psychologically damaged than when they started. They are cold but when asked if they would turn around and go back they replied, No ****** way, or so it sounded, they were shivering at the time.

So what was it like to return to Vermont? Well, the reentry is ecstatic. A beautiful sunny 65 degree day, smooth sailing. I won’t say that I cry when I see the Welcome to Vermont sign, but Shelagh will probably beg to differ. Brattleboro is quite fun with, you guessed it, lots of restaurant choices, which I would have figured out 40 years ago if I would have realized that the Rt 91 exit for Brattleboro is actually almost a mile away from the city. Who knew?

The next day we’re biking to Townshend, Grafton, and Chester. It’s 70 degrees, the warmest we’ve experienced since Richmond, Va. and the ride is exquisite. We eat at a great Scottish pub in Chester, sit outside for dinner where we meet up with a couple who tell us all about the seven year sailing trip that they did a few years before moving to Vermont. We decide not to extend our ride for another six years. The next morning it’s still warm but the rain is starting. Time to rest. That night the rain changes to snow and by the morning it’s below freezing and blowing north winds. We wait until 2 pm for the subtle warm-up above freezing, then head a short distance to Ludlow, home of Okemo ski area. It’s only 13 miles, but it’s 13 very cold miles that get us closer to our next day’s destination: Brandon.

Unfortunately, Okemo is closed so almost all of the restaurants are also closed. Miraculously, we find an excellent beer store and a BYO Chinese restaurant, so all is not lost. In the morning the temperature is 16 degrees, the coldest we’ve experienced since leaving Waverly, Georgia. With the heavy rains and snow melt, our next day’s ride is complicated when only three miles from Brandon we encounter flooded roads necessitating a turn back for an extra eight miles most of which are spent with the sounds of the exciting traffic and the minimal shoulder of Rt 7. So, we’re back in Vermont, we’re cold, and coming to grips with flooded, dirt roads. Home.

The last day is a simple 25 mile ride home from Vergennes. Starts out raining with the wind blowing in our faces. It did stop raining eventually but as far as I can tell the wind is still blowing. And we’re home.

Posted in Biking, Home, Rain, Snow, Travel, Vermont | 4 Comments

Sentimental Journey … Interrupted

Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.

~ John Lennon

Der mentsh trakht un Got lakht. (Man plans and God laughs.)

~ Yiddish Proverb

Biking into Vermont is going to be the most amazing and emotional experience. I am fully prepared for a sob fest. I’m already in a kind of sentimental mood. Between Philly and Northampton, we’ve been visiting with a lot of old friends who are supportive and invested in our adventure. The morning we leave for Vermont, you may recall, Bennett and Lilly Gaev stop by Bob and Nancy’s house to see us off, since they hadn’t been able to make it to dinner the night before. Lilly and Bennett were actually an inspiration to us as we planned this trip, because they’ve taken multi-week rides through various European countries, riding their tandem bike with panniers. Bennett and Lilly love dogs, and have been poodle owners since we’ve known them. They bring along their poodle when they visit us at Bob and Nancy’s. Lilly asks about our dogs.

I haven’t written about Gracie in the blog, just as I haven’t written about other sad events that occurred before we left on our trip. 2013 and early 2014 were very difficult in a number of ways, both for us and for some of the people close to us. One sad event for our family was losing Gracie.


Gracie during happier days. The blonde guy is Bondi, the pup we still have.

Gracie during happier days. The blonde guy is Bondi, the pup we still have.

She was eleven. She had leukemia. We thought she might make it, or be chronic – able to feel healthy on meds for another year or two – but that was not the case. We actually had to put her to sleep just a week before leaving on this trip. We also had to put my Dad’s dog, Maggie, to sleep in December, because she was very old and had dementia and had bladder control issues even before her legs gave out. Our cat, Mojo, died of lung disease back in June. He was only seven. As Jerry was heard to say on the phone to his son Bennett, “Yeah… you don’t want to be one of my pets this year.”

Anyway, Lilly asks about the dogs, and I have an unexpected weepy moment where I tell everyone all about Gracie and the terrible past few months. A kind of conversational group hug follows, and then I feel better: understood and much loved.

Such is my frame of mind as we leave Northampton to bike into Vermont. Our friend Gary joins us for the first half of the ride, and this, too, adds to feelings of happiness and nostalgia. Gary and his wife, Cindy, had hosted the lovely welcome dinner for us the night before. Gary has been biking with Jerry and me for years, and having him join us for part of our ride feels right and special and important.

Jerry and Gary

Jerry and Gary

We ride for twenty-some miles, we stop for a requisite Shapiro Scooby-snack, and then Gary turns to bike home, and Jerry and I continue on our way. “Be careful – be safe!” We all shout, as we go our separate ways.

At this point, we’re no longer working off the Adventure Cycling maps, which stay to the coast and would take us up to Maine, if we were so inclined. We’re also not working from East Coast Greenway maps, for similar reasons. We’re mostly making it up as we go, and using Google biking maps with some level of caution: they’re a beta site, as they constantly (!!!) warn us. 

So the time comes, on our way to Vermont, when we turn off of 142 onto something called West Road. We are immediately riding uphill in a way we really haven’t through most of the trip. I find this appropriate, hilarious, almost comforting. Jerry – wiser, less sentimental – is concerned. We ride until we can’t, because the hill is so steep and also graveled, and then we get off and walk, pushing the bikes. This isn’t a first; we’ve found that there are hills we’d have ridden normally that we won’t try to ride now, with the panniers. After wrestling with our egos on this point, we decided it was better to be safe than feel strong, and so we now get off and walk from time to time. No one wants to fall down a hill. 

At the top of the hill on West Road, Jerry and I have something of a moment. I’m all full of excitement and emotion about our imminent entrance into our home state. He is pissy. I hear an orchestra, he hears a banjo. I want to forge on, he wants to go back in time and not be on West Road. 142 was fine, and would also have gotten us into Vermont, he says. This is too remote, and it’s probably not going to have a welcome to Vermont sign. This gives me pause. What… no sign? Should we go back? No. He doesn’t want to bike down what we just biked/pushed up. It’s liable to be just as steep going back down. After a moment, I say: This is beautiful; it’s pure Vermont. Let’s just be here, in the moment, and not worry about whether or not there’s a sign to take a picture in front of. He agrees. We take a few photographs of the sunshine, filtering through quiet woods. He is calming down. I, however, am starting to feel pissy.

We ride down a long, gentle hill, and find ourselves faced with the rutted mud road he’s been fearing. We go back, pushing ourselves up that long hill (gentle, did I say?), and then, yes, we ride back down the steep hills we’d biked and walked and pushed ourselves up earlier. It’s not so bad. It takes about three minutes. We get back on 142.

Fifteen minutes later, we’re in Vermont. We stop at the sign and take pictures. We get a young woman to take a picture of us, while she waits for her husband to remove the interior ceiling from their car; Jerry whispers that they’ve forgotten where they put the drugs. It’s funny, but it’s not, because that certainly seems possible, and they’re a very young couple with a little daughter toddling around.

I’m still vaguely cranky, but I can’t put my finger on why. Meanwhile, Jerry’s a little teary. He’s moved. He has, in fact, stolen my emotional moment. This has something to do with why I’m still vaguely cranky.

We continue on. Two miles outside of Brattleboro, I take a fall: my first big fall of the entire trip. I misjudge the diagonal crossing of an in-ground railroad track. It grabs my tire, and I fall with what I believe could best be described as a SMACK. In a mili-second, my helmet becomes the vital piece of equipment I’ve long suspected it might be. I hurt my hand, my thigh, my knee, my pride. The next day, other muscles will chime in. But mostly I’m lucky and I know it. I get up, walk in circles for a few minutes, shaking various throbbing appendages, and get back on the bike. We ride into Brattleboro. 

It’s actually not until the next day that I get my emotional moment. We leave Brattleboro for Chester and have one of the best rides of our trip. The sun is shining, the hills are rolling and very bike-able. The downhills are a pleasure – long and stunning. The wind is strong and at our backs. I feel amazing. I am completely over-the-moon in love with my husband and our bike trip and my life and this beautiful place where I live. I feel lucky that spring is here, and happy not to have choreographed this particular dizzy moment in time. 

The next day, it snows. Honestly, you can’t make this shit up.


Posted in Biking, Dogs, Friends, Hills, Home, Marriage, Massachusetts, Northampton, Snow, Travel | 8 Comments


I already said in my Poughkeepsie post — in which I didn’t give Poughkeepsie anywhere near the recognition it deserves and would have gotten if it had fallen toward the beginning of the trip, rather than the end — that the miles have taken a toll on my memory. Jerry is really good at recalling details of the places we have been. He’ll say, “Remember the beautiful bar in the restaurant that was below our hotel in Port Jervis? You had a burger and I had pasta, and we both tried that Founder’s draft. They were sorry they couldn’t sell us the Creme Brulee draft, but they were out of it, which was good, since we’d already tried it in Columbia, PA, and didn’t like it. Remember?” And I’ll say, “Port Jervis?” For me, the stops that are most memorable are the stops where we see friends. Like when we saw my friend Hope for dinner  Stockton, because she was kind enough to drive there and meet us:

2014-04-05 21.08.38

As we travel north, and the towns blend together in my bike-addled brain, I do recognize that the areas through which we are biking have begun to look more and more like home. There are hills, for one thing. And there are white pines and cedars and other types of conifers, types which we didn’t see for so long. The air smells like northern air. This sounds silly, I know, but it’s true. We’re approaching home. We move through Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut. We’re only in Connecticut for about a minute. It’s a nice minute, though, with stays at a nice, renovated motel, and a pretty inn in the home of a couple around our ages, which is to say 50-60ish. (They are very nice, except that they argue while making our breakfast, he saying she’s mistiming the toast for his scrambled eggs, she closing the kitchen door and muttering loudly to him while we sit, awkward, five feet away.) We move north, into Massachusetts. We’re headed for Northampton, where we have a number of friends whom Jerry has known for years – from different stages in his life – and these friends are friends with each other. His medical school roommate, Gary, lives in Northampton with his wife, Cindy. Gary is a psychiatrist. In his spare times, he paints. Here’s one he did of himself and Cindy: 2014-04-18 16.19.52 Jerry has known Gary the longest of the group, and we often stay with Gary and Cindy when we’re passing through, but they live at the top of a couple of very big hills. Knowing this, our friends Bob and Nancy have offered us a guest room in their house, pointing out that it has the benefit of being in low country. Bob did his anesthesia residency in Burlington many moons ago, when Jerry was a very young attending. They became good friends. When Bob moved to Northampton to start his own career, Jerry introduced him to Gary. On the way into town, we hit a snag where an important road and bridge are flooded. There’s so much construction going on in town that a workaround is not necessarily obvious. We no longer trust Google maps for the area. I call Bob to ask his advice. He gives us the route, tells us part of it is tricky, and is ready to hop on his bike and come get us until I say, no, it’s fine, we’ve made it from Florida, we can make it another five miles. He laughs and says ok. When we arrive at Bob and Nancy’s house, they are out front on the stoop, waiting. They see us riding up the street and they cheer, and I know what it is to cross a finish line. It’s fun that they do this for us, and useful, because now I can cross “marathon” off the to-do list.

Nancy and Rob Bob

Nancy and Rob Bob

Nancy calls Bob “Rob,” for reasons I now forget. (She doesn’t like the name Bob? It’s how you get apples? I forget. A funny reason, I think. Funny haha, not funny strange.) He’s long been Bob to us. For awhile I tried to switch to Rob, but it became clear he was fine with either name, so I’m now back to calling him Bob. Why am I going into all this? Not sure, but I will blame it on bike-addled brain syndrome. (BABS.) We spend a very nice couple of hours hanging out with Bob and Nancy in their sun room, just catching up and not being in a hurry to do anything or go anywhere. And although this trip has meant leaving home and all of our normal schedules and obligations, life on the bike is FULL of obsessive packing and unpacking and mapping and scheduling and meal planning, and so to just sit with nothing to do for two whole hours feels strangely irresponsible and lovely. Gary and Cindy are making a dinner to celebrate our arrival in Northampton, and the ride in and of itself. And while we feel a little spoiled to be celebrated in this way, because this trip is the ultimate in self-indulgence if you think about it, we are incredibly touched by all the fuss. People think that what we’re doing is cool, and it’s a kick to have them say so. Bob and Nancy drive us to Gary and Cindy’s home. Bob’s actually on call, and so he’s concerned he may have to leave the dinner at some point, so we take two cars. When we arrive, everyone hands out a lot of hugs and kisses and back slaps. Then we see these signs on the kitchen counter:

2014-04-12 18.35.25  2014-04-12 18.35.34

In a feat of self-control that my sons would never believe (though we’ll never know, because none of the three is reading our blog because they are all massive losers), I do not cry! I am so touched, though, as is Jerry. More hugs. The six of us have a lovely evening. They’ve cooked mussels in white wine and an amazing Asian short rib recipe. They have the best wine glass id tags I’ve ever seen – little replicas of those 45 record centers that were used on the spindle… Well, here:

2014-04-12 20.18.12

We eat until we are stuffed – and this is saying something for Jerry and me of late (we can eat like we’ve never before been able to) – and then we sit around the living room with heads lolled back on sofa cushions and feet splayed out before us, spent. Eventually I ask if we can please now go to bed. Hugs, kisses, thank yous, goodbyes, and rides home from Nancy and Bob (who had been able to stay for the whole dinner without getting called in to work!)

We spend the next morning with Nancy, because Bob did end up having to go to the hospital at some point after I put my head on the pillow and faded out. After coffee and breakfast sandwiches, our friends Bennett and Lilly come by for a visit before we hit the road. Bennett and Gary were in psychiatry residency together in Rochester – also many moons ago – and we became good friends with Bennett and Lilly through Gary and his first wife, Michelle (who met us for lunch in Philly – remember? And the beautiful baby was also Gary’s granddaughter. It’s all coming together for you now, isn’t it?)

ANYWAY, we are so glad to see Bennett and Lilly, who hadn’t been able to come to dinner the night before. Lilly broke her leg skiing recently. We talk about the bike trip, and we talk about Lilly’s injury and what she has to do to heal. Sadly, her own bike season is probably not going to happen for some time this year – if at all. Lilly and Bennett do their own long-distance biking trips, and were part of our inspiration to do this trip.

2012-11-11 13.50.15-2

Finally, it’s time to hit the road. We all say our goodbyes. Lilly and Bennett head out. Gary shows up to ride part of the next leg with us. That’s for another post. But in general, Northampton feels again like another step closer to home. I love each of these heady increments. This stuff, I’ll remember best.

Posted in Biking, Eating, Food, Friends, Massachusetts, Memories, Northampton, Travel | 3 Comments

Poughkeepsie Post

For some reason, I have been charged with writing the Poughkeepsie post.

“Why do we need a Poughkeepsie post?” I ask.

“It was nice. We had fun,” I am told.

“Then you write it.”

“No, you. You should write it.”

I’m not adverse to writing any post, in fact, but the thousands of miles we have traveled seem to have pummeled my brain into reduced function. Poughkeepsie is nice. We do have fun. We ride our bikes to get there…and, um…

Oh! I do remember this. New Paltz is across the river. A great big river. The Hudson? I think so. The biking to get into New Paltz starts out pretty and nice, but gets harrowing as we close in. We get into New Paltz and go to a brew pub for lunch and good beer. Beer does not help with the brain pummeling, by the way, though you only have to peddle about six times and you’re sober again, since it burns off fast and we are working hard, going up hills at this point, and in cold weather more often than not.

New Paltz is nice, but we have some rude driver issues. More on that in another post.

We leave New Paltz on a beautiful bike path that leads to a pedestrian bridge over the very large river that I think is the Hudson. There are extraordinary views. We also stop and take some nice pictures.

2014-04-08 16.43.27  2014-04-08 16.42.49
Then we ride to our hotel in Poughkeepsie. The manager of our hotel is interested in our ride. She’s very nice, and asks a lot of questions, such as, “Where did you start this morning?” This is a question that neither of us is able to answer, though we know we should be able to. Our inability to answer has to do with the brain pummeling I have already mentioned. We have no idea where we started. I think Jerry gets there, though, in the end.

In the room, we do what we always do: Jerry asks for permission to lie down, I either remove the spread first or don’t, depending on if it looks like a spread that could be damaged by our touching it in our biking gear (or a spread that looks like I don’t want to touch it or him to touch it and then be near me); then I shower while he falls fast asleep and snores, though he will deny it when I say so. If I really push him on this point, he’ll admit it, but then tell me that I snore, too. Ridiculous.

We walk to dinner – a Mexican place near the hotel that is just fine. Perfectly good.

The next day, having heard oh-so-much about Hyde Park, we go there. We take a cab, because it’s too far to walk and we DO NOT BIKE on our off days. We start with Eleanor’s house, which is pretty but closed. We walk around, take some pictures. I enjoy imagining her there. Then we walk to THE big not-to-be-missed Hyde Park experience: you guessed it – the culinary institute. We have an awesome lunch in the Italian building (wonderful bread, innovative pizza, delicious salad) then feel too full to walk over and see Franklin’s house. (Two houses! I try to convince Jerry that this is really the best way for a marriage to work. He ignores me, as is his legal right.) We call a cab to go back to the hotel.

Dinner nearby (walking distance) in another great low-key place. Eating in a city with a nearby culinary institute pretty much guarantees a lot of options.

So that’s Poughkeepsie. A good time had by all!

N.B. Some of our most beautiful riding happens in New York and New Jersey. I’m downplaying it here to be funnier, but these rides are lovely, especially when the weather cooperates. We are having the time of our lives…

Posted in Biking, Bridges, Food, New Jersey, New York State, Poughkeepsie, Travel | Leave a comment

Ways In Which I Am No Longer Like My Mother

My mother was a lovely woman: graceful, reserved, maybe even a little bit shy until she got to know you. And although I know I am not entirely like her (because I’m much more of an extrovert and I enjoy a good curse … on occasion), I’ve always thought I carried on some of her positive attributes. When I was little, it was important to my mother that my sister and I learn a thing or two about being polite and generous and modest. She and my father sent us to the Columbus School for Girls, in Columbus, Ohio, whose motto was “Women by birth, ladies by choice.” (I kid you not…) I graduated from CSG; Maura did not. That’s another story, though.

My cousins Sheri and Susan once described my mother as “regal.” “When your family came, it was like royalty was visiting. Your mother was so proper, and you and Maura were so perfect. You made us look bad.” It’s true. We ate with our napkins in our laps, our left hands in our laps, our right hands holding the forks. We did not speak unless spoken to. We asked please, said thank you, cleared up.

As an adult, I wouldn’t say I’ve been quite so genteel. Even before this trip, the closest I ever got to regal was the height of the heel I’m willing to wear: maybe 1″ max. I’m sure that, in that regard, I’m at least a little bit like HRH Elizabeth. Otherwise, I’ve always been a little too loud, a little too baudy. Oh well. My mother loved me, even when I stopped being prim.

On this trip, though, I’m unrecognizable. Early on, I might have tried to be a little bit subtle if I needed to adjust my shorts for better comfort, while standing on the side of the road. No longer! I have no shame about such adjustments – comfort is my guide. I will de-wedgy my shorts, and I have learned to blow my nose while riding, without the benefit of a tissue. To spit, when necessary, if a bug flies into my mouth. To take a trip into the woods, in an emergency. The jar of butt balm is no longer full. (Also, I say things like “butt balm.”)

Would my mother be ashamed? Would she feel she had failed? I don’t really think so. The “by choice” part of CSG’s motto is important. When I get back home, I’ll likely choose, once again, to be a somewhat more ladylike version of myself. (Most of the time, as much as I ever did…) But on the bike? I’m pretty sure that even Audry Hepburn would need to spit occasionally, rather than swallow that bug at fifteen miles an hour. I’m also quite sure that my mom would be thrilled that I am having such a remarkable adventure.

Posted in Biking, Family, Manners, Mothers | 5 Comments

Home Sweet Home

I’ve been looking forward to Philly since leaving Charleston.  For me, entering Pennsylvania will be momentous and as we approach I am very excited.  But there is no welcome sign.  Ok, there is a Mason-Dixon sign but that is not the same thing and I do not feel the great welcome that I hoped for.

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I get over it after a few hours as we approach Columbia, Pennsylvania.  Columbia, as most of you probably remember, was once considered the gateway to the West, with Wright’s ferry offering passage across the Susquehanna. It was so financially sucessfull that Pennsylvania and Maryland militias skirmished.  Columbia was also the city that in 1790 was approved by the House to become the capital of the USA. It was George Washington’s first choice.  Unfortunately Columbia lost in the Senate by one vote and the difference that time has played is striking.  Washington, D.C. has much better bike trails and quite a few monuments. So it goes.

The approach to Philly has another very trip specific meaning for me.  In my early planning of the trip I was so focused on dealing with the roads and busyness of Florida that I never thought that there might actually be some fun, beautiful bike riding ahead.  Some time last November I was looking at the maps and realized that the approach to Philadelphia would be a 20-mile rail to trail along the Schuylkill. Wow, this bike adventure might actually have some fun to it.  Excitement! So here we are on the trail and inside I am flying.  Well, maybe not exactly flying, maybe a little tension after a flat relieved us of our last spare tube and kept us wondering if the tire would be OK, since we had destroyed our spare tire a few days before.  But, it’s all fine.

We ride the bike trail all the way to Manayunk where we leave the bikes at Cadence bike shop for some much needed attention. We get picked up by my old college roomate Larry, who brings us home to a reunion with Linda, his wife and an introduction to Geroge E., their new puppy.  Their friend Ricky comes over for our first home cooked meal since Charleston and life is easy. Good times.

photo 2-3

The next day we head into Philadelphia.  Ever since Savannah, Shelagh has been talking about how we’ve never explored Philly together, despite many trips to visit family and friends, so it feels like time. We hop a train into the city and take in all of the sights. First stop is my old med school, Jefferson.  It’s been 40 years since I’ve gone into the building.  Want to say “same old” but I don’t  really remember.  I did take a picture of the old lecture hall and send it to my old med school roomate, Gary.  Apparently, upon looking at the picture, he immediately became sick. (Those weren’t the best of times.) Shelagh and I move on to the colonial sections and check out Independence Hall, a few cemetaries, Betsy Ross’s house, and the Liberty Bell (still cracked).

Then, continuing our fortunate surprises, we have lunch with our friend Michelle, who’s in for a meeting, and Jonathan and Teresa and their baby, Ava.  We feel like we have hit the jackpot.  Friends friends friends.

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We spend two more days in Philly getting some much needed rest, and more home- cooked meals.  Our last night, L & L’s son Sam and wife Jenna join us, just keeps getting better.

On our way out of the city, more treats are in store. The Adventure Cycling maps are somehow able to weave us a path out of the city with the least amount of traffic you can imagine.  Right along the path we are able to meet up and have lunch with my Uncle Izzy and Aunt Reba, their granddaughter Renee, and my cousin Sharon. We are feeling extremely fortunate.

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Posted in Biking, Friends, Home, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Travel | Leave a comment

Why Do We Bike?

Shelagh and I are not bikers.  Not really.  This may sound strange to some but we know that our biker friends are nodding knowingly.  Trust me on this.  We know bikers.  We have friends who are bikers.  We are not bikers.  When we are out riding we are always passed by bikers.  Often they just ignore us but sometimes they say things like “Are you OK?” , or “Do you need any help?”

So why do we do this?  Permit me to share.  A few years ago I was biking with my friend Joe.  Joe is a biker.  He loves bikes, he loves to bike and he is an ex-marathoner.  I had found us an interesting bikeride in the Stowe area.  It was fun but, as you can imagine, it was filled with many very steep and/or long hills. As we came into Stowe (around the turn towards Trapp Family Lodge, about halfway), I mentioned to Joe that there was a great deli, Edelweiss, just up the road where we could get excellent sandwiches. He responded to me that he didn’t think that he needed anything to eat.  I was completely confused.  What did need have to do with it?  And therein lies the answer to my question.

We bike to eat.  Wherever and whenever we bike there is a destination.  At that destination there is food, hopefully good food.  Of course, as the Spanish say, “el hambre es la mejor salsa”. (No complaints please – Google is willing to translate). We have changed over the years.  Now more often than not we are going for savory rather than sweet, but otherwise we are the same old pseudobikers.

We have felt a certain undertone about the winter that we escaped. Do not envy that.  If I could, I would stay all winter in Vermont, enjoying the cold and the snow just like when I was a younger man, recently arrived from Philadelphia.  Unfortunately, this is no longer possible.  I have become old and susceptible to the cold of winter.  Its length and depth overwhelm me. I get sick.  I get weak.

If you want to envy us, envy our recenty earned eating habits.  We have become eating machines.  In the beginning we coined a name for it.  We would sit down for lunch or dinner and we would “Hoover” our meal.  No need for conversation or other niceties.  Maybe a quick glance at our phones and then “Look, all gone.” This has gotten a bit more civilized over the weeks but we are still eating everthing that we want.

Sometimes when we are passing time, and trying to sharpen our memory about where we’ve been, we will remember back each night of our trip, where we stayed, what the place was like. It’s kind of fun, and also a good check   that we haven’t completely lost our minds.  It seems reasonable that with a little bit of work we can remember where we’ve been.  What gets scary is when we start remembering every single restaurant, every dinner and every lunch and have no trouble ranking them by their quality. We still feel dread when remembering those days where lunch can not  be found although we have gotten better at tocking up on nuts, peanut butter crackers and Tastycakes for just such emergencies.

Seriously though, one of the great pleasures of the trip and been to eat like I’m a kid all over again.  When we arrived in Philly this topic was brought up at dinner with Larry, Linda, and their friend Ricky.  We decided to fess up.  The previous night we had a large chicken cheesesteak stromboli and a Italian antipasti delivered to the hotel room.  After a huge pancake breakfast with oodles of warmed maple syrup for breakfast we headed into Philly.  On a detour from the bikepath we went to Lou’s, a classic Philly sandwich shop in Norristown for lunch. I had a cheesesteak with long hot peppers and an icecream soda.  Shelagh has been trying to cut back so she just got a Reuben sandwich and then decided on the chocolate ice cream for dessert.

Now do you understand?  Do you see who we are?  Now you know why we bike.

Posted in Biking, Dining, Eating, Food, Marriage, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Travel | Leave a comment

Map Freak

Jerry shows map to complete stranger who just wanted to buy gas...

Jerry shows map to complete stranger who just wanted to buy gas…

If I ask you to think of that thing your spouse, partner or best friend does that bugs you the most, does something immediately spring to mind? Probably a few things. I know. Well, for me, it’s the map thing. Long before I realized that Jerry was a map freak (and I hope my use of this term won’t offend freaks in general), I understood that his father was … unusually motivated by directions. You could say you were walking to the apartment building next door, and he’d ask how you were going to get there. (No. No he wouldn’t. I’m exaggerating. But not by much.) Lenny was a fantastic father-in-law. I loved him a LOT. But he was a map freak, and his son carries the gene.

I drive, by myself, to all sorts of places, all the time. But if Jerry is in the car, a conversation inevitably ensues about how I’m choosing to get to our shared destination. High on our list of disagreements is that little discussion about the best way to travel south on 89. Will I take the back route to get on the interstate out near the big box stores in Williston? Will I go out of my way, north on Dorset Street, and hop on the interstate there, only to turn south at that point? Will I drive to Shelburne Road? When he asks which route I’m planning to take, I immediately choose the wrong one. It’s a gene I carry: the insecure-but-defensive freak’s snap judgement.

“Why are you going THIS way?” I should have that engraved on my tombstone.

Two things have happened on this trip, both of which have probably been good for our marriage. Jerry has recognized that he obsesses over maps and directions and possible routes. And I have recognized that this obsession, while irritating as hell, has kept us safe.

Now that we have finished with the Adventure Cycling maps which we’d purchased to make our way 3/4 of the way home, we plan some of the routes together. We pour over maps, smart phones, and the little bike Garmin. We discuss options. Mostly it’s kind of fun. If map freaskishness is a virus, then I may be in a little bit of trouble.

That said, when we get home, I’ll take whatever damned route I want to the interstate: just watch me.

Posted in Biking, Maps, Marriage, Travel | 2 Comments