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, http://www.shelaughswithoutus.com 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.

Jerry

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

Northampton

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