My final update on my once in a lifetime cycling adventure reflects on the highs, lows & challenges we experienced, as well as answers to the big questions. Trying to pick out a few moments to summarise 93 days of cycling (plus another 30 rest days) has been more difficult than I expected, as there were so many highs.
The adventure began when we boarded the Bainbridge Island ferry in Seattle on 30th April & ended when we dipped our wheels at Maquoit Bay, Maine. We needed thick rain jackets to keep the cold wind at bay in late April, but by the time we reached the East Coast, we had shed weight as well as our jackets!
When we first floated the idea of cycling coast to coast, we both wanted to ensure we experienced as many areas of outstanding natural beauty as was possible. We each purchased an America The Beautiful annual pass which gave us unlimited access to all the National & State Parks through the USA. Without doubt, the best $80 we spent on the entire adventure.
In order, we visited the following National Parks (NP) & State Parks along the way – Glacier NP in Montana, Grand Teton, Yellowstone & Devil’s Tower NPs (all in Wyoming), Mount Rushmore NP, Custer SP & Badlands NP (all in South Dakota) & Niagara Falls (New York).
We both had a wish-list of wildlife we would like to meet along the way – in spite of having high hopes, we didn’t expect to see the huge variety of animals who wanted a look at two crazy Brits on a cycling adventure! We were visited by a menagerie of animals – pretty much the only animal on our list to elude us was a moose, although seeing a golden eagle swoop over our heads on the way to Rexford more than made up for it!
Our wildlife show began on our 2nd morning when we saw a pair of bald eagles perched on the mast of our ferry. I’ve included a few of my favourite photos below including an eagle with her offspring, terrapins, deer galore, a black bear cub, alpacas, elk, bison, a snake, pelicans, heron & turkey vultures.
Hydration Strategy – aka the beer count
Several people got in touch early on to ask whether I was on a cycling adventure or a booze cruise! I promised that I would report back at the end, so they could decide for themselves – here are a few of my favourite photos.
Toasting our first day on the road in Port Townsend
Celebrating after summiting Stevens Pass in Leavenworth
Cheeky beer to recognise crossing from Idaho into Montana
We may still be in our cycling kit but that didn’t stop us being pampered by Misty & Tina at The Pioneer Bar (our first night camping too!)
Enjoying a beer after a rest day in Lincoln
Relaxing after a 6 day block of riding into Helena
Contemplating the news that Yellowstone NP was closed due to flooding as we reached West Yellowstone
Looking smug after completing our longest ride of the trip (104 miles) into Cody
Surrounded by money on the walls in Hill City on Independence Day
All the gang at The Wagon Wheel (equal favourite watering hole with The Pioneer Bar)
We’ve made it to Minneapolis – the first big city since Seattle (11 weeks ago)
Afternoon drinking at the Fremont Hotel
Toasting our 75th day of riding in Defiance
Enjoying the last of the summer sun on the Erie Canal at Brockport
Toasting Dave, Ruth & Sienna who kept our adventure on track in Ticonderoga
The end of the cycling adventure as we celebrate in Brunswick
I notched up 72 different varieties of beer on my travels – mainly IPAs & only one mass produced beer on the entire trip. I started with a Pike Place IPA in Pike Place & along the way found some unusually named brews – Dutch Girl Blonde, Jackass, Neon Bear Hug, Sodank, Falling Knife, Chaos Pattern, Great North Moose Juice & Mind Haze. I ended with a World Gone Hazy in NYC!
My final update will focus on the people we met, the mountains we explored & the cake we ate!
Although our cycling adventure ended in Brunswick, Maine on 30th August, it wasn’t the end of the trip – we had a few days exploring The Big Apple planned! We took the 11am train from Brunswick to Boston North Station, enjoyed a final 3 mile ride across the city & then caught another train from Boston South Station, arriving in Penn Station just before 8pm.
I’d booked us into The New Yorker Hotel, on the corner of 34th St & 8th Ave, which had a spectacular view across to the West River & uptown towards Times Square. After dropping off our kit, we headed out for a bit of a wander – we made it one block before stopping in The Tailor to take the edge off our thirst & we ended up staying there reminiscing about our adventure until about 1am.
Anyone who knows me well will be aware that NYC is my favourite city. I’m fortunate that many of my friends have joined me on one (or more) of my trips – my first experience of New York was in 1990, when my cousin kindly put me up for several weeks & I learned to navigate without a map! Since then, I’ve returned to meet up with friend Jo when she was Au Pairing in 1994 (just before I started work at Bank of Ireland) & again with my hockey friends Dave & Michelle in 1997.
I returned to NYC for my 40th birthday in 2004 & I was fortunate enough that about 15 of my friends joined me & then joined Bob when he celebrated his 50th birthday in 2007. Sean & I have previously visited too, at the start & end of a cycling trip from Albany to Niagara Falls & back in 2007
I then visited twice in 2014 – firstly to celebrate Mum & Dad’s 60th wedding anniversary & then again for my cousin Chelsea’s wedding. In short I’ve shared many wonderful moments with friends & family, hence me wanting to finish my adventure of a lifetime here!
Saturday 3rd September
We began the day by dropping our bikes off at Liberty Cycles, so they could be prepared for their flight home. Our plan for the morning was to stroll along the western edge of Central Park on our way to the National History Museum on 79th & 8th.
Pretty much all the major tourist attractions required booking in advance, a hangover from Covid restrictions earlier in the year. I won’t bore with what we did & where we went, I’ll just let the best of the photos tell the tale.
Sharks & Dinosaurs
Artifacts from ancient civilizations
I had an appointment in Central Park with one of the kindest & most generous people I know – my lovely friend Shada. I thoroughly enjoyed showing Shada the sights of Central Park, including Strawberry Fields & a wonderful view towards The Dakota Buildings.
Central Park is an oasis of peace & quiet amongst the hustle & bustle of New York. In one direction was the Boating Lake, with terrapins sunbathing on a rock, yet by spinning 180 degrees, we were looking back towards The Plaza Hotel & 5th Avenue. All too quickly my time with Shada was up, but it’s a moment in time that I’ll look back on fondly for a long time to come!
I just had enough time to get back to the hotel & get changed, before meeting up with Sean at 7.30pm. We’d intended to have a fairly quiet night, but that wasn’t quite how it turned out – we started with dinner (washed down with a couple of pints) in Smith’s Bar on 44th & 8th. We then headed to Hells Kitchen on 9th Avenue – we’d built up a thirst on the 10 minute walk, so stopped in Mercury Bar for a couple, before moving on to Rudy’s Bar for a couple more.
All would have been good if we’d gone back to the hotel at this point, but we didn’t! We walked to the Printer’s Alley bar on 40th & 7th, where we continued to test new beers until just gone 2.30am…..luckily my only photo of the evening was taken just before our dinner arrived!
Sunday 4th September
We met up at 9.30am, both feeling a little the worse for wear, but keen to do some more exploring. Once we’d had some breakfast & recovered our energy levels, we headed to Grand Central Terminal & then on to Times Square.
We stopped briefly in the Levi’s Store & both of us stocked up on jeans in our new slimmer sizes! We made our way across town to The High Line at 30th & 10th. This was once the main raised railway line for freight into NYC, but it eventually fell into disrepair until the local community persuaded the city to turn it into a green space.
After taking in the views across to New Jersey, we followed the High Line as it headed downtown. We’d arrived at lunchtime & things were a bit busier than expected – I’ve since learned that we should have done this early in the morning, before everyone else arrived. There were numerous sculptures & art installations along the way & this is somewhere I’d love to come back & visit again.
It was time for some serious shopping, so I headed to Macy’s for a couple of hours of retail therapy – a pair of jeans, a few tee shirts, boxer shorts, socks, a belt & a wallet later, I headed back to the hotel, totally shopped out (for today at least!). We collected the bikes from Liberty Cycles, as planned then headed out for dinner, a couple of quiet drinks & then a stroll to Times Square.
Monday 5th September
We had a tasty breakfast in Skylight Diner, then headed to Macy’s to buy a suitcase each – when we travelled from London to Seattle, we jettisoned our very old suitcases, as they were then surplus to requirements. Luckily it was Labor (sic) Day bank holiday, so there was a big sale on & we were both able to pick up a relative bargain. This also meant I now knew how much room I had for clothes & I bought another pair of jeans for myself, as well as a pair for a Christmas present for my brother.
We dropped our purchases off then set off for the main event of our NYC stay – I’d managed to get some baseball tickets for us to watch the Yankees take on the Minnesota Twins (we passed their stadium when we passed through Minneapolis). Believe it or not, I’d got two $72 tickets for $36 from Stub Hub.
The Yankees were the team to beat in the American League East (they eventually won the division, before losing the championship to the Houston Astros). Our real interest was watching Aaron Judge bat, as he was on his way to setting an American League East record of 62 home runs in a season. In line with our luck throughout the entire adventure, we saw Aaron Judge hit a home run!
In the end, the Yankees were far too strong for the Twins, which the result all the home fans (& us) were hoping for.
We took the subway back from Yankee Stadium (in The Bronx) to Manhattan & headed out for our last night in The Big Apple. We returned to Hell’s Kitchen for food & a few more celebratory beers as we took turns to go through our favourite moments from the last 21 weeks.
Tuesday 6th September
The last day of our adventure was spent doing present shopping, as well as stocking up on a few essential clothes – I had room in my case, so it would have been rude not to fill the space!
Leaving the hotel, I took one final look at the Empire State Building, as we headed for JFK airport & our flight back to Heathrow.
I’m planning one final ‘Reflections’ update tomorrow evening – I’ll share our favourite places & best moments as well as answer the all important questions regarding beer, cake & ice cream!
When we set off at the start of our adventure on 30th April, our plan was to ride an average of 5 days in every 7 & to average 50 miles a ride.
I find it hard to believe that we reached the end of our adventure on 30th August, after only 4 months. We actually rode 5.40 days in every 7 & averaged 61.17 miles a ride. So we were close in terms of ride days per week, but we significantly underestimated how many miles we would travel on each ride.
The outcome of the additional miles & ride days was that it only took 93 ride days to complete our adventure – I had anticipated us taking 114 days of riding to complete our planned route. Once you add in the rest days, we finished almost a month earlier than we’d expected!
A few people have been in touch, asking what States we visited – if you’re interested, check out the table below. Just 3 states (Washington, Montana & South Dakota) accounted for half of our cycling days;
Time Spent (In Days)
There were 30 possible riding days in August (we finished our adventure on 30th August), so we were expecting to have ridden just over 21 days in the month.
August totals were;
13.5 – average speed in mph.
22 – number of days ridden.
46.1 – highest speed achieved in mph.
64.8– average mileage per ride.
84.64 – longest single ride.
106 – number of hours ridden.
1,426 – total miles ridden.
46,752 – feet climbed.
The totals since 30th April are;
12.9 – average speed in mph (up from 12.7 at the end of July).
93 – number of days ridden (up from 71 at the end of July).
53.3 – highest speed achieved in mph.
61.2 – average mileage per ride (up from 60.0 at the end of July).
104.08 – longest single ride.
440 – number of hours ridden (up from 334 at the end of July).
5,689 – total miles ridden (up from 4,262 at the end of July).
207,143 – feet climbed (up from 160,396 at the end of July).
While I had a detailed plan of the route we would try to follow, I hadn’t spent too much time planning where we might be at the end of August – I certainly didn’t expect to be in Maine!! There were some significant changes to the original route;
April & May’s unseasonably cold weather, which has resulted in road closures due to snow in the mountains.
Late snow in Washington required us to navigate The Cascades via Stevens Pass, rather than Rainy & Washington Passes.
More snow in The Rockies meant we couldn’t explore as much of Glacier National Park as planned & the Going To The Sun Road was closed. As a result of increased Covid outbreaks, paperwork requirements & late snows, we didn’t visit the Canadian Rockies at all.
Our extended tour of Montana delayed our arrival in West Yellowstone – by then there had been flooding which caused Yellowstone National Park to be closed. We detoured via Jackson & Grand Teton National Park, so we could enter via the South Entrance on the day the National Park re-opened.
We made a late decision to explore Wisconsin when we left Minneapolis, rather than Ohio & Illinois as previously planned. Thank you to everyone we met on the way who encouraged us to cycle in Wisconsin, we’ve had a great experience riding deserted roads, meeting some wonderful people & watching a world class Water Ski exhibition. We also got to take a ferry across Lake Michigan!
The changes to itinerary have all added to our experience & have taken us to some amazing places – Grand Teton was one of my favourite places on the adventure, yet we only visited it because Yellowstone was closed.
I’ve been amazed by the kindness & generosity of the people we’ve met on our journey across the USA. Without fail someone has stepped up & helped us when we needed assistance or support. Doug, Tom & Dan at Black Hills Bicycles saved the day when I was stuck with bike troubles in Philip, South Dakota. Also Dave, Ruth & Sienna got me out of a pickle when my chain broke less than a week from the end of our adventure.
The Wagon Wheel stands out as my favourite evening of the adventure – Joel, Don, Vicki, Sharon, Karie, Charly & Allen made it a night to remember, especially the sunset cruise on Oakwood Lake.
Monday 29th to Tuesday 30th August – Stages 92 & 93.
Monday 29th August – North Woodstock to Bridgton (Stage 92)
We only have two days of our Coast to Coast adventure remaining, but that doesn’t mean we can take it easy, as today we plan to ride 69 miles & climb the Kancamagus Pass (pronounced Cank-a-Magus I’m reliably informed!). At 15 miles in length & 2,200 feet of vertical, it’s almost Alpine & the first BIG climb since Powder River Pass on Stage 46, way back on 26th June.
We continue to see reminders that Moose do exist, although this feels a little that we’re being taunted. as it’s one of the few animals that has eluded us on our travels! We’ve seen a whole load of animals I didn’t expect to see (like a black bear cub & a golden eagle), so I shouldn’t complain.
The towns of North Woodstock & Lincoln are ski resorts in winter, but they have also harvested the forest since the late 1800’s – between 1893 & 1947, 2 billion feet of logs were hauled out of the Loon Mountain forest on the railroad!
We’re riding the Kancamagus Highway, which is a scenic byway that links Lincoln with Conway, 37 miles to the East (it’s also our planned coffee stop in a few hours time). The early slopes of the climb followed the course of the Swift River & that resulted in the gradient being more friendly than either of us had expected – we were climbing at a fairly consistent 4% to 5%.
This was our last chance to get some action photos on a climb, so we took a few shots of each other – the best are included in the next two sets of photos. At this point we were about half way to the summit & were grateful it hadn’t been as bad as we had initially feared, although we knew it ramped up in the last half mile or so of the climb.
As we climbed higher, the views became more dramatic, as the road cut a way through the forest. We only had about 3 miles to the summit from here & we began to relax a little, as we climbed ever higher.
There was one final hairpin, where the gradient increased slightly, but then we passed a sign for the Pemigewasset Overlook & we knew the big climb of the day was almost over. Just before the summit I passed Paul, who was on a 5 day tour & he was towing his dog in his trailer! Sean was moments behind & we stopped at the overlook to compare stories.
The summit itself is about 1/10th mile beyond the overlook, so after taking in the view, we said our goodbyes to Paul & headed off to get a shot at the Kancamagus Pass sign. We also stopped briefly at Beaver Brook Overlook to take in the views on the other side of the mountain.
The White Mountain National Forest is very carefully managed & incredible as it may seem, all you can see in the photo below Sean & myself has been harvested at least once & some sections have been cut 2 or 3 times. The National Forest are responsible for ensuring that the environment remains pristine, while balancing our requirements for timber & recreational space – they appear to be doing a great job in this particular instance.
The descent was fun, so I’ve included some video, as well as the usual photos. There were a few large logging lorries doing the descent too, but they gave me plenty of room.
Lower Falls had parking for about 200 cars & about half of them must have been in use. There were families sat sun bathing & enjoying the glorious sunny weather. I had a couple of attempts at capturing the scene, but neither of them worked at all – it just looked like people sat on rocks!!!
Covered Bridges are an integral part of New England landscape & the White Mountains have more than their fair share. The majority were toll bridges, built in the late 19th Century. One bridge in nearby Lebanon made a 70% annual return on investment in 1870!!!
The examples below are the Albany Town Covered Bridge in the first photo & the Conway Covered Bridge in the final photo. We had the road to ourselves for the 5 miles between the two bridges.
We stopped in Conway for a portion of strawberry shortbread – we’d completed 38 miles & also seen off the big pass of the day, so were in a good place! Within a few miles of setting off again, we arrived at our last State Line & crossed from New Hampshire into the Pine Tree State of Maine. The end of our adventure really is close!
We also took a small Adventure Cycling Association detour onto our last piece of cycle track – we were on the Mountain Division Trail for less than a mile of the 6 mile track, but it felt like a symbolic moment. At some point I’ll work out how many miles we did off-road, but it feels like the answer will be at least a few hundred miles!
In Fryeburg we found more quiet roads as we gradually made our way towards our overnight stop.
We were following the Saco River upstream, so were gradually climbing. The long views across to the White Mountains in the distance help take our mind off the drag uphill. The few houses we saw were what I would call up-market with plenty of land too. We’d both checked the route last night & commented that it looked like there was a hilly end to the route – we were just about to find out how hilly!
The answer quickly became clear – quite hilly & quite steep at times! The forest protected us from the heat of the sun, although the ambient heat was plenty warm enough. The road rose in ramps, so we also had a few nice descents where we could recover before the next ascent – at times the climbs hit 11% & 12%, which is more than enough in the later stages of a ride!
Real moose had avoided us again today, but we did at least see a life-size representation of one in a front garden! This was at the top of the final climb, so all that remained was to freewheel the final mile or so to our overnight accommodation in Bridgton.
The Noble House Inn was located right across the road from a gorgeous lake – I captured the sunset as we were heading out to dinner. This is our last night of the cycling adventure, so we enjoyed a couple of drinks with our meal & chatted about what an absolutely amazing adventure this has been.
Stage Stats – 70 miles, 4,308 feet of climbing. Our final Mountain Pass of the adventure!
Tuesday 30th August – Bridgton to Brunswick (Stage 93)
Our final day of our cycling adventure is here already – I can still remember our first day in Seattle like it was yesterday, when we struggled to get our kit on the bikes! Matt & Lynn were the perfect hosts & served up a treat of a breakfast, fresh fruit & a cooked breakfast, washed down with fresh orange juice & coffee!
I have many competing emotions this morning. On the one hand, we’re a mere 58 miles from achieving our shared dream of cycling across the USA, Coast to Coast from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. On the other hand, I feel a sense of loss, as our adventure is drawing to a close. We’ve had the most incredible 4 months since we started in Seattle & I’ve made some memories that will keep me smiling for the rest of my days, so please don’t feel sorry for me!
I took a final photo of the idyllic lake opposite our hotel, then we made our way across town & headed into the forest as the road carved through the trees & followed the rising & falling contours of the land.
As we reached Long Lake, we stopped to enjoy the view at Naples & that was the moment that a seaplane came in to land. Once more we’d arrived at just the right moment!
The road through Naples was a slightly busier State Road, but we were only on it for about 10 minutes before joining another deserted County Road (the US equivalent of a lane in the UK, only wider). We’d identified that the remainder of the ride was either uphill or down dale, so we were expecting things to become a little bit tougher. The early climbs were quite comfortable & the scenery made it easy to forget about the gradient & simply enjoy the view.
Having said that, Sean looks to be putting in a lot of effort in the last photo!!
Our trip round Europe continued as we arrived in Poland – this is where Poland Spring bottled water is sourced. Waterford, Paris & Norway were all sign-posted as being within 10 miles of Poland, as was Wales, Monmouth, Yarmouth & New Gloucester!
As the temperature rose during the morning, we began to appreciate the shadow that the trees provided, especially on the climbs.
I wasn’t quite sure how many downhill sections were remaining, so I decided I’d get a final video of me descending quite early in the day. As the day continued, I found out there were still plenty of climbs & descents left!
The descent took us past a pretty lake & then straight into a brute of a climb – 15% for 400 yards was enough to make the eyes water & the legs sting! The next descent took us past Shaker Village & along the shoreline of Sabbathday Lake, where we found a great ice cream & soda stop on a sandy beach. The perfect stop for our final stop of the adventure! A scoop each of black raspberry & choc chip ice cream washed down with a black cherry soda – delicious!
As we left the lake behind, we hit our steepest climb of the entire adventure – a 16% section that went on for about 5 minutes & was at the very limit of what I can climb on a fully loaded steel bike! I was doing about 3 mph up this ramp & was close to having to weave across the road to keep going.
You might be able to see the look of relief of mine & Sean’s faces at having survived the climb! We spent quite a bit of time today talking about the whole adventure & how neither of us had really prepared for how we might feel at the end of it. It’s almost as if living in the moment every day enabled the end to creep up on me. A combination of planning the daily routes, riding & keeping my blog up to date took up most of my day – I’m pleased it did, as it means I’ve focussed on the adventure itself until the very end.
I had one final opportunity to capture birds on the water, as well as demonstrate how much the body loses flexibility over an 18 week cycling adventure! My legs were still in shock after the steep climb earlier & they were shaking as Sean took the photo for me!
As we reached Brunswick, we cycled past our motel for the next 3 nights & headed for Maquoit Bay on the Atlantic Ocean. It was an emotional moment (in a very British ‘stiff upper lip’ type way) – it took us 93 riding days to ride from the Pacific Ocean in Seattle to the Atlantic Ocean in Brunswick. In that time we cycled 5,689 miles & climbed 207,143 feet!
Ivan kindly took the photos for us – he had completed a supported Coast to Coast crossing in July, which added a nice touch to our finish. We exchanged a few stories, before heading back to the hotel, where we captured a photo at the finish point of what has been an epic cycling adventure.
Thank you to everyone who has helped us along the way – I plan to do an August update, where I’ll take time to say a proper thank you.
I hope you’ve enjoyed joining us on our adventure of a lifetime – I’ve been humbled & delighted in equal measure that so many friends, family & strangers have chosen to engage in the adventure with us! If you have an opportunity, don’t be frightened to chase your dream, whatever that may be.
I’m off to The Big Apple for a few days of Rest & Relaxation. Once I get home, I’ll post an update on my time there too.
Thank you, once again for coming with us as we across the USA, Coast to Coast!
Stage Stats – 61 miles, 4,049 feet of climbing. The final day of what has been the most incredible adventure!
Well, How Did We Get Here? Miles, Feet Climbed, Maps & Profiles.
We’re very much on the home stretch, with just 3 days of cycling remaining. I’ve kept updating the map & elevation profile so that it now covers the first 17 weeks of our trip!
We’ve covered 5,518 miles & climbed 195,987 feet to reach Fairlee.
Previous updates described how we travelled from Seattle in Washington to Pulaski in New York over the first 16 weeks of our adventure. Now find out where we went & what we did in Week 17! Hopefully picking a single photo to represent each day will refresh my mind when it comes to looking back on my adventure!
I spent Saturday planning our routes for the coming week & we finalised our accommodation arrangements. A downpour on Sunday delayed our start time on a very wet ride into Boonville, where we’d splashed out on some luxury accommodation. Monday morning was more of the same wet weather, but things brightened up in the afternoon on the way to Long Lake.
On Tuesday we had a near disaster as my chain broke in Newcomb, but fortunately we met Dave, Ruth & Sienna who saved the day & we made it to Ticonderoga a bit later than planned. Wednesday was another rest day, so I used the time to catch up on my blog. Thursday was a gloriously sunny day as we crossed into Vermont on a ferry & did a full gas effort up Green Mountain on the way to Pittsfield. Friday started out dry until the day’s big climb out of Sharon, then it was rain all the way into Fairlee, via a covered bridge & a brief foray into New Hampshire.
Wednesday 24th to Saturday 27th August – Rest Day & Stages 89 to 91.
Wednesday 24th August – Rest Day.
We were staying outside of the town itself, so we were a bit limited on activities today. That was no bad thing, as it gave me an opportunity to catch up on my journal, as well as start preparing my weekly & monthly blog posts. I also needed to update our routes from now until we finish our adventure next Tuesday.
We decided to do our own thing for food & I succumbed to the Micky D’s across the road – sometimes only junk food will do & today was that time! I also decided to go for a bit of a walk to work off the calories & managed to catch a view of yesterday’s descent & got a better understanding of why we plummeted down it so quickly.
Thursday 25th August – Ticonderoga to Pittsfield (Stage 89).
We set off at 9am & after just 3 miles we had a treat ready & waiting for us – a crossing of Lake Champlain by ferry (our 4th & final ferry crossing of the adventure). The crossing from Ticonderoga to Shoreham takes 7 minutes & costs $5 for a bicycle & rider & out of peak hours you use a flag system to hail the ferry.
I took a few photos on the way across the lake to remind us of the ferry & the ticket lady kindly took a shot of Sean & myself with the pirate flag. We also moved from The Empire State of New York, into the Green Mountain State of Vermont during the crossing of the lake.
Our route profile told us it would be rolling the entire day, including a couple of serious climbs. We joined the Lake Champlain Scenic Byway as we left the ferry crossing & began climbing almost immediately as we briefly headed into a wooded area. As we reached the plateau, we rode through the small village of Shoreham, one of a number of English place names we’ve encountered since we entered the New England region.
In spite of there not being a town for miles around, we passed Lakeview Cemetery. It then took us 20 minutes to cycle past the nearest church, so it was an unusual location for a graveyard. We briefly joined the road to Bridport, before taking a right towards Cornwall – as I mentioned previously, there are a few English place names around here!
We stayed on a plateau for about 20 minutes with vast views laid out before us, but it became clear at some point soon we would be heading downhill, with the prospect of a climb up to the next plateau!
As we started climbing, we saw a sign for Lemon Fair Sculpture Garden. The sculptures were laid out in fields & stretched for as far as the eye could see. We spent about half an hour having a walk around some of the closer exhibits & enjoying the views.
While we were taking in the art, a group of horse riders galloped across the field & then stopped, as if they were awaiting instructions on what to do or where to go next. Although there were dogs with the horse riders, they didn’t appear to be hunting.
We left the horses & riders to carry on doing their thing & set off for Cornwall. We continued on quiet two lane roads with our first views of the Green Mountains – our big climb is one of the lumps in the third photo below. Passing through Middlebury, we saw our first cyclists few quite some time, they were out for the day & were attempting to navigate their way across town.
We took another quiet backroad out of town, where we saw another cyclist heading in the opposite direction, we exchanged waves as we passed each other. Just before our planned coffee stop I had to stop to take a photo of a sign to Bristol – over 5,500 miles cycled & finally I see a sign for my home town!
Otter East in East Middlebury was a great little coffee shop – I asked the assistant for advice on what one pastry I should try & quick as a flash she said her favourite was the lemon & poppy otter’s claw. I was sold & picked up a ginger cookie to go with my coffee – we had a big climb lined up after our stop & I didn’t want to be short of energy!! The pastry & the cookie were delicious.
Our big climb today is Green Mountain & it measures 10 miles in length, climbs 1,600 feet & has ramps up to 13% – it qualifies as a mountain in anyone’s language! I was acutely aware that I may experience some pain up this little beast, as Sean had declared this morning he planned to give it full beans & he’s also ditched his tent before today’s ride (which weighed about 4 or 5 pounds) now that we had motels booked until we reach Brunswick.
Since I lost 20 pounds or so, my riding has come on in leaps & bounds & I can now climb reasonably well – the thing is, Sean has always been a better climber than me, by a significant margin. I wanted to test myself, so decided I was also going to give it a full gas effort & deal with the consequences later! I made sure to take photos on the climb – this is an cycling adventure, not a race!
The two long, steep ramps were at the start & end of the climb. At the start, the road was being prepared for new tarmac, so we had to ride on a rough surface too. We both gave it all we had & finished together at the top in just under an hour, so I now know my climbing really has improved!
We stopped briefly at the summit to get our breath back & take a photo – although there wasn’t a proper summit sign, there was a Green Mountain sign of sorts. Now for my favourite part, the descent!
The first couple of miles of the descent were lightning quick & I hit 45mph at one point. A shout out to Chris Hancock, we passed through the town of your surname today – ironically it’s where I stopped for the man with big cockerel photo! Bob, fear not, a copy will be on its way to you as soon as I get back into phone coverage!!! 🙂
We have a number of mountains coming up in the last week – this is because we’re heading West to East & the glaciers that formed the valleys moved in a North to South direction. This is a repeat of what happened in Washington State, only the mountains here are at a lower altitude. I’ve come to like the mountains now I can climb them, as they provide some glorious backdrops.
As we were riding through the 3rd Rochester of the adventure (others were in Indiana & New York, now New Hampshire) we stumbled across The Rochester Cafe & Country Store, so decided to stop & see what they had to offer. Delicious ice cream was the answer – I had a double scoop of Maine Black Bear (cherry & chocolate in vanilla) & Black Raspberry!!
We ended up chatting to a lady who was a retired nurse & had worked at the Bristol Royal Infirmary during a 2 year spell of living in the UK. She’s hoping to meet up with some of the people she used to work with on a trip to South Africa – I’m keeping fingers crossed that she & all her friends are able to travel.
As we left town, we followed the White River downstream (we’re following it again tomorrow), which was great news as it meant the final 15 miles into Pittsfield were gravity assisted! It only took us about an hour to reach our hotel for the night.
We’d landed on our feet once again, as the Clear River Inn & Tavern was perfect – we had a room each, that was spacious & everything looked & behaved as if it was new – we had codes to get into the rooms, rather than keys. Breakfast would be provided in the morning & there was a great bar & restaurant on-site.
We toasted a glorious day in the saddle under blue skies & our good fortune with the hotel. There are now only 4 riding days of our adventure left, so I’m beginning to try & work out how I feel about the trip coming to an end, but in the meantime, I’m making the most of the time we have remaining.
Stage Stats – 58 miles, 4,573 feet of climbing. Cycling in the sun with an alpine climb thrown in for good measure.
Friday 26th August – Pittsfield to Fairlee (Stage 90).
We made the most of the Clear River Inn’s breakfast nook, helping ourselves to cereal, fruit & protein bars, as well as enjoying the coffee & juice on offer. A great start to what should be another big climbing day.
We were on our way by 9.30am (a slightly shorter ride today), under leaden grey skies – rain is forecast for late morning / early afternoon, so we’re expecting to get wet at some point today. We re-traced our tyre tracks the 5 miles back to Stockbridge, where we picked up the White River again & warmed up our legs on a couple of steep ramps that took us over some bluffs.
As we were descending one of the bluffs, we saw movement ahead of us, so slowed down – we approached a flock of game birds (partridge or grouse maybe?) that were teaching their chicks how to cross the road safely!!! It was quite a sight watching 20 to 25 birds running across the 2 lane road. They didn’t seem in any way phased by us riding past, they just looked on from the field.
A few locals have been saying that they are need of rain, as the rivers are all running dry – we saw this at first hand today, as we followed the White River valley. Most of the bed was dry, with just a small channel down the middle. The other observation was that the mountains were looking bigger, the further down the river valley we went!
I’m always on the lookout for something interesting, historical or just different & today we passed the birthplace of Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Their missionaries travel around the world spreading the word of the Mormon Church. I knew a little about them, as when I worked for a bank in a previous life many years ago, a number of their US missionaries used to come into the bank to cash their cheques.
There’s a 38 1/2 foot granite monument commemorating his life, but it was 2 1/2 miles away up a hill, so I settled for just taking a photo of the historical marker!
The sky was becoming darker & it clear that rain was on the way, so we picked up the pace a bit to try & reach Sharon before the rains arrived. We managed to make it the local gas station for coffee & processed cake just before the heavens opened, but only just!
It was bucketing down when we set off after our coffee stop, with thunder & lightning thrown in for good measure. The climb itself began with a couple of 13% ramps which quickly warmed us both up, but then it settled into a steady 5% to 7% gradient for about 4 miles.
There wasn’t a sign at the summit, so we simply rolled over the top, before hitting a 12% descent for 2 miles. In no time I was descending at about 45 mph, so concentration levels were 100% switched on. After a few miles the gradient eased & I was able to get a couple of photos – we were only doing a little of 20 mph, so had plenty of time to enjoy the steam rising off the trees, as well as pay attention to the road.
The British theme continued from yesterday, as we hit an East Anglian stretch today, as we headed through Thetford & close by Norwich.
We enjoyed a couple more short descents & were beginning to think the worst of the climbing was behind us, when Thetford delivered a cheeky little punch to the solar plexus – Thetford Hill had a name for a reason, it was a short, sharp & steep ramp that lasted for less than a mile, but hit 12% for a big chunk of it. We were relieved to reach the summit!