It’s now 4 weeks after we returned from the bike trip and I’ve been urged to write a post reflecting on the trip now that some time has passed.  I find myself occasionally (actually often) looking at a map of the US and finding it incredible what we accomplished, self supported, in such a short time.  But if I had to do it again, what changes would I make?
1 – The start.  Choosing Seattle as a starting point made it impossible to avoid 90 for a significant stretch.  It was here that we ran into a number of problems which could have been avoided by moving the starting point north to Anacortes or south to Astoria, Oregon.  Either one would have meant flying in earlier that Friday like Justin did and getting to the starting point that night. 
2 – The distances should have reflected the difficulty of the riding.  When we made our route and the potential stopping points, we of course were limited to where the campsites were but we had decides on roughly 120 miles a day regardless of terrain.  We should have shortened this to 100 or less when the riding was tough (i.e. Rockies) and lengthened it to 130 or more when the terrain was flat (i.e western Iowa). 
3 – The timeline – If anyone wants to do a cross country bike ride, I would suggest at least 6 weeks instead of the 4 weeks that we blocked off.  At times I felt we were racing and we rarely reached our destination early enough to do local sightseeing. For example the Winnebago Factory Visitor’s Center in Forest City, Iowa closed at 4:30 –we missed it by 5 minutes.  With a little more time, we would have had flexibility in our schedule and a chance to stop more often, but then again, both Dave and I only had a month of available time and with that restriction, we did very well.

What did we do right?
1 – The gear.  Our gear was light, efficient and sturdy.  We used everything we took, needed nothing else and all of it was less than 13 pounds.  Once I got used to the idea that I would have a one set of biking clothes and one set of camp clothes, everything else fell into place.  I think Dave may give a good review of the gear, but the items that impressed me the most on this trip were the Montbell plasma 100 – super warm and only 4.8 ounces, Montbell tachyon anorak – great layer for the morning ride and only 2 ounces, the Katabatic sleeping bag and our Easton 3man tent.  Most cross country bike riders seem to have enough gear for a month survival after an apocalypse.   We really cut our load by not carrying cooking gear with the correct assumption was that we would find enough places to eat along the way – grocery stores, convenience stores, diners and restaurants.
2- Aerodynamics – We had only one bag, a dry sack, attached to the rear of our bikes to maintain the most aerodynamic configuration possible.  We each also had a small bento box and a hydration pack, which still maintained a very clean line.  This gave us the ability to cover the number of miles we needed to do each day, averaging in the high teens for MPH.  I can’t imagine riding that same pace with a handlebar bag and two saddle bags. We also used our road/racing bikes for this trip instead of a touring bike.  Our only modification was 25mm tires.  This probably was the right compromise between speed and stability but not using the traditional 28mm touring tires may have had something to do with our 8 flats tires. 
3 – The group – Although the three of us had ridden only once together before we left, we were roughly the same ability and got along very well.  I had only recently met Justin but had been friends with Dave for over a decade.  In the past when we’ve traveled together he and I have fought, but not at all this trip.  I think the focus of the mission and the realization that we were all tightly interlocked (we couldn’t leave anyone behind) made this crucial.  We all annoyed each other at times, but we were very good at letting it roll of our shoulders and continuing on.  Our personalities, interests, sense of humor were all well matched and made for a great time. 

4 – Command Central – Even though I wrote that the ride was self supported, it was virtually supported probably more than any other ride to date.  We relied heavily on the daily briefings from my sisters with the suggested stops, options for eating a place to stay for the next night.  One thing that I learned when I got back was that when my sisters couldn’t find a place to stop for the night, they would take the little yellow google man and walk the route looking from side to side for a sign for a  campsite or a collection of buildings that might be a motel.  For example, this is how they found Steelman’s Brite Spot in Hiland Wyoming (the place with the stuffed rattlesnakes) the only place for miles.  When we returned my sisters unanimously said that they felt like they had been on the ride also.



Well-fed and well-rested, we woke up to a great breakfast at our (last!) hotel and hit the road pretty early.

We knew we wanted to hit the beach at around 11:30, which meant we'd have to get moving quickly and take few stops. Luckily, the roads were pretty calm as we found our way through the suburbs west of Boston. The temperature and wind were perfect for the last morning of riding and the scenery, while more familiar, was beautiful.

With the adrenaline building and our bike computers tracking the mileage, we took only one break at around halfway back to Boston. The 30 miles seemed easy, and we were even surprised by Don's mother's cousin, Janet, who was waiting for us on the side of route 117 at the perfect place to stop! She flagged us down and gave us some bottles of cold water that were very appreciated.

After meeting her, we continued along 117, passing under I-95 to route 20. The territory started looking very familiar to us from our rides around Boston that we took before the trip.

As soon as we hit the Charles, we knew we were close to home and started hitting landmarks that reminded us how close we were. The Pru came into view, and we rode alongside the river before crossing into Boston on the Mass Ave bridge.

Straight down Mass Ave to Boylston, we took a quick stop for a photo in Copley Square and then were on our way to Southie and the beach!

An enthusiastic welcome party awaited us right at the end of Broadway, and we rode past the statue straight to the beach. Our welcome party was happy to follow us down, and took some wonderful photos of us at the water.

We're happy we made it, and thankful for all the support that we got along the way from everyone. The people who hosted us at their houses were all so terrific, and the people we met along the way made the trip even more fun and exciting. And the support from afar - whether it was phone calls, comments on this blog, encouraging text messages, or even asking a friend to let us stay at their house along our route - we appreciate all of it. Thank you!



 We woke up today in Williamstown this morning where I feel at home, having gone to Williams College in the mid-80s.  Living in Boston I continue to make it back to campus each summer for the Williamstown Theater Festival and I was glad to be able to make that a part of this trip. It was fun to show Justin and Dave part of the campus yesterday:  Spencer House where I lived senior year, 

Papa Charlie's where I read the sandwich choices for a long time and always order the Gilda Radner, and of course the Purple Pub. The pub has been completely rebuilt since I was a student and is no longer considered a dive. 

This morning we packed up our stuff at the Northside Motel (Williamstown needs some updated lodgings) and biked around the rest of the campus before heading east. I had shown them the campus south of Route 2 last night so we biked by Chapin Hall,

the new Paresky Center,

the Freshman Quad,

and a new building I had never seen before, the new Sawyer Library addition to Stetson Hall.

After the final tour of campus, we headed east on Route 2 and started our climb out of the Purple Valley. This would be our last significant climb of the trip. Despite my memories of a very steep road, the grade was not bad at all which made the climb very satisfying. Because we climb at different speeds, we decided to meet up at the hairpin turn.

The hairpin turn is exactly what it sounds like, a 90 degree turn or switchback up the mountain.

At the hairpin turn, there's  a great view of the Purple Valley of the northwestern Berkshires.

We then continued over the Whitcomb Summit and enjoyed a spectacular descent for miles. The road had been recently repaved and there was no traffic in our direction.

Eventually Route 2 meets up with the Deerfield River,

which we followed into Greenfield where it empties into the Connecticut River. The small towns we biked through along the way were charming.
Over the course of the day we began  seeing signs for Boston where the mileage was in double digits!

 In Greenfield, we stopped for lunch at a grocery store that had a prepared foods section.  A few days ago I weighed myself on Gretchen's bathroom scale and learned that I had lost about 8 pounds. My goal was to try to maintain my weight (Justin was even and Dave had lost just 3 pounds).  I was now conscious that I was burning more calories than I was consuming so when I saw two sizes of chicken pot pie in the grocery case, I went for the family size.  At home when something says it serves 3, that's usually about right for me, so on a cross country bike trip, this pie that served 6 was perfect.

Our goal for the day was to bike about 90 miles, leaving 60 for tomorrow. We were having trouble finding a place to stay but through a connection of Justin's (Justin's friend Ryan's friend Adam's mother Gail) we found a house in Fitchburg where we could pitch a tent. However, when we were about 10 miles away, I heard a voice from a car yell over to us, it was Peter and Dane in the Volvo!  It was a wonderful surprise visit, easily made as we were just about 70 miles from Boston.

They brought baked goods and drinks for an impromptu picnic,

 reserved hotel rooms in the next town and offered to take us to dinner.
After spending almost an entire month with just two other people, this sudden introduction of two "outsiders" was a necessary first step in out gradual reintroduction to society. We had dinner at the Old Mill restaurant in Westminster MA.

 It was much nicer than any of the restaurants we had eaten at the entire trip. We needed reservations and again this more formal meal was another small step in a process to reacquaint us with societal customs.

After a great dinner, it was back to the hotel for bed. 

For those who have been asking,  our plan for tomorrow is to meet at 7 AM for the free breakfast here at the Wachusett Village Inn. We will depart at 7:30 AM, which will give us ample time to be at the beach in South Boston to ceremoniously dip our front wheels into the Atlantic at 11:30AM.  A picture of the location is below, but it is just south of the small park where  East Broadway ends at the water. It's called Marine Park but may be better known for the statue of Admiral Farragut ("Damn the torpedoes!")  that stands within it.  Anyone in the area is welcome to meet us at 11:30. We've left enough time so we should not be late.


Sleeping on the concrete floor of the pavilion became uncomfortable in the middle of the night. Despite fractured sleep, we awoke early as today we had over 120 hilly miles to ride. After the first 10, Don had a flat from an extraordinarily sharp rock. We used our last fresh tube, and continued on. 

We hit a new grocery chain called Price Chopper for breakfast - cereal and danishes. We set out to tackle some hills. Unfortunately, our pace slowed significantly. Some of the hills had grades close to 10% and the extra strain of climbing them caused my lingering knee pain to be much more severe. Don and Justin were patient and we kept rolling over the hills one at a time.

The route near Albany became challenging as there were many options around the city, but none seemed ideal. We decided on one that lead us to a highway on-ramp. 

We changed course, zig-zagged past the airport, and got clear of the city. Eventually, we crossed the Hudson River and found a place to eat (and rest) in Troy. Because we had an early start, we had well over 80 miles under our belt at lunch. We stopped at the Flying Chicken for an awesome home cooked lunch. 

At lunch, we discovered and alternate route into Williamstown, MA which added on 4 miles but avoided a huge 1000 foot climb and descent, which we initially thought was inevitable. And this new route would take us through a new state: Vermont! Sadly, I got a flat (a tiny nail and a slow leak) to make the second falt of the day. Despite multiple attempts, we couldn't get our patches to hold and we were stranded. 

At least we were able to laugh about the terrible patches that stuck only to our fingers and not the tubes. Don and Justin rode ahead while I hitched a ride from an incredible nice guy, Mickey, to a nearby bikeshop. The guys at Tomhannock Bicycles took care of us and sent us on our way with free labor and free gels to get us the rest of the way. 

The final 20 miles was easy rolling along a river into Vermont and then Massachusetts. Seeing the green mountains makes us feel so close to home! 


We rolled into Williamstown with just enough time for a shower at iur motel and dinner at Papa Charlie's. 

Don had bought tickets to Fool for Love, a play at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, months ago in anticipation of us being here.

The play was amazing. Sam Rockwell and Nina Arianda did an incredible job. We grabbed a beer at the only pub in town, the Purple Pub. Don finished his tour of his undergrad campus on the walk back to our motel. Today was a long day! Time to crash. 




Starting the day with freshly laundered clothes (thanks again, Gretchen!), we headed out from Canandaigua on route 20 to the east. After leaving behind the lake there, we passed by a number of the other Finger Lakes, including Seneca, Cayuga, and Skaneateles Lakes, which made the riding quite scenic. We knew we would stop every 20 or so miles for a break, but the terrain quickly turned to rolling hills, making our progress a little slower.

We had a quick stop in the waterfront town of Geneva, where we ate breakfast at a nice restaurant near Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Another quick stop around 50 miles in at the Patisserie in Skaneateles for some baked goods at Gretchen's recommendation left us a little more refueled for more hills. Dave and Don got a chance to run through the sprinklers there to cool down.

When we got on the road again, we quickly noticed the day heating up. Combined with the constant up-and-down rolling hills, we were sweating like crazy and our legs were in pain by the time we made it to noon. Some of these hills must have been about an 8% grade and stretched for anything between a half mile and two miles.

We stopped quickly in a couple places along the way to grab cold drinks, and rode through some quaint towns.

Though we had known there was a chance of bad weather when we started riding at the beginning of the day, we had hoped it would pass us by or we would just some brief rain. However, as we approached the town of Cazenovia, where we planned to stop for lunch, we saw the thunderstorm clouds behind us. They ominously chased in into the Tops grocery store parking lot, where we locked up our bikes just inside the doors and foraged for food among the aisles.

A few minutes after arriving, we heard the rain start, accompanied by some thunder and lightning that seemed almost directly overhead. We took a look out the doors and saw drivers struggling to get to their cars and out on the road.

This made us feel justified in taking an extra long lunch break, during which we enjoyed our typical turkey-lettuce-cheese wraps and other assorted semi-healthy items. We had been so sweaty that we started shivering!

The weather advisory continued, but we hoped that the lightning was gone and so we got on the road again.

For the rest of the afternoon, the weather vacillated between a light drizzle and a steady downpour.

The sweat from earlier in the day was washed off (er, not fully- definitely got some in my eyes, which hurts!) and we made it through some last couple hills to a bike shop in Madison called Guy's Bicycle Shop. We grabbed a new tire to replace the one we punctured yesterday, and chatted with the very nice people who were in the store. They gave us a recommendation for dinner and we took off for our last hour or so of riding.

We arrived in the town of Bridgewater where our place for the night, the Lake Chalet Campground, is located. After taking off some of our soaked clothing, we set up our tent under their pavilion, which was thankfully completely dry. We had to be creative with the way we staked down the tent since it was a cement floor.

After the owner of the campground gave us a quick ride into town in their car, we grabbed dinner at a place called Patti's Pub.

Dave and Don played some games in the bar, and we got a great amount of food before we walked back to the campground in the now-dry weather. Heading to sleep now with hopes for an early start tomorrow so we can reach Massachusetts by tomorrow night!