Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Carnage Report

4 days riding
412.6 miles
1 busted spoke
2 flat tires
3 0 mph crashes (we won't name names)
40 mph top speed
15 mph average speed
2 Treo ejections

It all makes for a sweet set of tour gams and a long ass blog.

The Journey Home

[Road post from the bus trip home...]

Here I am, the last of the Bang! Boston Team to be on a bus home to Philly. Between the physical, mental, mechanical, and financial demands of the trip up, as well as the probability of delays on the way home ominously looming on the horizon, we decided that the accomplishment of riding our bikes from Philly to Boston was enough to quench our egos for now. The ride home consisted of a string of "chinatown" busses for us all.

In the end, we traveled 412.6 miles over 5 days (4 days of biking). We visited old friends, made new friends, & had amazing adventures all while receiving encouragement and support from you all through this blog... And for that we thank you!

I still have 3 days of Bang! Boston to report on. I've uploaded most of the pictures to my flickr account, but will report back the stories that accompany them over the next couple of days. Also, the other guys will be publishing their thoughts on our trip to give you another perspective, so check back soon!

Thank you internet!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Day 6: Mission Accomplished

Day 6 Full Flickr Photo Set

Wow. The last 5 days have been amazing. We accomplished our goal and Banged! Boston. Originally, we planned to ride back, at least to New York, then bus home from there, but, unfortunatley, there are several concerns that have made it prohibitively difficult to do so...

We've been eating about $70 in food per person per day on the road. All this cycling takes a lot out of you. On top of that, we have to split the cost of motel rooms and there's the occasional cycle repair fee which have basically made it tough to financially survive a ride back home.

We've had pretty good luck on this front so far, but there's always the possibility of a major mechanical failure which, at this point in the game would set us back a lot in time and money.

We took longer than expected to get to Boston due to several factors (mechanical repairs, unexpected terrain, etc...) and at this point it would be a race against the clock to get back to Philly in a reasonable spand of time. People have jobs waiting for them back home, ya know. Also, the longer it takes us to get back, the more we have to support the financial burden of being on the road.

OK, I won't lie, as much as it pains me to admit it, I was NOT looking forward to biking that 80 mile CT stretch in reverse. I can be as stubborn and meat-headed as the next guy when it comes to taking the physical challenge, but that ride serious wiped me out. Although I think we could do it, it would be a lot harder the second time around and may push us to our respective breaking points.

As I've seen in the past from being on tour in bands, as much as you like the friends you surround yourself with, there comes a point after spending every waking hour with a group of folks that it becomes a little much. I was impressed that there were no arguments on this trip as of yet, especially with the high physical demands and occasional stressful situation. I'd say we faired better than I had expected, and I was proud of us as a team. However, that being said, there were times when tensions ran a little high, and as much as you enjoy the company and commeradary of your fellow teammates, you need to know where to draw the line and give each other a break. I think we could stand to use some time apart at this point, which should in no way reflect poorly on our friendships... it's just realistic.

For all of these reasons, we decided it was best for all if we went our seperate ways from Boston and not bike back. So now I will recount the events of our tearful goodbyes...

Today we decided to break up the band. Peter had his sights set on heading back to New York to hang out with friends a little more, Jeremy (still wallet-less) was ready to head home to ease his financial situation, Kevin wanted to break off and be a tourist in Boston, and I wanted to hang out with Marianne, Sarah and Mary in Boston, then maybe pop down to New York to hang out with Bree and Sonya a bit.

So, we all agreed that going our seperate ways was probably best. Since Kevin and I would be staying in Boston, we saw Peter and Jeremy out the door and off into the sunset...

Bye guys! See back in Philly for Twisted Tuesday!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Day 5: Sutton MA to Boston MA (51.4 miles)

Day 5 Full Flickr Photo Set

Day 5, here it is- the last leg of our journey from Philly to Boston, and a relatively short one at that (by the way, I love the fact that a 50 mile bike ride has become a "short" ride).

Up and at 'em! Today's the day and we're PSYCHED! We're up and raring to go!

As per usual, we stopped for our daily diner breakfast after a bit of riding, and that's where we met this character, Roger. Peter was compelled, as if by cosmic forces, to draw Roger over breakfast. I thought it was worth posting.

With the last stretch of road ahead of us, and being weary of blowing flats in the final push, we had our eyes peeled for bike shops that we might be able to top our tires off at (while we were still in civilization). Sure enough, down the road a clip, we ran into this motley crew (not the band, check the definition) at Trek Stop Cycling. WOW, yet another bunch of amazing and helpful people! They were gearing up for a morning ride with no particular destination in mind. We told them about our trip, and they asked us which way we were heading? Apparently, they knew the path and they had a MUCH more bike freindly route in mind. After topping off our tires, they decided to guide us along their bike friendly route toward Boston. Fantastic!

Mark was the Trek Stop shop owner and ride leader. He was also a fixed gear brother! What are the odds!?

After an hour of smooth riding with our Trek Stop sherpas, we parted ways back on the road to Boston. From here, GPS says that we should jump onto Route 9 just about all the way into Boston. Hmmm, from here it looks like Route 9 is a highway? Well, I'm sure it will mellow out after a few miles, maybe this just a busy stretch. So we followed Route 9 for a few miles. Jeremy had his trepidations about the looks of this route, but I figured the GPS had been pretty realiable for the past 4 days, so I put my faith in technology. That was a mistake this time...

In a few miles, we were riding on a full blown 55 mph highway with no shoulder. You win Jeremy- ABORT, ABORT! Don't listen to GPS, Route 9 is NOT bike friendly. Luckily, the GPS software has work-arounds for this type of scenario. I re-planned the route specifying that we can NOT use Route 9, and was able to map a parallel path to Boston.

Sure enough, Boston emerged from the horizon. See it there in the distance?

How about now? There it IS!?

Can you feel it Peter? *MWUAH* yeah, I knew you could! GO GO GO!

Well, here we are. This here manhole cover tells me that we're in Boston now, baby! WOOOO!

Celebratory team high five on the streets of Boston-town!

Our first stop in Boston was to meet up with my friend Marianne at her job to get some food and recount the day's events. Marianne would be letting us crash at her new place in East Boston, but she had work for a few more hours. After we ate and conversed for a bit, we decided to shoot over to Marianne's place to rest, shower, soak in the victory, and prep for the celebration dinner that we had been planning for tonight (see Delux post).

Marianne warned us that East Boston was an island and that it would probably be really difficult to get there by bike, but we couldn't hear her over our inflated egos. I mean, we just biked here from Philadelphia! There's no where our bikes can't take us!

Actually there is such a place... it's in East Boston. Between all the construction going on in the city (which is apparently in a continous state of disarray), and the fact that there actuall IS NO bike route onto the island, our powers of GPS were useless against this city. Boston is basically GPS kryptonite (not the lock). Trying to follow my GPS directions sent us in multiple concentric circles sprialing into frustration. Time to conceed to emasculation and ask a townie how to get to East Boston. The first couple of guys we met were, again, very helpful, despite the fact that they insisted upon spelling P-A-R-K while directing us to the "Blue Line" T Station near a parking garage. Strange, but helpful.

So, we took our first of what would be many T trips, bikes in tow. Several people we spoke to insisted that Boston was a very bike freindly town, but every point of my biking experience in Boston says otherwise. I appreciate the fact that the Boston bikers love their town and love their bikes, and have managed to find their cycling niche in this wonderful city, but seriously guys and gals, I would not classify Boston as "bike friendly." "Bikable" maybe, but NOT "bike friendly." Two major hinderances are that you can NOT bike to East Boston- you're forced onto the Blue Line of the T, and you can NOT bring your bike onto ANY other line of the T. That on top of the incessant construction, which I agree is difficult to BOTH cars and bikers, made our 2 days in Boston less than "bike friendly." Sorry guys. No hard feelings, right?

After cleaning up a bit and relaxing for a while, we hopped back onto the Blue Line and made our way to Delux to meet our Bang! Boston welcoming commitee. Most of these people got wind of our trip through a Bike Forums thread that Peter posted and some others were personal friends. This was really a fantastic welcome to Boston for us. After sharing some food, drinks, stories, and good times, these fine folks even went so far as to cover the tab for us! THANKS YOU GUYS!!!!! The next day they invited us out again, but we weren't able to make it out. Sorry guys and gals, but thank you so much from the bottom of our single speed hearts!

Since we were staying on the minimum security prison of East Boston island, we had an effective curfew of 11:30 pm since the Blue Line stops running at midnight. Geh. Given the chance, I'm sure we would have stayed to laugh and play all night... but we had to hop back onto the train to Marianne's before we turned into pumpkins.

Welp, we've officially Banged! Boston. Despite the unfriendly city structure, the city's population more than make up for the traveling trouble. Yous guys are the best. Thanks again!

Map of Day 5 Route:

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Day 4: Middletown CT to Sutton MA (86.2 miles)

Day 4 Full Flickr Photo Set

OK, today is going to be a "thorough" entry. A LOT happened today, easily the most eventful day of tour. So let your eyes take a deep breath... and here we go...

We got up this morning around 6am and had to do the motel shuffle to get everyone out without being spotted (busted). Stealthily, 3 bikers slipped under the radar out to the main road while I checked out of the room. As I was leaving, the motel clerk ran out to stop me (gulp), but instead of yelling about the other people in the room, as I expected, she was waving a $20 bill and smiling... hmmm? Apparently, she wanted to donate to the Katrina cause on behalf of the motel! So, we got our first (unexpected) contribution today. Next step- find a red cross donation center!

After a brief stop (and pose) to get ourselves situated, we set off to the foggy horizon. It was cold this morning- notice the long sleeves!

About 20 miles down the road, *POP!*- I blew a spoke. Looking at my front wheel, I could see that it was severely out of true now and rubbing on the brake. I was struggling to crusie even downhill, and we were hitting a generous batch of hills about now. Peter's knowledge of the area from grad school put the nearest big city about 20 miles ahead... which would take me ALL day at this rate. So, once again, we asked the magic 8 ball (GPS) where the closest bike shop was... around here it was slim pickins'. But we had a chance to find a bike shop about 3 miles away. Ok.... push, push, push....

En route to the phantom bike shop, we ran into a couple on moutain bikes (Donna and Denis Jenks) and stopped them to ask if the shop we were looking for would be able to help us. They asked us what our problem was and said the nearest shop that could handle a spoke was about 10 miles away. After explaining our situation, Donna offered to help us out and drive us to the bike shop! We agreed to meet them at their house and GPSed to the address. OH MY GOD, were we surpised at what we found!

As we approached the address, we were blown away! What nice people and WHAT A NICE HOUSE! After killing some time talking to the friendly neighbors, Donna and Denis pulled up and welcomed us into their beautiful home, offered us drinks and were all around wonderfully helpful people. After a brief tour of their lake-front home and a quick photo-op exchange, we were off to resuscitate my front wheel.

In a few minutes, we pulled up to Bicycles East in South Glastonbury, CT. Although they didn't open for another hour, the store owner, Steve Dauphinais was inside getting a head start on the day's work. Donna had frequented the shop (which she highly recommended) and knocked on the door to talk to Steve and explain our situation. Peter also spoke with Steve and explained that he was a bike mechanic in Philly and if it would be easier, he could just do the work himself, replacing the spoke and trueing the wheel. Steve agreed to let us into the shop and gave Peter free reign over the shop tools! A little while later, Steve's wife, Deb, showed up to set up the shop for the day. We pitched in to make it easier on them since they were doing us a HUGE favor. After the spoke was fixed and the shop was ready for business, they didn't even charge us for the service! WOW, what a town! Where are these people coming from!?

After a stop for breakfast, we were starting to notice a trend developing... this entire day has been almost EXCLUSIVELY hills. This will end up playing a major roll in the rest of the trip. These hills are killer.

Along the path a spell, we stopped for a quick break to regroup. Since we were nearby Peter's old campus, we were discussing stopping by to see his old grad lab. While we were on the topic, Fran Funk wondered up to us to ask us what we were up to (being a sharp investigator). We explained our bike trip to her, as we did to many folks along the way, and she explained that she was with the local paper "the Chronicle" of Williamtic, CT and she'd like to talk to us more about the ride. We went on to spend the next couple of hours talking with Fran about bikes, the trip, Peter's involvement with the local area in grad school, life, the universe and everything... We even stopped at the local ice cream shop, "the Dairy Bar", to chat over some ice cream and root beer floats. Fran was another GREAT lady that we had the pleasure to meet along our journey and we exchanged information with her. She left us sweet comments on this post too- Thanks Fran! Last I heard, the editor was only planning to use one of the many, many pictures Fran took of us (including action shots of us riding by!), but the story should run and I'll try to link to it, or post it when it hits the stands...

Oh yeah, and on our way to the Dairy Bar, we ran into these three go-getters, selling cupcakes to benefit the victims of Katina. Well, well, well, what do you know, I just happen to have a $20 bill with Katrina relief written all over it. How about $20 for your last 2 cupcakes? deal! We bought their last 2 Katrina-cakes (immediately housed by Kevin and Jeremy) and gave them the rest of the day off. Way to go girls!

After all this excitement (and sugar) we were itching to get back on the road... and back to the hills. Seriously, I can't stress enough how many hills there were in CT and how freaking big they were! Just one after another after another after another... they wouldn't stop. At this point everyone on the team had switched from their fixed gear setup to the free wheel so that they could coast down the hills... except me. Since I had already made it this far and was dealing with the hills as best I could, I was determined to make it all the way to Boston fixed. There's really no practical reason for it, just pure machismo. I kind of just wanted to prove it to myslef that I could do it, despite the fact that it was probably not the healthiest decision for my knees. I spent the day crawling up the hills and then spinning back down pushing 40 mph.

After dealing with the incessant barrage of continuous hills, we decided to re-evaluate our plan of action for the day. Originally, we'd planned to make it to Boston today, which all in all would have been a 120 mile day. Not an unrealistic goal. But, after the blown spoke, the hills, the paper interview, and more hills, we were pretty far behind schedule. We agreed that there was no way that we'd make it to Boston today before sunset, and that we should just GPS to a nearby motel and play that game again...

As the sun was setting on our way to our new destination, I was stricken with another mechanical difficulty- high speed flat! Today was not my day. But, we were in a much better position than we were yesterday since we didn't have far to go this time. Peter, being the tire changing speed champion of our team, took to the task. Then, in an effort to make us feel useful, he let Jeremy and I pump the tire up- it's pretty hott.

Another close scare I had today was two, count 'em, TWO high speed Treo ejections. While riding down some of the larger hills, I hit some spotty paved areas that had been patched and repatched. The speed coupled with the bumps was enough to LAUNCH my Treo from the Krussell bike mount on my top tube and send it skidding across the pavement (and making my heart skip a beat). Not only does my Treo organize my entire life, but we're especially dependent on it right now because it's our sole means of navigation. Luckily, it survived both crashes which speaks to the solid construction of this PDA/Phone combo... what is significantly less impressive is the Krussell bike mounting system. Granted, it offers a convenient way to make my Treo easily accessible and visible while riding my biek, BUT, I'm not going to use it if I can't trust it, which makes it worthless. In the end, I came to terms with the shortcomings of the bike mount and used it for smooth road surfaces and low speed riding. Anytime I'd approach a hill or bumpy pavement, I'd unclip my Treo and secure it to my shoulder strap clip (good thing I thought to bring that too, huh).

At the end of the day, we successfully made our entrance to the destination motel and went out for pizza to celebrate a job well done. Today's terrain (80 miles of hills, did I mention that?) really put us to the test and now, Boston is so close we can taste it. MMMM, taste that? It's tea and beans, baby. 40 more miles tomorrow, piece of cake.

Map of Day 4 Route:

[Editor's Note: Since I did a full update to this day's blog which incorporated several other blog postings, I had to copy and paste some of the comments left on other blog entries to this posting. That's why the last few comments all say they were posted by me.]

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Day 3: NYC to Middletown CT (109.1 miles)

Day 3 Full Flickr Photo Set

Today was our first venture out alone on the open road. GPS, we lay our fate in your hands.... here it goes...

We had our fun yesterday, but now it's back to business and more serious than ever. The ride from Philly to New York, although long and hard, was at least preplanned and we just pedalled along mindlessly. Today, we're on our own. We got up early, shook off the sleep and took to the city streets.

Within about 5 miles, Captain GPS had us merging onto a highway/bridge clearly marked "Cars Only." Hmmm, not a good start. But, with a little human interaction (ewwww, do people still do that?) we figured our way onto the bike friendly way across the same road. OK, hot on the trail.

We got out of the city OK, but somewhere along the way we lost Jeremy's frame pump. Part of the cost of doing business on tour, I guess. You can only ever hope for a tenuous hold on any possession you have with you. Oh yeah, that includes Jeremy's wallet! Best we figure, he lost that on the ferry across the Hudson. Tough break Jer, but we gotchoo covered bro.

We also noticed that after about 180 miles, our tires could stand to be topped off, lest we start blowing flats (foreshadowing: dun dun duuuuunnnn!). So, after trucking along the suburban outskirts of New York for a spell, we GPSed our way to the nearest bike shop.

Huzzah! We threw open the doors to Pedal and Pump in Darien, CT and explained our story to Mike Smallidhe, shop owner. Mike was the first in what we would find to be a string of amazingly helpful bike enthusiasts and well wishers along our journey. He offered us his expertise and water- sweet sweet water!

The rest of the day brought little variation. We trucked along Route 1 for most of the day towards Boston, basically tracing the Route One Stage Race in reverse. Here's a shot of Jeremy considering clearing this draw bridge...

Lots of pedaling, a few stops to down some fluids and smooth sailing allllll the way. As a matter of fact, that back tire's looking pretty good, Kevin. Pretty strong and impenetrab......... awwwww, never mind. Kevin wins! First flat of bike tour! WOOOOOT!

Moments before Kevin sprung a flat, we were discussing the beauty of the setting sun and the danger that accompanies it at a gas station stop. We still had 25 miles to go before our scheduled Motel stop and figured we'd have enough time to make it before dark. The flat set us back a bit. So, we sprung into action. Kevin and Jeremy worked on preping Kevin's bike, Peter strapped the wheel onto his back to sprint back to the gas station to fill the tire and I worked on GPSing us to a closer Motel. I found us one that was about 17 miles away as opposed to 25 miles away, so after burning some daylight fixing the tire, we shot off. Normally, a 17 mile shot would take us about an hour, but soon enough the sun was down and so was visibility. We ended up crusing down rural forest roads with little to no shoulder and paved terrain that put cobble stone roads to shame. I was too busy trying to keep myself upright to take any actual photos of what this ride looked like, but here's an artist's (my) rendition of what it was like following the team on this leg of the journey. On the right, you can see Peter's blinky in the lead, behind him is Jeremy with no blinky, and on the left, much closer in perspective is Kevin's blinky.

This dicey trip significantly reduced our speed and extended our ride time. At this point, we were locked into staying at this destination motel, regardless of cost or conditions. Our hope was to find a place that we could have one of us check into as a single tenant, and then after a bit, have the other 3 sneak in to split the room 4 ways (yeah, that old trick). For this reason, it's important to find "motels" as opposed to "hotels" because motels typically have individual outside room entrances, whereas hotels usually have one main lobby entrance. As you might expect, the proprietors of these establishments are well aware of this scheme and take steps to reduce this as best they can. They don't LOSE any profit from room-sharing as we're not taking up anymore resources than a single person would, however, they don't gain anything from it and they'll make you pay out the nose for 4 people. If this place wasn't conducive to that arrangement, we'd hoped to move on to the next closest motel until we could score. So we're hoping we get lucky.

About a quarter mile down the road from the motel, I broke off from the group to check out the motel. As I checked in, the desk clerk was curious as to my attire and lack of a car (afterall, a motel is designed as a motor lodge). I explained that I was on a bike trip from Philly to Boston and for added secuirty (and, yes, I felt a little bad about it) mentioned that it was for Katrina awareness (and now it was...). This was a secuirty feature that the team had discussed mentioning so as to soften the blow if we got caught with 4 people in a room. If caught, we'd rather not get price gouged or worse yet, have the police involved (as had happened to friends of mine on tour), so we were hoping to get a little pity. Plus this helped justify the reason as to why anyone would try to do such a feat. It's hard to explain to most people that we're doing this "just cuz." (Later we decided that our official response to "why" we were doing this is because "life is too short"). All in all, the clerk smiled and happily gave me a room with no more questions after this discussion.

I got in, dropped my gear, and called the team waiting around the corner to let them know we're in. Meanwhile, they were scouting for a diner and found one about a mile down the road. In typical bike tour fashion, we scuttled in and devoured everything the waitress put in front of us.

After dinner, we shucked back to the motel, snuck in, showered and collasped. 6 hours sleep and we ride again...

Map of Day 3 Route: