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Gritty City

Today we rode from Conshohocken, a suburb of Philadelphia, through Philly to Newark, Delaware.

On the way, I met up with a friend who used to live in DC, Vanitha. I can’t believe we didn’t take any pictures of the two of us together. We met for breakfast at a place called Greg’s Kitchen (delicious breakfast bowls with tater tots – yum!). While I was waiting I was looking at the neighborhood. The architecture told a story that I would love to investigate using deed records and historical notes. Across the street there was a sculpture gallery called Artesano Iron Works. These are some of the very interesting works they had outside.

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Right next to the ironworks was a “Smoke and Vape” shop. Next to that was, appropriately enough, the fire department. I thought the juxtaposition was funny.

After breakfast we rode together for about 10 miles before Vanitha needed to head back. We rode right past her apartment and she very kindly offered me a car ride to Newark, but I resisted. Before we parted I took a photo of this trail sign. 10 points if you can tell me why I took this photo.

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The route went through some pretty gritty areas of Philadelphia. The City of Brotherly Love needs to show some better love in the neighborhoods near the airport and the John Heinz Wildlife Refuge. I was never nervous or felt unsafe in those neighborhoods, although there were many boarded up houses, etc. It was Sunday morning and most of the people I saw out were dressed for church and responded cheerfully to my “Good morning!”

At one point the route took us through a small park where I saw several peahens strutting around unconcerned about people passing through. In the midst of all of these sad neighborhoods, they were a treat to see.

From there I went through the Heinz refuge. What a surprise! When I was researching the route I saw it went through there, but I couldn’t discern what kind of trail it was. Well, typical of the Adventure Cycling routes, it was gravelly and dirt, but very doable with my Surly (yay again for the touring bike). The area is some land surrounded by interstates and airport and would be considered “waste land” except that it has started to recover from years of pollution. Marshes provide natural filtration and cleaning of the water and the health of a system is measured by the animals returning. I saw MANY fishing birds – mostly herons. There were also ducks and geese.

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A lot of our route today was marked as part of the East Coast Greenway. I have to say that “greenway” is an ambitious description. Yes, it’s a connection of roads, but the green spaces around this area are few and far between.

But finally, I saw this sign:

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And I knew I was close to the finish. I wandered around a bit at the end and took a wrong turn, but I corrected pretty quickly and finally got to the church. We are at Bible Fellowship Church of Newark, DE. What a great church – open, friendly, and showers available on site. A couple of us went to do some laundry.

So, I have a clean body, and enough clean clothes to get me to Reston. I rode the entire way today and if the speaker wasn’t as loud as I would have liked, at least I didn’t get any flats. One of our road bike riders and our tandem riders weren’t as lucky today, and it was hotter today than yesterday.

So I feel pretty okay, and I’m ready for some sleep and then another short day tomorrow as we head for Havre de Grace.

 

 

 

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Friday & Saturday on the Tour

Friday and Saturday we were weaving our way down the Delaware River, alternating first between New York and Pennsylvania with a small dip into New Jersey on Friday. Then on Saturday we alternated between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The views were beautiful, the people were nice.

We are mostly following Adventure Cycling routes, and the one for Friday put us on a gravel path – good for my light touring Surly, not so great for the others on skinny road bike tires. So we looked hard at the route for Saturday and took ourselves off the cart path and onto a wide shoulder on Rt. 29.

Ironically, on the paved road getting to Rt. 29, the surface had been recently “oiled and graveled” so there were some pretty sketchy parts no matter what size tires one had.

Out on Rt. 29 though we saw MANY cyclists, most heading north. They were day recreationalists and everyone was friendly.

About 12 miles short of our finish on Saturday, I got a flat. I fixed it with Suzanne’s patience. While we were on the side of the road doing it, a guy came out to offer his help. He provided a Powerade and two drinking glasses, which was awesome. His name was Vince and he told us “Youse be careful,” as we headed down the road. Not 20 minutes later, my tire was flat again.

I sent Suzanne ahead and called for SAG. Mike-san came to get me and when I got to the church and examined the inside of the tire, I saw one of those little radial wires on the inside of the tire. I couldn’t tell whether it had made it through the tire liner. BUT, when Mike (mechanic) examined my tube later, there was a split at the base of the valve. It would never have been good long enough for me to finish. Sigh.

Ah well, at least I changed the tire. Three times. I will probably have this grease under my nails for weeks.

In front of a house in Milford, PA.

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Crossing into New Jersey! This is Suzanne, my riding buddy for a lot of this trip.

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A bike eating pothole – normal for the trail on Friday.

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Coming up, we were on the Appalachian Trail for a wee bit.

These last two photos were when we crossed the Delaware Water Gap on the Appalachian Trail. It was awesome!

From NY to PA by way of NJ

We began our morning leaving Poughkeepsie early. Mike and I stopped at a local diner to get some breakfast where Suzanne joined us. After we ate we got on the Duchess Rail Trail. It was beautiful – wide, not crowded, smooth pavement … sweet. It took us right to the Walkway Over The Hudson. These are the photos from that.

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After that, we followed some backroads through gorgeous countryside. Here are a few photos of the scenery, both real and artificial.

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and the piece de resistance:

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After those we rode through an area around the “Neversink River” surround. All along the road and river in this part were historical markers documenting Indian raids by a band led by Joseph Brant, the Mohawk Chief, who (depending on which side you read) was a loyalist or a rebel. He is a fascinating character in history who you can read about here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Brant

These are some views of the Neversink River.

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I didn’t realize that during the Neversink part, we were in New Jersey! But at the very end, as we entered Milford, we saw this very welcome sign:

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The problem with catching up …

…is that it never happens. Well, rarely. Since today is an off day, I’ll try to synopsize the last couple of days and see if I can start tomorrow fresh with the daily updates.

When I last left off, I had visited my grandmother. Here is proof!

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Yesterday we rode from Granby, CT to Arlington, NY (just outside Poughkeepsie). The first 27 miles were over a mountain. I thought I would die. Even Mike said it was tougher than Rabbit Ears. I survived it, but when we stopped in Norfolk, NY for our rest stop I decided I was done. I didn’t even feel like eating, I was so depleted.

At the top of one of our climbs was this beautiful reservoir.

Norfolk was charming too.

But the best part of Norfolk was the view:

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Riding with Mike and Jim to set up the next rest stop gave me time to set up for some photos of some of our riders as they came in.

Darren

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Suzanne:

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Bonnie

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Curt, our fearless leader:

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Here in Arlington we are staying at New Beginnings Church. They are great hosts!

Catching up 2 days

Sunday was a fun day riding from Groton, MA to Putnam, CT. I found a route that would cut off 10 miles but wouldn’t go through RI. I was going to do it alone but Suzanne came with me. Good thing!

Very early on we were on a beautiful river trail. I hit a bump and apparently my bag wasn’t zipped closed. About 6 miles later we needed to check the route map and I reached for my phone in my bag and … it was missing.

We are all using an app called Life360 so we know where the others are. It tracks where one’s phone is. We saw it was on the trail so we went zooming back to get it. About the time we got to where it was last seen, we saw it was moving so we went like speed racers up towards the trail head. As we approached a woman with a stroller and a dog she turned around and asked, “Are you Kelley?”

She had already sent me an email saying she had found it. She refused any reward and was incredibly sweet.

If I hadn’t had Suzanne’s phone, I would have been sunk.

But, our “saving 10 miles” plan went “poof”. We had a couple of other diverts, but overall the rest of the ride was awesome! Suzanne is fun to ride with. We’re paced about the same and she likes to talk!

These are the photos from yesterday. The first are from the Wachusetts Dam and Reservoir in Clinton, MA. There was still a bit of fog on the water but there were NO bad views!

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A while after the dam we found a great diner to get some breakfast.

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When we got to Putnam I needed to do laundry so I loaded up my panniers and headed a mile to town. There was a Thai restaurant nearby so I indulged while my clothes ran.

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We were staying at the YMCA which was at the other end of a beautiful river side trail. I, of course, asked if they provided bike safety classes or learn to ride or a rodeo. They were very excited about that idea for the spring so I found some information about their local bike club and advocacy groups. Always happy to pass on the bike love!

Here are some photos of the river from the trail.

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When I was riding back to the Y in the twilight I heard mad quacking noise. As I came around a curve I saw a man sitting on a bench near the water surrounded by a bunch of ducks quacking up a storm! He was throwing food to them. Bad for the ducks, but he looked like he was having fun with friends.

Then I ran into a cloud of gnats. Ick. So happy I hadn’t showered yet! The great thing about staying at the Y is that we had unfettered access to the showers so I had time to get clean without going off-site (unusual for these rides). And, I also had time to clean my chain.

Today we rode from Putnam to Granby, CT. I was to meet my uncle in Granby at 3 so he could take me to see my grandmother. When we got to the SAG vehicle in Stafford Springs I knew I probably wasn’t going to make it to Granby in time to also get a shower, so I sagged from there. The first part of today had SO many hills, and at least one 7 mile detour from the route. Since I was short on time I didn’t take any photos today until I got to see my grandmother, but will share that tomorrow.

Foggy Day at the Beach

We started from Portsmouth to a wonderful send-off from our hosts, the fantastic Tammy of Operation Blessing. They treated us to breakfast at a nice place called the White Heron cafe.

It was Saturday morning so the roads were pretty quiet for the first part. We went a bit out of our way to ride the beach road. There was a triathlon going on, fortunately in the opposite lane. The entire area was covered with fog, so we didn’t get those sparkly ocean views.

 

As we turned inland we encountered some rolling hills but mostly went along the path of the Merrimack River through Haverhill, Lawrence, and Lowell, MA. All of these were along the river, and originally very industrial. They were a bit gritty. We stopped for lunch in Haverhill but received terrible service. That was disappointing as the place was written up for being wonderful. Mike didn’t want to sit down for lunch so he pressed on. Bonnie, Suzanne, and I took our time – although we didn’t mean to take that much time, but as I said … the service.

We thought, looking at the map, we’d have some nice river views, but there was only one short path along the river, and then it was blocked by construction with a sign for us to “use the path up to the dog park”. To call it a cyclocross trail is being generous. It was very steep and I wasn’t sure I was going to get myself and my bike up there! But we did get some river views for a while, so that was nice.

Once we left the river we had hills, more and more as we approached Groton. We are staying in the First Parish Church of Groton. A couple who belong to the church opened their home for us to shower, even providing towels and cold beer. They lost a son to suicide several years ago, so this cause is very personal.

I’m typing this early Sunday morning. Today we ride another 70 miles to Putnam, CT. I figured out a route that cuts 10 miles off, but it also cuts off the 6 miles in Rhode Island. I know if I do that route I’ll be by myself, which has its pluses and minuses. Haven’t decided yet what I’ll do.

C2K Day 1

C2K is how we entitle the ride and the RidewGPS cue sheets. It stands for Canada to the Keys. We didn’t really start in Canada, but I guess it sounded better than Maine to the Keys?

At any rate, today we started in Portland, ME and ended in Portsmouth, NH. The hosts in both locations have been amazing. In Portland, the Port City Baptist congregation hosted us. Their pastor opened up the church to us from the day our tour leader, Curt, arrived in Portland, allowing him and his brother Mike-San (our SAG driver) to stay there each day and night. The church is in a perfect location right across from the medical center and close enough to downtown to enjoy it, but not be in the middle of it. When we took our ride yesterday it was a great launching point.

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Plus, it’s within walking distance of Holy Donut. We walked over there for a donut for the ride this morning. This time I had Chocolate Sea Salt. Delicious…

We started out all together but Bonnie wanted to go to McDonalds to get pancakes and I wanted to get some water and ice. I got the water and ice but it was the slowest McD in the western hemisphere so we bagged the pancakes and started back out. Mike (the rider), Bonnie, and I got moving quickly and headed south.

We had a few mis-steps in navigation but it all worked in the end. It turned out the three of us were the only group that actually followed the cue sheet.  So we got to do a bit of mountain biking on one road (unintentionally) and we got rained on, but it was all good. We rode into Portsmouth before 3 and it was a lovely entry to the city coming across the bridge and then going through the downtown.

We saw marshes and woods along the way. I didn’t take many photos because of the rain.

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Tonight we’re staying at Operation Blessing. This is an amazing organization that serves the disadvantaged in Portsmouth through programs that build up and challenge people to make better life choices. The woman running it, Tammy, is indefatigable in her execution of that mission as well as love for the clients, especially the kids.

Operation Blessing not only provided a place to stay tonight in their Rec Center, but Tammy shuttled us to the Y for showers (that she had arranged for us to enjoy free of charge), took all of us out to dinner and to get ice cream afterwards. Some of us got in early enough to help sort some of the donations for them, but we didn’t deserve this kind of hospitality! Wow! I think people are really touched by the mission of the ride – supporting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Tomorrow: 75 miles to Groton, MA. A lovely ride along the seacoast and then a turn inland to ride along a river. Should be wonderful!