6/23: Northampton, MA
Mileage: 39 (stopped short due to a minor bicycle spill)
Host: Christ United Methodist Church, 271 Rocky Hill Rd
Today, I rode sweep with Abby. Riding sweep means being one of two riders who will remain at the end of the pack and make sure that everyone completes the journey that day. The irony of the situation today is that I end up getting into a bit of a spill just after lunch and am forced to sit out the second half of the day (I shared this experience in my last post). The day was beautiful up to that point, and it was actually still quite beautiful the second half even though I was in the van trying to make sure that the blood seeping through my bicycle shorts didn’t stain anything. Although I didn’t ride the second half of the day, the group was forced to detour because of some road work, and the detour caused everyone to climb one of the steepest hills imaginable. Some riders made that a Hike & Build moment, but again, it is going to be all of these blips that will make this trip so memorable.
6/24 – 6;25: Pittsfield, MA
Host: First United Methodist Church, 55 Penn St
It’s my van day, and this is a blessing because it’s my first day post-spill, and my leg can use the rest. Van days rotate between the four leaders, and on our respective days, we will be responsible for locking up the host site, finding a perfect spot for lunch, running errands to ensure the trip continues to run as smoothly as possible, and of course, being available and responsive to the unpredictable.
6/26: Poughkeepsie, NY
Host: Oakwood Friends School, 22 Spackenkill Road
It’s my first day back post injury, and I’m a bit apprehensive especially given that it’s an 80-plus mile day. That said, from the very beginning I plan to take the day slow and steady. The weather is relatively pleasant as it is a bit overcast, which is a great condition for riding. At lunch I close my eyes while sitting on a bench and enter directly into a deep sleep. This reminds me of my late grandpa who could and would sleep almost anywhere. From an outsiders perspective, it probably didn’t look particularly comfortable, but it did the trick to re-energize me for the second half of the day.
We knew we were getting closer to the mountains as the hills starting to pop up with more frequency and fervor. Rounding a bend and seeing more hill until the next bend is a bit of a mind game in that mental toughness is something more challenging to achieve than quadriceps toughness. With a couple breaks, some snacks, and the reciprocating encouragement between riders, we all make up these hills on our way to Poughkeepsie.
6/27: Port Jervis, NY
Host: Drew United Methodist Church, 49-51 Sussex St
The highlight of the day comes at the end of a very warm and constant uphill grind near the end of the day when alas we see a sign intended for trucks that we are about to a approach a 4-mile significant downhill grade. Coasting into Port Jervis at the end of this day is a delight for all of us even if there were some serious hills getting to this point.
6/28: Mount Pocono, PA
Host Mount Pocono United Methodist Church, 12 Church Ave
Anytime a town name has the name Mount as its first word, that is a descent sign that there will probably be some climbing to get there. And then along the way, we begin to notice street names like Mountain View Road, Summit Ave, and Skyline Blvd. To make things even more exciting today, when we are about 20 miles shy of our destination, we find a detour in the road due to a missing bridge. The detour, to our surprise and our demise, adds about 10 miles and is always at a nice pitch, either up or down.
Another highlight of the day is the food at our host. Delicious! Great dinner and even better dessert. The Mt. Pocono UMC even had this salted chocolate and caramel that makes my mouth watering just thinking about it. Overall, this was my most challenging day yet, and it was really satisfying to have completed it in any fashion.
6/29: Berwick, PA
Host: First Presbyterian Church, 320 Market St.
One scary part of today was near the beginning of the day at then end of a nice, long gradual downhill, I pull into a situation with a huddle of Bike & Builders surrounding a scene with another car and a police car just outside the scene. I pull in and find that one of our riders has been hit by a car that was pulling into a parking lot. Fortunately, the rider is okay other than a little road rash, and the car was not moving too fast because of the situation. That said, this also bring the risks of what we are doing into focus and all of the other riders take a little while to regroup across the street as some of us enjoy our first Wawa’s experience.