Planning Continues

The entire route

Though things have been a little quiet on the site here, the planning is feverishly continuing behind the scenes. Things are coming together quickly.

The Route
As you can see above, I think after several different route changes, additions, and deletions, we have now settled on a plan. Since I last checked in here, I found that the route between Kingston and Montreal was very short of couchsurfers. And so I investigated a new route. Though it adds another day of riding (what’s one more day at this point, really?), we are now turning north at Kingston and taking the Cataraqui Trail up to Ottawa via Perth where we will stay with a friend of ours. Then we’ll leave Ottawa via the Prescott and Russell Recreational Trail to Montreal via Rigaud.

Between Montreal and S. Royalton, VT, a new twist was added. Ferry service between South Hero, VT and Burlington was suspended due to damage sustained during Hurricane Irene. And so instead we are now heading due south to Plattsburgh where we’ll pick up the ferry there to Burlington.

The route changes don’t end there. Southern New Hampshire was another Couchsurfing wasteland and so we changed our route again there. Instead of going directly to Boston we’re now detouring due east for Portland, ME where we’ll stay with an old high school classmate I haven’t seen since I graduated in ’87. From there we’ll take the East Coast Greenway south to Boston.

Couchsurfing prospects in coastal Connecticut were pretty dismal as well. But fortunately a couchsurfer in Waterbury, Connecticut offered a couch and that put us on a route that will take me to visit another childhood friend living in Danbury whom I haven’t seen since 1991. This takes us along a different, but more bike-path-filled route to Central Park where we will end our ride.

I also took advantage of a fare sale and I’ve booked flights back for both of us from NYC to Toronto on August 4th. For some reason this makes it seem way more real than the route planning.

Lodging is almost completely set up through various really interesting-looking couchsurfing contacts. We have a couple nights – near Portsmouth, NH and Boston that are “maybes” and still need to find something in Provincetown, Massachusetts but otherwise are in great shape. Of course if Provincetown lets us down, it was scheduled to be a day with only a ferry ride, not a bike ride, so we will likely just ride to our next stop in Hyannis if nothing pans out.

Training We’re up to 60 KM without too much trouble. I’m riding to/from work 40 km round trip most days now and feeling really good. Dae is doing really well also. The true test will be when we get on the road but I’ve split many of the really long days into two days and our first big day comes on day 3 when we head into Picton, ON at 105 km. But there are lots of rest days planned and a week or so of buffer on top of that so we’re likely to be in great shape.

The bike
While we could leave with very little further preparation for the bike, I do want to get a few things done before I go. A friend has offered a front rack and the loan of a set of four panniers. I’d like to get clipless pedals on all four pedals. I also want to get a new set of handlebars to make it a little less of a sit-up bike – it’s a more comfortable riding position for me. And finally I need to get a new seat. This one’s too cushy and is likely to be a problem if I don’t change it out.

Otherwise I’m really preoccupied, as you can imagine, with this trip. Five weeks until we hit the road.

Coordinated Kindness #6 Response Continues

Letter boxes stand at the end of the road everyday, waiting.

Even as the date for the Coordinated Kindness event passed, people continued to join in with five more participating in the past week. Some responses to the event:

Have Always & regularly send snail-mail/letters & cards to friends & loved ones–& will participate –in this by sending a B-day card to Mrs.Possert–want to send it close to her ‘day’!=)

I write letters and send cards all the time. I used to love to get REAL mail. It’s like a lost art. So, hopefully this will motivate more people to actually write to someone they love or even a perfect stranger. Remember R’ Troops : )

I LOVE sending things in the mail. No one expects a letter anymore. I like to write backwards letters that you have to hold up to a mirror to read… My niece is long overdue for one!

As a matter o’fact I have a collection of headlines and some pictures I stuck together and put in a big envelope, which then demanded its own decorations and which is headed to Dragon. Ok, something else for the 11th: right up my dirt road.

And if you still haven’t participated and want to send something, folks have recommended a couple places:
Postcrossing: Postcrossing is a project that allows anyone to receive postcards (real ones, not electronic) from random places in the world.

And of course there’s the Look for the Good project. From the website:

THE LOOK FOR THE GOOD PROJECT was created by Anne Kubitsky to help people center on an underlying good in life. By asking the question, “What are YOU grateful for?” she invited the community at large to share a “glimmer of gladness” on a postcard and mail it back to her. Since the project’s 2011 inception, she has received hundreds of heartfelt messages from all over the world… and continues to receive them on a daily basis.

But THE LOOK FOR THE GOOD PROJECT isn’t just about gratitude. It’s about opening up to a lifestyle that’s spiritually minded, socially aware, and environmentally sustainable. When we’re grateful, we have good values… which lead to good choices… which enable good actions. Peace, happiness, freedom, love… it all begins with gratitude. Can you imagine what the world would be like if we each opened our hearts to gratitude? Try it right now by asking yourself: What am I grateful for?

Thanks again to everyone who partcipated!

photo: Melanie Gow

Training ride #3: 60 KM through Scarborough.

Todd and Dae on a training ride.
Such an excellent training ride today. Dae and I arrived a little late and most of the pack had already left. A few stragglers remained at the station and so we got ourselves settled in and headed out.

The first 40 KM were really amazing once we got out of the worst of the suburban traffic and sprawl and found our way down to the shore of Lake Ontario where despite the heat there was a lovely breeze and lots of shade. There were some rolling hills but nothing that really challenged us. But all good things have to come to an end and that was true for the easy portion of the ride which started to peter out as we turned north and we hit our first more significant hills.

Now when I tell everyone that my 13 year old son and I are heading out on a long trip like that, everyone’s first question, whether directly or danced around is: “Do you think a 13 year old can do it?” After today, I can say unequivocally that the answer is a firm yes.

As we hit the hills, I was definitely feeling it. We’re still working out the logistics of sharing the effort but the good thing about this is that Dae’s reserves have been fantastic. And so, when it got a bit more difficult than I liked, for whatever strange reason, I put on a bad Scottish accent and was Scotty, telling the crew that I couldn’t push any more and that my legs were going to blow. Fortunately I had my own Captain Kirk sitting behind me to encourage me. And unlike the real Kirk, this one stepped it up and we made the hill with energy to spare. After hitting a few more longer hills, Spock and McCoy also made an appearance to get into the fray until one hilarious moment when my iPhone ride tracking application used it’s female voice to tell us our average speed (5 km/hr better than our last ride!), how far and how long we’d gone. Behind me, Kirk didn’t miss a beat and thanked Lt. Uhura for her update.

And so it went, out beyond the eastern border of Toronto to Pickering and then north to the northern edge of Toronto/Pickering into Markham before we stopped at the rest stop for a quick sandwich and water refill. Surprisingly, despite our late start, there were lots of people there and still more people came in behind us. Even with a heavy tandem we were holding our own. Good on us!

Having refueled we both felt much better and the road took a downward turn for a while which was a further blessing. And then it took an even steeper downturn and at first we were thrilled. It’s exhilarating after riding slowly uphill for much of the day to have a fast descent. Until, that is, we had to pay the piper. There was the biggest hill of our ride – just as big as the one we’d come down. And then there were a few more of these mixed blessings. After a couple of these I was wiped out. And the heat was rising. But still, Kirk pressed us further onward. And so it went until we edged back into the sprawl and traffic of the inner suburbs. And with this shift came the end of the shade trees and the beginning of wide expanses of asphalt.

Before long the heat was starting to get to me. The sun was bad, and the heat coming up from the pavement made it like being in a convection oven. But then, about 4 km from the end of the ride came the happy sight of a Dairy Queen. We made a quick stop, found some shade and a treat.

You know how sometimes the right thing comes at the right time? This was perfectly timed. A little sugar to make up for all the calories we burned, something cool to eat, a bit of time in the shade, and time to drink a bunch more water. The last few KM were dramatically different than the riding just before we stopped and by the end including a few detours we made for getting lost in various ways, we had gone a total of almost exactly 60 km. We returned to the subway tired and pleased with ourselves.

When we got back home we were locking our bike back up on the porch when an older gentleman with an accent I couldn’t identify came up to us. He leaned in close to us and said he wanted to tell us a secret and he told us of a neighbour he suspected of stealing bikes and possibly having mafia connections. He wanted us to be careful and watch our bikes. We thanked him for the advice. And then, after whispering about our neighbour, he then started to talk about his dad who was apparently a cycling champion about 100 years ago back when where he came from was a part of the Austria-Hungary empire. From there we heard all about pre-war Yugoslavia, the life of someone who worked for the railroad (amazing work! Great pension, cheap food and coal, free travel) and then his immigration to Canada in 1949. He left his home in February after working in the garden in shorts and arrived in Halifax in the dead of winter with no winter clothes and though he spoke many languages, English wasn’t one of them. He eventually ended up in Manitoba where he worked on a farm, and apparently drove a car back when licenses weren’t required to do it (but he never got one when they were). I thanked him for his stories and his warning about the bikes and hope to run into him again soon.

And this is why I love traveling by bike – because it goes at a human pace and encourages just this sort of interaction between people.

Coordinated Kindness Response: 500 Kindnesses Goes Postal

Letters to Friends

In last week’s Coordinated Kindness I invited everyone to remember what it was like in a time not so long ago when we routinely sent and received letters. After so many years of email, facebook, skype, and chatting, this habit has fallen by the wayside for many. Still, most of us appreciate getting a letter, possibly even more so now that they’re such a rarity.

Several folks posted to the facebook event with suggestions of people to send things to, from six year olds who would love to receive mail, to a stranger from who wants to flood his mom’s mailbox with birthday cards for her 75th birthday.

And so many of you responded! By the time the event was over 91 of you were participating. That puts us up to a total of 310 kindnesses pledged. Well within striking distance of our goal. Thanks to all of you who participated!

photo: Peyri Herrera

Pledge 218: The End of the Road


This pledge is from Daegan and I. For some time we have been thinking about the logistics of getting the tandem bike back from New York City at the end of the ride. Sure, we do have a travel case for it, which we got through a touching act of kindness in and of itself. The other option was to ride back home – certainly possible with the time we have – if we don’t make many long stops. But in the end, the best solution was right in front of us.

A while back I posted on the Facebook page about the Toronto Trailblazers, a group which provides people who have limited or no vision the opportunity to experience cycling with our sighted volunteers, using tandem bicycles. It occurred to me that there must be a similar group in New York City and I suspected that they might be able to use ours and a quick google search proved this to be the case. And so, after a few emails, our bicycle will have a new home when we arrive in New York City with the lovely folks at Achilles International.

photo: Achilles International