Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Home from Maine 2022 Day 15 - Delta PA to Home

We have ridden home from Maine

The last day was one of the tougher ones. It was 53 miles and 3250 feet of climb. The weather was beautiful, and we overcame obstacles, persevered, and finished around 6 PM.

First thing we crossed into Maryland a couple miles from our motel.

We entered Harford county when we entered Maryland. Northern Harford County is quite hilly, and there are many nurseries that grow plants for landscaping.

Ten miles into the ride, Max yells at me to stop with concern in his voice. "Something is wrong." he says.

See if you can spot what is wrong in this picture.

His front derailleur cable is broken. Max asks "What do we do now?" This is not actually a big deal, I explain. You ride in your granny gear to a bike shop and we get a new cable. Then I told him a long story about how I once did a long randonneuring training ride and my rear derailleur spring broke 75 miles from the end and it was stuck in the biggest cog, and I only had 3 gears. At which point he became very bored and annoyed at me, but then we whipped out our phones and determined that there was a bike shop less than 5 miles away in Forest Hill, just north of Bel Air. 

We were pretty happy that a bike shop was so close and just off our route, and it wasn't that big a deal that we could only use the granny gear since it was really hilly, and we would have been in the granny gear anyway most of the time. But when we got there we discovered it was a motorcycle shop. This was annoying.

Whipping out the phones again, we determined that there was a bike shop that was actually for bicycles in downtown Bel Air in 5 more miles. And as special surprise bonus, half of the way there was the Ma and Pa bike path!

The Ma and Pa was the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad, which is a very obscure railroad that was in operation until the 1950s. It went from Baltimore to York via Delta PA, and was famous for running extremely antiquated equipment. It carried milk and the mail. The Stony Run Walking Path that runs behind our Baltimore crash pad is the old Ma and Pa right of way. And today I learned a few miles of Ma and Pa right of way is a bike trail in Bel Air. It sure would have been great if the whole Ma and Pa was a bike trail, all the way from Delta to Baltimore. Then we wouldn't have had to ride up and down hills all day.

The bike shop in downtown Belair was indeed a bicycle shop.

Civic Cyclery is a really nice shop. They let me use a work stand and their tools to install the new cable and we were back on the road in no time.

The whole adventure of the broken shifter cable added three miles and no climbing to our ride, and maybe 2 hours due to riding in granny gear and making the repair.

Max spent the rest of the afternoon talking about getting a new bike.

From Bel Air, we took Harford Road the whole way into Baltimore, then we cut over to Belair Road where Harford is closed for construction by Lake Montebello. Belair Road becomes Gay Street, which means I got to stop and admire one of my favorite buildings in Baltimore.

The American Brewery. When I moved to Baltimore 35 years ago it was a ruin. There was a tree growing on the roof. I am so happy it is restored and beautiful.

Once past downtown, it was our usual route we use to ride back and forth to the crash pad, along Wilkins Ave, Southwestern Boulevard, and Washington Boulevard. 

It's nice to be home, but I'm always sad when a bike tour comes to an end.

And this was an epic bike tour. Here are some metrics:

Total distance - 723 miles.
Number of days - 16
Climb - 36000 feet
States - ME, NH, MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, PA, MD
Flat tires - 2 for me, 3 for Max
Other repairs - Max: rebuild front hub, replace broken chain & cassette, replace broken shifter cable, replace both tires. Me: replace rear tire.
Camping: 3 nights
AirBnB: 4 nights
Historic hotels: 4 nights
Regular hotels: 1 night 
Cheap motels: 3 nights

Here is the final Strava track.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Home from Maine 2022 Day 14 - Pomeroy to Delta, PA

 It was a short day today, but very, very hilly. We are at the Peach Bottom Inn, which is an old, no-frills motel attached to a really nice restaurant.

There is nowhere else to stay for 30 miles in any direction, and from here it is 50 miles to home. This place is pretty much a required stop, and fortunately it is awesome.

The big part of the challenge for today is we crossed the Susquehanna River.

That means a ginormous climb out of the river valley. And then you have to cross a creek that brings you right back down to the level of the river and you get to climb out again.

We stopped to take this cool photo in the middle of the bridge because Max wrecked and dropped his bike. I braked for an expansion joint, and then hard for a couple potholes and Max ran into me. He's fine, just some road rash, but he was a bit shaken up and we took a break for awhile. This happens every bike tour. It's like despair. His bike is OK also.

 It's a bunch of ups and downs until you get to the river too. If only there were a rail trail from a railroad right of way that was purposely designed to have low grades.

On top of that bridge is the "Enola Low Grade Trail". Unfortunately, the trail surface is unimproved railroad ballast. It's not rideable on road bikes. So instead, it was endless ups and downs on the roads parallel to the perfectly level rail trail. 

The scenery here is fantastic, though. It's Amish country. There are lots of farms and vegetable gardens that are nicer than mine will ever be.

And baby calves by the side of the road in their little sheds. Awwww. They are so cute!

There were lots of Amish people out baling hay.

This is a really cool scene, and also totally irrational. What we have here is a team of draft horses pulling a hay baler. The hay baler has a gasoline motor running it. If you are allowed to have an engine running the baler, why not just get a tractor? This makes no sense. The team of draft horses is pretty cool though. Maybe it's all about having an excuse to have a team of draft horses.

Then there was another Amish highlight for today. In Maryland, there are lots of places that sell "Amish" mini-barns and chicken coops. "Amish" creates this vision of the hard-working, Godly Amish farmer out in the wood shop next to his barn, assembling chicken coops using hand tools and traditional joinery techniques. I bought such a chicken coop, which has no signs of traditional joinery or the use of hand tools. 

Guess what we rode by today!

The Amish chicken coop factory! That dark green coop to the right of the tree is identical to mine. I feel so validated on my cynicism regarding Amish chicken coops.

Here is the Strava track.

Home from Maine 2022 Day 13 - Montgomeryville to Pomeroy, PA

 We are at the Stottsville Inn, which is in the middle of nowhere. It's about 30 miles east of the Susquehanna River, a bit south of US 30.

<photo of end of ride>

This is an old country inn. It has rooms and a nice restaurant, where we ate last night. I'm glad places like this still exist. The restaurant was pretty busy, possibly due to it being Fathers day.

It was a fairly short ride yesterday. We went 47 miles. We are not that far from home, so we can have 3 shorter days or two longer days. We have chosen the shorter day option.

I didn't take many pictures. It was mostly bike trail and a long stretch on US 30, which is ugly and not fun. The bike trail is paved rail trail, and it's really nice. 

SEPTA, the Philadelphia commuter rail, goes clear out to Parkersburg, which is about 40 miles from Philly. The SEPTA stations have a lot of new development. There are entire new self-contained towns with a ton of condos and Targets and Walmarts and chain restaurants. We had lunch at one of these, by Exton, which was an actual entire outlet mall in addition to the Walmart and Target. I am still puzzled about how this works economically. There were pirogis at the restaurant we ate at, which is pretty cool.

Here is the Strava track.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Home from Maine 2022 Day 12 - Belvidere, NJ to Montgomeryville, PA

We are at the Rodeway Inn, in Montgomeryville, PA.

This is the only place with a room available on Saturday night, that is not over $400. My original plan was to stay in New Hope, but that turned out to be impossible on a Saturday.

While Max complains about me constantly going on about old buildings, it sinks in. He picked up on the dubious elements of the restoration someone did to the Belvidere Hotel where we stayed last night.

What is wrong with this picture? Vinyl siding. I was on the Howard County Historic Preservation Commission for seven years. I am so glad there is no plaque celebrating a restoration in HoCo that says "Historic Preservation Commission" mounted on a patch of vinyl siding. The whole hotel is covered with vinyl siding.

The porch railings are also vinyl. The porch floor is modern concrete pavers. The windows are modern replacement windows with muntin inserts between the panes. 

Max picked up on the inappropriateness and bad appearance of all the vinyl.

In defense of the Belvidere Hotel, Belvidere is a pretty small place, and it may well not be economically viable to restore this great big underused hotel properly. The hotel is probably not economically viable as it is. It's run by a really nice retired guy who is probably in his 80s. He's trying to sell it, and I hope he finds a good buyer.

We crossed the Delaware at Easton.

Easton is a really beautiful town. It was a nice welcome back to Pennsylvania.

There is good bike shop two blocks from the bridge. We stocked up on CO2 cartridges and inner tubes, and Max got a water bottle to replace the one he left at a restaurant a few days ago.

Since our finish town was in Montgomeryville, and no longer on the Delaware River, Max reworked our route to take advantage of a couple lengthy stretches of bike trail. We did about 8 miles of the D&L trail from Easton to Freetown, just before Bethlehem. the D&L was mostly canal towpath, and a bit of rail trail where the railroad once ran along the canal.

This trail is mostly crushed stone in great shape. However, there is this stretch about a mile of single track.

It was much easier to ride than it looked.

After the D&L, we did about 10 miles of the Saucon/Upper Bucks trail, starting in Hellerton. We had lunch at the Hellerton Crossroads Hotel, which is not a hotel and which had painfully slow service. 

These bike trails are a long easy climb out of the Lehigh Valley. They are very rideable crushed stone. This turned out to be an excellent route.

We got in pretty late as a result of the slow service at lunch, and because of a flat tire I got about 5 miles from the end. I botched the job of fixing the flat. Twice. I hate valve stem inserts. I ended up using 3 of the 4 CO2 cartridges I bought earlier in the day.

It was so late that we had dinner before checking in here at the Rodeway, at Michael's Family Restaurant.

Check it out! Max is eating a hamburger! There is a limit to how many times he can have pizza, it seems.

Here is the Strava track

Friday, June 17, 2022

Home from Maine 2022 Day 11 - Port Jervis, NY to Belvidere, NJ

 It was a hot one today, temperatures in the low 90s, and we knew it was going to be hot. And we knew that if we got going early, it would be a much pleasant day. However, somebody would not get out of bed until after 8 and we were not done with breakfast and on our bikes until nearly 10. It was hot.

First thing was to ride across the river to Pennsylvania.

We spent almost the entire day riding through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Over 40 miles, I think. We stayed on the Pennsylvania side, where the roads were allegedly paved, but there were miles of milled pavement awaiting resurfacing, which was not fun.

The Delaware Water Gap NRA is quite scenic, and the forest cover helps with the heat. There was not much traffic to deal with either. I would ride again. I did once before, about 25 years ago.

Max hit some road debris and got a pinch flat while descending into the Delaware Water Gap proper. We need to get to a bike shop tomorrow for tubes, and CO2 inflators, and a new water bottle to replace the one Max left in a restaurant a couple days ago. Max got to cool down by sitting under a shady tree while I fixed his tire. He's had 3 flats so far. I've had one.

Since we had just had a break, I proceeded past the much anticipated ice cream shop right before you get to the river. There was another one five miles further along. This did not make the boy happy. "I sure am hungry." "Bike touring is about despair, Dad." On and on.

Eventually, despair was overcome and now everyone is happy.

When we were done with the Delaware Water Gap, we switched over to the New Jersey side of the river.

There is a bike/ped bridge to go across.

And all of a sudden, the shoulders were wide and glassy smooth, and there was no milled pavement anywhere.

And just a few miles more later, we are in our lovely air conditioned historic hotel.

There is no restaurant in this one, so we walked a couple blocks for pizza and a calzone. The pizza place was the only place open where you could sit and eat.

The walk gave me a chance to admire some of the many cool old buildings in town. I especially liked these two old mills.

Max is very sick of me going on about cool old buildings. "Those are just barns, Dad." "No, look how they repaired the brick over the white door!"

The Strava track today is in two parts because I accidentally saved it instead of pausing it like I meant to when we stopped to fix Max's flat tire.

Part 1
Part 2

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Home from Maine 2022 Day 10 - Poughkeepsie to Port Jervis, NY

 It's bicycle touring in America, baby!

Long, hard day today (60 miles, 2800 feet of climb) and I feel great. The Body Battery is still at 23%!

Poughkeepsie is on the Hudson River, and Port Jervis is on the Delaware River. Yes, there is a mountain between them, Shawangunk Mountain, which we had to ride over. We carefully planned the route to avoid crazy steep grades, and instead we had a fairly easy constant climb for only three hours. On an overcast, gloomy, chilly day, this is pretty soul crushing. Max said he was done with bike touring forever after this trip when we were about 200 feet from the top. Max says he is done with bike touring forever at some point on pretty much every trip.

The first thing today was to cross the Hudson. Poughkeepsie has a super cool giant railroad bridge which is now a very popular pedestrian/bike bridge and linear park. Here's a view of it from the filthy window in our hotel.

And here is a view looking west from the east end of the bridge.

And here is a barge going up the mighty Hudson River from the midpoint of the bridge.

From the west end of the bridge, there is a fabulous, super smooth paved bike trail clear to New Paltz, about 10 miles. At New Paltz, you switch to the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail.

The rail trail sounds like it could be great (it's the Adventure Cycling route!) but the trail surface is very rough and it's not easily rideable on road bikes. We endured it for about 5 miles and then we bailed for the regular roads that ran parallel to the trail and we were much happier. Doesn't this look like it would be great?

Nobody likes to ride their bike on railroad ballast.

We had lunch at Wallkill at a nice Italian restaurant called Pasquale's, where Max ate another entire pizza by himself. I think he's eaten a whole pizza for lunch every day since Boston. I had some tasty fried calamari. Then we started up the mountain. Basically, we traversed our way up the side of the ridge, with the road getting progressively steeper, where the ups and downs are more ups and less downs. But there was this eagle hanging out right by the road that we stopped to admire.

Here's the spot where we took a break and Max confessed he had lost the will to live. And we were almost over the top, too.

The top is the town of Otisville.

For the record, there were no bald Indian guys exuding absurd amounts of self confidence in Otisville. I was disappointed.

After a three mile screaming descent followed by 8 flat miles, with a quick break to fix Max's flat tire, we were at our destination, the Erie Hotel in Port Jervis.

The Erie Hotel was built by the Erie Railroad, and it's next to the Erie train station.

The hotel is still a hotel! It has a great restaurant on the first floor, and basic rooms upstairs. This is a score.

Max has not yet recovered the will to live yet though.

Check out the amazing historic bar. Hand carved, imported from Germany, according to the server at the restaurant.

They also have a tiki bar in the courtyard next door, so dinner started with a Mai Tai.

Before proceeding to the usual electrolyte replenishment therapy with dinner.

Giant slabs of beef did the job restoring Max's will to live. After dinner he conceded that at some point in the future he may do another bike tour, but not longer than a week, and he will train better first.

We are pretty happy at this point. Here's the Strava track.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Home from Maine 2022 Day 9 - East Canaan, CT to Poughkeepsie, NY

 It was a relatively easy day today, 51 miles and 2100 feet of climb. With lots and lots of downhill descending from the Berkshires to our hotel next to the Hudson River in downtown Poughkeepsie. We were done at 3:00. I am not wiped out. And my appetite is back, because pirogi.

We had a yummy breakfast at this deli five miles down the road in North Canaan, CT.

People in Connecticut really like their cows. Here is a row of young calves, hanging out under umbrellas, along the side of the road.

I am trying to decide if this is actually art.

Soon afterwards, we entered New York.

The first question we had to contend with was whether "State Line Road" was the actual state line.

Max said according to Google Maps, it was not the state line. But we weren't sure because the house just beyond the sign was flying the flag of New York's football team.

The actual Welcome to New York sign was a quarter mile or so farther along.

We rode US 44 almost the entire day. Sometimes US 44 is the Adventure Cycling route, but usually it's not. On one hand, it has a lot of traffic, but on the other hand the shoulders are good and it's fairly new so the grades are as good as can be expected. There were still a couple tough climbs, one of 13%. It's actually fun to climb over mountains.

We did get to do 10 miles or so of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, which was really great.

After the rail trail, there is a ginormous climb over a mountain on US 44.

But after that, it's about 20 miles of payback all the way to Poughkeepsie. We decided to bail of US 44 and switch to the Salt Point Turnpike when traffic got bad about 10 miles from Poughkeepsie. This was not a great plan, the traffic was just as bad on our alternate, but the alternate had no shoulders. Sometimes Adventure Cycling has good reason for choosing the roads they do.

We were in our fancy hotel at 3:00.

Check out that chandelier over Max's head!

I chose this fancy hotel because it has laundry. We are totally out of clean clothes. This hotel is weird. They make you put $150 on your credit card as a "contingency fee". I find this to be obnoxious. It made me think the hotel is full of partying college students and bachelorettes. The empty Bud Light can under my bed reinforced this notion. So did the coupon for two free drinks at the bar.

But I appreciated the two free drinks - one for the wash cycle and one for the dryer! Win win win. I put the wash in and went to check out the scene at the bar. They are hosting the Ladies Garden Club convention this week. Everyone at the bar is 80 years old, mostly women, discussing how to enter the parking garage to unload their displays for the garden club. Do they give you a card? Do you use your room key? How do you pay? It doesn't get any better than this. 

I told one of the garden club ladies how annoyed I was by the $150 contingency fee, and do they expect the Ladies' Garden Club to trash the place? She said last time they were here, they accidentally set the conference room on fire.

Here are our bikes in our room. Note how they are not touching the walls. 

I will use this photo later when they try to make me pay $150 for damage.

After the clothes were washed, we went out to dinner and what a dinner it was! German food!

Schatzi's Pub and Bier Garden. And it was pirogi night.

The pirogis were amazing, I almost gobbled them all down before I remembered to take a picture. Our waitress said the pirogis were made by a little old Polish lady who lives across the street. OF COURSE THEY ARE! The best pirogis are always made by an old Polish or Ukranian woman who lives across the street. They were so amazing.

Today was a pretty great day.

Here is the Strava track.