Adventure Recap: The end of the adventure: Washington, DC to Virginia Beach, VA

Adventure Ride Day 55 – Washington, DC to Fredericksburg, Virginia

July 25 – I took one rest day at Annie and Jeff’s house in Silver Spring.  Our original plan had been to make this a longer stay, to play with Jules and possibly scout the area a bit for places we might like to buy a house.  But with Stephanie recuperating in Richmond from hand surgery, I wanted to get down there as quickly as I could.  Jeff helped me work out the best route through DC onto the route through northern Virginia.  As it was not too far out of the way from his regular bicycle commute into work, he led me quickly through the streets of DC, almost to the Treasury building.  I had to document that I’d made it to Washington, DC, so I took a lap around the mall before heading to Virginia.

 

 

The route to Fredericksburg and on the Richmond is part of the National Bike Route System and also part of the Adventure Cycling Association’s Atlantic Coast route.  The route crosses the Potomac to Arlington and follows the popular route past Reagan National Airport and over paths and wooden bridges over swamp and marshland to Mount Vernon.  Then through the streets of Alexandria before taking a westward turn to go around federal land near the Quantico marine base.  Once around Quantico, the route cris-crosses Interstate 95 to Stafford and then into Fredericksburg.

It was a long day.  Over a hundred miles with steep rolling hllls that added up to about 4500 feet of climbing.  I finally got into Fredericksburg a little after 5 and headed straight for Carl’s Frozen Custard for a recovery ice cream before biking the last few miles to the Best Western for the night.

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Miles: 102.54
Avg. speed:   12.7 mph
Ascending feet: 4,573 ft.

Peak elevation:  368 ft.
Ending Elevation:  150 ft.
Net elevation gain:  0 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 56 – Fredericksburg, VA to Richmond, VA

July 26 – I didn’t get out of the Best Western as early as I’d like.  I lost about an hour trying to print my route sheet in their “business center”.  In these 2-star hotels, the printers are not very reliable, and I needed the manager to come rework the cables.  So my focus on the ride today was to try to make time up so I could get to Richmond and my family as early in the afternoon as possible.

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The Best Western cracks a joke at breakfast, serving boneless chicken.

And I made good time on this ride.  Mostly gentle rolling hills through historic civil war country.  There were roads travelled by the regiments with, markers all over about troop movements, including the route that Stonewall Jackson apparently took in an ambulance after being wounded in battle.

Miles: 74.96
Avg. speed:   13.5 mph
Ascending feet: 2,737 ft.

Peak elevation:  334 ft.
Ending Elevation:  156 ft.
Net elevation gain:  -74 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 57 – Richmond to Williamsburg, VA

August 3 –  I hadn’t planned to get as far as Richmond as early as I did.  I’d hoped to spend more time with Stephanie exploring Ohio and Pennsylvania, and seeing the sights along the way.  The plan changed with her fall, though, so that I could rejoin her as soon as possible in Richmond to be with her as she recovered.  We didn’t plan to be in Virginia Beach until August 4, so I spent the week in Richmond at brother Bob’s house.  During the week, there was work to be done on the camper, we saw Stephanie’s physical therapist, I got in a training ride around Richmond, and we packed up the camper for the week at the beach.

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Relaxing with sister-in-law Carol and Stephanie at a rooftop bar in Richmond.
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We attended a Richmond Flying Squirrels minor league baseball game. Stephanie is sporting her stylish blue cast.

On Saturday, everyone headed down to Virginia Beach.  Stephanie, Bob and Carol drove down in a car and the camper.  Others would come from Richmond, Charlottesville, Washington, and Seattle.  I packed a pannier for the bike ride, with an overnight near Williamsburg, with a plan to meet them all for the end of the Excellent Adventure on Sunday.

The ride to Williamsburg was almost entirely on the Virginia Capital Trail, which is a very popular trail that fairly closely follows country roads near the James River to historic Williamsburg.  Near Richmond, the trail runs past a large boathouse for crew racing and lessons.  Today there was a big event happening, with young families and strollers along a portion of the trail and beginning rowers in several boats on the  water.   Once beyond the traffic of Richmond, the trail was uninterrupted the rest of the way.

The day became hot and humid early in the day.  With temperatures in the 90’s most of the day, I was very conscious of drinking fluids often.  I refilled and cooled off at a Dairy Queen along the way.  There was also an enterprising guy beside the trail by a cornfield selling popsicles and cold water from a cooler, and we had a good talk about how selling popsicles fills a niche, but not a very lucrative one.

The Virginia Capital Trail is dotted with historical markers.  Colonial battles and troop movements, Civil War battles and troop movements, historic structures or places where historic structures used to be.

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Leaving Richmond, past the Civil War Museum
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On the VIrginia Capital Trail to Williamsburg

I didn’t pass through Williamsburg, but turned toward (historic) Jamestown to catch the ferry across the James River to Surry, where I would stay the night.  Jamestown, the site of the first English settlement in America, is a tourist spot with a re-creation of what the village may have looked like.  Of course, there is nothing left of the original settlement.  It was made of wood 400 years ago.

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The Jamestown Settlement
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Looking back at the Jamestown settlement from the James River.
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I crossed the James River by ferry to Surry, VA
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I can see the end of the Excellent Adventure coming soon.

My accommodations for the night were in one of 4 efficiency suites above the Surry Seafood Company.  If you ever get near Surry, stop here for dinner.  The view over the inlet is beautiful, and the seafood is first rate.

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Miles: 62.86
Avg. speed:   12.9 mph
Ascending feet: 1,373 ft.

Peak elevation:  228 ft.
Ending Elevation:  45 ft.
Net elevation gain:  -144 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 58 – Williamsburg to Virginia Beach, VA

August 4 –  I began the last day of the Excellent Adventure early in the morning on Sunday.  The day started reasonably cool as I pedaled up the hill out of the Surry Seafood Company to the road that would take me through swamps and farmland and eventually through Norfolk and Virginia Beach to Sandbridge.

I rolled into the town of Smithfield (apparently famous for its ham, but I didn’t see a packing house anywhere).  There is a cute main street with a lovely brunch place that was open, so I parked my bike and had a very nice breakfast, feeling somewhat out of place as a sweaty bicyclist in shorts and a helmet among people dressed up for brunch after church.  But the staff treated me well.

The roads became busier and busier as I approached Norfolk.  The only way to get across the many rivers and inlets is over a few busy bridges, some of which did not have great bike lanes.  I’ve learned on this trip that on busy bridges like this it’s best just to take a lane and let the traffic slow down behind you, and pedal as hard as you can to get to the other side.  On one of the bridges, my rear tire went flat, so I had to ride on the flat to the other side until I could find a spot to change it.  As I was changing my tire, a frantic message came over my phone from my brother, “Are you OK?”.  He was following me on the RoadID GPS app, which had me stopped in the middle of the road, so he thought I was dead being scraped off the road by the fire department.  No, just changing a tire.

The route took me through industrial parts of Norfolk and into the sprawl of Virginia Beach.  We’ve done this beach vacation in Sandbridge for several years now, so when I got to Indian River Road I knew I was almost done with the ride.   I realized that I would soon be at the Atlantic Ocean.  I wondered what my reaction would be to having completed the Adventure, and thought about the people who had helped me along the way.  I made the turn at the north end of Sandbridge to head down Sandpiper Road to the house we had rented for the week, about 3 miles south.  Left on Kabler, right on Sandfiddler.  Two blocks down, I saw a group of people in the middle of the road.  My family had turned out to celebrate the end of ride with me!.  My brother’s grandkids lined up to give me high-fives as I rolled in.

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I got off my bike, hot and sweaty from the ride.  Stephanie and I had an emotional embrace.  The ride that had dominated our lives for months was now over.  She had been my support, and had done so much work to support my dream.  She had worried about me all day every day as I rode alone, through cold and heat, rain and snow and wind, through busy city streets and areas with no cell service and no way to know where I was and no way for me to contact her.  Now it was done.  Maybe we could now relax.

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But there was one more thing to do.  The ride was from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, and I had to go the last few yards from the road across the sand to the water.  The family followed me to the shoreline where I dipped the wheel in the Atlantic water, and lifted the bike over my head as the final moment of the Adventure.  Nora and Zac, who were with us at the beginning in Oregon, were there.  Annie and Jeff and Jules, who had travelled with me from Piittsburgh through the Allegheny Mountains, were there.  Bob and Carol, who cared for Stephanie and took care of driving the RV from Chicago to Pittsburgh and on to Richmond and Virginia Beach, were there.  Rosie, our dog, was there, perhaps finally happy that she may finally have a permanent home again and would no longer be uprooted daily to move to a new campsite or hotel. And the rest of our family joined in the celebration, with champagne and laughter.

 

 

Miles: 77.37
Avg. speed:   13.6 mph
Ascending feet: 1,106 ft.

Peak elevation:  146 ft.
Ending Elevation:  6 ft.
Net elevation gain:  -49 ft.

Adventure Recap: Pittsburgh to Washington, DC

The Excellent Adventure started at the Pacific Ocean at Seaside, Oregon on May 1, and ended at the Atlantic Ocean at Sandbridge Beach, Virginia on August 11, 2019.  I’m posting recaps of the Adventure, now that I have time to write about the experience.

Adventure Ride Day 50 – Pittsburgh to Connellsville, PA

July 19 – I said good-bye to Bob and Rosie, transferred just enough gear to Annie and Jeff’s car to get me through the ride to DC and Richmond, and headed out in the early morning with Jeff for the Great Allegheny Passage.  This bike trail is built along an old railroad line, and runs 150 miles from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland.  It’s a finely packed, well-maintained gravel trail that makes the trip through the Allegheny Mountains much easier than taking country roads up and down the hills and mountains.  Jeff and I made good time and finished the 60 mile ride in about 4 ½ hours.  We got to our hotel in Connellsville before check-in time, so we hung out in the air-conditioned lobby, rehydrated, and rode our bikes into town to meet Annie and Jules for a snack at the Kickstand Kitchen, a little place that survives on the bicyclists passing through on the trail.  Later we went out for Mexican and had a great time attempting to contain Jules’s food to the general vicinity of our table.

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Jeff and I leaving Pittsburgh via the GAP trail

Miles: 60.72
Avg. speed:   13.5 mph
Ascending feet: 748 ft.

Peak elevation:  903 ft.
Ending Elevation:  875 ft.
Net elevation gain:  144 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 51 – Connellsville, PA to Cumberland, Maryland

July 20 – With a long ride ahead of us on the GAP trail, Jeff and I headed out early again.  The route followed the Youghiogheny River for most of the morning.  We stopped at the Falls Market in Ohiopyle for a cold drink, and had lunch at a funky place in Rockport had antiques and oddities for sale that appeared to be collections of people in town.  Just before the Maryland state line, we crossed the Eastern Continental Divide.  You can’t miss it on the GAP Trail.

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Much of the GAP Trail follows the Youghiogheny RIver

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Jeff enjoying a gourmet lunch in Rockport

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It looks like a big hill, but the scale is misleading.  The grade is typically under 2%.

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The Mason-Dixon line is also well-marked.  I memorialized the visit with a selfie, which Jeff alertly photobombed.

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Jeff making the trek from Pennsylvania to Maryland

The last several miles of the ride were a fast downhill through the Cumberland Gap into Cumberland, where the GAP trail ends and the C&O Canal towpath begins.

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Jules having his recovery meal after our ride.

Miles: 92.25
Avg. speed:   13.5 mph
Ascending feet: 3,567 ft.

Peak elevation:  2,587 ft.
Ending Elevation:  617 ft.
Net elevation gain:  -260 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 52 – Cumberland, MD to Clear Spring, MD

July 21 – Annie and Jeff had to get back to work in Washington, so we parted ways in the morning.  I planned to ride on my own for the next 2 or 3 days and meet them again in the DC area.  Jeff had ridden the C&O Canal towpath a few times before, so he cautioned me about the trail, recommending I ride the gravel bike with the wider tires than my road bike.  It turned out to be a very good recommendation.

The towpath is a popular path for cyclists, but most of the riders are recreational riders going short distances.  The National Park Service maintains it, but there are long stretches of the towpath that are bumpy, muddy ruts.  So it was a slow ride.

The C&O canal was built in the 1800’s to facilitate commercial shipping to the developing west.  Eventually, it gave way to land transportation by rail and truck, and the canal became obsolete.  For decades, it sat in a state of decay, disrepair and overgrowth.  Now the towpath used by the horses to pull barges up the canal has been restored into an established trail for hikers and bicyclists.  Old stone locks and lockhouses that could be preserved have been, and signs along the route describe the history of the trail.

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A typical section of the towpath. Most of the time it’s like a wagon path, with two of these paths side by side.  It’s not a road bike trail.
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One of the old canal locks.
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Another canal lock.
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A lock-keeper’s house.
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The Paw Paw Tunnel.  It’s long and VERY dark.  I walked the bike through.
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Throughout the Adventure, I’ve seen species of deer unique to each region. If you look, you’ll a white-tail couple.

I rattled along the trail, until I got to the junction called Little Orleans where there was an establishment with food and drink.  Sign outside said, “welcome, bicyclists”, but there was no place to park the bike.  No credit cards allowed, signs about the Second Amendment, a confederate flag on the wall and a gruff guy taking orders from a chair at the center of the bar.  Lovely ambience.

But I was able to rehydrate and cool off and make my way down the trail to the turnoff to the Western Maryland Rail Trail, which is a much better trail for bicycling and parallels the C&O Canal for several miles.  I then turned off to head to Clear Spring, where I checked into my hotel for the night just before a massive thunderstorm passed through.

Miles: 80.76
Avg. speed:   11.4 mph
Ascending feet: 1,138 ft.

Peak elevation:  562 ft.
Ending Elevation:  516 ft.
Net elevation gain:  -9 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 53 – Clear Spring, MD to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia

July 22 – There was rain in the forecast for today, but the hourly forecast indicated that I could get as far as Harper’s Ferry before the worst of it, so I headed out from the hotel for the short ride to Harper’s Ferry.  The route took me through Sharpsburg, the site of one of the major battles of the Civil War.  Sometimes called the Battle of Antietam, this conflict involved soldiers from Maryland on both sides.  The positions occupied where I passed were Confederate, and were memorialized along the road.

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Sharpsburg
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A mortarless stone wall, likely pre-dating the Civil War.

I made it back onto the towpath and sloshed my way through the mud and fallen branches for several miles.  The last 5 miles, though, were on a freshly resurfaced portion of the path. I rode over the old railroad bridge over the Potomac into Harper’s Ferry, and through the town to the hotel, where they gave me a rag and access to a hose to wash the bike.

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Improvements to the towpath heading into Harper’s Ferry
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The workers allowed me to be the inaugural rider on the new surface.
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The Potomac River

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Harper’s Ferry, WV
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At Harper’s Ferry, the Shenandoah River (on the right) joins the Potomac.

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It was early in the day, so I walked back into Harper’s Ferry to explore.  A little drizzle turned into another big thunderstorm, which stranded me in a bus shelter for a while, before I was able to explore the town, much of which has now become a national park memorializing the roles that Harper’s Ferry played as a launching point for westward exploration (Lewis and Clark gathered provisions here), as the site of John Brown’s famous and ill-fated slave rebellion before the Civil War, and as a strategic prize of the competing armies of the North and South during the Civil War.

 

The Appalachian Trail runs through Harper’s Ferry, and I hiked a short segment on my way back to my hotel.

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Miles: 32.74
Avg. speed:   10.9 mph
Ascending feet: 1,509 ft.

Peak elevation:  542 ft.
Ending Elevation:  356 ft.
Net elevation gain:  -183 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 54 – Harper’s Ferry, WV to Washington DC/Silver Spring, MD

 

July 23 – I started the day riding back through Harper’s Ferry and over the bridge back to the C&O canal towpath.  The trail began as a continuation of the nicely resurfaced path I had experienced at the end of the ride the day before.  But it only lasted 5 miles before I was back on the dirt and gravel towpath.  The thunderstorm from the previous day had downed large tree limbs, in a couple of places completely blocking the trail.  I was able to climb through the branches with my bike and move on.  But it was another muddy ride.

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Storm damage on the towpath.
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A C&O canal aquaduct. From here, I left the towpath to get on paved roads to Silver Spring.
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Time to clean the bike after the ride
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It was a muddy day all around.

My intention had been to take the towpath all the way to its end in Georgetown and then ride the Rock Creek Trail north through DC towards Silver Spring, where I would stay with Annie and Jeff.  But the going on the trail was so slow and my skull had been shaken enough.  So I decided to take a more direct route on paved roads through the western and northern suburbs.  In many places, there were excellent bike trails along the sides of the roads and through greenways, which is typical of the DC metro area.  Sometimes this was city cycling.  Everywhere, the traffic was intense.

It was great to pull into Annie and Jeff’s house.  I got to play grandpa with Jules and review the whole experience with Jeff and Annie.  They were great hosts, and I had the next day to rest, do some laundry, and transfer my gear to my Bianchi bike (which they had transported for me and could accept panniers) and which I would use for the ride to Richmond via Fredericksburg and then on to the beach.

Miles: 56.84
Avg. speed:   10.6 mph
Ascending feet: 2,710 ft.

Peak elevation:  600 ft.
Ending Elevation:  366 ft.
Net elevation gain:  9 ft.

Adventure Recap: Through Ohio to Pittsburgh

The Excellent Adventure started at the Pacific Ocean at Seaside, Oregon on May 1, and ended at the Atlantic Ocean at Sandbridge Beach, Virginia on August 11, 2019.  I’m posting recaps of the Adventure, now that I have time to write about the experience.

Adventure Ride Day 46– Brookville, OH to Columbus, OH

July 14 –  Bob and I spent yesterday on a road trip up to the Leisure Travel Vans dealer in Galion, OH to get the air conditioner issue checked out.  They couldn’t fix it without ordering the part from the manufacturer, which would take several days, but they were able to cover the damaged unit so we could travel safely without rain getting into the inside of the camper.  And we got to see lots of Ohio!

Today the goal is to get to Columbus.  About 15 miles along the Wolf Creek trail to Dayton, then up bike trails along the Miami River and Mad River to the Creekside Trail to Xenia.  An Egg McMuffin and iced tea at McDonald’s in Xenia and then over 50 more miles of straight rail-trails to Columbus.  This is the best bicycle infrastructure I’ve seen.  Once in Columbus, the route meandered through the Ohio State University campus.  Oh, excuse me:  THE Ohio State University.  (they tried to copyright THE)

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Mad River, Dayton, OH
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Wildlife on the Mad River, Dayton, OH
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On the trail by the Miami River in Dayton, OH
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I think this is an ethanol processing facility. Near South Charleston, OH.
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The elaborate county courthouse in London, OH
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The Ohio Erie rail trail near Xenia, OH
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It’s band camp week at THE Ohio State University
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OSU Stadium
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Ohio State campus
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Ohio State campus

Miles: 99.47
Avg. speed:   13.5 mph
Ascending feet: 1,644 ft.

Peak elevation:  837 ft.
Ending Elevation:  587 ft.
Net elevation gain:  -140 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 47– Columbus, OH to Zanesville, OH

July 15 – The ride out of Columbus took me through the north suburb of Worthington and then east on bike paths and country roads.  The temperature rose into the upper 90’s, so I was glad to stop for lunch and iced tea in Newark at a little coffee shop on the courthouse square.  Just before Newark there were some cool art installations.

Then on to Zanesville along the Panhandle Trail and Newark Road.  Our hotel for the night was across from a Cracker Barrel restaurant.  I’d never been to a Cracker Barrel before, so Bob introduced me to this experience.   Biscuits and gravy, cute things to buy that reflect mom, apple pie, and childhood good times. Another taste of middle America.

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A view of the “Y” in Zanesville, OH
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Pot farms in Ohio are different than in California.
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My first visit to a Cracker Barrel. Apparently, sitting in the rockers is a thing. I don’t know about the biker tan, though.

 

Miles: 77.88
Avg. speed:   13.4 mph
Ascending feet: 2,103 ft.

Peak elevation:  930 ft.
Ending Elevation:  569 ft.
Net elevation gain:  7 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 48– Zanesville, OH to St. Clairsville, OH

July 16 – Zanesville was the end of the mid-continent flatland.  Today’s ride started the ascent into the Appalachian Mountains, with more climbing than any single day of the Adventure so far.  All of the route so far had followed fairly gradual grades along rivers and through passes.  Today followed country roads over rolling hills that included some steep but thankfully short ascents.

This part of Ohio has lovely farmland and small towns with rich histories.  I stopped for lunch in Quaker City at an Amish restaurant.  Had a filling meal of meatloaf and sweet potatoes prepared by the bonneted women in the kitchen.  Great fuel for the rest of the hilly ride to St. Clairsville, just about 15 miles west of the West Virginia line.

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The Amish restaurant in Quaker City, OH
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Hearty Amish fare for hungry people
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The hilly farmlands near Quaker City
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Quaker City Friends Meeting House
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There are signs of fracking throughout this part of the country.
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Another in the courthouse photo collection. This one in St Clairsville, OH

Miles: 74.19
Avg. speed:   11.7 mph
Ascending feet: 5,357 ft.

Peak elevation:  1,314 ft.
Ending Elevation:  1,250 ft.
Net elevation gain:  454 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 49– Pittsburgh!

July 17 – The forecast was for scattered showers later in the day around Wheeling, so I hoped to start early enough to miss them before I headed north to Pittsburgh.  I wouldn’t be quite so lucky.

The weather was clear as I entered Wheeling Island, just before the Ohio River crossing into the city of Wheeling.  This town has been flooded many times in its history—events which are memorialized in this monument.

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Wheeling Island flood lines

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The town of Wheeling harkens back to the days when coal and iron ore shipments plied their way up the Ohio River through locks to the steel mills in Pittsburgh.  It would have been nice to have had more time to explore.  I’m sure there’s a rich history here.  I needed to make time, though, so I turned up the Wheeling Heritage Trail which follows the Ohio upstream.  About 20 miles into the ride, the skies opened up and I was riding in heavy rain, much earlier than the weather forecast had shown.  I paused under some trees for a while to see if it would pass, but it was steady.  So off I went, peering through the raindrops on my glasses.  In about 5 miles the trail emptied onto a heavily travelled road.  Even though I had lights on my bike and a bright yellow jacket for visibility, these are not great conditions for cycling in traffic.  I found a gas station in about a mile that I pulled into to wait for the rain cell to pass over.

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The Ohio RIver at Wheeling

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The bridge into Wheeling is closed to traffic. Luckily, I made it across.
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Locks on the Ohio River north of Wheeling, just before the rain.

The route to Pittsburgh is well-mapped by the Adventure Cycling Association as part of their route from Chicago to New York.  So the bike route takes another rail-trail from just west of the Pennsylvania state line in West Virginia all the way to the Pittsburgh suburb of Noblestown.  Then the ride is through the steep hilly terrain around Pittsburgh, across the Ohio River to the hotel for our time in the city, near Heinz Field (home of the Pirates).

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My first sighting of the city of Pittsburgh!

Pittsburgh starts a new phase of the Excellent Adventure.  Pittsburgh represents the beginning of the end of the cross-country adventure.  From here, it’s 2 days of riding on the Great Allegheny Passage to Cumberland, Maryland, then the C&O canal towpath to DC, two more days to Richmond, and two days to the Atlantic from there.   I’ve ridden 3700 miles to get here, and only a few hundred more to go.

Daughter Annie, son-in-law Jeff, and grandson Jules have driven up from the DC area to meet us.  Bob will head back to Richmond from here, taking Rosie and the RV with him.  Jeff is going to ride with me and guide me through most of  the Great Allegheny Passage, which he has ridden before.

My dad grew up in Pittsburgh, so this is a time for Bob and me to revisit our family heritage.  We maneuvered the camper through the narrow streets and hills of Pittsburgh to the borough of Dormont to find our grandparents’ old house, which still stands, though the neighborhood around it has significantly changed.  Gone are the trolleys that were such a fixture of Pittsburgh for many years.  Gone is the hand-packed ice cream store that we visited as children, and the candy store on the corner, having been replaced by nail salons, a tattoo parlor, and storefronts for real estate agents, insurance brokers, and attorneys.

Our grandfather’s livelihood came from his position of business manager for Mount Lebanon Presbyterian Church, two blocks from their house.  The church appears to be thriving still.  The alley behind the old house still looks about the same as it did 50 years ago, though perhaps a little more dilapidated.  A fearsome guard dog barked at us from an auto repair shop now facing the alley.

We had two days in Pittsburgh, so we decided to drive up north to the tiny town of Connoquenessing, where we remembered going to the “Downs family reunion” as children.  Our great-grandfather William Guthrie Downs and our great-grandmother Amanda lived the final years of their lives in Connoquenessing, with their daughter Sara Ann’s extended families – the Chandlers, Lobaughs and Rearicks.  We hoped to find the old houses we remembered, visit the local cemetery, and maybe even find a lost relative.

Connoquenessing is really just a few little streets, about 3 or 4 churches, and a volunteer fire station.  We parked the RV in the gravel parking lot next to the Methodist church.  We walked down and back on the main street to see if any houses were recognizable to us.  A couple looked somewhat like the places we remembered, but almost 60 years had passed, so we weren’t sure.  As we got back to the parking lot, a woman stopped her car in the street to ask us what we were looking for.  Clearly in this small town where everyone knew everyone we were suspicious characters.  I told her we were retracing our family history.  We suspect that our presence was the talk of the town for the following days.  Later, another woman popped her head out of her door when we passed her house, asking who we were looking for.  We told her we were looking for the houses of the Chandlers and the Rearicks.  Turns out she remembered them both, and that Wendell Rearick’s house was just across the street, though the house had now changed hands.  So at least we were able to make one solid connection.

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The suspicious characters casing the town of Connoquenessing, PA
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The old Rearick house in Connoquenessing
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The old Chandler house (we think) in Connoquenessing

Bob and I joined Annie, Jeff and Jules for a visit to one of the big attractions in Pittsburgh, the Incline Railroad, which is a 19th century cable car transport from river level up the steep cliff of Mt. Washington.  Jules loved the ride!

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The Incline
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Jules liked the ride!
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The family heading up the Incline
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At the top of the Incline
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A very hot and humid day, but what a clear view!
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PIttsburgh’s Three RIvers
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You’ve ridden that far? Oh, Grandpa!

The next day, Bob and Rosie headed on to Richmond in the RV, where Stephanie was recuperating from her hand surgery.  Jeff would join me on the ride from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, MD on the Great Allegheny Passage, with Annie and Jules meeting us in Connellsville, PA and Cumberland.  From there, I would ride on my own for 2 or 3 days to their house in Silver Spring, MD, on the outskirts of DC, before the final rides through Virginia.  I could see the end of the Adventure on the horizon.

Miles: 73.04
Avg. speed:   12.6 mph
Ascending feet: 2,567 ft.

Peak elevation:  1,277 ft.
Ending Elevation:  731 ft.
Net elevation gain:  -519 ft.

 

Adventure Recap: From Chicago through Indiana

The Excellent Adventure started at the Pacific Ocean at Seaside, Oregon on May 1, and ended at the Atlantic Ocean at Sandbridge Beach, Virginia on August 11, 2019.  I’m posting recaps of the Adventure, now that I have time to write about the experience.

Adventure Ride Day 43– Chicago to Winamac, Indiana

July 10 – The day after Stephanie left for Richmond, Virginia with Carol.  It’s me, brother Bob, and Rosie for the rest of the trip.  It feels strange to not be doing the ride with Stephanie.  It’s not the same.  Everyone is helping me finish the ride across the country, and I am so appreciative of the support, but I also feel that perhaps I should have cut it short to be with Stephanie during her care and recovery.  So my objective now is to finish the trip as quickly as I can to rejoin Stephanie in Richmond.  I’ll be attempting to lengthen a few segments and eliminate some rest days to meet a more accelerated schedule.  Today’s ride will be a century, to get as far into Indiana as I can.

Much of today’s ride was on very nice bike trails.  Bob and I made a plan to meet at Crown Point, IN for lunch, about 40 miles into the ride.  After rolling out of the hotel parking lot near Midway airport in Chicago, and navigating busy Chicago streets for a few miles, I turned onto the Burnham Greenway bike path.  For most of the morning, I was navigating from one bike path to another, and I had long stretches of flat, easy riding that allowed me to make good time, even as the temperature rose into the 90’s.  At one point, I lost the trail and made a u-turn on a side road, hit a sandy spot and slipped to the asphalt.  I hit my hip, which would be sore for a few more days, but otherwise was able to just get back in the saddle and keep on going into Crown Point, where Bob and Rosie and I met at a diner where we could get sandwiches and cold drinks.  We called Stephanie in Richmond to check in.

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The Illinois/Indiana state line on the Pennsy Greenway, a fabulous rail trail.
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The county courthouse in Crown Point, Indiana

I’d hoped to make good time the rest of the way. The temperature rose to the upper 90’s, and the bike trail gave way to long, straight flat county road.  I needed to stop frequently when there were opportunities to cool down and get ice.  My speed got slower and slower as I grinded my way in the heat down the long Indiana road.  Finally, with about 11 miles to go to Winamac, I decided I’d had enough for the day and called Bob to come pick me up.  I’d start again from this spot tomorrow.

Every little town has its story, and Winamac was no exception.  There were few options for lodging for the night, so we ended up at the Tortuga Inn.   Kind of a bohemian place, there was a barn filled with rusty farm equipment and stuff collected or crafted by the owner.  Our room was in a ramshackle cabin, with hot and cold rusty water.  I took a shower, thinking that the dirt in the water was the detritus of my long bike ride, but in fact was originating from the water pipes themselves.

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The Tortuga Inn near Winamac.  Our accommodations for the night.
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At least Rosie has her own bed.

Bob and I found a pub where we could get a late meal, where we met a group of local bicyclists.  They shared their knowledge of the trails I’d encounter in Indiana and Ohio, and asked me to share some of my experiences.

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A good recovery meal for a bicyclist!

Miles: 96.2
Avg. speed:   14.2 mph
Ascending feet: 1,440 ft.

Peak elevation:  749 ft.
Ending Elevation:  747 ft.
Net elevation gain:  158 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 44– Winamac, IN to Marion, IN

July 11 – Flat country roads to Rochester and Starbucks, then the Nickel Plate rail-trail to Peru and lunch with Bob an Rosie. A combination of bike trails and flat country roads to Converse and a stop for ice cream.  Then the Sweetser Switch Trail to Marion.  These trails are a testament to the work being done by local communities and organizations like the Rails to Trails Conservancy to create and preserve high-quality bike routes all over the country along old railroad rights-of-way.    I made really good time today.

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The courthouse in Rochester, Indiana
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An Indiana hay field.  Near Peru, Indiana
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Converse, Indiana
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A hot day.  A long ride.  I deserve mint chip ice cream!
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The Sweetser Switch rail/trailhead.

Miles: 90.93
Avg. speed:   14.6 mph
Ascending feet: 1,804 ft.

Peak elevation:  818 ft.
Ending Elevation:  809 ft.
Net elevation gain:  169 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 45– Marion, IN to Brookville, Ohio

July 12 – My third straight day of riding over 90 miles through the flatlands of the American Midwest. Most of today’s ride was on the Cardinal Greenway, another rail-trail running from Gaston, IN through Muncie and on to Richmond.  This was another day of fast riding on a trail that gently ascended for much of the way.

For an adventure to be a true adventure, there have to be opportunities to test your abilities to overcome obstacles, right?  We’ve had a few so far (getting through bad weather, bike malfunctions, and a broken wrist).  Today we had another.   The camper met its match with a low bridge.

I expected that at some point this would happen.  The RV is about 10 ½ feet tall, and while highways and most city streets have plenty of clearance for this, there are lightly travelled old roads with old railroad bridges with lower clearance than this.  Bob was trying to follow close to my route on the bike trail, and came upon a bridge which did not have any clearance warning on it.  Crunch, crunch went the rooftop air conditioner and satellite receiver.

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The camper after its run-in with the overpass.

Bob was clearly feeling really bad about this (my view was that it could have been me or Stephanie doing the same thing, and this was just bad luck).  There was a point on the trail that our paths crossed, and we surveyed the damage.  Further down the route in Richmond, IN was a Camping World RV center that might be able to do the repair.  Bob headed there and I continued on the bike trail to meet him there.  It was pretty remarkable that they had a satellite unit in stock that they could install that day.  They assessed the damage to the air conditioner, thought that they had a replacement, but after a good bit of back and forth among the installers realized that the unit I needed was not what they had available.  We would have to find another place to get the work done.

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The Camping World in Richmond, IN worked hard to get us back on the road fast.

This stop had been surprisingly quick, and I was able to continue on to our planned overnight stop about 35 miles down the road, across the state line in Brookville, OH, just west of Dayton.

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Near Eaton, Ohio just across the Indiana state line

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A too-frequent example of a roadside memorial.  This for a girl named Olivia.

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A covered bridge in western Ohio.  This time the height clearance is marked– and too low for the RV.

After 3 long riding days, my butt was feeling the pain, and with the RV in need of repair, it was a good time to take a rest day the next day.   That meant we’d have time for dinner at Rob’s Restaurant, a place serving the all-you-can eat clientele with a buffet food and dessert bar.  The food choices were of a variety you’d only see in this homespun Midwest country.

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Bob anxiously awaiting the output of the pancake machine at our hotel.
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I’d like some of that sea-foam green cream salad, please.
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Nothing like pink eggs, or marshmallows in the carrot salad.

Miles: 110.95
Avg. speed:   13.7 mph
Ascending feet: 2,100 ft.

Peak elevation:  1,085 ft.
Ending Elevation:  911 ft.
Net elevation gain:  200 ft.

 

Adventure Recap: Wisconsin

The Excellent Adventure started at the Pacific Ocean at Seaside, Oregon on May 1, and ended at the Atlantic Ocean at Sandbridge Beach, Virginia on August 11, 2019.  I’m posting recaps of the Adventure, now that I have time to write about the experience.

Adventure Ride Day 33–Saint Croix Falls, WI to Birchwood, WI

June 20 –   A beautiful day for a ride.  Temperatures in the low 70s. Lightly traveled country roads through Wisconsin woodlands and small farms.  My pace was slower than normal due to the weight of the panniers I was carrying for the two-day ride from the Twin Cities. This was a good lesson for me to pack less and lighter for future rides.  Lunch at a sports bar in Cumberland.  Arrived early at our campsite for the night at Birch Lake.  The family in the next site was very impressed with the accomplishment of bicycling across the country until Stephanie arrived with the camper.  Then they compared our nice Mercedes Sprinter RV to their popup tent trailer and decided they were the ones who were really roughing it.

Stephanie and I drove into the very tiny town of Birchwood to see what we could find for dinner.  We ended up at a family-run  grill, where the menu was burgers, pizza and beer.  This turned out to be the same menu at almost every eating place we entered in Wisconsin.  Our waitress was a young girl who had never strayed far from the town.  She told us about a Korean man she had met locally and was continuing to correspond with in Korea.  She told us she had never seen an Asian person before and she was now obsessed with what she perceived to be Asian culture.  She planned to go meet him in the coming months.  Her naivete was obvious, and we left the restaurant with the hope that she’d make it back.

The campground was on a lovely lake, where the kids could swim while boats and skiers cruised the water.  All night long we heard the sound of frogs and crickets.

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Balsam Lake, Wisconsin
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Another Wisconsin lake
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Our campsite near Birchwood

Miles: 71.68
Avg. speed:  11.4 mph
Ascending feet: 2,582 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,395 ft.
Ending Elevation: 1,249 ft.
Net elevation gain: 67 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 34–Birchwood, WI to Day Lake, WI

June 21 – Another lovely ride through the northern lake country of Wisconsin.  Country roads over rolling hills through forests, past lakes, vacation cabins and remote campgrounds.

Stephanie and I met at a “bar and grill” along the way.  Of course, the menu was mostly burgers and beer.  Stephanie asked, “What’s the local beer?”  The bartender said, “You’re in Wisconsin.  All beer is local.”  Which is pretty much true.  But he didn’t just give us a Bud Lite.  He gave us New Glarus “Spotted Cow”, which we found is truly the local beer of choice here.  Too bad it doesn’t ship outside of Wisconsin.

Camping tonight at Day Lake campground, a US Forest service campground near Clam Lake.

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Stephanie and Rosie at Day Lake Campground

Miles: 70.37
Avg. speed:  13.2 mph
Ascending feet: 2,411 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,478 ft.
Ending Elevation: 1,448 ft.
Net elevation gain: 206 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 35–Day Lake, WI to Boulder Junction, WI

June 22 – This morning’s highlight was the ride through lovely Glidden, Wisconsin.  There was a sign on the road to “see the largest black bear- next left”, so I turned into the main street of the town to see what I could find.  The first sight was of the Dead Squirrel Bar and Grill.  Don’t know why their sign is a picture of a happy squirrel, though, instead of a dead squirrel.

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A woman on the street asked me what I was looking for and I told her I was looking for the bear.  Turns out she was the development director for the town and she told me where to find the bear as well as everything else there was to visit in her town.  She apologized, after hearing that I was travelling through her town on a cross-country bike ride, that the town newspaper guy was not around so they could put it in their paper!

Anyway, here is the biggest black bear killed in the area, stuffed and given a place of honor in its own little museum.

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The rest of the ride was classic northern Wisconsin—long stretches of woods, marsh, and lakes along quiet country roads.  Near the end of the ride, heading into Boulder Junction, a fun bike trail took me closer to town.

The campsite for the night was an RV campground where many families had clearly made camp for the season.  Some RV owners had built decks and fences around their RVs, some had installed fixed PVC pipe for their drainage and water lines in lieu of the typical hoses and “stinky slinkys” that most RVs hook up to the water and sewer.

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Miles: 83.16
Avg. speed:  12.4 mph
Ascending feet: 2,386 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,673 ft.
Ending Elevation: 1,660 ft.
Net elevation gain: 214 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 36–Boulder Junction, WI to Eagle River, WI

June 23 – This was a short, fun ride through the forests and gently rolling terrain past more lakes to Eagle River.  We planned to stay in Eagle River for a couple of days to visit with Jack and Sue.  Sue is a cousin and good friend to Stephanie.  Jack is involved in several ventures, and is an avid collector of Civil War memorabilia.   Their cabin is a fabulous, relaxing place.

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Rosie was shy, but happy to sleep on the couch.
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Sue, Stephanie, Jack and Rosie

Miles: 33.11
Avg. speed:  14.2 mph
Ascending feet: 1,006 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,800 ft.
Ending Elevation: 1,662 ft.
Net elevation gain: 6 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 37– Eagle River, WI to Pickerel, WI

June 26 – During our visit with Jack and Sue, they took us all over this part of Wisconsin, including a trip up to the Michigan Upper Peninsula.  The folks in the U.P. (there aren’t many) might be called “U-pers”, and it feels like being in Canada.  The accents morph from the Norwegian-Wisconsin sound to include Canadian euphemisms (eh?).

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Beavers did this.
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Lookin’ good, eh?
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Sue and Jack all tied up in knots at Bond Falls.
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Bond Falls in the Michigan Upper Peninsula

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We said good-bye and headed off to our next Wisconsin family visit down in Pickerel, where Stephanie’s Aunt Virgie and Uncle Jim live in their lakeside home.  This was another lovely ride through lake country.

Virg and Jim treated us like royalty at their house, cooking up a great steak dinner for my protein fix.  Rosie had a great time chasing squirrels outside by the lake.  Virg and Stephanie talked about what everyone in the family is doing.  Jim, who owned a trucking company before he retired, showed us his garage of projects and the dump truck he still offers up for local jobs.

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Rosie surveying her squirreldom at Pickerel Lake

Miles: 57.05
Avg. speed:  14.7 mph
Ascending feet: 2,226 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,680 ft.
Ending Elevation: 1,548 ft.
Net elevation gain: -105 ft.

 

Adventure Ride Day 38– Pickerel, WI to Plover, WI

 

June 27 – From Pickerel we had one more family stop, to the Stevens Point area where Stephanie’s cousin Dan lives.  Today’s ride was due south along progressively busier roads.  I’m now heading into the heart of the Midwest, and the temperatures are finally warming up to summertime heat.

Dan Kruzitski’s history is as a competitive cyclist.  He’s a great instructor for those attempting to be successful racers.  He offered to ride with me for a few segments of the ride, fitting it into his tough schedule, which involves taking the night shift during the week to haul truck loads across the state.

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Dan Kruzitzki – loves his Bianchi bikes!

Dan let us stay at his condo, which was fine for Rosie:

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Miles: 81.12
Avg. speed:  13.9 mph
Ascending feet: 1,213 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,669 ft.
Ending Elevation: 1,090 ft.
Net elevation gain: -558 ft.

 

Adventure Ride Day 39– Plover, WI to Wisconsin Dells, WI

June 28 – The effort today involved finding paved roads.  Dan  joined me for the first part of this ride out of Plover.  I planned the route using Ridewithgps, which had plotted a course that seemed OK at first, but turned out to follow gravel roads for much of the way.  I’m fine with gravel for a mile or two, but when it turns into 5 or more miles, the loss of time, the effort, and the pounding over loose rocks gets to be too much for me.

After the first couple of miles on gravel, Dan and I plotted a new course that appeared to put me on a paved road, so we headed east to get on that road.  Dan then left me to get back home. (He drives a truck at night and it was bedtime for him.  He’d meet us tomorrow for the ride into Madison.)

I abandoned my original route, which appeared to run along more unpaved roads and trails, and decided to take paved county roads to the Dells.  This added about 10 miles to the planned ride, but it was a lot faster than plowing through gravel, with a lot less shaking for my bones and my head.

Miles: 78.79
Avg. speed:  14.6 mph
Ascending feet: 1,290 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,162 ft.
Ending Elevation: 913 ft.
Net elevation gain: -177 ft.

Rather than staying overnight at Wisconsin Dells, Stephanie and I drove down to Spring Green, a few miles farther south and the location of Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and architecture school.  We had a planned rest day allowing us to go on a walking tour of the buildings and grounds, learning a lot about the man’s life, his talent and his faults, and the events that led to the development of the property in its current state.

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We also had an opportunity to visit “the Little Brown Church” nearby.  The cemetery surrounding this church is where some of Stephanie’s mother’s ancestors are interred.  So we took some time to photograph headstones that might help us flesh out the family tree.

Adventure Ride Day 40– Wisconsin Dells, WI to Madison, WI

June 30 – Stephanie’s cousin Dan Kruzitzki joined me on today’s ride.  I rode 10 miles from Wisconsin Dells to Baraboo to meet him to ride the remaining 50 miles.  He’s such a biking demon that he decided to do a century today, so he drove to Madison and biked the 50 miles BACK to Baraboo to meet me.  He rides at about twice my speed normally, so he was kind enough to slow down for the ride back to Madison.

Rain clouds were threatening all morning.  While we hoped to avoid a storm, we were not so lucky.  The drizzle started as we rode through Devil’s Lake state park, and then it became a steady rain.  The day turned dark, so our front and rear lights were on for safety in the slow-moving traffic.  As we left the park, the rain turned into a torrent, with thunder and lightening coming closer.  We were soaked.  We found shelter around a commercial building to wait out the storm.

After about 15 minutes the rain slowed to a drizzle and we headed on to the ferry to get us across Lake Wisconsin.

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We were soaked from the rain as we crossed Lake Wisconsin on the ferry.
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Dan’s Bianchi racer and my old Bianchi touring bike.  Maybe if I had his bike I’d go faster?

The rest of the ride was through more Wisconsin farm country until we got to Middleton, which is just outside Madison.  Then we rode through neighborhoods of upscale homes and shopping into Madison.

Dan then left us to head back to his condo in Plover.  We had a couple of planned rest days in Madison.  Stephanie graduated from the University of Wisconsin, so there were old haunts to visit.

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We drove the camper to the site of the old cabin lodge run by Stephanie’s grandparents, now a city park.
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A heron at Lake Mendota

 

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The old campground.

Erin, Stephanie’s friend from California, and her kids happened to be in Madison at the same time, so we were able to spend some time with them at the UW Union on the shore of Lake Mendota.

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Almost everyone is having fun.
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Erin and Stephanie’s reunion in Madison.

Miles: 59.6
Avg. speed:  13.4 mph
Ascending feet: 3,077 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,256 ft.
Ending Elevation: 1,062 ft.
Net elevation gain: 154 ft.

 

Adventure Ride Day 41– Madison, WI to Milwaukee

July 3 –  The ride from Madison to Milwaukee followed a couple of long rail trails, where trees provided shade from the hot sun.  Farm country gave way to the industrial city of Waukesha, continuing into Milwaukee.

As I entered Milwaukee, the route took a poorly-maintained city bike path.  There were muddy puddles along the path.  I attempted to avoid one of the puddles and ended up off the path in deep mud, which stopped me cold.  With no time to clip out, I dropped onto the asphalt.  I wasn’t hurt, but the fall was a pretty hard one, and my helmet took quite a blow.  I was only about 7 miles from the end of the day’s route and the hotel, but I wondered if I had hit my head hard enough to warrant getting it checked out.  I called Stephanie to talk it out, and decided to ride the rest of the way in.  The roads in Milwaukee are pretty bad—the weather cracks the pavement, heavy traffic pounds out potholes, and there doesn’t seem to be enough investment in road maintenance to keep the roads in shape.  It’s a problem I’d see throughout this industrial part of the country.

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This is who made my ride so fun.  Our date in Milwaukee.

We had a rest day on July 4 in Milwaukee.  Nothing appeared to warrant a visit to the ER.  Stephanie has extended family in Milwaukee and we had a nice lunch with them.

Miles: 95.98
Avg. speed:   12.8 mph
Ascending feet: 1,719 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,083 ft.
Ending Elevation: ft.
Net elevation gain: ft.

 

Adventure Ride Day 42– Milwaukee to Chicago

July 5 – Another hot, humid day.  I rode bike trails for much of the day, though, so there was a good bit of shade.  Virtually flat almost the entire way.  The areas around the trail were mostly industrial and blue-collar neighborhoods through Racine and Highland Park.  I stopped at the Trek bicycle store in Highland Park to replace my helmet, which had been cracked by my fall on the ride into Milwaukee.

As I entered the northern suburbs of Chicago, the neighborhoods changed remarkably.  The houses on the tree-lined streets were large, gracious homes.  Clearly more affluence here than in southern Wisconsin.

I navigated through Evanston and northern Chicago to the Lakefront Trail along the shore of Lake Michigan.  The hot holiday weekend was an occasion for thousands of people to enjoy the parks and beaches along the lake.

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Northwestern University in Evanston, and my new high-visibility bike helmet.

The Chicago skyline appeared.

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I made my way through Grant Park and back onto the busy road to our hotel for the next couple of nights near Midway Airport.

Miles: 99.85
Avg. speed:   12.3 mph
Ascending feet: 1,414 ft.

Peak elevation:  703 ft.
Ending Elevation:  619 ft.
Net elevation gain:  -43 ft.

Chicago was a turning point for the ride.  Here, Stephanie fell, broke her wrist, and had to fly to Richmond, VA for surgery.

My brother Bob graciously joined the Adventure in Chicago, driving the RV, caring for Rosie, and providing support along the way.  My focus shifted from the experience of the ride to completing it as quickly as possible so I could rejoin her in Virginia.   See my post The Chicago sidewalk event