Sunday, October 16, 2011

Amy and Scott at Daytona airport before leaving-nice hats

Hank, when not riding his bicycle

Last day in DatonaBeach-advertising Russells Cycle

Good friend Bill and me

Don, me and Michael from Canada one of 3 riders from other country

East Coast riders from 09 cross country ride-Me, Mike T, Jack, Al, Jim, Tom D, Tom Bob, Hank and Peter up front in m

Marsha Rae
Central Illinois Alzheimers Assn
606 W. Glen
Peoria, Il
note-Champ Walker East Coast bike ride
Never to late to make a contribution


East Coast Ride complete. Time for reflections on the journey. All in all I would recommend this ride for any bicyclist who likes to ride longer distances. In terms of terrain, it is not terrible difficult. After the first week of going through the mountains of Maine, Delaware, New Hamsphire, New York and Massachusetts the road flattens out. For some that is disappointing because many of the riders on this trip enjoy the challenge of climbing. So, if that is ones pleasure, a West Coast ride would be preferable. The advantage of the East Coast ride is the amount of early American history available to enjoy. With that in mind, here is a good place to start.
Beginning in Bar Harbor, Maine with its connection to J.D. Rockefeller, travelling through all the small towns with their own unique history, finally arriving in Portland with its ship building tradition, this trip started in the midst of Americana. The famous lighthouse in Portland was definitely one of the visual highlights of the Northeast. Working our way south I was physically able to attend actual geographic sites I had taught about for over 35 years. Fort Clinton and the Battle of Saratoga, New York, which was the turning point of the American Revolution, to the various battle sites that abound in this part of America all added to the overall
We trekked south with stops in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut, and believe me there were plenty of stops as we rode through the mountains in those states. Travelling through New York, especially Bear Mountain Park and crossing the bridge over the Hudson river added to the historical significance of the ride. Having left the mountains the history tour went through New Jersey, notably Somerset where the first Marconi broadcast of the radio wave in America occurred. Through Delaware and Maryland our route turned toward the ATLANTIC ocean and it was here we noticed the remains of the devastation that hurricane Irene wreaked on this area. Many roads were still under repair, and mile after mile of litter that still remained, did not deter the people from being resolute in their approach to recovery . In typical American style, they were determined to rebuilt their property and their lives back to which they were accustomed.
As we ventured into the Southern states, the southern culture was evident in speech, manners and historical tradition. Without question, one of the highlights of the trip was the Wright Brother Memorial Park at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. In all the places we stopped, we met quite a few southerners who exemplified these characteristics. As we continued through the outer bank areas of resort towns and condos a "laid back" way of life was evident. The attitude seemed to be "don't worry, be happy". Vacation home after vacation home with names painted on them like Pink Monkey and Rusty Anchor seemed to illustrate this point. Plus, for the historically inclined Ocaracoke island of this area was the site of Blackbeard's final battle.
Heading further south Savannah, South Carolina, of course, was another highlight that probably matched Kitty Hawk. To the extent I could have spent a week in Savannah gives testimony as to its importance. Then, when we entered Florida, well, its Florida. What can you say. The oldest permanent European settlement at St. Augustine draws historical buffs from around the country to experience the culture. There is a reason that so many of the seniors retire to that state. Even on a bad weather day it's still a good day. Miles and miles of ocean beach, sunny skies, and cooling wind, especially when the humidity is low, entice visitors to come and for those reasons, decide to stay. I reiterate, the history of this trip was a major reason I decided to do the ride and it was not lost on those riders who are not history "buffs".
Here is the irony at the end of our bike trip. Riding a bicycle is a rather pristine way of enjoying travel from place to place. Another form of biking, of course, is motorcycles. So on our last day we shared Datona Beach with over a hundred thousand bikers. Ha!! Motorcycles that is!!
Now for the weather. It rained many of the days we rode. I have stated often in this blog I do not mind the rain unless it endangers the riders or is of monsoon proportions. On the rain issue, I determined it doesn't do any good to put on rain gear in an attempt to stay dry. While covered in a waterproof raincoat, because there is not adaquate ventilation, I sweat so profusely, that I am totally drenched by the end of the ride. So, if I decide to ride in a rain, and it is not extraordinarily cold I will not wear rain gear. Wet is wet.
At the end of the ride, many commented on how many rainy days we encountered. I had to remind them that after leaving Jacksonville NC we had a tailwind virtually all the way to Datona. Given rain versus wind, give me rain any day. And, in fact, the last three days were a bikers dream in terms of weather. I mean, really, averaging over 20 mph at 50 plus mph for a rider like myself is unheard of. Lance Armstrong, on your left, I'm passing you. Ha, yea, right. In my dreams. So, weather was not much of a negative on the ride.
Now for the coup de etat. That involves the relationships made with other riders over a three and a half week period of time. I am not being soliticitous but there is not one single person on this ride that I didn't like. I'm not sure the feeling is reciprocated but I had some incredible interactions with the riders. There were 25 in all and it was great. That doesn't mean that sociological factors didn't come into play, but not to the degree that animosities were evident. Let me begin with the two riders with which I had little interaction. Obviously, I will use first names only to protect the guilty. Michael, one of the three foreign riders, and Sam were usually so far ahead that I didn't get much interaction with them. They were very nice fellows and very strong riders.
To begin, we have five riders, all of the class of 09, who were always out fast and early in. Jim, Al, Peter, Mike T, and Jack (another of our foreign riders from Israel). Jim, being the navigator and resident intellectual, Al the consummate Michigan machine, Mike T with legs spinning like pistons even as he is recovering from back issues and Jack (one of my favorites) who rides like the wind and you never see him without a smile on his face they set the tempo. If you want to ride fast join us (as I did for one 35 mile stretch) if not enjoy the ride at whatever pace you like.
Stu, another very strong rider, rides a style similar to mine. If he is in a peleton he likes to be at the back and apart from the rider in front. That is, he is uncomfortable riding on anther's wheel. Because of his riding style he prefers to be alone and ahead of slower riders. Heading into Beauford SC, as I was riding alone, I saw him in the distance. After several miles miles I caught him at a stoplight and asked. "Were you trying to lose me?" "No," he replied "I didn't see you".
When the light changed he took off like a bat out of hell. No way could I stay with him. After about a mile another red light stopped Stu. When I caught him he said "That time I was" I cracked up. Stu showed me he was toying with me and could out ride me at his leisure.
Then there is Don. He can ride with any of the groups and usually did. He had the ability to ride ahead of the fast group, and did on the 120 mile day ride, as well as the more leisurely riders like myself and the group I would occasionally ride. I found him a very interesting person as well as bike rider. He probably took more pictures than me and I took about 500. Glad I got to know him.
Now I will introduce the people with whom I would ride. They are all strong riders but choose to enjoy a slower pace, take pictures and stop when the occasion arose to either get something to eat, rest one's weary keester, or answer the call of nature. A very eclectic group. Usually leading this crew was Larry. At the beginning of the trip he would stop and take many pictures. But, since we all have bit of competitiveness in us, by the end of the ride he would abandon us after the first SAG to ride at a faster pace. That was fine with the rest of us as we all had our own agendas.
Also in this group was Tom. Again, another strong rider who would, when he wanted to show this ability, sprint to the front of the pack to lead the group. Or, if he got behind for some reason he would sprint and eventually catch up. One enduring trait about Tom is that when there was a lull in the conversation, you could always count on him to keep the conversation going. He could talk a blue streak and never miss a beat.
Chris was the only female that rode with this group. What a tremendous individual to put up with we knuckleheads for most of the ride. She was as good a rider as there was in our group and it was a pleasure to have shared the ride with her.
Bill was another of this group. In the beginning we relied on him to be sure we did not get lost so he was at the front of the pack. I first met him when, after the second day, I had severe leg cramps. I knew that I had not hydrated enough that day and payed the price. Bill was generous enough to let me have some of his electrolyte tablets and my cramps never reoccurred. Also, toward the end of the ride I was having issues with punctures to my front tire. On one occasion, after a flat, Bill stopped to render assistance. I indicated that it wasn't necessary and I would catch the group when the repair was finished. He refused to leave and helped with the repair. So, when he left his camera at the loading zone on the last ferry of the trip a few days later, he went back to retrieve it, I decided to wait for him until he returned about 45 minutes later. Several other riders did the same.
The next of this group is Bob, one individual for which I have a great deal of admiration. Before this trip, the last time I saw him he was laying on the pavement in Delaware, Ohio having being struck by a motorcyclist. This happened on the cross country ride in 09. Spending months in recovery, Bob once again jumped on his bicycle and started pedaling. Lesser individuals would have gotten into another sport like shuffleboard. Not Bob. Not only did he begin biking again and join us on the East Coast ride, but he was as strong a rider as anyone in the group. Kudos to you Bob. You exemplify what spirit and determination can accomplish.
Last but certainly not least and one of the strongest riders in our group was Doug. He, like Harry from 09, is from England. I love the accent and can even, most times anyway, understand what he is saying. A happier disposition, well maybe Jack, could not be found with this group. I really enjoyed Doug as he allowed a picture be taken of him at Ft. Clinton near Saratoga NY where the British were soundly defeated by the colonists. If you check, he is laying on the ground under the sign with my foot poised over him. What a great attitude. However, he paid me back toward the end of the journey when, after me getting a flat tire, he broke from the group to come back to help. In my haste to get back on the road, I inadvertently put the same tube on my wheel that had flatted. A big no no. He and I were the only ones who knew that, but, by the end of the day, word spread like wildfire and I was the subject much ridicule. Much deserved by the way. To show his competitiveness and biking ability, a bicyclist not from the cross roads group, much younger and a lot stronger, blew by us. Doug said, let's catch him. He and I started out in a sprint. As the mph neared 26-27 mph, we knew we were gaining on him but not much. So, discretion being the better part of valor, I dropped the chase to rejoin our group. Not Dougie. He not only kept that pace but caught the guy and stayed with him until it was time to change routes. Now that was impressive. Doug is a good man and I am glad to have ridden with him. these are the ones that I became more familiar with during the trip through having ridden with them most. There are also other members of the East Coast ride who I didn't get to know as well but have determined they all are very strong bikers.
Mike (13) and Charlie rode together almost all the time. They were in no hurry, enjoyed their own pace and seemed to really enjoy the experience. While I didn't ride with them much, I got to know them better in social situations at Ocracoke Island. They are definitely my kind of people. Frequenting particular establishments to savor the vast variety of brews available in these places was an excellent way to enjoy a rest day. These two gentlemen are the type of individuals worth getting to know better. It was my pleasure to have met them. Also, a special shout out to Charlie for sharing an ointment that improved a condition that developed in my shoulder.
Two others who I didn't really get to know until later were Amy and Scott. They rode together at their own pace, took many pictures and seemed to really enjoy the experience. They to were strong riders as was shown when our group was lost in their dust heading into St. Augustine Fl.
Scott is another individual from Illinois so what would one expect. Great going downhill but struggles somewhat when climbing. Just like me.
Always try to save the best for last. We had six women on the ride, two already mentioned and four others; Jan, Bev, Barb, and Ilze. Make no mistake about it. These women are excellent bicyclists. While I did not get to know them as well as others in the group they biked with as much determination and spirit as anyone on the trip. Jan saved my when my computer went weird, Bev is the most positive person with an infectious smile, Barb was great with hat day at the SAG and Ilze, Mike's wife, was kind enough to send me Elvis pictures when I failed to bring it to Elvis Fest. My hat goes off to them. They embrace the attitude that empowers today's women. I cannot say enough to express my admiration for them.
Okay, Hank. Don't worry, I didn't forget about you. I have met few people in my experience like Hank. When one is seventy six years old you would think the highlight of their day would be to watch reruns of The Rockford Files. Not Hank. First, and I'm not making this up, he is one of the strongest riders of the entire group. His riding style is so unique, he is always the easiest to identify among the riders. He exemplifies the attitude that age is only a number. If you set your mind to it you can accomplish it. Hank was my roommate on the 09 cross country ride and we share kindred spirit. He was the first to notice I was having a little shoulder difficulty and offered some well needed assistance. His constant humor and positive attitude is something I will always remember. I will always count him as a dear friend and hope his head doesn't explode with these compliments.
And finally, yea I hear the cheers, I would like to thank the support staff. Robin, always smiling, pleasant, happy disposition, Tom I still owe for the should massage, Mack without whom many riders would be walking because of his ability to repair bikes, Carol, you are awesome in every respect, well maybe except for choice of spouse, ha you know I'm kidding, and of course Tracy leader of the pack that has that ability few have to lead, inspire and motivate to do beyond what they believe they are capable. There, the end to another adventure. Of course there are untold stories but until next time adios.

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