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Ride report 2015: Augusta, Maine to New Lebanon, NY

Clydesdales/Athenas (200+ lb / 91+ kg) Looking to lose that spare tire? Ideal weight 200+? Frustrated being a large cyclist in a sport geared for the ultra-light? Learn about the bikes and parts that can take the abuse of a heavier cyclist, how to keep your body going while losing the weight, and get support from others who've been successful.

Ride report 2015: Augusta, Maine to New Lebanon, NY

Old 09-01-15, 02:26 PM
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Ride report 2015: Augusta, Maine to New Lebanon, NY

One of the key things that has helped me maintain my 60+ pound weight loss, aside from riding in general, is my annual bike tour. Planning a long ride, training for it, and (gulp!) actually doing it give me an annual boost of motivation. As I've gone from year to year, I've gotten more ambitious in one way or another. The 2010 ride was along the GAP and G&O trail from Pittsburgh to DC; 2011 saw me in Quebec;in 2012 I tried on hills on a group ride in the FingerLakes. Two years ago I bit off more than I could chew when I tried Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah mountains. And last year, I had a wonderful group trip in Washington State.

This year, as I reached the birthday milestone that lets me post in a different forum just a few letters down the alphabet from "Clydesdale", I got a bad case of ambition. I wanted to try hills again, AND I wanted to try another unsupported tour. I decided on one of the goals for the tour back in December, when as part of a holiday promotion by the game Cards Against Humanity I received a square foot of an island in Maine. Visiting my newfound "estate" would be one end of the tour. The goal on the other end would be a campground in New Lebanon, NY, where friends of mine have an annual weekend-long party featuring music, friendship, and 100+ flavors of homemade ice cream. In between would be about 350 miles of Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts -- including the Berkshire Mountains.

Or, as it appeared on RideWithGPS:


350 miles and 18000+ feet, unsupported -- this could be something to have a Round Number Birthday with.
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Old 09-01-15, 02:52 PM
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Planning for the Ride

Over the years I've been doing these summer rides, I've had one lesson take hold hard: the less stuff I need to strap to the bike, the easier the ride is. On my first big tour, I rode a hybrid bike with front shocks, kitted out with front and rear pannier. Back then, I carried a meal or two worth of food, front and rear panniers, a spare tire (along with the spare tubes), a tent rated down to 30*F, a three-person tent...


This time around, I was riding a titanium touring bike. The front panniers disappeared; the new tent was small and light enough it disappeared into one of the bags; and the sleeping bag was replaced with a fleece blanket. No more stuff on the front fork, no more stuff piled on the rear rack.


Which is not to say that a "touring" bike is necessary. I had two good tours on the Cannondale hybrid, and I still use it as my daily commuter bike. But the touring bike is just a little more comfortable, a little more scratch-resistant, a little bit lighter.

I got the bike ready by adding fenders and changing the gearing, making sure I had a low gear (26 front, 34 back) that could handle hills. I got myself ready by riding what hills I could find in the neighborhood, seeking out the 7% and 8% grades -- and riding those with weight in my bags. I even spent some time on the 12% grades, but those I did unloaded.

I tried to plan out the route. How would I get to Maine to start? A train ride would bring me to Boston, and from there a bus could get me to Augusta, Bangor, or Belfast -- which would be better for me? How would I route myself so that I had a place to stay every night? Should I follow the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) east coast route as much as possible, dropping south into Massachusetts from Nashua NH -- or should I swing west in New Hampshire and delay dropping south until Keene? I had Rides with GPS, ACA maps, websites for the "Berkshires to Boston" ride, and email with folks on these forums. I obsessed with the roads through Massachusetts, looking at what I could on Google Maps and hoping for the ideal 2-3% grade on a road with a wide shoulder, trees overhead, low traffic, and frequent convenience stores. Eventually I just got myself tied into a knot. I tossed all the printed maps and went with whatever RidesWithGPS had recommended.

Things I brought that helped: printed cue sheets; maps; granola bars and other anti-bonk food.

Things I brought that weren't worth the weight: my ABUS folding bike lock (most of the time, I could only lock wheel to frame; there was nothing nearby to lock the frame to).
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Old 09-01-15, 03:05 PM
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Day 0: Getting there

The original plan had been to take Amtrak from Philadelphia to Boston, and then take a Concord Coach bus from Boston to Augusta. This meant taking the midnight train to Boston -- of all of the scheduled Northeast Corridor trains, it was the only one that had checked baggage and, therefore, bike access. When the day came, though, there was a sudden change to plans when Phil (aka "Mr Jeneralist") had a work assignment in Dover, NH. We went to New Hampshire together; from there, I rented a car one-way to Augusta. With the one-way fee (and $4 for a plastic tarp for the inside of the rented car, to make sure I didn't get bike grease on anything) the car rental came out to about what the train ticket would have cost, but it was a few more hours together before going off on my own for a week.

Then the plan had been to drop off the car and start riding for Lake St. George State Park, in Liberty, Maine -- but on the drive to Augusta I was running into one rainstorm after another. Setting out for a 30 mile ride on unfamiliar roads 4 hours before sunset just felt wrong, so I stayed at a hotel close to where I dropped off the car. In retrospect, this was a major winning move. When I got the bike out of the car, I discovered that the fender was all munged:


After lying flat in the back of a car for too long, the fender mount was rubbing against the tire I was glad for the chance to fix it in a nice dry hotel room, instead of on the side of a busy road during a downpour.

I re-tuned the bike then walked to the grocery store for dinner and last-minute supplies before setting my alarm for 6am.
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Old 09-01-15, 03:21 PM
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Very cool, thanks for sharing!

My girlfriend says we are going to have to ride to Rockland and take the ferry over to Vinalhaven next year. She loves that area.
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Old 09-02-15, 06:45 PM
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Day 1: Augusta, Maine to Lake St George, 35 miles

Saturday was cloudy, but after the downpours I ran into the day before there was no rain in the forecast. I was eager to get on the road just for the sake of moving, but also because my route out of the hotel involved riding on a busy four line highway with no shoulder -- if I could get started before the traffic hit, so much the better. Within a few miles, gas stations and fast-food joints gave way to rolling hills and placidly grazing cows.


My riding companion, a plush woodchuck called Douglas, was amazed that people would just leave food for sale at roadside stands without anyone guarding it. (Remember, travelling with a groundhog -- even a plush one -- gives you +2 on all weather-related die rolls.)


We got to Lake St George State Park in Liberty, Maine by 11:00, and quickly set up camp. A gentleman at a neighboring campsite complimented my bike before heading out for a hike with his dog. Once I changed out of my riding clothes and into a swimsuit and shorts, I rented a kayak and set out for one of my major goals for the trip: to visit my "private estate" in Maine, the square foot of Birch Island (now also called "Hawaii 2") set aside for me by the folks who make the game "Cards Against Humanity".

As it happens, the folks who live in Liberty aren't very comfortable with the idea that a six-acre island has been divided up into 250,000 square-foot parcels. There are lawsuits involved about violations of zoning laws; people are concerned that somehow all quarter-million of us will converge on the island at the same time for a festival that would leave the island, and the surrounding area, looking like the Yasgurs' farm the day after Woodstock. It hasn't helped matters that some folks who went to visit the island in winter, when the lake was frozen, walked through neighbors' backyards to get there.

The island itself has a rocky shoreline. There weren't that many places to leave my kayak safely.


Even though my GPS was telling me that my hemi-demi-deci-milli-acre of paradise was towards the south end of the island, I set ashore on the north side. I ran into one other person hunting for his square foot; he showed me a house made of fallen sticks that someone else had built on hers. The island itself was heavily forested, making it hard to get good GPS resolution. I'm pretty sure that my claim is somewhere in here:


After inspecting my estate, I went back to the kayak and paddled around in the lake some more. It was a sunny day by then, and the lake was cool and comfortable. Dinner that night was at a diner about a mile away; folks who saw me come in with my helmet chatted with me about the ride. And back at camp, after the sun went down my neighbor Bob and I had a long talk about our travels in Maine and the importance of spending time away from the mental clutter that cell phones, the internet, and other 24/7 connections can cause.
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Old 09-03-15, 07:40 AM
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Awesome, keep the posts coming.
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Old 09-03-15, 02:04 PM
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I read your Pitts to Wash DC reports and loved them. I am really anticipating these. Question: What tent did you bring? Ride-tested specific gear recommendations are always appreciated. Thanks.
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Old 09-03-15, 04:32 PM
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The tent on the Pittsburgh to DC trip was a Sierra Design Clip Flashlight 3 from about 15 years ago. This time around I brought a Big Agnes Fly Creek one person. It was snug, but considerably lighter and smaller to pack.
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Old 09-03-15, 07:00 PM
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Day 2: Lake St George to Freeport; 78 miles

The plan had been to ride to a municipal campground in Freeport and set up my tent on Casco Bay.
The plan had been to ride along the coast, seeing the ocean.
The plan had been to get into Freeport by 5:00 or so, giving ample time to relax and kick back.
But then, the rains came.

I managed to get an early start on the day. The morning's rhythm was dictated by when the diner near the campground opened up: they had Eggs Florentine (like Benedict, but with spinach instead of ham) on the menu, and I thought that would be an excellent treat for myself. The alarm went off at 6:00, and I was pretty well packed and ready to roll by 7:00 when breakfast started. The sky was overcast, and as I downed my coffee I thought about my big decision for the day: should I take the route suggested by RidesWithGPS -- a 68 mile diagonal to Freeport, which didn't pass through much in the way of towns on the way -- or go for a 75 mile route that dropped more or less straight south from Liberty to Damariscotta, and then follow the ACA route along the coast? I figured that, if there was a problem with the weather, I'd be grateful for a place to bail. I picked the longer route because it gave me more options, more places to rest, more spots to duck for cover.

The rain started well before I reached the coast. I was navigating rolling hills and poorly surfaced roads, pulling over every so often to adjust my rain jacket. Still, I quickly got soaked through. When I wasn't moving, it didn't seem like it was raining at all; it was more of a warm mist, like riding through dog breath. On a 30mph downhill, though, the "mist" hurt as it slapped into my windbreaker. Sauna or not, it was time for the heavy Seattle-grade rain jacket. The rain stopped every so often long enough to tease me. I'd take the jacket off, start to cool down, and then the rain would start up again. It would be time to pull over, get the jacket on, and slog up another hill.

About 20 miles into the day, I looked down at my Garmin GPS (from back in the days before smartphones) and noticed that the screen had gone blank. "Weatherproof" and "waterproof" had failed me, but my backup -- a printed-out route sheet -- made up the difference. (I had the route downloaded to my phone as well, but if it was too wet out for my GPS it was far too wet for my cellphone.) Soaked, hot, and half-lost, I had it in my head that if I could just get to Damariscotta and Rt 1 all would be well. There would be the ocean, and there would be food. And we all know that it's flat at the coast, right?

Well, it's flat at the coast in NJ, which is the shore that I'm used to. In Maine, the coast is more rugged, rocky, and hilly. The ACA route would briefly touch against Rt 1 before diving north or south to some low-traffic side street. Even when the day dried out and the rain jacket got put away for good, my mood stayed sour. There were some cheery moments -- like when I found the East Coast Greenway, which also runs through Philadelphia:


So getting to the ACA part of the route helped me find Gatorade and chocolate milk, both very important, but the ride didn't magically level out at the shore. If anything, it became hillier. I noticed later that the route I didn't take had 1500 fewer feet of climbing. As the shadows got longer, my temper got shorter. So when some computer-generated routing showed up on my route sheet (I should have checked it in advance):

I felt like I had my choice between crying, laughing, or screaming as I was led along the sidewalks of Bowdoin College in Brunswick.

What I did instead was pull over, check my routing, and realize that the lovely campground I was aiming for was on the far side of Freeport, about 15 miles away. A room at a cheap hotel could be had at the near side of Freeport, about 6 miles away, and I would get there before dark. Tired and glum, I arranged for the hotel room, had a hot shower, and got some dinner before collapsing for the night.
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Old 09-03-15, 07:28 PM
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Day 3: Freeport, Maine to Dover, New Hampshire; 75 miles

The sleep had done me a world of good, and the improved weather forecast -- no more rain! -- helped as well. Heading south from Freeport, I had a chance to realize a major problem in my plans for the tour. Sure, I would be riding from my "private island" to my friends' party. But I hadn't given any thought to the route in between, other than how far between towns and how many hills I'd need to climb. I didn't pick out anything fun to see or do along the way. As a consequence, there just wasn't that much to see or do.

I was having these depressing realizations about 10 in the morning, as I was rolling through Yarmouth and Falmouth. Looking down at my GPS (which recovered after a chance to dry out), I saw that just about a fifth of a mile to my left was Casco Bay. I couldn't see it from the road I was on, but it was right there, waiting for me. Clearly, it was time for my morning break.







A chance to sit, a bottle of water, a bag of crisps, and the morning fog just made the day that much better. I put my tire in the Atlantic (it was in the Pacific for last year's ride) and smiled.


The fog burned off as the day went on. I found not only the East Coast Greenway, but also US Bike Route 1.


RidesWithGPS suggested a wonderful bike path -- about 12 miles of small packed gravel -- that went from the classic "green tunnel" to, well, this:


On the path I had my one real on-the-bike issue for the week: the bolt that held on my fender came loose. Tie-wraps got things back in shape in under a minute, and I was back on the trail.

With a spot at a nearby campground going for $40 for a night, I was just as happy to let Priceline find me a hotel room in Dover. Hot showers, free breakfast, and why was I carrying that tent around?
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Old 09-04-15, 07:30 AM
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Cool. I went to high school in western Mass. Deerfield to be exact. I like that you use cue sheets. I do as well.

Who made the bike? I can't make out the name.

Let me know if you are interested in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I toured there in June. Great scenery and some challenging hills, but not overly difficult. I also have a great route in SW Montana that you can vary depending on how many miles and how much climbing you want to do. The logistics of that one are pretty convenient. You fly into Missoula. The Missoula KOA is about 4 miles from the airport and literally a block away from the Missoula REI. You can ship your bike there, have it waiting for you when you arrive and pick up any necessary supplies like fuel.
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Old 09-04-15, 09:02 AM
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The bike is a custom Bilenky titanium tourer -- well, custom for someone else. For me it was a Craigslist find. (One nice thing about a shop as small as Bilenky -- I was able to confirm that it wasn't stolen.)

At this point, it's a bit of a Frankenbike as well: SRAM MRX shifters, Shimano derailleurs, a front triple crank that's 2/3 Campagnolo and 1/3 Origin8 (I wanted lower gearing for the hills). Phil got the brifters that were on the bike when I got it. I just can't handle drop bars.

Also new for the trip: Tubus rear rack and SKS fenders.
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Old 09-04-15, 11:03 AM
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Originally Posted by jeneralist View Post
The bike is a custom Bilenky titanium tourer -- well, custom for someone else. For me it was a Craigslist find. (One nice thing about a shop as small as Bilenky -- I was able to confirm that it wasn't stolen.)
Can't go wrong with a Bilenky. I recently had Drew at Wissahickon Cyclery build me a custom ti road bike. If it's ever stolen he would be the second person to know so any potential buyer could check with him. I know a guy who had his Colnago C-40 stolen from a Jewish center in Germantown. Years later someone walked into Bicycle Therapy trying to sell the bike. The shop owner thought he recognized the bike and told the guy he wanted to hold onto it and check it over before buying it. After the guy left, the shop owner called the owner of the bike, who told him to look inside one of the bar ends to check for his business card. Sure enough, the card was there. When the guy came back the next day the shop owner paid him the little bit of money the guy was asking for the bike just to avoid trouble.
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Old 09-04-15, 12:15 PM
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Jeneralist once again I am enjoying your ride report. IIRC you came to Washington and missed the rain, guess you are making up for it this year. Waiting for the next chapter.
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Old 09-04-15, 09:14 PM
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Day 4: Dover to Manchester, NH; 53 miles

Now, you might look at the title for this post and think, "53 miles -- isn't that a bit off-pace?"
If you know New Hampshire well, you might think, "Wait, Dover is only about 40 miles from Manchester -- what happened?"
You're right, of course -- 53 miles is a bit less than I had planned to do. My initial intention for the day was to get to Greenfield (NH) State Park, and have a chance to use the tent I was carrying around. But Google Maps set me up for trouble, and the weather finished what Google started.

Things started out well enough in Dover. I had checked the weather forecast, and saw that the morning was supposed to be clear with a rainy afternoon. In Greenfield, the morning was going to be rainy with a clear afternoon and evening. It seemed like I would be moving towards a line of storms that was moving towards me. With luck, we'd meet at lunchtime; I'd duck inside for a bite to eat and wait out the storm.

I was also feeling tired from two 70+ mile days, with luggage. I looked at back-up plans for a more restful day: if I felt like I couldn't make it to Greenfield State Park (a 68 mile ride), I could stop at the Friendly Beaver campground in New Boston, around 55 miles in.

And then came Google Maps -- as processed via RidesWithGPS -- and the Rockingham Recreational Trail. The trail I had been on to get to Dover was wide, level, dry, and covered in small-chip gravel. Someone running 23mm tires might have had problems, but I was running 32mm and thought it was great. The Rockingham trail, in contrast, was wet and sandy, with frequent half-buried stones, and lovingly dusted with pine needles. Right away, I found myself wanting knobby mountain bike tires. After a few miles, I thought I'd do well with a Pugsley-style bike. And when I saw that the state of New Hampshire cared enough about the trail to do maintenance:

(yes, that's a tunnel with an active backhoe on the other side), well, that's when I started looking for alternate routes. 20 miles along the Rockingham Trail just didn't seem worth the cost of being car-free. I was having to work to keep the bike on a straight line, and if it rained while I was on the trail, there weren't exactly a lot of convenience stores to duck into.

So after about 8 miles, I decided I had had enough bucolic splendor and would move onto roads. At the next crossing, my GPS showed Rt 101 about a half-mile from the trail. I rode over to have a look -- and discovered that Rt 101 was a major multilane highway. It didn't intersect the road I was on, it went under it instead. It was a measure of how frustrated I was with the trail that the wide shoulder looked inviting, and I was seriously considering carrying my bike down the embankment to the highway.

After a few more moments, I asked my GPS for a course to Manchester. It routed me on local roads, not on Rt 101 -- resolutely, determinedly, not on Rt 101. I surfaced in a town called Candia, which had an intersection or two with a pizza place. The skies were threatening, but it hadn't started raining yet, so I deferred lunch and kept rolling. Once I got past the intersection that seemed to be more or less all of Candia, I found myself on a road with rolling hills. Every time I passed a church, or a house with a shed, or a farmstand, I made a mental note of my odometer reading -- where could I find shelter if the sky opened and I decided to double back? The winds kicked up, the temperature dropped 10 degrees, and I kept moving.

Soon, the small country road got a bit wider as I got closer to Manchester. It grew road signs, and stores on the side of the road. There had never been a shoulder, but an extra lane sprouted up and I found myself in the slow lane of a small highway. Anxious to get out of traffic, I looked around as I rode, hoping to see a smaller parallel road or maybe a sidewalk. With cars honking at me, I finally spotted a rutted stretch of broken asphalt in the weeds to my right. I didn't want to stop the bike, dismount, and hustle the bike over the curb; instead, I waiting until I saw a road-ramp curving to my right, and a wheelchair-ramp connecting the road to the asphalt sidewalk.

It was only after I completed the maneuver, road to ramp to sidewalk, that I realized the ramp in question was the entrance ramp for Interstate 93. Adrenaline! Better than coffee!

Safely on the sidewalk, I walked for a few blocks until the traffic dissipated and I was on a "normal" city street. (I live and ride in Philadelphia, so I have a fairly high-traffic definition of "normal".) I munched on a granola bar while considering my next move: on to the Friendly Beaver, or wait in Manchester for the storm? I had been lucky up to that point, and New Boston was only supposed to be about 15 miles away, so I kept moving.

At first, I was directed onto the Piscataquog Trail. Asphalt-paved, about 5 feet wide, smooth and flat -- this was what I expect from a bike trail. And then, after about a mile, I had the directions: "Turn left; go 0.2 miles, then turn right toward Agnes Street; go 0.2 miles, then turn right onto Agnes Street." I turned left and found myself at a dead-end within about 30 feet. Well, not exactly a dead end; I was in some sort of municipal park. Confused, I called up the map on RidesWithGPS to see exactly what it wanted me to do, and found something like this for an image:

(The red line is my meandering path, which unfortunately covers most of the "go this way" line.)

Yes, what the directions should have said for maximum clarity would have been more like:
  • Turn left
  • Go around both baseball diamonds to the far corner of the park
  • Find the path
  • Head downhill, and away from Manchester, until you find the bridge
  • Go over the bridge
  • Find the correct "right turn" path of the multiple paths there. Avoid the tent by the creek, which may or may not be someone's home.
  • Scramble up the embankment, with the bike. This is either practice for cyclocross season, or a way to determine whether or not poison ivy grows in the neighborhood
  • Realize that the previous steps constitute a powerful rain dance. Continue to scramble up the now-muddy embankment in the pouring rain.
  • Hey, wait! I wasn't done!

It may not have been done, but I was. I had somehow lost interest in trying to navigate "pathways" that looked like this:


Back downhill, back across the bridge, back to the baseball diamonds -- and the well-covered dugouts. With myself and the bike under cover, I drank some Gatorade, munched on some cheese, and watched the rain come down. My hour or so there was time enough to realize that the storms were only supposed to get worse over the next few hours. Sadly, I wouldn't be making it all the way to the Friendly Beaver that night. Instead, it was time for another web special -- a night at the Econolodge, only a few miles behind me.
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Old 09-04-15, 11:02 PM
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Hi , I am looking bike maps. Years ago I found a map from Montreal to Quebec city and it saved me a great deal. It also took trails through city's along the way.
Years ago iI was able to find maps for cross country etc.
I am just starting and would like any info. Thanks in advance Tom
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Old 09-05-15, 09:03 AM
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Originally Posted by togrmema1 View Post
Hi , I am looking bike maps. Years ago I found a map from Montreal to Quebec city and it saved me a great deal. It also took trails through city's along the way.
Years ago iI was able to find maps for cross country etc.
I am just starting and would like any info. Thanks in advance Tom
Tom,

For a lot of folks, it's tough to learn the ins and outs of forum like Bikeforums, as compared to some newer social media styles like Facebook. What you just did -- going into an established discussion and putting in a largely unrelated request -- is called "hijacking" a thread, and it's generally considered not the best way to do things. Making matters even more confusing is that the discussion thread is about a long tour, but it's in a forum about large and/or heavy riders. (I put it here because I'm one of those large-sized riders, and training for a tour is a little different for me than it would be for someone of the more stereotypical cyclist build.)

You'll get better results to your question if you head over to the "Touring" section. You can search for old posts on the topic; and you can start a new thread just about maps. Be sure to let folks know where you're thinking of going -- otherwise you might get info about maps of Australia, Indonesia, South Africa, Europe, etc. Most of the posters on BikeForums seem to be in the US, but we have folks who live and ride all over the world.
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Old 09-05-15, 07:03 PM
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Well, that was certainly diplomatic Sounds like you've had an eventful trip so far, especially today. A lesser being would have been calling for a pickup...
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Old 09-05-15, 09:59 PM
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Originally Posted by bassjones View Post
A lesser being would have been calling for a pickup...
Stay tuned for the next installment...
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Old 09-06-15, 11:28 AM
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Day 5: Manchester to Swanzey, NH; 66 miles

The fact that I hadn't made it to Greenfield NH -- or even the Friendly Beaver -- the day before meant that I needed to do some planning to find new stopping-points for overnights. If I wanted to stick with my original route, it seemed like there would be a good stopping point near Keene for one day. From Keene it would be mostly flat to Greenfield Mass; then hills from the second Greenfield across to the NY State border. If I could find some stopping point on that stretch, it would break up a long uphill ride. I wound up finding a bed-and-breakfast in Cummington, Mass, just off of my original route.

The extra rain, and the extra day it brought me, also meant that I was replacing two long days of riding with three less-intense days. One of the "problems" with my original routing was that I didn't build in any rest days, preferring to have flexibility for when the rest was forced upon me. Well, the weather and the routing yesterday forced the rest on me -- and I was grateful for it.

I even managed a few hours of extra dawdling that morning when I went to top off the pressure in my tires before setting out, and discovered that my bike pump didn't, well, pump anymore. Even if it wasn't connected to any resistance, I couldn't push the piston all the way in. Some searching of the BF archives found me the instructions on how to disassemble the pump, which (to my regret) did not spontaneously get fixed by the usual expedient of taking it apart and putting it back together. I even took a picture of the inside of the pump so that I could then enlarge it and look for debris --

-- and again, no luck.

Lucky for me, though, the Econolodge I took refuge in the night before happened to be right across the street from a bike shop. No way was I going to be without a means to fix a flat if I could help it. The shop opened at 10:00; by 10:10 I was back on the road with a new portable pump.

Of course, the first step was getting around the problem of "Agnes Street" and the path through the thicket the day before. What actually seemed to work was:
  • ride on Piscataquog Trail until it intersects Electric Road
  • turn right, not onto Electric Road, but onto the sidewalk of the ramp that leads to Pinard Stree
  • Either stay on sidewalk, or hesitantly place bike in traffic lane of very busy Pinard Street
  • Turn right onto Agnes
  • Take Agnes to Gofftown trail
Of course, the Gofftown trail was another rutted, sandy trail. After about five minutes of riding, I was once again looking to switch to paved roads. I had a pretty good idea of where to go, and what roads paralleled the trail until I was back on my route-sheet, near New Boston. Of course, that was where one of the roads that RideWithGPS (and by extension, Google) had recommended was a 6% incline gravel lane with a thick layer of sand and pine needles. I hated that hill more than the others on my trip, because I knew that I wouldn't be comfortable riding back down it at speed.

By lunchtime (a general store/deli outside of New Boston), I was fed up with my directions from RideWithGPS. I switched over to my old Garmin, which understood "bicycle" to mean "no interstates" or something similar: it never routed me to bike paths, but kept me off limited-access highways. Near Peterborough, about 30 miles into my ride for the day, the Garmin suggested Route 101 -- the same Route 101 it resolutely kept me away from the day before. Before I headed for that road, I wanted to double-check -- so I dug out my Rand McNally map of New Hampshire for a look.

Websites, cell phone GPS, dedicated Garmin GPS, cue sheets, and road maps. That beats "belt and suspenders" as a measure of redundancy, and I used them all.

Route 101 was a smaller road out near Peterborough and Dublin than it was near Manchester, so off I went.

The road into Dublin rose in stacked hills: a hill, a flat, a steeper hill, another flat, an even-steeper hill, a flat, an "OK, now I know you're just messing with me" hill. As the hills got steeper, the shoulders got narrower, and the sidewalk got more and more inviting. Purely for safety concerns, of course.

The scenery was lovely, though, and the hills were more than just obstacles to be challenged: they were vistas to enjoy:



And then once past Dublin, the hills traded up for down, and I had a glorious 10 mile glide down into Keene!

A left turn in Keene (at a New England roundabout/traffic circle, gleep!) had me headed to Swanzey and my campground accommodations for the evening. Darnit, I had carried that tent all the way from Augusta, and I was going to use it! The Ashuelot River Campground is on the (you saw this coming, didn't you?) Ashuelot River. I pulled in around 6:30 and asked if they still had a tent site available. The gentleman at the office half-laughed, said "of course", and gave me my choice of sites right on the river.





If you've ever said to yourself, "I'll do a ride like that when pigs fly," they've got you covered.


Once I had the tent set up, I rode a bit farther down Rt 10 to the local pizza place. Some fried mushrooms and a pie with green peppers for my dinner, a phone call home from a spot with cell coverage, and then back to the campground -- and to sleep.
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Old 09-06-15, 01:47 PM
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Jeneralist this is really great stuff. For a variety of reasons I've found all your ride descriptions to be both interesting and informative. In fact, you've inspired me to want to try a tour myself.

I'm a brand new rider. I just started in June with a new bike (Trek 7.2 fx) and have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly and consistently I've been able to add miles. In less than 3 months I've gone over 1,000 miles and have settled in to a 300- 400 miles monthly routine. Of course, as a Clyde I'm also peeling off the pounds quite steadily too.

If you get a chance I'd really like to see an equipment list. Not your ordinary general tour list, but a practical, field-tested list from an experienced solo rider like you. It would help me build my own "wishlist" and let me start accumulating the must-haves to prepare for such an adventure.

Sorry if this is too far off topic. But I really want to thank you for helping to ignite a dream. Thanks.
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Old 09-07-15, 02:47 PM
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Originally Posted by MidLife50 View Post
If you get a chance I'd really like to see an equipment list. Not your ordinary general tour list, but a practical, field-tested list from an experienced solo rider like you. It would help me build my own "wishlist" and let me start accumulating the must-haves to prepare for such an adventure.
Midlife, if you can wait for a week or so I'll get to the equipment list after the main narrative. I've got two more days of travel to tell you about. Just remember that what you need to bring depends a lot on where you're going and what you're planning on doing. Someone riding the Florida Keys in January and staying in hotels will need different equipment than someone riding and camping the Blue Ridge Mountains in May.
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Old 09-07-15, 03:33 PM
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Day 6: Swanzey, NH to Cummington, MA; 51* miles (*ridden)

Folks who read the title are asking themselves, "Why is there an asterisk in the title? A footnote -- in the title? Something odd is going on." And yes, there were shenanigans, footnotes, and caveats in the ride into Massachusetts.

Even though my timing had slipped with the poor directions and rainstorm outside of Manchester, I was still trying to stick to my original route. Once upon a time, the plan had been to ride through Keene, stop in Greenfield Mass for a night, then ride all the way to New Lebanon NY (and the end of the tour) from there. That would put me on Rt 116 to Rt 9 into Pittsfield to Rt 20, for those playing along at home.


It was a sunny morning, I had already made reservations for a B&B that night in Cummington, and I woke up smiling.

Yes, I was wearing my rain jacket inside the tent: remember that I had decided against bringing my heavy sleeping bag? The little fleece blanket I had with me wasn't enough to keep me warm that night by itself, so I was wearing my rain gear over my sweatpants and t-shirt. I dawdled my way through a lazy morning, using the campground wifi to let folks back home know I was doing well. I didn't get under way until about 10am.

The Ashuelot River Campground was right next to the Ashuelot River; on the other side was the Ashuelot bike path. I had been suckered by several bike paths along the way, but I thought I should give this one a chance. It started out well-tended, with small crushed pea-gravel --- for the first 100 yards or so. After one intersection with the local streets, it turned into a muddy groove. You can see both incarnations here:


So much for the bike path -- Route 10 into Greenfield it was.

Greenfield was going to be the last city of any size I would encounter that day, so I was looking forward to a good meal and to a chance to off-load some weight. Since I had B&B reservations, it made sense for me to drop some of the stuff I wouldn't need anymore. I stopped at a UPS store and gleefully dropped my tent, my inflatable mattress, and my blanket on the counter. That much less weight on the bike was, well, that much less weight on the bike -- and why have any extra weight when riding through the Berkshires?

"The Berkshires." I was about to encounter the stretch of road I had been dreading for months. Here's the elevation chart for the ride as a whole, as I had planned it:

See how everything gets steep at the 300 mile mark? That's what I was dreading. Greenfield is on a river. Turn west from there, leave the river, and encounter (dum-dum-dummm!) The Berkshires.

Making matters trickier, I wasn't exactly following the route as I had planned it: I was headed for Cummington, not riding straight through to Pittsfield. Making matters even trickier than that, somehow that route segment didn't get downloaded to my smartphone. I was depending on my GPS to make changes on the fly. Still, it was pointing me out Rt 116, which is what I remembered was the way I had planned on going.

Between the late start to the day, the stop to ship stuff home, and the relaxed break for lunch at a very good cafe (located conveniently next to a bike store and the only lock-your-bike-here rack I saw in town), I set out again about three in the afternoon. And that, friends, was my undoing.

Go back and look again at the first map at the top of this post. See how the ride out of Greenfield is flat for about 5 miles, then turns into an unrelenting upslope for the next fifteen? And notice, if you will, that the slope gets steeper the farther you go. So by the time I got to Ashfield, the last town before Cummington, I was exhausted and demoralized. It was around 5:30 at night. My GPS was telling me I had another 15 miles to go to the B&B. Sunset would be around 7:30, and I had no intention of riding on unfamiliar country roads without shoulders in the dark. My legs weren't cramping, exactly, when I got off the bike for a rest; it was more of a shimmering feeling, like an over-tight guitar string. They were buzzing.

I tried to get a sense of how much more of the hill I had to go, but my cellphone didn't have signal, and I hadn't preloaded info about the road to Cummington. So it was time to re-evaluate my goals. What was I trying to accomplish, really? Was I trying for a ride without walking my bike -- no, I had walked many times, mostly because of bad road surface or poor visibility rather than simple steepness. Was I trying to get to the end in a certain time? No, this wasn't a race. Was anyone watching who would ding me? Or was the goal to get from beginning to end safely and happily?

Meanwhile, folks were gathered at the General Store/deli for a concert that night. Maybe 10 people were sitting outside, looking friendly. Still, they were there to listen to music. Ah, a gas station with a convenience store! I walked in, and the woman behind the counter met my eyes.

"Can I help you?"

"I don't know -- do you know if anyone here has a pickup truck and some spare time? I think I need a ride to Cummington."

I told her that I'd be happy to pay for a lift, and mentioned a number. She waved that idea down. People in the store who overheard talked among themselves, and to friends; next thing I knew I was being introduced to a gentleman who had a minivan, who was getting ready to drive home to Plainfield for the night. He was happy to give me a ride to the B&B, on the condition that I pay the ride forward.

Some number of miles later, I was dropped off at the B&B. We got my bike out of the back of the minivan together. He smiled as he turned around and headed for home. And I smiled as I got to that night's stop safely. Of course, when I got home, I checked the route: it would have been about two more miles of uphill. But at that point on that day, I'm not sure that I could have done even that little bit safely before sunset.
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Old 09-07-15, 03:54 PM
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Paying it forward

I'm writing the trip report about two weeks now after the ride actually took place. Today, Labor Day, I have family visiting from out of town. A nice gentle bike ride seemed to be the thing to do, so we rode about 6 miles along one of the local trails (The Schuylkill River Trail, @indyfabz -- I know you like the local details!) to a cafe for brunch before turning around and heading home. The trail was busy, with pedestrians, dog-walkers, slow riders and folks with aerobars all enjoying the unofficial last day of summer together.

About three miles from home, an oncoming rider gave us the "go slow!" signal (hand off the bars, pushing down towards the ground repeatedly) several times as he went past. We went around a curve and found a group of about 8 people clustered around someone with a bike that wouldn't be going much of anywhere else today. As we were seeing what kind of condition he and his bike were in, he mentioned that he lived in Phoenixville, about 15 miles away on the trail.

"I only live about 3 miles from here -- if you can wait a bit, I'll get the car and the bike rack."

Phil was the one who actually brought the car around. He's a faster rider than I am, and I stayed with the rider, making our way (with his riding buddy) to the trailhead, where Phil met us with the car. I gave the rider and his buddy a lift home, while Phil rode back to our house with our out-of-town family.
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Old 09-07-15, 05:25 PM
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Paid forward!
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