The Last Few Days
We left the Erie Canal just a little over a week ago, and I feel like I never told you what happened after that. It just seemed like we finished the canal and then we were home. However, we still had 4 days of cycling left to do. But, by design, those days were on the shorter milage spectrum than what we had more recently been doing. The day we finished the canal, we rode another 30 miles or so, making it so that the last 4 days of biking would mostly be under 50 miles per day. This would both allow us to “take it easy” on those days, but also, to be able to tackle the last of the hills of the trip, the Berkshires!
When we left the canal, we still cycled about 30 more miles to just outside of Bennington, VT. This was our fist time back in New England in more than two months and it was the first time we were climbing again since we left the Rockies. That’s if you do not count the horrible rollers from just outside of Omaha, to about a quarter of the way through Iowa—I’d rather have a longer climb to settle into than those horrible half-mile rollers. We had been staying ahead of the weather as we started early, and about 30 minutes before we got to our destination, I really thought we were going to make it in dry. Anna and I stopped to wait for Sarah and Isabel and I could see the rain chasing us, but it seemed still a ways off.
I told Sarah when they rode up “we have to keep moving to beat the rain” and she replied, “all I can do is bike, I can’t control the rain.” Maybe that was what jinxed us, or maybe we were supposed to be caught. I knew we had mostly downhill until right toward the end, but perhaps her words did us in. We made it down but with about 2.5 miles to go, and no more than 15 minutes left of our ride, the skies really opened up and all of a sudden, we were getting quarter sized drops of rain. The other problem was that we were now on a busier stretch of highway 7. I worried that we wouldn’t be very visible in the heavy rain, but there really was no where to stop. We rolled into our host’s farm about as wet as we could be, but our friend’s relatives were so warm and welcoming, that we soon forgot the last 15 minutes of our ride.
The next few days really provided the majority of the hills for the last segment of our journey. When we left Bennington, we rode about 48 miles to our next destination. However, this day would challenge us with a steep 7-8 miles or so out of North Adams. This road is famous in the area for its hairpin turn. Lucky for us that we had just devoured a decent lunch and we had the fuel to tackle the climb. We made it to the top in about two hours and were rewarded to a fabulous downhill on a newly paved road! When we were at the bottom Sarah mentioned how steep downhill was and that she had to use her brakes, and Anna said, “I think Papi used our brakes only once!” I do love a good downhill!
The next day provided more climbing, through it was more spread out and not just over one long climb. We stopped a few times and really had a sense of calm about where we needed to get at the end of the day, versus the usual somewhat rushed stops of the majority of the trip. If anything, this reinforced what I had been telling the girls about the trip. I’d been saying that I wished we had had 3 months to do this ride. The pace could have been more relaxed, we could have ridden in a not so rushed manner, and we could have had time to see more stuff along the way. But we had the time we had, and we rode accordingly. That night we stayed in our last motel and it turned out to be a good one! Unlike some of those roadside motels, we had a newly renovated room with fresh and new everything!
On our penultimate day, we were treated to a net elevation loss, we were on roads that I did not need the GPS to navigate, and we had our friend Bob Ryan meet us for lunch. He met us in Harvard, MA and provided us a Backroads style lunch! Bob was really paying attention as he did have many of the things we love and sometimes blogged and posted about. He had Ghost Pepper chips from Trader Joe’s, fresh fruit, cold mineral water, he even brought Sarah and iced cold coffee with some milk! We really felt like celebrities meeting him there. From there we rode a short 15 miles or so to our friend’s the Reidy’s where we would have our last overnight! Conan really busted out the culinary chops with his grilled chicken and delicious mac and cheese.
But those two meals provided much more than full bellies. They reinforced the feeling that people really cared about what we were doing. People were interested. I mean, here’s Bob driving about an hour to meet us, probably taking 4 or more hours to prep all that he brought, hanging out with us for two hours, and then headed home to clean up and put what we couldn’t eat away. The Reidy’s had to get their home ready, cooked and entertained us for hours that day and the next when we lingered at their home as the rain fell heavily.
Then, the last day had arrived. We woke up to clouds and a light drizzle. We looked at the weather and it seemed like there would be windows of less rain throughout the morning, but every time I’d check, those windows were no longer there. Our friend Charley was going to ride and meet us in Concord center at 9am, but I thought he knew to check in with us since it was raining. He did not and like a faithful soldier, went out into the rain and rode out to meet us. He eventually made it to where we were and after a while, we rode in together, partially in heavy downpours, but ending up with just overcast skies. It seemed like from Cambridge to the beach in south Boston, we no longer had a drop of rain. This was good as downtown Boston is not a place to ride if you are at all timid in traffic. By this time Janet had also joined us, and I can only hope she felt safety in numbers because I know she’s told me in the past how she feels about traffic. I’m sure this ride was not easy or fun for her, so it means that much more to us that she was there.
But we made it to the beach where Jon, Christine, and one of their daughters, Violet, were waiting for us. It was a truly warming experience! I’ve finished a few long rides before, including ending my 18-month long-haul to Tierra del Fuego, where we ended that trip and not a soul was there to greet us, or even know what we had just finished! This was completely the opposite! There were happy screams, almost tears, lots of hugs and a complete sense that we were done, and we were home! For all the planning we did throughout the trip, this ending could not have been sketched any better, but that’s probably because everyone mentioned above was involved in the planning.
We dipped our wheels into the ocean, and rode home in more heavy traffic, but it didn’t matter. We were done. Mission accomplished. Country seen. The only thing left to do was eat some of the foods we’d been talking about for the last few weeks, and we’re doing just that since we arrived!