July 5, 2013

Avon Lake, OH

Ah, the sweet familiar feeling of a good old fashioned 4:00am wake up.  It would surprise nobody to learn that when we woke there was a sprinkling rain shower falling outside.  It'd be an understatement to say that we've had more rain on this trip already than that of my other two cross-country trips combined.  And that is why I love Gore-Tex.  

The early morning wake up was in effect for one reason only: Cleveland.  We'd be passing through before arriving at our new host, and more than a handful of riders wanted to check out, explore, and see why Cleveland rocks.  It was a van day for me, behind the wheel of the good old support vehicle, and I did my duties collecting groceries before finding a perfect little park to set up lunch.  The park was right on the water and had a covered picnic bench area perfect for hiding from the inevitable lingering rain clouds.  

Once everyone had come and gone from our perfect picnic spot, I drove on to Cleveland.  It didn't take me long to realize I would never find a place to park my fifteen passenger van hitched to a trailer.  After looping around and around in a slightly lost state, I got back on the trail towards Avon Lake.  Here, I would find the most amazing host ever, ever, ever, ever.

If I had the power to king people, places, or things, I would label the folks of Avon Lake the Kings of the Pot Luck.  We had a spread tables and tables long, and the biggest turnout we've had yet.  We were staying across from a water park, we had host families to connect with, and this town had a rockin' bike shop that took good care of us.  

We ended the evening at the family home that took in myself and my co-leaders, on Lake Erie, looking across the water at the best sunset of the trip, and we couldn't be happier.

July 4, 2013

Ashtabula, OH

Good morning, pouring rain.  Today, the fourth of July, started with many-a-rain-drop, which meant prepping for the day, getting the bikes ready, and having our morning meeting indoors.  My co-leaders and I banded together to deliver a flawless rendition of the Independence Day speech, while sporting some tiny patriotic hats and glowing red, white, and blue stunner shades.  Just an average morning spent biking across the country, right?

Stepping out in the cold rain left me feeling a bit sore, but such is the norm after spending nearly everyday riding in the rain.  Eventually the rain would shy away a bit, but the wind took its place.  Lucky for us we had just the right pick-me-up in the form of another state sign!  I was met at the sign by friends in need of spare tubes.  I gave them my last, desperately hoping I wouldn't get a flat later.

Eventually, we made it in safe and sound, warmed up, and had the best salad buffet pot luck yet.  So many good toppings!  I set up my sleeping bag in a nice little quiet corner where I picked up a book to read and take it easy.  Little did I know, I set up in the workout room, where a few gals decided to put their fitness to the test and bust out some Insanity ab routine.  I semi-reluctantly joined in to see what all the fuss was about, and spent the entire session with the giggles.  I think I got a better workout laughing than I would have if I had focused enough to execute the fancy moves.  Either way, I was in the best of spirits when I finally found my sleeping bag again and fell asleep.

July 1, 2013

Buffalo, NY

The proximity of Lockport to Buffalo is minimal, allowing for a nice leisurely day.  This is already splendid news, but is heightened by what lunchtime means for us.  Today we lunched at Niagara Falls. We had a slow morning getting ready, which involved putting one of the riders in an Easter bunny costume we found in the once flooded basement, and I enjoyed snacking on the apricot mango jam a lovely lady had donated to us while we passed through yesterday's market.  Since we had relatively low mileage ahead of us, we decided to draw names from a hat to see who we would ride with, just to shake things up and get the opportunity to spend quality time with an unexpected partner.

Our directions ended up being a bit out of order, which made for an adventurous approach to Niagara Falls.  Lucky for us and the sidewalk chalk we carry, we were able to leave notes for each other and keep ourselves on the correct path together.  We arrived at lunch with just enough time to get our passports out and walk on over to beautiful Canada, which we wouldn't see again until our last couple days of the trip over on the west coast.  The falls were unbelievable, breathtaking, and made for a very memorable lunch.  We set a curfew to ensure that we all got back on the road together safely and with enough time to get into Buffalo before dark, and we also decided to draw new names from a hat and switch riding partners.  I love days like today!

With new riding partners came new rainstorms, are all too familiar and unwanted companion, and we pedaled through the mist.  Being near a bigger city means bike paths, so we were lucky enough to at least get off the road for a bit of the storm.  Bike paths are a marvelous vacation from the unpredictability of sharing the road with drivers, and allows for great conversation amongst riding partners.  

The bike path brought us to the last connecting roads that would bring us to our new host.  This new host was unlike any host before.  This new host was in fact the home of my co-leader's family.  We were greeted by his little brother and his amazing dog, Rebel.  It took all of five seconds for me to fall in love with that dog.  All thirty of us just barely fit, all sardine like, cozied up in a real house.  What a perfect setting.  Good food, good drinks, good friends, good fun.  If that weren't all perfect, the parents were out of town leaving one large bed free to the leadership dream team.  All four of us slept on the real mattress as one happy, cuddling family.  Please, could this summer get any better?  I dare say it'd be near impossible to top these perfect and precious moments.

June 30, 2013

Lockport, NY

Another day off the bicycle and at the wheel of the support van.  Lucky for us, we got a break from the rain, and were treated with a day spent in the sun.  We were all elated, and arrived at our new destination town in time to enjoy the last half of their outdoor market down the main street.  This town is full of spirit, especially considering we arrived just after great flooding in the area.  This was undetectable until we stepped inside our host.

The bottom floor had completely flooded, and yet the town didn't turn away our group of thirty, and still allowed us a dry floor to lay our sleeping bags down upon upstairs.  The hospitality we receive from town to town is awe inspiring.  Not only were we offered a place to sleep, the community also came together and left us with all the fixin's to cook up our own barbecue.  After the outdoor market was fully explored by the group, a handful of people went to work turning the parking lot into our own backyard barbecue.

While dinner was being taken care of, I slipped down the road, past the market, and found the most perfect local hole in the wall watering hole I'd ever seen.  It was one of those establishments that has a handful of regulars who stop everything and turn to see who is coming into their place.  There were spiderwebs aplenty, peanut shell covered floorboards galore, and a spinning vat of purple slush.  Inside, I would come to find out, was the most delicious loganberry drink.  I split a few with my co-leader, and had a great time before the feast.

The feast was delicious and plentiful.  Table after table of snacks, salads, burgers, dogs, etc.  The weather, still nice, made for a perfect evening out.  Everyone seemed to be in good spirits, as is fairly typical and amazing of this group, and we all joined in a nice digestive dance party to end the meal.  It's these exact moments when I realize just how fantastic my life is, and how lucky I am to be in this position.  I went to bed early and as happy as ever.

June 28, 2013

Palermo, NY

The thematic presence of rain on this trip has become a normal part of each day, but this morning was a bit different.  Thanks to technology and our fleet of fancy phones, we all woke up to an emergency alert warning us about flash floods in the area.  What fun!  I met with my fellow co-leaders after breakfast to go over our plan of attack.  So far there was rain, but nothing we hadn't experience before, and we decided to keep things business as usual and hit the road just like any other soggy day.  We briefed the rest of the riders on what to do in different cases of weather related emergencies, and we all felt good about getting on the road.  

I felt so good, in fact, that I didn't really bother looking at the directions for the day, and aimlessly followed my co-leader a mere seven miles off course.  Let me add, it was seven miles of downhill.  We shared some laughter when we finally realized, then got ourselves ready to turn around when another one of our riders came by.  At first I was excited thinking that perhaps we weren't off course.  Of course we were, and the rider was simply following us, the leaders.  Well, no better time to get back on course in the pouring rain, right?  We clipped in to our pedals and tried correcting our mishap.

Halfway through our extended morning however, though still cold and damp, the rain did at least give us a break.  I can't say that the sun came out, but the rain did stop and after fifty miles, thanks to our fifteen mile detour, we found our lunch spot.  Yet another treat to warm our spirits and our water logged bodies, our lunch spot was in the parking lot of a church.  The best part being that there were nice folks working there that morning, and opened their doors to us so we could have shelter, bathrooms, and free coffee.  Yes, free coffee.  I'll never forget that generosity.

After perhaps overstaying our welcome, we shuffled off on the road again, though this time without any rain clouds.  It was even sunny when rolling into the parking lot of our new destination!  Before that happened though, there was a cloudy moment on the road.  I heard the word "snake", and before I could process what that meant, I watched as my pedals went right over a long snake in the road.  I panicked a bit and let out a bit of a squeal, but thought maybe the snake just got a little battle wound.  The riders behind me let me know I had, in fact, ended that snake's chance at any future slithering.