The Final 9

In addition to riding across the United States, I had a concurrent goal of riding in all 50 U.S. States. ?When I completed the cross-country ride on October 23, 2015?I had nine states left to ride through. ?Under the rules I’d set for myself,?to claim a state, I needed to ride at least 20 miles within that state’s borders.

On Sunday, July 17, 2016, at 7:44AM, I finished riding through the last of those states. ?Here are the tales.


Delaware

In May 2016 I got a wild hair to ride a “double century.” ?That’s a 200 mile trip in a single 24 hour period.

The furthest I’d ever gone was 131 miles in a single day. ?I thought, “Well, why not?” I figured it’d take between 16 and 20 hours to accomplish, slow as I am.

Unfortunately, there was the fact that I’d taken it pretty easy since returning from?The Ride. ?I wasn’t out there on the bike 5 days a week, 200+ miles a week. ?Sitting on that saddle for 20 hours was’t quite as doable as it was just a year ago.

On the morning I’d arranged to pull off the DC, I instead got in my car and drove to the state of Delaware. ?I blew off the DC and figured, “you know, I’ve still got nine states left to ride through. ?Before making?another?biking goal, why not finish the goal I’ve already set for myself.

I wound up in a very nice beach town, Rehoboth Beach:

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I figured I’d get a chance to ride out by the ocean for some nice scenery. ?Instead, this was the prettiest thing I saw while in Delaware:

It had been forever since I’d seen a K-Mart. Brought tears to my eyes.

Delaware, done:

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New Jersey

After getting my 20 in Delaware, I drove from where I’d parked in Rehoboth to Lewes. ?That’s where I was going to catch the Cape May Lewes Ferry.

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It was a 90 minute ride on the ferry across the Delaware Bay over to Cape May, NJ.

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Dammit, where’d my sea legs go?

Timing is everything. ?Remember that quip about it being a 90 minute ride across the bay? ?Curiously, that was the same departure schedule on May 23. ?90 minutes after they landed, they were going to head back over to Lewes.

Back when I was riding constantly — that 200 mile per week thing — I counted it as a good day when I could knock out 20 miles in 90 minutes. ?Unless it was a windy / hilly route, it was quite doable. ?But it’s not like I could do 20 miles in an hour. ?It was always close.

Now I?had?to finish 20 miles in?less?than 90 minutes. ?I had to have to time to re-board the ferry and re-stow the bike for the return trip. ?Else it’d be?another?90 minutes until the?next?ferry. ?Since I was driving home that night, I was already facing not arriving back in Ohio until the wee hours. ?Adding another 90 minutes to that arrival time didn’t appeal to me.

To complicate matters, I’d brought my touring bike. ?The bike I did?The Ride?with. ?It’s obviously a great bike . . . but it ain’t a race horse. ?(Well, neither am I.) ?It’s far heavier than my road bike. ?(It’s built like a truck, not a sports car.) ?My average speed on the road bike has been around 13 miles an hour for years. ?The touring bike I’m lucky to get 10 MPH out of it.

Let me just end the suspense. ?I made it back to the boat with about 1 minute to spare. ?That included rude NJ drivers, stop lights, construction detours, and the typical host of road problems one encounters. ?I was one whipped puppy when I got back. ?I pushed that bike?hard?for around 85 minutes. ?Which gave me time for one selfie:

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North Carolina

On July 8, 2016, I was in Tennessee. ?I was there to meet up with a few friends and?tell some old jokes:

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I had toted my bicycle down with me for the sole purpose of trucking over the Smokey Mountains into North Carolina.

I did that very thing the morning of 7/8/16, two days before my 58th birthday.

I started off in Cherokee, NC:

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Really not much to say about the ride. ?It was?hot. ?94, 95 degrees. ?I’d toted a lot of water with me, but the heat just slows me down. ?I at least had enough sense to bring the?road?bike this time instead of the touring bike, but it was still two hours before I knocked out 20 miles.

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The scenery was just as pretty as you can imagine the foothills of the Smokey Mountains being. ?It?being?the foothills, you can also imagine that even what they’d call a “flat road” had a 4% grade to it. ?Yeesh.


Vermont

Less than a week after claiming North Carolina, I had another Wild Hair moment: ?Why not knock out those last six states? ?They were all contiguous states in New England. ?I could do as I did for Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota. ?Just drive up there, find a starting point in each state, do a 20 mile loop, and put paid to each one of them.

On Thursday, July 14, I got all my affairs in order, checked in with work to make sure they wouldn’t miss me too much (“Uhh, sure, boss, truly, we don’t need you, thanks for playing,”) got the critters’ care assured, and headed off to New England.

My original plan was to head first to Connecticut. ?My brother lives outside of New London / Groton; he being an old submariner. ?(I was a surface ship sailor. ?Or, as he referred to our ships: ?targets. ?I used to remind him that at least we didn’t go down under the water with 100 sailors and come back with 50 couples. ?Good times, good times.) ?I figured I’d spend the night with him, catching up on old times, grab breakfast, and then start riding from there.

Instead, since I got such an incredibly late start in leaving Ohio, I reversed the order. ?I’d ride to Vermont first, then NH, then ME. ?Get up on Saturday morning, and knock out MA, RI, and end with CT.

Vermont was hilly and hot. ?Hot. ?North of 90 degrees. ?And the?hills?were killers. ?These are what’s euphemistically referred to as “rolling hills.” ?But for old fat bicyclists like me, they’re called “sunzabitchez.” ?You get the downhill portion (always good for a biker) but when you reach the bottom, there’s another hill staring you in the face, zapping all that gravity love.

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Don’t let that cherry face fool you. I thought I was having a heart attack as I was snapping this selfie!

While I was climbing one monster hill — at about 4MPH — the only thought that kept me going was, “At least I’ll have some relief coasting down the other side.” ?Nope.

The backside of the hill had an asphalt surface . . . buried under loose gravel.

The last time I attempted to tackle a gravel road, in August 2011,

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it destroyed my tires:

IMG_1395Back then I had to call for a rescue. ?I at least met some new friends . . .

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. . . while I waited for the rescue squad to arrive.

IMG_0059I didn’t have the time to get rescued, so I threaded the bike through the blank spots in the gravel. ?Remember, I’m going downhill, so the bike wants to just take off and run with it. ?I’m having to hold the bicycle back as it wants to go charging off at 30 MPH. ?(It was a pretty steep hill.)

A grueling couple of hours later, I finished the ride in Brattleboro, VT.

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And, ahem, in the creek the covered bridge (in the picture above) was straddling, was another of Vermont’s natural delights to rival Ben & Jerry’s:

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New Hampshire

Uhhh, believe it or not, I don’t have any pictures of New Hampshire. ?I didn’t snap a single damned picture.

I finished the ride here, in Nashua, NH. ?I was right where this Google Street Map view was taken:

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To make up for not taking any pictures in New Hampshire, I do have a couple of extra pix of the Vermont Natural Wonder ?:

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Massachusetts

Thank God for spell check. ?Otherwise, how would any of us spell Massachusetts?

Between the hills of Vermont and the heat that wouldn’t let up, when I was done with New Hampshire, I felt like I was?done.? Toast. ?I didn’t feel as if I could ride another 20 feet, much less 20 more miles.

I checked out hotel reservations in Maine and good Lord, but they were expensive. ?So I punted. ?I decided to spend the night in MA, then I’d shuffle the schedule somehow to make it all work out.

I found a Motel 6 in Lowell, MA. ?It might have been the most expensive Motel 6 I’d ever stayed at. ?It was north of $100. ?Ah well. ?I wasn’t in the car nor was I on a bicycle seat. ?I was horizontal and that was a good thing.

Oddly enough, though, around 9PM I was feeling oh-so-much better. ?I had yet another wild hair thought: ?Go ahead and knock out MA. ?Then I could scoot to ME on Saturday morning, knock off RI in the afternoon, CT in early afternoon, and spend the evening with my brother Saturday night.

Off I went into the wild black yonder that is Lowell, MA after sundown. ?It was a pleasant enough ride. ?Rather flat roads and not much wind. ?I’d charged my headlight and all my tail lights were in good working order.

Like NH, I didn’t take a single picture while riding. ?For one thing, it was night. ?For another, I wanted to just get it done. ?I didn’t want to dick around taking pictures when I should be riding.

On Saturday, after I finished riding in Maine, I drove back through Boston to get to Rhode Island. ?I wanted a picture of?this:

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It’s really hard to read that yellow banner, but this is the front of the old “Bull and Finch Pub” in Beacon Hill, MA. ?It’s now known as Cheers Boston. ?You can see it in the opening credits:

While I was in Beacon Hill, I did remember to get at least one pictures of me with my bike in Mass-a-however-the-fuck-you-spell-it:

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I tried not to talk to anyone in the state. ?For God’s sake, they kept electing Ted Kennedy.


Maine

Once again I spied an option to ride next to the ocean. ?That didn’t exactly pan out as because every square inch of ocean front property has a house sitting on it with a huge, “Don’t even?think?about sneaking a peek of the water” sign out front.

More of those rolling hills greeted me. ?It was almost as warm as my trip through the Mojave last year. ?Wind wasn’t much of an issue, but it played around the edges just long enough to remind you it was there.

I’d heard about the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard throughout my entire career in Uncle’s Big Canoe Club. ?I’d never visited, though:

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My first glance at the ocean occurred in York:

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I’d have enjoyed looking at the ocean as I rode, but the traffic was horrendous. ?It was street parking on the right, with two lanes of traffic vying for any spot vacated. ?No one was watching for a bicycle on the left as they opened their door when parked or looking for bicycle on their right as they tried to snag a parking spot. ?Pedestrians weren’t looking for bicycles (or cars, for that matter, dumb bastards) as they’d just dart out into the street. ?I spent all my time focused like a laser beam on not getting hit / hitting something.

I’d somehow gotten waaaaay off track. ?I wanted to head up to Ogunquit, ME, star of multiple Stephen King stories,?but never made it that far. ?Google Maps was its typically helpful self . . .

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Ummm, no, Google. I will never forgive you for that day in Texas.

. . . trying to get me to go down every half-assed little side-street. ?No thanks, Google.

Eventually, I found myself outside of York, starved. ?So hungry that a road side Jamaican restaurant (dive?) — a Jamaican restaurant?in Maine?— sounded like a good idea.

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Rhode Island

From Maine I drove to Providence, Rhode Island. ?Like Friday night, I was running out of daylight. ?So instead of being able to do three states each on Friday and Saturday, I was going to have to make a decision what to do about Connecticut. ?I hadn’t charged my headlight and one of the tail lights died completely after Friday night. ?There’d be no night riding in CT. ?I decided after RI, I’d just head straight to my brother’s place, then get up early Sunday morning to finish.

Traffic along I-495 and I-95 to / from Maine was horrendous with weekend tourists. ?I didn’t get to Providence until about nearly 6PM.

Still it was a relatively easy 20 miles to do. ?Providence has some very pretty buildings and a very vibrant downtown area.

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Connecticut

Well, here we are. ?49 states down. ?One more to go.

I’d arrived at my brother’s house around 11PM on Saturday night, 7/16/16. ?We caught up with each other. ?He showed me the bedroom and the laundry and bid me a good evening.

I’d set my alarm for 6AM, anxious for getting “the last state” done before the brutal heat returned later in the day.

I woke up at 5:30 and was out the door by 5:50. ?Pumped up the bike’s tires, loaded the pannier containing all my gear to fix flats, and took off.

I knew I was facing a 10+-hour drive back to Ohio, so I didn’t waste a lot of time. ?Head down, get-to-it, and get-it-done riding was on the agenda. ?I’d like to tell you that it was a wistful, “Wow, this is the end of this journey!” kind of thing, but, no, that wasn’t how it was. ?I appreciated the change of scenery and seeing things that I’d never seen before. ?Yet, I was still anxious to have it in the history books.

The first four miles from his house were pretty hilly. ?The damned bugs were eating me alive as I had to slow down to 4MPH to 6MPH to get up the hills. ?That was their “sweet speed spot,” obviously. ?They munched happily on my legs and tried their best to eat my face. ?Fuckers. ?Worse than Ted Kennedy voters. ?(Ok, well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. ?Nothing’s worse than Ted Kennedy voters . . . except maybe Hillary voters . . . )

After those first four miles of hills, it flattened right out. ?The temperature was in the low 80s and the humidity wasn’t that bad. ?The wind hadn’t woken up yet. ?All in all, a nice pleasant ride.

I arrived back at my brother’s house at 7:44AM, Sunday, July 17, 2016. ?My odometer clicked over to 20 miles when I did so, which gave me Connecticut.

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For now, I’ve reached my two main bicycling goals. ?I’ve gone all the way across the United States and have ridden in all 50 states. ?As frivolous and meaningless as they are, I’m still pretty tickled with the accomplishments.

Thanks to all the far-too-many-to-mention people who helped me reach these goals. ?Y’all know who you are and know my undying gratitude.

If you enjoyed reading any portion of the journeys, then that just adds another layer of satisfaction to their accomplishments.


UPDATE: ?

Of course I’m going to have to update my “I Love Me” wall! ?Here’s a smaller version of a 30 x 20 mounted photo I’m having produced:

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