Passing the country by at 12 mph has its advantages. For instance, you probably won’t miss that gorgeous meadow of sunflowers - nor will the chance to savor the pungent aroma of skunk escape you. I’ve described it as the perfect balance of speed between walking and driving. Recently, while sight seeing, we paused to marvel at the largest dog I’ve ever seen. A Newfoundland, the beast weighed in at nearly 200 pounds and was considerably larger than the woman walking him. Affectionately called “Bear,” he fit his name perfectly.
At the end of one such picturesque riding day we found ourselves in Norfolk, Connecticut. As we sat ready to prepare a PB and J dinner just before nightfall, a group ride of road cyclists stopped to talk to us. We were pleasantly surprised since it is no easy chore to bring that many riders to a halt on a whim. A gentleman by the name of Mark introduced himself and inquired about our lodging arrangements. After we explained that we were looking for an out-of-the-way camp spot and had rolled into town in hopes of finding an open grocery store (no such luck) he was quick to explain that his son was at home preparing pasta for all the bikers. “Just head on up to this address and we’ll see you there in about an hour,” chimed Mark. Did we ever light up. Upon arrival we met Dawson, master pasta maker, who promptly offered us a Guinness which we could not refuse - after all, we didn’t want to offend our new hosts! In no time at all we found ourselves visiting with the whole gang over a delicious meal. They enjoyed hearing about our trip but I think we got even more enjoyment hearing about some of their group rides. Most recently they had all cycled up Mt. Washington in Vermont, a grueling seven mile ascent with an average gradient of 12% and a maximum of 22%. Just to give you an idea, when we start up a 12% grade we travel at less than 5 mph and are standing up, attempting to smash the pedals with the bikes and our bodies groaning all the while. Mark had finished with the top time, under 1.25 hours. Truly impressive. The group was also in the process of putting on a benefit ride for a fellow cyclist that had been struck by a drunk driver - compassionate to boot! Also worth mentioning: Mark and his wife Leeann had gorgeous bicycles in every room of the house. Many were made by a custom builder in Rhode Island by the name of Circle A Cycles. They looked liked the most fun you could have with clothes on.
In the morning we embarked to Hyde Park, home of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library (the first presidential library) as well as historic mansions for people that possessed more money than they could spend. One such mansion (pictured) owned by Ruth Livingston Mills was upgraded from an inadequate 25 rooms to a much more suitable 79 suites after it became “…neither sufficiently commodious nor impressive enough for her society visitors.” Talk about a party; I’d hate to get the housekeeping bill.
That evening we sat in a country store watching the wind blow the pouring rain sideways during a tornado warning. Late that night we were awakened by the sound of a torrential downpour. I kept checking the weather forecast on my phone, half expecting to be caught in a storm of epic proportions. Luckily, flash flood warnings were only issued from two to four AM with severe thunderstorm warnings forecasted for the following day. I suppose the news should have helped us sleep better but it didn’t do much to muffle the sound of the monsoon-like rain. Thank goodness for shelter, dryness, and warmth!
The following day we found ourselves in the Delaware Water Gap. What a gorgeous area (pictured). The peaceful Delaware River wandered so calmly through the lush countryside that you wondered if it would ever reach the ocean. It was here that our path crossed the Appalachian Trail once again. Let me tell you -just when you think you are doing something over-the-top someone comes along and one-ups you. How does hiking 2,000 miles from Maine to Georgia sound? That’s 100+ days of lugging a backpack with all your food, clothing, and camp items nearly 20 miles a day. We had the pleasure of meeting and staying with three such hikers at a mountain hostel in town. Steve, Jessica, and Tyler were all exceptional folks with amazing stories to tell. Jessica had bicycled cross country twice already and had plans for a third go-round! A fun quirk: each of them had earned trail names (it’s a hiker thing) like Jelly Bean, Six String, and Ram Rod. Clancy cleverly signed the hostel guest book as “Rubber Foot.” I wasn’t feeling as creative - I’m still looking for my bicyclist name. I’ve pondered over "Crash" and “Sir Flats-a-Lot” but nothing has stuck so far.