Thursday, October 27, 2011

Days 7-11: Home is where you stop pedaling

With this last installment, my friend, Eric Durante, and I just completed a 750 mile bike tour through Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia and Maryland using as much rail-trail as possible.  This ride also benefits Our Children's Center Montessori school in State College, PA.  For more details on the genesis of the ride or how you can donate, see here.
Two nights ago, Eric and Tom rode back into State College.  It was probably 10 o'clock at night when they got to Tom's house.  They had woken up at 6 o'clock and rode for a long way to make it!  The trip ended up taking 11 days overall and they rode 750 miles in all.  It was such a fun time and they can't wait to do it again.  Come see how the last part of their trip turned out!
When Eric and Tom got to Washington D.C., they decided to take a day to rest.  On this day, they rode around the city.  Here is Tom's bike with the Washington Monument in the background.  They also met Sacha Buckland and his parents too!  It was so fun to see them.
Nails make your tires go flat!  This happened to Tom's bike when they were riding between Washington D.C. and Baltimore.
North of Baltimore, Eric and Tom couldn't find anywhere to camp and they didn't know anybody who would let them sleep at their house.  They got a motel room.  The people let Eric and Tom bring their bikes into the motel room with them.
 To get from Maryland back to Pennsylvania, they rode a trail up to York, PA.  There were railroad tracks next to them the whole time.  Here is Eric riding.
Tom thought it was time for a new bike!
In eastern Harrisburg, Eric and Tom saw a Caribbean bakery.  They had never been to one before so they decided to stop.
To make it back to State College, Eric and Tom had to ride on the sides of highways sometimes.  It wasn't as nice as a trail and pretty noisy, but it was okay.
About two or three times each day, Eric and Tom had to stop and eat to give them energy.  Here on the last day, Eric is drinking a quart of chocolate milk somewhere around Penns Creek, PA.

That's all for this trip!  Eric and Tom hope you enjoyed seeing pictures from their trip.  Now you should stop reading this, go outside, and have some fun!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Days 3-6: We pause our regularly scheduled program

My friend, Eric Durante, and I are taking a ~700 mile bike tour through Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia and Maryland using as much rail-trail as possible.  This ride also benefits Our Children's Center Montessori school in State College, PA.  For more details on the ride or how you can donate, see here.

In the past four days, Eric and Tom rode their bicycles 300 miles from Greensburg, PA to Washington, D.C.  Some days it was bright and sunny and some it was cold and rainy.  The whole time, they had lots of fun and saw many interesting and beautiful things.  Today (Friday) they are taking a day to rest.  Their legs are tired and their bums hurt!  They will come back to State College soon.  Right now, look at what they saw over the past four days!
Behind Tom is a gas well in western Pennsylvania.  This made Tom and Eric sad.  The gas people had to cut down all the trees and made the animals living there move away to do this.  It was really noisy and dirty!
Here is the Great Allegheny Passage trail.  It was nice and flat the entire time.  Eric and Tom rode on it for a day and a half.  The whole time there was a big river next to them and trees with their leaves changing color.
It was still a long way from Washington D.C.!
Once in a while, they had to ride over the river or a big valley.  There were long wooden and metal bridges there for just people hiking and biking to use.
Eric and Tom had to eat all of the time.  Biking all day takes a lot of energy!  Here they are eating an egg omlette with tomatoes and green peppers and cheese as well as potatoes and toast.  They probably could have eaten two or three plates each.
Here is an old caboose they saw along the way.
Sometimes the trail would go through a tunnel in a mountain instead of going up and over the mountain.  Here is Eric riding through the longest one.  It was over half a mile long!
At one point they ran into a coal powered steam engine.  It was pulling about 10 train cars along.
For three nights in a row until they got to Washington D.C., Eric and Tom camped out along the trail.  It was really nice except for the night that it rained a lot.  They still managed to sleep okay.
The second half of the trip they were riding next to the Potomac River.  Here it gets really wide and makes some rapids and waterfalls!
Eric is a little crazy after four more days of riding!  (He's okay.)
Tom is feeling a little bit tired after four more days of riding.  (He's okay too.)

Well, that is all for now!  Tomorrow, Eric and Tom will start riding again up to Baltimore, then Lancaster and then back to State College.  They'll probably be back in town in several more days.  Check back to see how they are doing!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Days 1 & 2: Westward the wagons!

My friend, Eric Durante, and I are taking a ~700 mile bike tour through Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia and Maryland using as much rail-trail as possible.  This ride also benefits Our Children's Center Montessori school in State College, PA.  For more details on the ride or how you can donate, see here.

Friday night after work, Tom rode his bicycle over to Eric's house.  It was dark the entire time he was riding.  When he finally got there, Eric, his wife, Meghann and his dog, Toby were there to meet him.
They all ate burritos for dinner.  Eric and Tom probably at 6 each because they knew they would need it the next day!  Then they set to making sure they had everything they would need.
Toby was sad to see Tom and Eric go.  He wanted to go with them on their adventure.  Toby doesn't know how to ride a bike yet.
On Saturday morning it was cold outside and very windy!  Tom (left) and Eric (right) were still happy to get started on the trip!  
Eric and Tom rode for a long time that day.  There were big mountains to ride up and over.  The wind kept blowing in their faces and slowing them down.  At one point, the wind even blew Tom over!  It turned into night and Tom and Eric kept riding.
Eventually, they got to Ebensburg and guess who lives there?  Sergio Drayton's grandparents!  They were really nice and fed Eric and Tom and let them sleep there.  They also got to hang out with Sergio.  In the morning, they said goodbye and started riding again.
Sunday was much warmer and less windy.  Eric and Tom were a lot happier.  They rode on the Ghost Town Trail.  These were the only ghosts they saw that day.  Last time Tom rode here, he saw two black bears!
All day, they got to see many beautiful things: lakes, trees with bright leaves, chipmunks, and the sunset.  Eric and Tom also met many nice people.  The people asked them where they were going and wished them luck!  They have been having lots of fun and can't wait to ride again the next day.  Now it is time for them to go to sleep in Greensburg.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Do it for the kids!

My friend, Eric Durante, and I are going to do a charity bike tour for children.  I don't know what will confuse people more; the fact that I have at least one friend or that I am doing something for anyone other than myself.  After you get over your initial confusion, I would like to explain to you what is going on here.  Because I am being serious.
Example of all around nice guys
Our Children's Center is a local Montessori school.  If you're not exactly sure what a Montessori school you can look at an explanation here.  Basically though, these schools serve preschool and kindergarten age children (2.5 to 6 years) and provide a non traditional education approach that focuses on independence and experiential learning.  I am aware that I am over simplifying and possibly misrepresenting Montessori education and for that I plead some ignorance.  Our Children's Center (OCC) is a private non-profit school and I know friends, coworkers and other community members who enroll or have enrolled their children there.  Being a private school, a tuition is required; a tuition that not all parents can afford entirely.

The OCC maintains a scholarship fund comprised mostly of donations to help offset a portion of the tuition for children who need such assistance.  Parents annually hold fundraisers for OCC and this year they are planning a group bike ride on October 16th for both adults and children.  Coincidentally, Eric and I have been planning a bike tour that is slated to begin the 15th.  We joked with the event organizers that our ride was just an extension of the preplanned routes and we still wanted to participate.  This joke quickly turned into the idea that our entire tour would be a charity ride to benefit the OCC!
Hundreds of miles of riding sans cars!
So here's the deal:  Eric and I are planning a roughly 650-700 mile ride starting in State College, heading to Pittsburgh, going down to Washington D.C., then going north through Baltimore and Lancaster until we make it home.  The route encompasses as much rail-trail as it can including the Ghost Town Trail, the Great Allegheny Passage, and the C&O Trail.  We are going to enjoy our natural surroundings, meet up with friends and generally have a terrific time.

What we are asking for:  Eric and I are seeking folks to pledge a certain amount of money per mile that we ride together to be donated to the OCC.  If you wanted to donate a penny for ever mile ridden that would come out to $7.00, a nickel would be $35.00, $100 would be $70,000 and so on.  Absolutely every cent donated will go to the OCC.  Eric and I will pay for our own rice and beans.
We know you're jealous.
Why you should donate:  Well first off, you will be directly funding children's early developmental learning.  That in and of itself is certainly reason enough.  However, Eric and I wouldn't leave it at that, would we?  We plan to update this blog every day or two throughout our week long adventure.  We will specifically write it geared for 2-6 year olds in the hope that with either teachers' or parents' assistance, students at OCC can follow our progress.  Folks who have been following this blog probably won't notice any difference since I usually write at a preschool level.  Our intent is that readers will come away with three lessons or ideas that are especially important to young children:

-embrace a physically active lifestyle
-appreciate the natural outdoors
-maintain a healthy diet

We believe that if we can not only assist raising funding for the students but also impart some fun and important lessons to children (and adults!) then we will be wildly successful.
Who needs fried chicken when you have 5 different types of quiche?
I encourage everyone to make a donation, no matter the size.  All of it will go directly to the scholarship fund for students at OCC.  If you wish to make a pledge per mile, please email me directly at tfmrotek <at> gmail <dot> com.  I will then ensure that your pledge is recorded with the fundraising coordinator at OCC.

In the back of your head, there still probably lies the nagging suspicion, "Why is Tom really doing this?".  A valid point and one that I asked myself.  First off, children should receive a proper education.  Then they can grow up, get a steady job (which is something I still try to avoid) and pay into my Social Security benefits.  Secondly, children should learn how to lead healthy lifestyles.  So in the future, they won't be putting additional burden on the Medicare system that I will be taking for all it's worth.  Third, children should appreciate the outdoors.  Once I have retired from the job I won't have and subsisting off of Social Security and Medicare, I want some trees and mountains to still exist to mindlessly putter around in!  And lastly (and most importantly), I want to impress the ladies with my big heart.  So if there are any single women out there that think bike touring is sexy and are overwhelmed by my compassion for children, you should email me too.

See... it still is all about me, isn't it?