Thursday, May 31, 2012

And away we go!

Here I go again on my own.
Going down the only road I’ve ever known.
Like a drifter I was born to walk alone.
And I’ve made up my mind.
I ain’t wasting no more time.

(Is it impressive, predictable, or pathetic that I can recite these Whitesnake lyrics from memory?)

So where to begin... Well for those of you that don't know, I'm riding my bike somewhere... for some amount of time. I am carrying maps for the TransAmerica route, but who knows what is in store for me? I'm sure plenty of readers remember last year when I aborted a long distance bike trip before getting out of Pennsylvania. Laugh it up because <drumroll> I managed to not only travel to another state, but also a federal district! As I sit here in Washington, D.C., I will recount my past week of bicycle travel.

Last week, I left State College with two male escorts, Scott Woods and Clay Chiles. My friend Scott was happy (and a bit sad as my former boss) to ride with me and ensure that I got at least out of the borough. Check. Then Clay (who was riding to continue his training for the Transylvania Epic mountain bike race) rode with me until we were about 20 miles away from town. That was sufficient momentum to keep me headed on my way. Over the course of three days, I rode to Lancaster, PA on a route that I had already ridden a couple of times with my friends on previous tours.

The reason that I went to Lancaster first was to attend the wedding of my friends, Sam Zehr and Lori Reeder. This necessitated in not only carrying a 6 lb suit and dress shoes (strapped to my handlebars), but also paying for a haircut and shaving. I realize that most no one actually believes this since I resemble Bigfoot more than a human most days, but the wedding photographer did record me on camera. I'll be sure to share pictures of this anomaly once I see them. The wedding was a beautiful affair and the ceremony was conducted by Sam's sister, Julia. A reception followed with a dinner that Lori and Sam had prepared earlier themselves with desserts contributed by numerous others. Sufficed to say, I tried my damnedest to make up for calories lost on the ride down and load up for the future! I also sat in a hot tub for several hours at the B&B for further recovery.

Then on Memorial Day, it was time to depart Lancaster. Fortunately, Mike Zehr, Sam's father, had the day off and wanted to ride along with me for the day. We were both a little reserved about this idea for opposite reasons. Mike kept fretting that he was "out of shape" and "might not be able to keep up". I on the other hand thought back to the previous spring when my friends and I had ridden a stretch with Mike back to his house. At the start, Mike looked back at us with a grin deserving of the Cheshire Cat and then left us gasping trying to stay on his wheel for ten miles or so. That and the fact that when I had weighed my bike without food or water it tipped the scales at 87lbs. In the end though, we maintained a great pace together for about 65 miles down to the outskirts of Baltimore. It turned out to be a absolutely gorgeous day of first riding rolling country roads to York, PA and then riding the Northern Central Rail Trail. The funniest part of the day was on a deceptively flat looking portion of trail where Mike and I both kept quiet about hitting our personal low point of the day. My legs were tiring and I was breathing hard and couldn't figure it out. Later as we started coasting downhill for miles, we realized that we had been charging up a subtle incline earlier for miles which explained our fatigue!

In Cockeysville, MD, Mike bid farewell and got a shuttle home from Mary, his wife. After a night's sleep that more resembled a coma, I descended down into Baltimore on what felt the hottest day yet. Navigating the city this time was much easier than when Eric and I traveled through last fall and I even stopped down at the Inner Harbor for lunch. After that, I found US Route 1 which beelines towards DC. The fact that it is a relatively straight shot is a positive thing. The forty miles of no shoulders, 40-55 mph speed limits, broken pavement, construction zones and scattered glass were slight negatives. But I liked it rather than try to cobble together numerous small roads that would only succeed in getting me hopelessly lost. But I made it into the city and to my brother's apartment safe and sound where I am spending several days checking out the capital.

It's only been 300 miles of riding thus far and I have no idea where this trip will take me, but so far I have met so many good people and received so much support. Jeremy who gave me advice down at Zeno's the night before I left. The park ranger at RB Winter state park who shared wisdom from his cross country ride.  Beatrice and Bethany who will include me in their prayers. The guy from Quality Bike Products who caught up on his fixie outside of Harrisburg and chatted me up for a mile. George (a relative of Sam's) who regaled me with tales of two cross country rides as well as being a support driver for the Race Across America. Greg and Sue (other relatives of Sam's) who within moments of meeting me offered a place to stay at their house when I pass by. Of course I cannot begin to thank the Zehr family for all of the hospitality, food, showers, prayers and encouragement that they have given me over the years. Thank you Mike, Mary, Julia, Sam and now, Lori. I would also be remiss in not thanking Scott Woods, Ieva Perkons and the rest of the crew at West Arete for their support and for putting up with my "early retirement".

Guess who's going to win this race?  Clay Chiles at the start.

Break in Centre Hall, PA
Yes, yes it is.  Appropriately, this is at the top of a long climb.
Lovely day for riding on 11/15 to Duncannon, PA
I have spent more than one evening in this pavilion at the Riverfront Campground while it was raining, relaxing with friends
Folks from western and central PA will get the joke.
Sam and I picked 2 gallons of fresh strawberries for the wedding.
Mike introduced me to mulberries, which were prolific between Lancaster and York.
Mike Zehr after riding to Maryland
Baltimore's Inner Harbor.  Apparently they have pirate ship rides on Fridays now!
Note to reader: Never bike tour between Baltimore and Washington on a Monday, lest you  be disappointed


  1. Hooray! Thanks for the post. We keep checking.

  2. While my bike adventure at TSE is wrapping up, yours is really just getting started! Glad you'll cobbling together friends and stories instead of just a route ; ) Have fun.

  3. Nice job, Tom!

    I've got $10 for your travel fund if your next destination is Marvin Johnson's Gourd Collection, which is housed in the municipal building of Angier, North Carolina.

  4. Come to Houston! Pay no attention to warnings about unbearable humidity. We have tacos.


    1. Are they hard shell tacos? If so, the humidity could really kill the eating experience...

  5. I've heard the term "pretirement" coined out here. My friend Karen is about to start hers, enjoy yours!

  6. Tom,
    Allow me to set the record straight:
    1. It was only 7 miles not the 10 you artistically stretched it out to. 2. There was an awesome storm we just barely beat to the front door. 3. It wasn't the Cheshire Cat, it was the Road Runner....beep beep!

    Happy Freewheeling! Mike

    1. Isn't artistic license a beautiful thing, Mike? Wish you were here to pace me up to the Blueridge Parkway...

    2. That ride was the bicycle equivalent of Harrison Bergeron, except instead of death at the end there were delicious burritos! Glad to see you could join Tom for a bit, Mike.

    3. ROTFL! Next time I shall have to equally weigh my bike down, although I think that the extra 30 years I wear should count towards some of the handicap.

      I truly enjoyed the ride, although my wife was afraid that I would just keep pedaling west with Tom. Maybe next time!