This is what riding the Champs-Élysées stage feels like

2017-Tour-de-FranceIn a sport full of tradition, there are few more iconic than the winner of the Tour de Franceriding triumphantly with his teammates along the Champs-Élysées in Paris. The Tour de France takes place over a 23-day period and covers usually about 2,200 miles and is recognized as the greatest cycling event. This last ride is really a ceremonial end to the race. The winner, who has already been decided, gets to bask in the glory.

I’ll need to take you back a couple days to last Friday, my last planned stage of my 1600-mile ride to explain how if feels to end such a long journey. I had not given much thought to the actual end except where might be the appropriate place. Morristown seemed to be the appropriate place where my family and friends were. My son, Justin, had mentioned that he wanted to meet me somewhere along my final route.


Just a few days before some of my riding buddies from Morristown also expressed an interest in meeting at the Swiss Chalet Bakery & Cafe who helps sponsor our club Swiss Chalet Cycling. So, I set a plan to ride 90 miles northwest to Morristown on Friday, May 11th after resting a day at my place in Ortley Beach. I was feeling great and ready to get this job done. It had been 30 days since I was home.

The Ride Home

The weather looked good again. The only problem was a nagging 10 mph headwind that I hoped would be easier as I went inland. I took mostly backroads to avoid the highways. I had enough of that.

I looked at the ride in two parts. The first was to get to Old Bridge for lunch, about half-way. Then from there to Morristown. I followed Rt 35 north to Bay Head then turned northwest into towns like Brick, Farmingdale, Adelphia, Colts Neck and finally Old Bridge – almost all on county roads. Mostly, a pretty route and certainly easier than most roads I had been riding this past month.

Going through Point Pleasant I eyed two familiar riders going the other way. It’s Terry Downs and his wife Lori, Terry is a rider I had met at the shore. Just another unexplainable coincidence in this journey. He had been tracking my progress over the past days. We stop for a brief conversation and eventually he rides with me, taking me through some really pretty areas of Allaire State Park instead of county roads. A nice little unexpected detour on my way home.

I was already running a bit late for my scheduled lunch with Tom Borkowski, my morning riding mate and fellow employee at Amboy Bank, before I retired. I forgot how much I missed that morning ride (generally, a few days a week) and the bagels and coffee almost as much. At least at this point I’m about 1/2 way home (40+ miles), although time is ticking away.

Tom and Donna from Amboy Bank – Lunch Break

Soon I was off again heading through Middlesex County towns for the next 25 miles or so in local traffic. This is where I learned to ride in traffic while commuting occasionally to work. Alright, this wasn’t world-class Tour de France racing but dodging traffic requires some energy and a lot of concentration. I wanted to make it safely home at this point.

The last 20-mile segment left was the ride over the Watchung Mountains. This mid-section of Jersey geographically divides the area as a range of mountains that you need to cross to go north to Morristown. In a car, they seem like big hills, but on a bike they are formidable and require about 2,000 ft. altitude of climbing. That’s something I have not had to do much of this last month since I was hugging the flat coast.

By the time I reached the first mountain, I was pretty tired having ridden 70 miles and was at least 1/2 hour behind schedule. The first major climb is a steep one up Vosseller Avenue and took all the energy I had to climb it. The second is up Mt. Bethel Road which is not quite as steep but very long. Once over those there are are still rolling hills to face, but time can be made up and you sense the end is near. I’m now over the mountains.

The Last Pull to the Finish

At 5:00 p.m., about one hour behind, I pull into to the Meyersville circle and meet my riding entourage that will escort me to the finish in Morristown about 1/2 hour away where others are waiting. My fatigue and concern about making this last leg on time have vanished. It’s just sooo good to see familiar faces. Justin, Tom, and Pete are riding with me. And, Duncan and Brit are providing a motorcycle escort ahead! It’s not a solo journey anymore.

We pulled into the Swiss Chalet Bakery in Morristown about 5:30 to my surprise there are a dozen or more people cheering, including my grandkids! This was much more than I expected and such a great feeling that friends and family came out to see a pretty whooped guy finish his crazy journey. It’s that kind of time in your life when you feel grateful for what you have and especially for the people around you.

My Ride on the Champs-Élysées

But, the ride did not end until I finished the last couple miles home from the bakery. At the end of my block (Mountainside Drive – today’s Champs-Élysées) , the grandkids were lined up on their bikes ready to ride the last “miracle mile” (actually about 1/4 mile). I rode with my little teammates on bikes, a trike and a scooter to the end. It was a triumphant ride, at least as memorable as anyone ever rode in Paris.

Bike touring is a selfish sport

I’m back home and tomorrow is Mother’s Day. Surprisingly, I made my goal to be home for Mother’s Day. The plan worked. I’ve been gone 30 days in a very personal effort. For what reason? I’m really not sure except to see where my limits are at age 70.

You may be thinking that this is a form of machismo or a need for attention. I hope not. But, it may be the form of desire that we all experience once in a while when we just want, or need, to do something crazy. As you age, you realize that there’s not many more opportunities to do that. Carpe Diem.

The open road and the freedom to do what I want was both a scary and exhilarating thing. What that does is to heighten your senses and to drop your guard. At least for a while, you enjoy life without any pretenses.

But for those around you that really care about you, it’s not a lot of fun. There’s ongoing uncertainty and the anxiety of something happening. This is especially true for a task that is inherently dangerous, like riding highways in areas where cyclists are not appreciated. I know I caused more headaches and inconvenience to Mary Ann and my family than they deserved. For that, I am truly sorry.

Who is the person who cares the most and sweats the details for YOU? That’s probably your spouse, kids, friends, father – or most likely your mother. On this Mother’s Day, I’m going to give all the mothers I know an extra big hug. Not to worry. The ones you love will be home soon.

Beauty and the Beast

As I close this one-month journey, I’ve already been asked, “Which part of the ride did you like the best.” That made me think about what makes up the best place to ride, and the corollary of what makes the worse place. Setting aside my love of ferries and fear of bridges, there were two locations that easily come to mind.

It’s a lot easier for me to think about all the wonderful unique places along the coast, starting with Florida Keys for its beauty and laid back attitude. The stark and vast beauty of Hatteras’ sands and water make other beaches seem small. It’s hard to compare the southern hospitality and vibe of Savannah. I wish I could have had a few more days to explore and eat my way through Charleston. And, part of me feels I could have written the next great southern novel in either Beaufort, Georgetown or Cape Charles. There’s mysterious local characters there along with the moody Cypress moss hanging from those trees.

But, I would have to give the nicest place to ride and enjoy to the area to Rehoboth. Rehoboth is a great little accessible town and I love the idea of riding a 17-mile ferry here for a mere $8 (with bike) from or to NJ. The Delaware beaches, paths and riding lanes make it so easy and enjoyable that almost everyone can be happy doing some outdoor activity.

The Delaware state parks seem almost as wide and open as Hatteras. Perfectly groomed paths are all connected and run into the community. Wide roads are clearly marked for cyclists, at least more than I have seen anywhere else in the U.S. It seems that they also provide more public information on their resources. It’s probably also due to having the right infrastructure and marketing to make it work. It begs the question, “Why would you not bring a bike or walk a path here?” This is an inviting place to be. (Also, reknown for its craft breweries.)

After my stay in Rehoboth, I took the Cape May-Lewes ferry to continue my journey north to my next stop, Atlantic City. The day, while clear, was a horrendous one for a 60-mile bike ride. The earliest ferry put me at the tip of Cape May at about 10:30 a.m. for a late start and I had about 55 miles to ride faced with a 20 mph headwind, with only higher gusts to look forward to. While I enjoyed a couple of boardwalk stops in Wildwood and Ocean City, the rest of the ride was tough, including about a half-dozen bridges. I should have know that this was going to be the appropriate prelude to my stay in A.C.


The shore towns between Cape May and A.C. are all very nice and some quite outstanding like Avalon, Stone Harbor and Ocean City. But A.C. is in a different category. Once you cross the last inlet bridge, its clear that you are not in Kansas anymore.


Fortunately, I was staying right across the street from the Tropicana which is on the southern end because I was pretty pooped when I reached A.C. Buildings suddenly turned into skyscrapers, streets narrowed and you got the feeling you were entering a street in Manhattan. Any consideration for a pedestrian, let alone cyclists, was absent. You know the drill. The casinos want you to stay where you gamble and not leave. If you do leave, you leave at your own risk. Better to get a cab or a Uber.

imagesWhen I approached the Tropicana, I’m was about to make a turn down Iowa Street when I noticed three young dudes just hanging around talking to each other on the corner. KInd of strange at this intersection. They eyed me. I rode a half block down right past them looking for the building where my Airbnb apartment would be. I found it in an old multi-story building, similar to one you might find on any New York City street.

I called my Airbnb contact to let me in the building and noticed that suddenly the three characters are 10 feet away from me. One is in an animated conversation on his phone the other two are talking to each other. My instinct along with the hairs on my back, tell me this might be the time to just roll out of here. I made that call again rolled around the block and mentioned the situation to a cop. He asked, “Did they do anything to you or threaten you?”

So I try again stiffening my resolve. The Airbnb contact, who is just a building super or something let’s me in the shabby entrance and escorts me nicely to the room. The apartment I got for $62 that night was actually quite nice, newly renovated with full run of a bedroom, living room and kitchen. My only question was, “Is it safe to leave here?”

There are plenty of restaurants nearby and one or two pedestrians, but there’s an emptiness to the streets, except for cars. I walked down a couple blocks and can easily see this is not a wealthy area, except for those locked up in the casinos.

I Googled food stores to buy something to bring back and hole up with. I ended up walking a mile along Atlantic Avenue to find the nearest thing to a grocery store. There’s more of that same insecure feeling there with many guys hanging out, maybe doing deals, maybe not. I just didn’t want to be part of it, especially on foot. I played it cool and probably looked like just another loser hanging out on the streets.

I decided to try walking the Boardwalk back for safety and curiosity. It looked like the same concessions stands from years ago only fewer people. To be fair this is an off time of the year. But A.C. is on the ropes these days. Even here it’s a stark difference between casino, streets and the boardwalk.

So, here’s a contrast that I just never thought about when I was planning the ride. One place has a community of its people in mind the other of visiting winners and losers, with no apparent concern for its place and its people. Is it possible to rehabilitate a place based on those principles?

The A.C. Airbnb represented the city perfectly. If you are inside and you have what you want, the rest of the world does not matter, that is spite of the beautiful ocean just one block away. It’s like saying, “The area around me can go to hell as long as I’m happy.” Whereas, in a place like the Delaware shores, there’s a recognition of the importance of sharing the outside resources which promotes a feeling of a caring community.

Which would you rather play or live in?







Finding love in strange places

I was in a funk yesterday. My mood is changing. The end of this journey is near and that’s good and a bit sad too.

Yesterday’s airbnb stay in West Ocean City was particularly memorable to me as I had just ridden through the some of the most beautiful natural areas of my trip. Farmlands appeared so vast you could hardly see their end. You could smell the fresh tilled soil and manure. And, not hear a car for a half hour. This reminded me of Pennsylvania or areas of New Jersey with the realization that I’m coming closer to the land and home I knew and loved.


Virginia and her husband Don bought a small vacation home with the intention of retiring in the Ocean City area. Their place is in an older development about 8 miles outside of  OC. They have been in the area now since 2007 and have several children, grand children and one great-grandchild. They are about my age at 70.

Their home is modest and not fancy in any way. You might classify it has cluttered but that would give the wrong impression. There are memories and symbols of a family life all around.

In my room alone there is a prayer to St. Francis next to a quote about motherhood. Countless beach and sailing scenes in pink, blue, and coral pastels occupy as much space as they are allowed. I’m particularly drawn to three different paintings of children with their back’s turned looking toward the ocean. The bedroom I occupy has been well used and is very small and crowded with items that to me seem like frozen memories.


Every Airbnb stay is different, and I hope I can elaborate on that at another time. But this one is special to me. Airbnb asks you to rate a place on such factors as style, amenities, cleanliness, etc. I think their rating system is fair but may miss a point.

I spoke to Virginia and Don about living in the area that evening in the comfort of their kitchen like neighbors would. They are officially retired and moved to the area from Baltimore but remain active with their extended family and their own pet store business. Their love for animals was evident in their cat and three Maltese dogs that were dressed in dresses or skirts that were handmade by Virginia.


Our topics ranged widely but mostly it was about family and kids and grandkids and how they would travel as far as Romania for their son and his wife’s wedding. We agreed how wonderful it is to travel and see other places and meet interesting people, even if you don’t understand the language or the history of the place you are visiting. It was one of the most enjoyable conversations I have had on this trip and made me feel at home.

That night going to sleep on soft, well-worn cotton sheets in an old bed, I realized that the clutter, tchotchkes and the conversation made me feel like being at home as a kid. I grew up in a home with clutter, conversation and plenty of love. I suddenly realized that although Virginia was my age she reminded me of my mom who passed away 20 years ago. Maybe it was the stage I’m at with this tour, but I broke down and cried for missing her. That was the best and most I could ask from any Airbnb stay.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there! Love can be anywhere. And, your love can appear in the strangest of places.




Where everyone knows your name

I had no idea of what a town in the middle of Maryland’s Eastern Shore would be like. I was just following the formula of choosing a place about 60 to 80 miles from my last destination on this bike trip and came upon Snow Hill, Maryland. I guess I also have not been hanging in bars recently and forgot what a unique experience it is.

Snow Hill is about 30 miles west of Ocean City, MD. Ocean City is a popular vacation place on the Atlantic, especially for the DC and Maryland crowd. But Snow Hill seems to be a forgotten place or perhaps one that would prefer to be that way. On their website, they describe the town as

“Nestled on the south banks of the Pocomoke River Snow Hill is a place where people know each other.” 

I rambled though much farm country and few towns on my bike before I got to Snow Hill. its an old town, maybe one of the oldest dating back to the mid-1600’s. The name “Snow Hill” was name for a town in England where the founders came from. Roaming the streets and looking at the houses, you know this is a special place.


My gracious airbnb hosts, Margaret and Tony, originally from Connecticut, relocated here years ago to retire as some of their children came to the area. Since then the children have migrated to areas as far-flung as Alaska. They still like it here and it’s easy to see why.

a1c87c9845ad9356b5decb93699fc5d3Tony and Maggie suggested walking a few blocks into town for dinner and drinks., That would be my normal end of day routine after a tough day on the bike. They suggested the Harvest Moon, a local pub but with good food and the right vibe.

IMG_6038LIke any bar these days there’s at least five TVs and conversations going at once. I look around and find a seat in the middle of the bar. Today is Kentucky Derby day and we are witnessing the parading of horses before the race. Bets and conversations are flowing. Charlie, down the end of the bar, wins the Kentucky Derby picking Justify and buys us all a round of drinks.

Dennis and his girlfriend step up to the bar and ask me if its okay for me to move over a seat. We get into a conversation about the food here, and I find out that its all good and fresh, especially the sea food (no surprise there). Dennis is from Salisbury MD and has had an interesting career fishing and in disaster recovery.

He’s a nominally retired guy, probably a little younger than me, but gets called up whenever there’s a major catastrophe to evaluate the situation and figure out how to clean it up. He was instrumental in disasters in Haiti and hurricanes Sandy and Irma. This way he works only when he wants to. He was a fisherman way back when and still considers it his sport and maybe the passion in his life. Dennis likes his current lifestyle, semi-retired.

On my right side is a young guy, Brian, probably early 30s, that looks like and is a fisherman in a crew that takes wealthy people out wherever they want to go fishing. He talks about days held up outside the Florida Keys and being in the ports of Mexico and South America. Brian is chasing a dream for some satisfying job. He used to install alarm systems for some small family business that got succesful. Then they stopped caring about the customers and the quality of work and went corporate. He headed up the sales and told them to screw it. He went fishing.

I’ve seen this before but not in the middle of a place I know little about. I look around and everyone seems to know each other or at least know who each one is. That doesn’t stop Dennis or Brian from talking, along with Mike and Kathy next to him. Everyone at the Bar is wrapped in a flowing conversation. We barely remember the Kentucky Derby.

Interestingly, the conversation changes to “pain management.” Mike (a nurse) and Brian (fisherman) have had spinal fusions and have repeated pain even after the operations. The subject veers to the new perscription pain medicine of marijuana and THC in its other forms. Others in the bar join in. Our waitress Tammy chimes in. Brian elected to sample someone’s medicine to see if it could work for him. This is a new set of topics I expect we will hear more about in the near future. The world has changed since the 60’s and yet maybe it hasn’t.

Dennis asks Tammy for a piece of paper and he gives me his phone number. “If you’re ever in this area again let’s to go out eating, drinking or fishing”. Later, Brian does the same thing and says he admires the bike tour idea and just let him know if I need anything. I’m about three sheets (3 pints of local IPA) into the wind and decide its time to stroll back to my safe and secure home for the night.

Anyway, we are replaying the old beauty, nostalgia and comfort of an old bar, many hundreds of miles away from the original Cheers bar. For tonight, we are all one big happy family telling our story. Some things don’t change. Or perhaps the characters and the things they talk about do over time. It still a bar where at the end of the night…everybody knows your name.


How the sausage is made…part 2

When last we talked, about how this is done, I was explaining the basics of my bike and how I navigate. Today we’ll talk about money and food – two essential topics to any along any long journey.

The original objective with my partner Tom Landes was to do this trip as inexpensively as possible (aka, cheap). It looked promising as we could share the expense of a room anywhere. Also, Tom fancied himself as a good impromtu cook. If you know Tom, you know we would be saving as much money as we can on everything. That would give me the discipline to stay cheap also. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not just the money for me, but the game of doing this cheaply.

Where to Stay

When Tom dropped out after the first week, things changed. Not only was it tough to save as much as Tom could, but I found myself wanting to enjoy some of the places and temptations along the way.

We started the journey favoring airbnb places. Basically, our requirement was a semi-private space in a house near a 50-mile destination ahead. Our first night in Plantation, outside of Fort Lauderdale was fine and cheap at only about $50 for the room with 2 beds. However, the next night I traveled to Key West while Tom chose to go in the north direction. We agreed to catch up in a few days. Now, lodging was an individual cost until we would meet up again. Long story short, when we met up a day later Tom gave up and returned home. Now, I was faced with lodging costs alone.for the rest of the trip. The only other alternative I had was camping – but more on that another time.

At the quality level of our lodging we would expect to pay $50 to $100 (sometimes more). While that seems like a minor expense in the scheme of things, that amount gets substantial the longer you are out on the road. That is an incentive to finish faster.

Airbnb it turns out is a great alternative to a motel. While prices can be similar to a basic motel, you have the advantage of understanding more about the place you will stay, quick, simple and reliable booking and the advantage of interacting with regular people (although that can be disadvantage at times).

airbnb in Georgetown called the Brew House – free beer of guests plus, antiques and charcuterie

I’ll blame it on psychology, but the harder the day is the more you feel like spending on a good dinner and drinks and enjoying the experience of the places you go to. So, what started as a $75 daily budget soon grew to $100 – between lodging and meals. If you multiply that times the number of days – 30 to 60 – the trip becomes expensive even at the frugal level we had planned.

Ya Gotta Eat

The only thing driving my engine at the end of the day is food. I do not spend time figuring out how much to eat or of what variety. Usually, I can go on a light breakfast and either do a brunch or lunch. Dinner is usually around 6-7 p.m.

I started thinking I would follow a very strict diet of good carbs and protein. That hasn’t happened, mainly because it’s not always convenient to do so. There are days I will simply go to a super market (usually called Red Lion around here) and buy a variety of things at a reasonable cost. Unfortunately, when I go I’m usually hungry and end up buying more than I need and often leave things behind. I just can’t carry much excess on my bike.

If I go out to eat which is 2 out of 3 days, I’ll get a couple of beers and a burger, tacos or entrée which will cost $30-$40. The prices seem somewhat the same no matter where you go or what type of food.

Catfish and Mahi Fish Tacos

Of course, this being the eastern coast, seafood is the preferred choice. I’ve eaten hogfish (can only be gotten in the Keys) to lowlands shrimp, to oysters and conch. Everything is so delicious and fresh. And, of course, I’ve dabbled in the unique cuisines of Key West, Savannah, Charleston and the Chesapeake. I can confirm that North Carolina has great barbeque.

Lowlands Benedict: Fried oysters, two poached eggs, wilted spinach, home fries with ham gravy at Eli’s Table in Charleston

Well, I’m on my way home and have only another week or two left. I don’t expect expenses or my diet to change as they have gotten me this far.

It’s hard to figure the importance of a good place to stay or the what the proper nutrition is for the type of activity I’m doing where you are expending thousands of calories a day.

Broiled Shark Tips with Basil Smashed Potatoes and Asparagus at the Shanty in Cape Charles VA

All I can say is I’m feeling great and my body is probably burning off more calories than it has ever done in this period of time. Rest comes easy most days between the physical exhaustion, mental challenges and the substantial food and drink I consume.

I wonder what it will be like when I get back to my normal life?

Love the one you’re with

Been thinking about a song all day today written by Stephen Stills and sung so sweetly by Crosby, Stills, and Nash.

If you’re down and confused
And you don’t remember who you’re talking to
Concentration slip away
Because your baby is so far away

Each day I’m thinking about my baby (Mary Ann) and all my other babies too. My kids, grandkids, and all of my extended family and friends. It can make you sad missing them or make you glad for all the blessings I have.

But, right now there are two other objects of my attention. (Warning: this could be the 90 degree heat today, mind you). They are Silver and the Joker, my everyday companions on this cycling journey.

Silver is the name I just gave my bike. Its a titanium framed thing of beauty shining in the sun and the closest thing to me day-in and day-out. Its name is a fitting honor for “Silver,” The Lone Ranger‘s trusty horse. This goes way back to the age of cowboys and courage. He would shout, “Hi Ho Silver Away.” and the masked man would beat back all his foes and escape on Silver to save the day. It was awe-inspiring. And, Silver was a big part of the deal. So too, is Silver, my bike, who just seems to get better as the days wear on.

The Expat
A tuned and cleaned bike is a happy bike

The second object of my attention is the little talisman I have attached to my bike. On day three of this journey, I was starving and looking for a place for lunch after completing the 7-mile bridge on the Keys. The restaurant was closed but I looked down on the ground and found an old Batman toy character, The Joker.

I was immediately drawn to picking it up and examining it, then owning it. It has a button on the back that allows the Joker to extend an arm with a sign saying “Ha, Ha, Ha.” ! Guess that was the punch line. So, it now proudly rides with me on my rear commuter pack. When in a bind, traveling a bridge or just thinking crazy thoughts I go back to the Joker, who is basically saying “I’ve got the last laugh.” I’m still going!

pic of the Joker
The Joker is part of my team warding off evil spirits.

While I have not resorted to speaking directly to Silver or the Joker, there may come a time. All I know is that things are rolling along and I’m counting on my everyday buddies to pull me through. We are a team now – Me, Silver and the Joker. “Hi, Ho Silver and Away!”

Well there’s a rose in a fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey
Love the one you’re with

Magic Never Gets Old

I’ve learned first-hand what its like to seek out a place to crash at the end of a long day of cycling. Factors such as weather, mechanical problems and physical exhaustion can dramatically alter your plans. It’s hard to plan a long-term trip in detail in advance. Even more so when this is your first cycling tour.

There is a somewhat strange organization called Warm Showers that is a cooperative group of touring cyclists that puts up cyclists, such as myself, without cost and other of the etiquette of a B&B. The idea is you willfully accept others to stay with you if you are a host and do this thru the kindness and empathy as a fellow touring cyclist. I knew about this organization but was skeptical of its coverage and effectiveness, so I never really looked into it as an option. Figuring if you are paying someone you at least can expect something reliable in return. But, it’s still an admirable thing they are trying to do.

So far, I’ve been able to make a combination of airbnb 1 night stays and a few motels work for me on this trip. But, Monday as I got off the ferry my plan fell apart as the motel I reserved  near the Hatteras Ferry wanted $129 per night in a dead season and they informed me that the WiFi was not working. I was pissed as it was already getting near 5:00 pm and I needed shelter for the night, without a lot of choices.

Then I remembered Jim. Jim had approached me on the ferry going to Ocracoke Island as we discussed cycling and his main interest of wind surfing. I surmised we were of a similar age and background with an interest in lively sports. I wondered if there was others out there that saw a need to keep physically aggressive in different ways as we age. Jim offered me to stay at a place he was sharing with an older woman who was 85 and still was wind surfing. He also insisted that I take his phone number. Just in case.

So, here I was so pissed for being ripped off and remembering Jim’s offer, that I called him and he insisted I come right over and stay there. A brewing catastrophe was averted by sheer luck. I canceled my reservation and got back on my bike and headed 20 more miles more to Jim’s place.

By now, the sun is setting and I find their house at the end of a road that meets the sound. It’s Jim’s friend Lu’s place right on the Pimlico Sound where a bunch of now 60-80 year olds have rented each year about this time since the day they discovered and fell in love with wind surfing decades ago.

DSC09286Jim looks spry and is here to wind surf as is Lu. Many of their friends have left the sport behind. Some have stayed here at the Outer Banks. A smaller number come back each year as the numbers dwindle. This area seems to be the world-wide hub of the sport because of its vast body of shallow water and ideal winds. But newer sports like kite-sailing are getting the attention these days. This is the ideal time of the year for these wind sports.


Lu is an interesting person. She remarks about her 6 or 7 joint replacements and endless PT.  But, you know these are all just temporary obstacles. She’s always been an active person from Vermont and an avid skier. Even at her age she is on the ski patrol at Mad River. Most of her injuries have been from skiiing.

After showing me my room, I sit down totally exhausted for dinner. Here I am in conversation with two very unique interesting individuals. Jim seems to know everything about wind and air and  various sports around that, from kiting to ice gliding and dessert sailing. Lu is active everywhere, looking after her five kids and their families now as far-flung as France and Utah. We eat a dinner of roast pork, potatoes and asparagus. This simple meal was some of the most appreciative food I have ever eaten.

I ask myself how does this happen? Is this just pure luck that I’m here? I’m convinced that it was Jim who took the initiative to introduce himself, engage with me and probably because he has experienced the magic that giving gives not only to the person receiving but to the giver too.

Jim and Lu asked nothing of me. No money or promise. I hope I helped them enjoy the two weeks of wind surfing ahead. I hope I can pay this too forward. And, I wish that at 85 I can still stay active and ride a bike, handle the problems of getting old and be generous enough to help others as Jim and Lu taught me that day.








Yin and Yang of bike touring

I’ve mentioned my fear of bridges before. But recently I’ve learned that the Yin for that is the pleasure of ferries. If the threat of annihilation by truck, or the death falling off a bridge just to cross a body of water is the dark side (Yang), then the crossing of water by ferry, at least here on my trip, represents the zen-like pleasure of waiting, walking on and experiencing miles of your travel being lopped off for pennies on the mile.

Picture this. You arrive at a ferry stop which, at least this time of the year, is not busy or crowded. You purchase your ticket and learn that a passenger and bike crossing cost only $3 to get to the other side. One ferry went 5 miles and another 20 – that’s a 2.5 hr ride! And, get this. If you get to Ocracoke Island the hourly ferry to take you to Hatteras is FREE. Always. Both ways. Cars are a little more expensive. But in northeastern terms still a real bargain.

Once on the ferry, the ride is smooth, easy and relaxing. Strangers talk to each other, like the motorcycle couple who saw my Colorado bike jersey. They had to transplant to the Washington DC area for work but miss Colorado dearly. There were 3 Montreal couples on the strangest 3-wheeled vehicles, each with baggage in tow. Then there was then young wedding planner nervous about a big affair coming this Saturday (cinco de mayo) with a wild mother-of-the-bride to deal with. She was heading to meet her boyfriend to chill out for the day. And, on Cedar Island I met Harold who was a Long Island native clammer who has been chasing better waters until they become popular and too poluted and over fished. He was a vibrant 75 with a great friendly and accepting attitude.

Lastly, there was Jim. Jim approached me with admiration of my bike and mentioned he just bought a new one and was looking for a good seat for it. I learned he was going to Hatteras to do wind-surfing. He offered out of the blue for me to stay overnight if I need to at a place. He was sharing a big house with a friend and even gave me his phone number. There’s more to this story which I’ll post another time.

On the water there is no anxiety, only peace and calm, at least under this great weather day. For me, it’s an unexpected therapy after four bridges that day (and they were not even that bad).

Today, after appreciating the trek yesterday and realizing that I had made it to such a vast and beautiful place as Cape Hatteras, I decided to take it all in. Yes, take all the Yin I can find. I rode just 15 miles north to my planned KOA campsite. It’s a day off camping at the beach!


How the sausage is made…part 1

I felt it was time we talked. That is, some of you may be curious as to how I’m doing this, day in and day out. This happens entirely on an elegantly designed self-propelled vehicle weighed down by some equipment. Today, we’ll just cover two items; the bike and where to go.

The Bike and Me

I’m about 145 lbs and carrying about 50-lbs of stuff in 5 separate bags that is everything in the world to me while I’m out here. It was my decision to also include camping equipment and cameras – things I think make the trip more memorable at the expense of their weight.

The bike itself is 22 lbs and is a custom-built Seven Cycles model called the Expat S. The frame is titanium, the fork is carbon and the handle bars and wheels are aluminum. Most of the 50 lb weight I’m carrying is distributed in the rear of the bike on a strong aluminum rack system. There are two Iberia pannier bags that hang on the sides and one commuter case on top of the rack. I’ve upgraded my tires since starting this trip in the Keys to super-durable Continental Touring 37c tires – probably the best technical move I’ve made on this trip.

One pannier contains two plastic shopping bags – one bag has my cycling clothes and the other all my casual clothes. Each has a minimal amount of clothes for 2 or 3 days. The other pannier has camping equipment and some backup cycling tools and parts.

The commuter case that sits in top of the rack contains all my electronics and camera gear. Also, it carries my money, ID, energy food, toiletries and few other things. It’s also great to use for going shopping or going into town as a place I can stash stuff.

There’s also a top-tube bar bag in the middle of the bike with a basic cycling repair kit for flats, wrenches and a cable and lock system to secure the bike when I leave it in public. Hanging off the handle bars in front is my ultra-light 2-man tent, weighing in at about 5 lbs.

Riding this type of bike, fully loaded, is a new experience. It is very easy to tip to a side and bring the bike and me quickly to the ground. I learned that quickly the first few days. This usually happens when stopping or starting to roll. Once you get the bike rolling its an amazingly solid balance and even tank-like when going down the highway. I’ve learned that even in wind, it usually holds a steady course. Of course, working the margins of a shoulder or even a traffic lane requires concentration and a steady hand. Quick turns must be avoided. One more thing. Don’t try pedaling standing up – you’ll quickly throw yourself off-balance.

It takes me an hour or more each morning to repack and examine the bike before I set out, between 6:00 to 8:00 a.m. depending on what’s ahead.

In Google I Trust…sometimes

The night before I usually examine the route I’m going to take. For me, the route should be about 60 miles which is my current daily target. That will vary each day depending on the route, the lodging options and how I’m feeling. The specific route is a variation of what Google thinks are bicycle routes to a destination. Just go to and you will see between any directional points one and usually more routes suggested. That route becomes my compass for the day.

Right now I view the directions I choose and set out, often with Google maps audio instructions on when to turn, just like you might in a car. One problem at the moment is I do not have earphones so hearing the exact turn is difficult most of the time. Also, know that Google’s verbal instructions are often wrong or lead you to places you wish you never saw – such as deserted gravel roads…

The last problem using the Google maps technique is that it eats up smartphone power like crazy. Within 3 to 4 hours my iPhone 7 is on 10% power warning, at which point I hook up one of my two backup power supplies – an absolute must for this ride In fact, I’m using a solar panel backup for one of the supplies.

In any case, it works as long as you know it takes some fine tweaking. For some out there, you might be wondering why not use a proven course someone else has laid out, like the East Coast Greenway or a GPX Strava/Garmin route? My two points here are that marked trails usually based on maximum safety and community-minded factors that make them inefficient if you want to cover as many miles as as you can in the shortest period of time. And, choosing the best digital route take too long to figure out. For a long distance challenge, the best method is still ad hoc using at least some of the quick and effective wisdom that Google maps offers.

That said, I wasted a couple extra hours yesterday thinking I was following the right course and then realizing that I was going in the wrong direction. But, eventually, the miles go on, I get closer to home and the cycling sausage is made.

The Expat
A tuned and cleaned bike is a happy bike