Day 8: West Plainfield, NJ to Evansburg State Park (PA) – 85 miles

Hello cornfields, silos, tow paths, canals, farmlands and horses. There were hours today were no cars passed me. So nice being on paths just for pedestrian travel. Time for more advice for Fort Mill and Charlotte. You don’t have to over complicate this. When you build or expand roads (take the Fort Mill or Tega Cay ByPasses for example), just make room for a single strip of 10-12 foot wide paved paths separated by cheap wooden fencing. You’d be amazed how many people are biking, running and walking around in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania. 

Today I slept in until 6:40 and didn’t roll out on the bike until 8am. It felt kinda good. Sunday morning traffic was light as I made my way in the general direction of Princeton University. Much of this early route was along an old canal tow path. Small bits of crushed gravel (think ball field gravel) made for a nice trail.  I did take my first fall of the trip on this path – a sharp incline caught me out of gear and most know the drill from here. A long, slow, awkward tiiiiimmmberrrrrr. No real damage beyond my ego. 

Princeton was busy with new student activities. Signs everywhere for club sign ups, directional signs to various halls, etc. I grabbed a coffee and a sandwich and sat in a park and watched it all go by me. Until Poppie showed up and took a keen interest in my travels. She and her husband had just returned from a week Bath, Maine and they thought it was funny that we were likely all there at the same time and yet were meeting here in Princeton. The conversation was pleasant. 

I have noticed on this trip that I’m most comfortable somewhere between Newark and Princeton. Not location, but in terms of atmosphere and pretense. Fort Mill gets that about right for me. I also noticed today that I have fewer miles left than I have ridden. 580-ish left vs 675 ridden. 

After Princeton it was about 50-55 more miles to Evansburg. Mostly farmland, a few small towns and decent roads the entire way. One notable was crossing the Delaware at the spot where George Washington led the troops to take on the British at Trenton. Cool grated narrow bridge crossing at a town aptly named Washington’s Crossing. I played tourist for 20-30 minutes and then pressed on. 

What did I love today: Talking to Cindy, Charlie and Will.  Truth be told, I’m a little homesick. I also enjoyed relaxing through the morning. No real push for miles made for an easy going morning.  

Oddity: Deer in Pennsylvania are everywhere and almost expect you to move for them. I caught four of them plowing through a field of soybeans and they were like, “yeah, so?  Scram you.”

Zen moment: Riding on the Delaware Raritan Canal Trail or riding through the corn fields. 

Not-so-zen moment:  Waking up in HoJos? Crashing on the Delaware Raritan Canal Trail. 

Who did I meet: Poppie and her unnamed husband. 65-70 and wanting to take a bike tour in the coming year. I put them onto Backroads. 

Food I ate: Raisin Bran and bagel with cream cheese at the hotel. Breakfast sandwich from Starbucks, large coffee and banana for morning snack/lunch 1, sour cream donut (I think I’m over Donuts), bar on the bike, 1/2 subway tuna sub, chips and two cookies I’ve been holding onto since Fairfield.

Pictures: 1) Top – rolling fields of PA, 2) Princeton, 3) Washington Crossing Bridge, 4) Delaware River, 5) Delaware Raritan Canal. 


Day 7: Fairfield, CT to Plainsfield, NJ (105 miles)

There was a lot of good today. There was also Newark. I left Bill and Sue’s around 7:15 with a domestique breaking the wind for me. Bill rode me out for the first 15 miles of my day through Fairfield, Southport, Westport, etc. These are some pretty cool parts of Coastal Connecticut.  Bill and Sue and their family are special and inspiring. Add them to the list of people like Cindy’s parents, my parents who got the kid thing right. I hope Cindy and me can join that list.

After what seemed like 95 crossings of I-95, I meandered along the coastal towns until reaching Greenwichand/Port Chester near the NY border. I took my first break of the morning at Whole Foods in Port Chester for coffee, snacks and a bio break around 10:30. Love, love, love Whole Foods. C’mon Fort Mill/Rock Hill – it is time. 

After the break in swankville, it was west to the Bronx (my selfie face clearly needs work).Interesting ride into New York City although with many fewer bikes and many more cars. Most roads had a bike lane and most New Yorkers were more than used to having bikes all around them. I felt oddly comfortable through NYC. The goal was to get first to High Bridge (pedestrian only bridge) to cross the Harlem River, then back to 177th Street in Harlem to get to the George Washington Bridge, another I-95 crossing. Once there, I crossed the Hudson with about 30 other cyclists looking to get some space from the city. 

On the other side most cyclists were asked to complete a survey about cycling in the city. I obliged. Then a small detour to Weehawken to see the spot where the Hamilton/Burr duel went down. Weehawken. Dawn. Guns. Drawn. Charlie inspired this diversion way up the hill to see it. 

Another small bio break at a Weehawken Dunkin Donuts and off towards Newark. Surely it wouldn’t be as bad as I remembered, right?  Nope. It was worse. This was the bike lane going across one of the bridges. It got narrower once you actually got to the bridge. I’m pretty sure I was the first bike over it in years. Once over it I routed into a shipyard, oil refinery field and tractor trailer depot. You know those scenes from the Sopranos where someone typically got whacked. I was there. I could have been done in and not a soul would have known.  Oh how I longed for that area of desolation when I reached the streets of Newark. I’m convinced inner city America would be less depressed if they had better roads to travel on. The potholes and patched potholes were epic. Tough, tough town. 

I traversed my way from Newark to small town Jersey until I finally realized that I’d either have to stealth camp on a golf course, in a baseball dugout or see if a firehouse would put me up. The. I ran across a nice diversion. Five Guys in Westfield, NJ. An oasis of a town in Jersey. I asked a few folks in their restaurant where they go to camp around here and they said Pennsylvania or Western New York. The closest Campground was 30 miles away still, I had gone almost 100 miles already and it was 6:15pm. I threw in the towel and rode the 7 miles to the HoJo in Plainfield (perfectly named). Yes and no. Yes, there are ACTUALLY still Howard Johnson’s around (although this one is an ‘Express’) and no, I didn’t get the Clam strips (Cindy’s first question). After watching Dateline or 20/20 about bed bugs, cleanliness and safety, I’ve taken a few extra precautions. Geez. 
Tomorrow, I’m aiming toward Amish country. I don’t want to sniff anything remotely like a big city. Here’s looking at you Philly. 

What did I love today: Riding out of Fairfield with Bill along the great roads of Coastal Connecticut. 

Oddity: The random jay-walking woman in Newark who upon passing beside me screamed out like the boogieman. Thanks for taking years off my life lady. 

Zen moment: Riding onto the George Washington Bridge with all of those other cyclists. Or riding through NYC on this bike loaded down with my stuff and no one in that city batting an eye. 

Not-so-zen moment:  Newark. All of it. 

Who did I meet: Not a soul after riding with Bill today. Quiet day. 

Food I ate:  Coffee and a bar at Bill and Sue’s place. Another bar on the bike. Coffee and you guessed it, another bar in Whole Foods. Two slices of quiche outside of Whole Foods. A banana on the bike. A bar at Weekhawken. A bar just past Newark. Five Guys veggie melt sandwich and Cajun fries. A scoop of Whole Foods Nutella. 

Pictures: 1) me and my domestique, 2) unnamed Coastal Town with view the Atlantic in the background and a rowing team in the foreground, 3) me and my selfie face in the Bronx, 4) view at the start of the GW Bridge, 5) Hamilton Park in Weehawken, 6) bike w/ lower Manhatten in the background, 7) “piece yourself together Newark” picture, 8) The joy that is HoJo’s.

Day 6: Rocky Neck SP (CT) to Fairfield, CT (72 miles)

Dilly dally. That’s what I did a lot of today. My legs were pretty tired so I took the day to just pedal less hard and try to look around more. Funny thing happened. I stopped more, observed more of what I was riding past, my behind was less sore and my legs feel pretty good sitting here in a bed (!!) tonight.  Google maps picked a winner of a route down the Connecticut coastline. Connecticut Hwy 146 is quite a gem. There’s a pretty big bike event on this same road that coincidentally, Sue (Cindy’s Aunt and my house host) is supporting a friend at tomorrow. 

Today was my first morning in a few where the roads were relatively dry. I crossed a few more waterways on pedestrian paths attached to a major interstate and enjoyed a few extra laps in the less attractive sides of Bridgeport when my phone battery died. Tough timing iPhone. 

The beauty of my day was knowing at the end of the ride I’d get to see some more familiar faces, socialize, take a quality shower and sleep in my first bed since getting on the bike. Pretty good incentive. Plus I had an excellent clam Pizza at Pepe’s Pizza – an almost 100 year old institution. 

I continue to be amazed by the quality of roads in New England. The shoulders are ample leaving almost no conflict between rider and driver. Kudos goes to GoogleMaps as it has helped find many of these great roads. That bicycle feature is vastly improved over a few years back. 

What did I love today: Visiting familiar faces and no chance in the forecast for rain.

Oddity: How lost I felt in an instant in Bridgeport when my iPhone battery died. Are we tethered to these phones like leashes and just don’t know it?

Zen moment: Connecticut Coastline (top picture). The Clam strip Roll with a side of seafood chili at Stowes were excellent. This place was a total dive in West Haven. Bathrooms were a port-a-jon. 

Not-so-zen moment:  Ever wonder how many expletives in a row you yell out loud after accidentally running into a pothole in a dark tunnel?  Four. I’m not proud of it. Ever wonder how many pedal strokes go by before you are willing to admit that yes, you have a flat?  Six. Twenty minutes later after a full bike unpack and I was back out on the road fully alert to the various holes on my route.  

Who did I meet: Uncle Bill and Aunt Sue! At their house. 

Food I ate: Bar with peanut butter, bar without peanut butter, pistachios, Starbucks Egg/feta wrap, lemon iced cake, large coffee, bar on bike, clam strip roll and seafood chili at Stowe’s in West Haven, strawberry Acai drink while charging my iPhone in Bridgeport (maybe that solar charger would have been a good idea after all), Pepe’s Clam Pizza and Pepe’s tomato pizza, two cookies. 

Pictures: 1) view into the Atlantic from Hwy 146. 2) flat tire repair 3) Aunt Sue and Uncle  Bill 4) lunch at Stowe’s

Day 5: Milton, MA to Rocky Neck State Park in CT – 110 miles

Tonight I write from Rocky Neck State Park where I am stealth camping on the porch of one of the park’s log cabins. Apparently all camping ended in August so I have a huge Campground and not-so-huge cabin porch all to myself. When I rode past the “Campground closed” sign, I immediately headed out to the beach pavilion for shower facilities, etc. This is the first beach I have ever seen where you have to cross under commuter rail tracks to get to the beach. Super weird beach experience. Even weirder when a train goes by every 30 minutes or so.  I stealth showered in their indoor beach shower space which was also weird but felt good all the same because today was a long, long day. 

When I made the decision to make this trip I wanted to avoid day’s where your primary goal is to put miles behind you. I failed on that today. With only  two 45 minute stops for meals and a few other nature breaks, I think I spent over nine hours riding. The miles were the toughest of my trip. Who knew Rhode Island was so hilly?!?  Not me.  On the bright side it was a three state day (MA, RI, CT) and there was Patriot fandom everywhere since they open the NFL season tonight in Foxboro (sp?), which made me think of Will a lot. 

I pushed out of a damp and rainy Milton, MA at 7am, my earliest departure yet and followed small town roads as parents waited with their kids at the bus stops along my route. Temperatures were the coolest of my trip at 60 when I started. It became apparent that unless the weather pattern shifted, I’d be riding in a headwind most of the day. This means I ride 2-3 MPH slower than when the wind is low and not in my face. That said, I got to Providence earlier than I expected which threw off my plan to reach out to a former co-worker who lives in Seekonk (fun to say that with your nose plugged). Plus I was headed west side of Providence and she was southeast side. Bummer. 

I also experienced my first rough part of town of my trip. Leaving Providence, let’s just say I witnessed several illegal occupations. Also, let’s pay no mind that I didn’t stand out at all in cycling gear. Blended right in. But, the reason the route went there was to put me and my bike on a super beautiful, pedestrian-only Greenway for 12 miles!  So good. So peaceful. Cars can be noisy. Where are you on something like this Charlotte?  It’s a total game-changer. 

After passing a Subway and thinking, “I bet there’s something better coming up around the bend,” there wasn’t for 14 more miles. And guess what it was? A Subway! Nice one higher power. Nice one. So, respecting the irony, I ate there.  

Last route note. I crossed the Thames River riding into New London, CT today on a sidewalk on I-95. It was higher up than the Cooper River Bridge. I was death grip-focused. Possibly the scariest 6 minutes on a bike I’ve ever had. Just after that I rode with a bike commuter who travels that bridge on his bike back and forth to work and he says it never gets comfortable. 

Someone on social media asked me what gear I packed.  So I’ll go there. It should be noted that my good friend Tom has a spreadsheet with crazy details for a bike trip that I leveraged heavily in my packing. 

Left Rear Pannier (bike bag): 

  • Clothes (2 cycling socks, 1 evening sock, 1 spare cycling jersey, 1 long sleeved thermal shirt, 1 super light wicking long sleeve shirt, arm warmers, tights, riding vest, rain jacket, evening shirt, lightweight running shoes)
  • Bike cable and lock
  • Bike repair kit
  • Garbage bag (to cover bike handlebars at night)
  • Plastic ground cloth for my tent. 

Right Rear Pannier:

  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • First aid kit/toiletries
  • Food (mostly non-perishable snacks)

Front Handlebar Bag:

  • Pullover shorts for stops
  • Snacks
  • Chain lubricant
  • Sunscreen
  • Random junkbag with phone chargers, money/credit card in binder clip, pen/paper, portable charger, etc. 

What did I love today: Waking up dry knowing it rained overnight. Thanks again Nash family. 

Oddity: Toss up: Deserted Rocky Neck SP or Crispy Taco flavored Lays. Why the descriptor? just Taco Lays would have gotten the job done. That’s a focus group gone bad. 

Zen moment: Waiting for the drawbridge near sunset in Niantic or that Washington Greenway trail. Pretty snappy hour of riding.  

Not-so-zen moment: Southwest Rhode Island bonk. 

Who did I meet: Mike in Subway. He barrels through the door yelling “where you headed? Whatcha riding? Where’d ya come from today?  I rode the RAM three times. Ya know the RAM, dontcha?” I answered none of those questions but did manage to have a nice chat about the Patriots. Also, bike commuter guy in New London. 4-day a week 2-way commuter year-round. Tough as nails. 

Food I ate: Two bars drenched in peanut butter, Dunkin Donuts (in Newton, MA) DOUBLE egg and cheese everything bagel with mustard, pumpkin cake donut, large coffee, That’s It bar on the bike, Subway hot tuna sub with DOUBLE (see a theme here?) cheese, Crispy Taco Lays (who knew?), fig bars in peanut butter, cashews, Gatorade. 

Day 4: Wakeda Campground (NH) to Milton, MA (just south of Boston) – 66 miles

I see you Boston. I’m not skeert.  You threw a lot at me today. Six crossings of I-95, five missed turns/u-turns, countless neighborhoods traversed because GoogleMaps wanted to keep me off of busier roads, multiple thunderstorms and some rush hour traffic slowdowns but I still made it. I rode the 66 miles in roughly the same amount of time that I rode the 88 or so the day before. What I saw of Boston was awesome diversity, super-bike friendly planning, lots of pizza and roast beef restaurants (is that a thing?) and significant American history. I also got to see a glimpse of how two cousins of mine (I married into these cousins) are living great lives up here and a third who is allowing me to live my best life in their home (thanks for sharing your beautiful house Brian and Coreen – you’ve inspired me to get one of those garage door remote things!).  

The day offered more Dunkin Donuts, a great egg sandwich from A little town called Topsfield, dampness and a nice mix of urban and rural riding. If you are following along don’t trace my route today. I zigzagged all the way down to Boston. Towns like Seasport, Salisbury, Newburyport, Georgetown, Topsfield, Danvers, Lynn, Revere, Chelsea, Boston, South Boston and Milton. Tomorrow, hopefully a more direct route. 

Here’s the rundown:

What did I love today: hanging out with relatives. Loved catching up with them in their homes. I even got to shower before dinner at Kelly’s (sorry April).  I even held a tiny baby and saw her smile. Cool stuff. Nice work Kelly and Greg. 

Oddity: Windmills. Saw two enormous ones today. There’s some energy I can get behind. 

Zen moment: commuting away from Boston tonight. So great to ride in a city that really gets it. Hey Charlotte and Fort Mill: time for a road trip. Bring your bikes. 

Not-so-zen moment:  GoogleMaps routing me all over the blessed place. 

Who did I meet: A guy with a thick Spanish accent who, like me, got caught in the rain while on his walk to the bank and Cumberland Farms (think Circle K). He told me hard rains are always followed by clear blue skies. Sure enough, blue skies came out (at least until the next rain 90 minutes later. 

Food I ate: Fuji apple, garlic wrap covered in peanut butter (not my finest moment), That’s It bar on the road, egg sandwich with hot sauce (not from Dunkin Donuts!), large coffee, banana, carrot cake Larabar waiting out a thunderstorm, pumpkin donut from, you guessed it – Dunkin Donuts while waiting out another thunderstorm, some homemade herbal iced tea at April’s and Some fantastic sushi at Kelly’s house. 

Photos: 1) (top) State #3, 2) inclement weather delay, 3) sunflower field, 4) crossing bridge into Boston, 5) baby holding – just like old times, 6) smiling baby, 7) Sutton- Fater selfie. 

Onward. Peace. 

Day 3: Winslow Campground to Wakeda Campground (near Exeter, NH) – 88 miles

Just like hiking, Day 2 is always a more efficient day getting out of camp than day 1. By 21 minutes this time. That said, it is amazing how many times you can say, “I’m outta here in 5 minutes” only to realize you accidentally packed the bike lock key. 

Today I saw another Atlantic sunrise – never gets old. That plus finding the toiletries bag I swore I left at the last camp deep in my bike bag. Sorry Mr. Manager in Camden Hills State Park who kindly said he’d check the bathroom and mail it to me if he found it. Seriously, everyone visiting Maine needs to stay at that State Park. Nicest. People. Ever. 

Early into my ride this morning I could tell it was going to be a hot day. I saw 84 degrees somewhere today which is like wicked hot for these parts this time of year. Can I also say how much I’m having to restrain myself from writing everything the way it sounds up heeyah?  You arah welcome. That’s it…I swearah- don’t wannah be too much of a pissah.

I rode on a road descriptively called Maine 88 early this morning. Worth driving down if you get a chance. It was the first day of school up here so every parent of a kindergartner pointed me out. “Look <insert name here> a bicyclist!”  As I got closer to Portland I got to ride near other cyclists who were commuting to work. You got to love people from Portlands. Portland must translate to “we ride bikes to work.”

From there I followed GoogleMaps onto what was a pedestrian only Greenway. Cool for mountain bikes. The off-road was less cool for my road bike. My arms are still vibrating. 

Allow me to use this next few lines to remind everyone just how right Maine gets small seaside towns. Today’s duo of Kennebunkport and Ogunquit were the latest (and last) of the Quintessential Maine towns. Kudos to whoever decided they can’t have enough towns like that. You were right. 

After a tasty Lobster Roll down Perkins Cove Road in Ogunquit, I slowly rode out of Maine towards Portsmouth. I crossed this cool drawbridge and boom! I’m in New Hampshire. Nice knowing ya Maine. NH keeps it low key, no “Welcome to NH” signs here. Just a huge body of water, some crazy old buildings on narrow streets in Portsmouth, white-steepled churches everywhere and bakeries what seemed every third shop (or maybe I was just hungry). I pushed on as it was getting late and one of the few campgrounds in the area, Wakeda Campground, was still about 20 miles away.   

Side note. People seem to live in campgrounds. RVs are decorated. Some have planted shrubs and flowers. Some have seasonal lights.  The world never ceases to amaze me. I also learned a tough Campground lesson tonight. Sometimes you need a quarter to make the shower’s hot water work. Don’t forget that quarter. I’ll only make that mistake once. Brrrrr. 

What did I love today: More cool Maine towns, especially the one with the Lobstah roll and chowdah! Sorry. It slipped. 

Oddity: Although from yesterday, I saw an older man in Bath, ME pushing a cat in a net-covered cart. Cats should only be transported to the vet. 

Zen moment: Toss up: Kennebunkport and Ogunquit towns or riding through historic Portsmouth, NH. Admittedly, I’m not exactly sure why it is historic but had the feel of some serious history. Anyone want to enlighten me?

Not-so-zen moment: the East Coast Trail/Greenway. Super serene and loved the no motor vehicles part, but my road bike wasn’t cut out for the off road experience. Hey Google Maps people: might want a note on this in your next upgrade. While I’m at it, you might also want to stop routing bikes over the I-295 bridge to Portland, ME. You almost got me there. Instead, I got a nice tour of South Portland’s finest mall areas. 

Who did I meet: Charles from Nova Scotia. My Campground neighbor. He is a bike touring guy but didn’t do a tour this year for an undisclosed reason. He tours with his wife on a tandem. What says you, Cindy?  I bet we could get up some real speed on the downhills. Yup. Kidding. 

Food I ate: banana, cashew cookie Larabar at camp, That’s It bar while riding, another egg and cheese bagel from Dunkin Donuts with a pumpkin donut (I’m a sucker for a seasonal donut) and cold brew chaser, then next door for some power that cost me a small Starbucks coffee, then a lobster roll (finally!) and clam chowdah in Ogunquit followed by dinner of hummus and wrap, pistachios and cheese from yesterday. The Lobster Roll at the end of Perkins Cove road came on Dad’s recommendation and it didn’t disappoint!  Added bonus was not having to pay $15 to park down there – bikes are free. Last note, after pushing past Portsmouth to get to a Campground, the kind ladies in the office shared some just baked chocolate chip cookies with me. I must have looked like I needed them. 

Pictures: 1) Top: Kennebunkport, 2) Greenway,  3) More Kennebunkport 4) Lobster Roll, 5) Bridge to Portsmouth. 

Day 2: Camden Hills SP to Winslow Campground (just south of Freeport) – 75 miles

What a difference a day can make!  Sunrise over the Atlantic, significant climbs headwinds and a few more stops made for good, at times, tough riding. I’m learning to pace things down a bit. Crushing out miles on a 45lb packed bike isn’t the name of the game. Letting gravity do its work downhill and small gears do their job on the uphills makes for good riding and decent miles. Also, I’m starting to like the 30, 20, 20 mileage plan for breaking up my day. The last 20 seems likely to have a stop in it too for groceries. 

Off-bike stops are rejuvenating but not typically efficient. I typically like to pull on a pair of shorts over my cycling clothes if I’m going to interact with humans, switch out my bike shoes for running shoes, grab my money and if the stop involves going in a store for more than 5 minutes I lock my bike up. Then reverse all of that to get back on the bike. On day two I’m also finding that Murphy’s Law kicks in when getting stuff out of the bike bags. The thing you want always ends up being in the other bag. 

Speaking of being in the other bag. Tonight I realized I left my toiletry bag in the bathroom. Only a big deal because I left it in the bathroom 75 miles back at last night’s Campground.  Bummer. Looks like I’ll be hitting a grocery store in the morning tomorrow and speaking with my hand over my mouth until then. Geez. 

What did I love today: the cool little Maine towns. Camden, Bath (waterfront lunch) and Freeport all had fun vibes. Freeport is home to LL Bean. Cool corporate campus.  

Not so much: realizing I left my toiletry bag 75 miles later. Dodo move. 

Oddity: The RV business must be booming. So. Many. RV campers. 

Zen moment: crossing two huge bridges over big patches of water. So, so Maine. 

Who did I meet: Does waving at 12-14 northbound cyclists, a thumbs up from a passenger stuck in post-Labor Day traffic or saying nice dog to a lady in a Campground count?  Introverted day. 

Food I ate: banana, carrot cake Larabar at camp, That’s It bar while riding, egg and cheese bagel, pumpkin cake donut and and cold brew coffee in Damariscotta, coffee, pistachios, and wrap w/ hummus at stop in Bath, cheese stick and banana at Shaw’s grocery in Freeport, pad Thai from Thai Garden in Freeport (first hot meal!) and 1/2 Snickers at camp. Good food day but still no Lobster roll.  There’s more chances tomorrow as I ride through towns with fun names like Kennebunkport. Think dry thoughts as it looks like there may be rain in the forecast. 

Pictures: 1) The bridge to Bath, 2) my lunch and 3) my view from tonight’s campsite at Winslow Campground near Freeport.