6 years ago today Matt and I rode into Jackson Hole, WY as part of our ride across America. Well it’s time for us to hit the road again. This September we’ll be joined by two friends, Mike Frandsen & Ed Brown to ride our bikes from Canada to Mexico. If you’d like to follow our latest adventure, here’s the link to the new blog: Cycling the Pacific (https://cyclingthepacific.wordpress.com/)
Author Archives: Chris Dittmore
I thought I’d update everyone on the few days after our ride ended and the big transformation. Brenda, Sarah and I stayed with our good friends the McSharry’s while Matt and his family stayed at a local hotel (our first night apart in two months). Early Monday morning Matt came over to the house for us to start the process of shipping home the bikes and unpacking the SAG vehicle. We pulled everything out of the car and started to take apart the bikes.
Matt and I then packed the bikes in their carriers and drove them over to FedEx to be shipped home. Leaving FedEx without our bikes seemed strange and was the first real sign that our trip was over. We then went back to Brian’s and now it was time for Matt and I to go our separate ways. We’d spent every waking moment together for the past two months so it seemed a little odd to know be off doing our own thing. Matt drove off to go spend time in Boston and New York with his family and I’ll see him in a couple of weeks when we reassemble the bikes and start enjoying riding back in California. Brenda, Sarah and I then drove up to Boxford for a nice lunch with my aunt and uncle. Then back to Medfield for one final night with the McSharry’s.
It was now time for my transformation to take place. For weeks everything had been about me and where I was, how I was feeling and what help I needed. Family and friends had all been incredible with their support and encouragement. But now it was time for Chris the cross-country cyclist to retire and Chris the husband, father and employee to reemerge. In particular, Chris the Dad needed to make a quick appearance as it was now time to move Sarah off the college at NYU in New York City.
On our way to New York we stopped in Danbury, CT where we were fortunate to be able to meet Sarah’s new roommate Michelle, her Mom and sister for lunch. They live outside of Danbury and it was so nice to meet them at a time other than the craziness of move-in day. We then drove through Westport, CT where we had lived from 8/97 to 1/99 and Sarah had started kindergarten. We had a fun time wandering through Westport as it brought back quite a few memories for Brenda and myself. We spent the night in Norwalk and then were up early this morning to head to the Big Apple.
Fortunately Sarah had been accepted to an early NYU volunteer program so we were able to move her in today with a small group of 75 students while the regular move-in is on Sunday. Chris the Dad did his job of navigating the car around NYC and finding a place to park and move everything into Sarah’s dorm room. After briefly helping Sarah we went to lunch and then said our first goodbye (we’re going back for the weekend). Sarah was off to a volunteer meeting and Brenda and I were off to Jenkintown, PA to meet with my office tomorrow for an appearance of Chris the Employee. Finally Chris the Husband will make his grand appearance this weekend in NYC with Brenda.
Thanks again for all your support and interest in our adventure this summer! Now it’s time for one of you to come up with a journey so Matt and I can follow your blog!
As you’ve probably noticed, ever since we visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame many of the blog titles took on a musical inspiration. As I thought of the title for the final day of our adventure across America the words Sweet Emotion (Aerosmith 1975) came to mind. The lyrics of the song don’t particularly apply but there’s no better way to describe our last day than simply Sweet Emotion.
As Matt and I pedaled the last 65 miles of our 3,910 mile journey across America I wanted to savor every pedal stroke I took and hold on tight to the wonderful emotions of satisfaction, accomplishment, pride, joy, etc that were running through me. There are days in my life that I can remember vividly: The day my brother was born (I was 10.5 years old at the time), the day I first met Brenda, my wedding day, the days each of my children (Amy, Eric and Sarah) were born and a few less significant other days (the first day I drank beer with my good friend Manzar in high school as an example). Now to that list I get to add so many days from the trip with Matt highlighted by the final day of our cycling trip across America. Part of what made it so special was the realization of a shared dream that I had with Matt. But what I discovered that became an even bigger part was the incredible support and encouragement of family, friends and people we didn’t know before the trip began.
Our final day began with us saying our final goodbye to the Super 8 around 8:30a. We then pedal through beautiful MA countryside with perfect cool mid-70’s temps (what else do you expect on the final day from Moses Matt). We rode about 25 miles before coming across Bolton Spring Farm for our final B2 of coffee and warm raspberry turnovers (are we ever going to miss the ability to eat like we have) and were joined by Brenda, Sarah, Cindy and Katie.
We then rode right through Weston, MA where my good friends Mike and Julie Panagakos live and planned to meet them at Dairy Joy for lunch and the “final” milkshake of the trip. As Matt and I sat at Dairy Joy and saw Mike and Julie drive up we suddenly noticed two other people in the car. Our good friends from Danville, CA, Kim and Melissa Peterson and flown out to surprise us on our last day! It was an incredible surprise and met so much to Matt and I that they had come to see us!
We all enjoyed lunch together and then it was time for Matt and I to ride the final 21 miles to Revere Beach and the Atlantic Ocean. As we rode those final miles along the Charles River and then past Harvard we relived portions of our trip and agreed on our top surprises of the trip which were:
- Cars and People
1 – The first one shouldn’t surprise anyone as the powers of “Moses Matt” have been well chronicled. However as much of the country had incredible heat to deal with this summer, Matt and I rode almost everyday in low 80’s temps and never rode in the rain. Of course except the 3rd day in California of all places that there was a light drizzle while we rode over the Sierra’s.
2 – If you would have told me at the beginning of the trip that we would stay on schedule throughout the trip I would have said “No Way”. But that’s exactly what happened…we arrived to the planned destination city 60 days out of 60! We had hotel rooms every night as scheduled and our SAG drivers were always right there as planned (with the small exception of one slight delay in Yellowstone).
3 – This was a big unknown to Matt and myself. We thought we were well prepared for the trip, but we didn’t know what unexpected issues we’d have. Would one of us get sick, have a crash, muscle fatigue, etc. Unbelievably we had no injuries. Certainly our rears are going to enjoy a few days off the bikes and a little recovery is much needed, but we held up amazingly well.
4 – Matt and I both ride very nice race bikes. They are light weight and meant for going fast, not attaching packs to them and riding almost 4,000 miles on dirt road, through potholes and over numerous railroad tracks. However, like our bodies, our bikes also held up very well. I only used two sets of tires and changed my chain once. Between us we only had 11 flat tires of which 9 (4-NV, 5-ID) occurred in the first 13 days of the trip.
5 – No matter the state or type of road we were on, 99.99% of the drivers and people we encountered were friendly and supportive. Cars and trucks would give us a wide berth when passing and people would go out of their way to help us. We live in a great country with great people and Matt and I experienced everyday.
So with all the “Sweet Emotions” swirling through us is was now time for the final turn to the beach. We crested the hill and first spotted the lookout Kim Peterson and then quickly saw the rest of the crowd and heard the famous cowbells and cheering. Matt and I can’t thank enough the following people who were there to great us: Cindy (Matt’s wife), Katie (Matt’s daughter), Brenda (my wife), Sarah (my daughter), Dick and Mary Anna (Matt’s parents), Manzar Iqbal (my lifelong friend from 5th grade), Brian McSharry (my great friend from high school and college), Mike and Julie Panagakos (old Danville friends who now live in Weston), Kim and Melissa Peterson (our good friends from Danville) and Peter and Virginia Morbeck (my aunt and uncle who live in Boxford, MA).
We then went through the ceremony of dipping the tires in the ocean and completing the journey. Also, when we had left my father had give me a $20 bill to by our first beer. Brenda took the $20 and bought Sierra Nevada (CA beer) and Sam Adams (MA beer) for us to signify the start and end of our journey. It couldn’t have been more fitting and was throughly enjoyed. matt then thought that to truly finish the trip we needed to go jump in the Atlantic. I was unaware of this part of completing the trip but had fun with Matt jumping in the ocean.
We then all went over to Brains, where Brian and his wife Mary Pat hosted all of us to a wonderful post ride BBQ. We spent the evening reliving the numerous highlights of the trip with great friend and family. Like I said earlier, it’s a day that has joined that list of special days in my life.
Before I sign off on this last blog from our trip I need to give a couple of big thanks. Our families were incredible in their support of our journey. For me to have Brenda give up a month of her summer to follow Matt and I around in a car we rode our bikes was not in any wedding vow. Brenda never once complained and embraced her SAG role and found numerous sights and places to eat that Matt and I would have never known about.
Finally, what can I say about Matt. Before we left on our trip our number one goal was to be as good of friends when we ended as when we began. Well, that’s simply not the case, we’re even closer friends. 60 days together and only one disagreement…I say he snores (Cindy supports this claim) and Matt insists he doesn’t. All kidding aside, Matt is the best friend anyone could ever hope for and made the life adventure what it was for me…THANKS MATT!!!
We arrived at Revere Beach today at 2:30p after 60 days and 3,910 miles to a group of family and friends!
Well I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town
Prob’ly die in a small town
Oh, those small – communities
But I’ve seen it all in a small town
Had myself a ball in a small town – John Cougar Mellencamp
Almost all of our ride has been spent cycling through the small towns of America. Matt and I have seen and done more than we had ever hoped for when planning our trip. As I sit here writing the blog for day 59 of 60 for our trip across America it’s hard to fathom that the last two months were all real and not a dream. As we prepare to complete our adventure in Boston tomorrow I think back to all the small towns I’d never heard of before this trip and the fond memories I now have of them. Burley-ID, Ten Sleep-WY, Springfield-SD, Anamosa-IA, Winona Lake-IN, Ashtabula-PA and on and on I could list them. Most of my work travels over the past 31 years have taken me to the big cities. It was fun to discover the small towns of America that are the backbone of our country. But that being said, I can’t wait to arrive in Boston, pedal over to Revere Beach and dip the tires in the Atlantic to signify the completion of our journey.
Today we had to wait a little bit before starting our ride as apparently “Moses Matt” wanted to get a later start and it rained early this morning. Matt and I walked over to a local coffee shop and waited for the roads to dry at little since we were going to be starting with a fast 15 mile downhill. It was nice as it gave us a little time to reflect on the trip instead of planning ahead like most of our trip has been. We finally load the SAG vehicle at 8:30a and Brenda drove us to the top of Whitcomb Summit which we had climbed yesterday (that was such a good decision). Matt and I then got to start our day on a beautiful 15 mile, new pavement, downhill ride through the forest and next to a river…it doesn’t get much better!
Brenda had found a place 20 miles down the road in Shelburne Falls, MA that was supposed to be a great pancake place. Having visions of wonderful pancakes in our heads for B2 we pedaled a little quicker to get there. You can imagine our disappointment when we arrived and there was a sign on the door saying they were closed and reopening on Labor Day…Bummer! We got back on the bikes and planned to ride another 10 miles to Greenfield for B2 when 5 miles down the road we came across the Shelburne Falls Coffee Roaster. The coffee was great and the blueberry coffeecake was even better! We lingered over our food and coffee as we want to enjoy every last moment of our trip as we both realize our dram of riding across America is about to come to an end.
After our nice downhill this morning we had a few riding challenges to face today as our routing again tried to take us on a couple of dirt roads ass a farewell gift. Luckily both times we were able to find easy short re-routes. We also had quite a few rolling hills to ride and I can’t say that I’ll miss those. Finally as my good friend Brian McSharry had warned us, we encountered a few pretty beat up roads that we rode on. Felt a little like dodge ball as we tried to avoid the potholes. But all was good and we arrived in Gardner, MA after riding 71 miles a little after 2p.
Matt’s daughter Katie was then the hero of the day as she found the Cruisers Malt Shoppe in Gardner which was an old-fashioned diner with GREAT milkshakes and lunch. In tribute to the milkshakes that became a staple of our trip we all had a nice toast with milkshakes to celebrate the ending of the trip. It was very special for Matt and I to be able to share these last days of our trip with Brenda, Sarah, Cindy and Katie. Now it’s time to review the route for the final day, pack and then go enjoy a few beers at the ale house and talk about all the small towns…
It’s been awhile since I last chimed in on the blog so I thought I would share a few thoughts before we head off tomorrow for the final day of our trip. As many of you know, I generally believe that the secret to happiness in life is to have very low expectations. Essentially, expect little and be grateful for what you have. I must say that my expectations of Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York were not very high. I just expected those states to feel more industrialized and crowded. I am happy to report that I thought all of them rocked. The cycling along the shore of Lake Erie was really just spectacular and a place I would definitely go back. I really thought Niagra Falls would have been the highlight of this part of the trip but truly, the vineyards of Pennsylvania and and New York were just really beautiful and when combined with the Lake Erie shore, it made for great cycling. I must say that if you go to Niagra Falls, you should do the Cave of the Winds Tour. It was a long line but where else can you walk up and put your face in one of the largest waterfalls in the world. Sounds kind of silly but it was a ton of fun and something you simply can’t do in Danville!
As Chris and were riding today, we both agreed that the the state of New York had the best roads for cycling of any state on the trip. I don’t know about you, but that was a surprise to me. People often think of New York as being tough and hard based on what we see on TV and what we know about New York City. Based on my experience, I think New York is kind of like a marshmallow that has been burned on the outside in the fire. It is a little hard and tough on the outside but it’s really soft and sweet on the inside. We had spectacular roads, great scenery, amazing bike routes and trails and we met some terrific people. Hal, Linda and Brad Defrees, the curators of the Museum of Beer in Cazenovia (near Syracuse), our waitress at Joes Pizza in Schenectady and they guys at Uncle John’s diner in Cohoes to name a few. Also a state that posts bright yellow warning signs on the street to let you know that deaf or blind people are in the area is really showing it’s sensitive side. They even have a road in New York that leads to Santa’s house:
Also, the people of New York have a great sense of their european heritage. Apparently you can visit Europe without ever leaving the state because we saw signs or references to Paris, Amsterdam, Greece, Rome, Geneva, Russia, Poland, Sweden Waterloo, Rotterdam and Brutus. Yes I know Brutus is not in Europe but you just have to love the idea of being able to say you are from Brutus. Overall, the state of New York gets top cycling honors for our ride across America.
While we just got to experience a small slice of Vermont, it was as beautiful as you would expect it to be and North Adams was a great introduction to Massachusetts. Quaint town, beautiful scenery and our own private concert at the Holiday Inn by Greg Caproni and his 14 year old protege Jacob. Also, if you are every in N. Adams, be sure to visit the Natural Bridge State park just outside of town. It has some unique marble slot canyons and rock formations. Easy to get to, a quick visit will do and it is really beautiful. After spending a full day in Massachusetts, it too is beautiful but it is a bit lumpy and bumpy for a discerning bike rider. Hardly a flat road so far, more cars and a good many potholes! However, it is the state were we have seen by far the most cyclists. Clearly the residents of this lumpy state are a hearty cycling bunch!
Tomorrow Chris and I will reach Revere Beach in Boston and our epic journey will be complete. When I talked with my dad about the completion of his trip in 1994, he told me he had very mixed feelings about the finish. On one hand, there was a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that the goal was achieved and the ride was completed. On the other hand, he also thought he would like to just keep on pedaling and have the adventure continue. As I think about our final day, I find myself in much the same frame of mind. I’m still a bit blown away that we will have successfully ridden our bikes almost 4,000 miles and will be dipping our wheels in the Atlantic ocean tomorrow. While I do feel a bit tired and I am ready to see my son in New York and then get home and back to a more normal routine, I do find I am as excited as ever to discover new places and have new adventures on my bike. Particularly with friends, family and others who share the cycling and travel addiction. I also feel and incredible sense of gratitude for the ability to have this experience and to share it with so many friends and family. I simply couldn’t have done this without the support of my business partners and co-workers at Precept, our wonderful SAG/support crews (Danika, Maggie, Bob, Marilyn, Holly, Pete, Brenda, Amy, Sarah, Cindy and Katie), the inspiration and guidance of my Mom and Dad and the friendship,organizational and communications skills of the best friend anyone could ever ask for, Chris Dittmore. I do want to give special thanks to my wife Cindy for her unyielding support for this crazy adventure. Many of you know that Cindy’s father passed away during the trip. A few weeks later, we also lost Shasta, our 15 year old family dog and Cindy’s constant companion. While it has been a tough summer for her, she has been a rock for me and having she and Katie join us for the last part of the trip has made it even more special. Tomorrow, I plan to savor every moment of the ride and soak up the entire day. As luck, or should I say Moses Matt ,would have it, we expect to have beautiful weather so it should be an ideal and fitting finish to an extraordinary journey.
A few pictures I thought you might like:
New Yorkers like to dress up their doors – Clinton, NY
Indian Burial Ground in Cooperstown NY ( I loved this picture that Cindy took)
Wild Flowers of Vermont (Another Cindy Favorite)
A little Ultimate practice in Natural Bride St. Park – Go Kaite
The Church at Williams College. Cindy and Katie visited the campus while on the road. A shout out to Ken Brown, a Williams alumni and blog follower!
Just thought this was an awesome photo by Cindy
Liked this barn door Cindy
You gotta love a good cyclist tan!
Great friends getting near the end of great adventure! It’s been quite a ride!
Matt and I are in Turner Falls, MA and have just 100 miles left to cycle in our ride across America…hard to believe we’ve made it this far!
25 miles in and we found a great spot for B2. The Shelbourne Falls Coffee Roasters. Great way to start our 2nd to last day!
So all along Matt and I have thought we’d be riding through 13 states on our ride across America. Well lo and behold we actually ended up riding through 14 states! Upon reviewing today’s route last night, we discovered we actually rode through a little sliver of Vermont. It was a whole six miles, but in twenty minutes we were in New York, Vermont and finally Massachusetts.
This morning we left the hotel at 8:30a and rode through Schenectady, NY to the Mohawk Trail. We’ve found riding through these bigger towns on the way to our route is always a little dicey, but so far we’ve been fine we just go a little slower and make sure we’re paying extra attention to the cars around us. When we reached the Mohawk Trail it jumped to the top of the list of the best bike trails we’ve ridden on during our trip. It was a wide PAVED trail that was canopied with trees and flat, it just doesn’t get better for a cyclist!
We then enjoyed riding on the Mohawk trail to Cohoes, NY where we met the girls for a great B2. We weren’t sure where we were going to eat so I stopped a lady who was walking into the post office where we could find a good local breakfast. If there’s one thing I’ve learned on this trip it’s that local will steer you right. She suggested we go to Uncle John’s Diner around the corner. Immediately upon walking into the diner, Matt and I knew we had found the right place. All the tables were full with regulars (who of course immediately stared at us) and there were a husband and wife running the show. It was something straight out of a movie set. As we sat down we could hear the locals discussing which horses they should bet on today as the Saratoga racetrack was just a few miles away and the season had just started. We had a great B2 and loved our local diner experience.
When we left Uncle John’s we were faced with 40 miles of rolling hills on our way to North Adams, MA. We’ve gotten used to the hills these past few days so the ride today was a little better. Also, the scenery was beautiful as we rode the back roads of New York to our six-mile stretch of Vermont and then on to North Adams. Cindy and Katie met us at the Vermont border for our state sign picture and then drove six miles down the road and waited for us to take our Massachusetts state sign picture.
Now originally our planned route ended in North adams. However when looking at tomorrow’s route to Gardner, MA we noticed that we had a 7 mile, 2,000+ foot climb out of North Adams over Whitcomb Summit. The prospect of waking up tomorrow morning and immediately climb 2,000+ feet was not at all appealing to Matt or I so we decided to get the climb out-of-the-way. We stopped briefly at our hotel and took the bags off our bikes trying to get rid of any weight we could. We then pounded out the climb and the girls met us at the summit to shuttle us back to the hotel. Tonight is going to be SO MUCH more enjoyable knowing we start our ride with a 15 mile downhill instead of a 7 mile climb!
After cleaning up at our hotel and enjoying one of our last bottles of wine we brought with us, we headed out for a great Mexican dinner. After dinner ended up back at our hotel restaurant enjoying dessert and live music by Greg Caproni. It was a fun evening and you can definitely tell that Matt and I are enjoying being in the last few days of our trip.
More Cowbell!!! For all you Will Ferrell fans or those who are wondering what I mean by More Cowbell: http://www.ebaumsworld.com/video/watch/719364/
One thing we’ve relearned on this trip is that you can’t judge a restaurant by its appearance. Tonight was a great example as we walked across the parking lot from the hotel to Joe’s Pizza. Since it was later in the night we weren’t feeling like driving to dinner and walked through the gravel parking lot to Joe’s which advertised that “You can watch Imported Hands toss the Pizza”. I mean what better draw is there than “Imported Hands”?!? So we all entered Joe’s a little uncertain of what we were getting into. What we found was a great Italian restaurant with portions that were big enough to feed a family and the food tasted like a homemade Italian dinner. We also had fun talking with our waitress about the local AHA minor league hockey team and the players that ate at Joe’s. Nothing like going to a good local restaurant…
They weren’t able to clean their plates…
Today we only had 59 miles to ride. Amazing how 59 miles now seems like a nice little short ride. As a result we didn’t leave Cooperstown until 9:30a. Matt and I met across the street at Stagecoach coffee while the girls still slept. We discussed how our trip was winding down and we both have an incredible sense of satisfaction, accomplishment and fulfillment. It’s a great feeling that we have so infrequently in our life’s that I’m treasuring every moment of this feeling.
When we finally left Cooperstown we were treated to a wonderful ride around Ostego Lake on our way to Schenectady, NY. We had quite a few rolling hills today but with the shorter mileage, continued cool temps and rest day yesterday we felt pretty good. There was no great place to stop on our route for B2 so we made the decision to ride straight to the hotel in Schenectady and arrived a little after 1p. We then met the girls, showered and went to a nice lunch and ice cream on Jay Street in Schenectady.
After our lunch we drove about 30 minutes outside of town to the Howe Caverns. When we got there Matt wasn’t feeling great so he elected to rest and catch up on other work while the girls and I took the 1 1/2 hour cavern tour. The caves had been discovered back in the mid-1800’s and built to their current visitor configuration in the late 1920’s. We were enjoying the tour through the caves and the boat trip on the river in the caves, but the best part came at the end. They have a section called the “Winding Way” which was a very narrow passage way that you walked through for quite some time. It’s hard to describe how coo it was but it was definitely a highlight and made the tour worthwhile.
After the cave tour Brenda and Cindy wanted to take a detour on the way back to the hotel to go see another covered bridge. What is it with women and covered bridges? Matt and I just wanted to get to dinner and Katie and Sarah aren’t old enough to be drawn into the covered bridge vortex yet. So we made the detour to go see and photograph the old covered bridge. Guess what…the bridge was built-in 1982! I mean it was built after Brenda and Cindy had graduated from high school. Matt, Katie, Sarah and I now have a new rule that no detours for covered bridges that aren’t at least 100 years old!
Today is our last day in New York as tomorrow we ride into Massachusetts our final state. Hard to believe we’ll actually be in Massachusetts. On one hand it seems like we’ve been gone forever while on the other hand it’s hard to believe the trip is actually ending!