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Jersey City at last!

The tour wrapped up with a bang on Saturday. I'm going to just give an overview of the riding day itself and will write a bit more as far as reflections on the tour as a whole are concerned at a later date... probably within the week. I've switched time zones so it's past midnight according to my internal clock and have to move my stacks of junk from Calgary to Edmonton tomorrow (Monday) so do hope to get to bed sometime soon.

Saturday we awoke to misty conditions and I headed out of camp with Eritia Smit expecting to be quickly caught by Nathan Beach and Josh Nyenhuis once again who were waiting up with Jim Amels who was joining us again for a final day of riding (he rode Denver to Grand Rapids on the Tour). Setting off in the mist wasn't bad at all as it kept things cool once again and probably knocked down a bit of pollution from the air as well. True to the pattern of the tour Eritia suffered another flat tyre within the first bit of the ride. This one broke the nice even number of 25 for the summer as she padded her record (most flats by one rider) with yet another notch. While we sat at the side of the road and pumped it up again I fully expected the others to catch us... maybe we're just too fast.

We had our first of four noteworthy climbs for the day and cruised along a beautifully paved road on the downhill before meeting our first locals out with snacks and drinks for us. It was here that Josh, Nathan and Jim caught up and we climbed "climb #2" and began the long descent towards the Stumblers Inn. It was curvy, lined with trees and went awfully quick. If you know me or have gotten to know me via my writing this summer you'll know those are synonyms for fun, fun and fun. From there on out we were basically in one city or another one for the rest of the day. Another church had refreshments halfway down a really steep hill and after stopping for watermelon and cookies we opted to climb back up and do the whole hill in one shot. The cheers were great when we went by as they all knew what we were doing. I once again didn't have my speedometer but Eritia clocked mid seventies on hers as she followed me down the hill. Now that's not all that impressive considering the pitch of the hill but consider first that this is in town on a small street so the speed limit was 30 miles per hour. We were speeding by nearly 25 kph or 50% over the speed limit!

The houses proceeded to grow in size as we climbed the last hill of the day and up top there were some fantastic mansions that must have overlooked something, but I didn't see it. More city riding and another stop for refreshments were crammed in there before we were to approach the "staging ground" for the day where our police escort would start. Having 2 hours of time to cover the next 3 miles we stopped for pizza as was pretty much commanded by one of the locals when he said "New Jersey's Pizza is way better than Chicago's Pizza". I have to admit it was pretty fantastic pizza for 11 o'clock in the morning and did actually compare quite closely with the deep dish pizza we had in Palos Heights Illinois.

After gathering all the cyclists together in a parking lot in an industrial park on the outskirts of Jersey City we were to be police escorted for the final 10 miles to the beach at Liberty State Park. I filmed this video of the mass while waiting to get going; there are a lot of us there in case you forgot how many 200 is.

The ride into the State Park and the beach was great fun and while we weren't rolling at a very quick pace it wasn't painfully slow either and the 10 miles seemed to be over in a flash. I filmed 4 videos over the course of the ride. One part as we made our way out of the industrial area. One part as we entered town and all ran a red light with the Policeman's permission. Another video as we entered the park and I pulled off the path and filmed almost all of the cyclists roll past. The final video is of us at the beach gathered together before hitting the water. Len made a few remarks and we said the Lord's Prayer together just as we did on the shore of the Pacific 9 weeks prior.

That's it for tonight. I also stocked up the final photo gallery with shots from the final ride as well as added a couple more photos here and there throughout other albums from the summer. Here are a couple highlights from the beach:

beach beach beach beach beach

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The final morning...

I stopped by the computer this morning to check if those 2 videos I began uploading to Youtube last night actually ended up online. I guess "eventually yes" is the answer so here they are: #1 is coming down a big hill out of Canaan PA. #2 is a time lapse of us unloading the gear truck upon arrival in Sussex NJ.


This morning is quite exciting... everyone semed a bit nervous as I made my way through the gear truck to grab my bike shorts etc etc. Packing up my stuff was rather easy this morning as my tattered ground sheet from my tent went to the garbage and not to the bag. Also the broken chair I've been sitting on since Boise Idaho ended up with a same final fate. That makes for a bag that's much easier to do up the zipper! Last night was wet and pretty much everything is soaked but there is no rain falling at the moment and the prognosis is for a final day with little rain.

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The Big Day

Friday of Week 9 is a day that people have been talking about now and again ever since leaving the Rockies at the end of Week 4. Today's ride included the greatest elevation gain of the whole tour in a single day (our detour up Mt Evans was significantly more but was optional). After my 3 hour nap the day before and quite a bit of sleep again at night when things at camp started to get moving around 5:30 am I just gave up trying to sleep, got up, packed up and was in line for breakfast at 6:05 am. I had quite a few comments to deal with from all of the early risers who I like to give a hard time to... and good for them, they were right, it was too early for me to be up.

Josh Nyenhuis, Eritia Smit and Nathan Beach were to be my riding partners for the day and we rolled out of camp around 7:40 am. The very first thing we did was climb a 200 foot hill that was probably an 8% grade and I said to Nathan that this ride was going to be going down in the history books. 30 years out from now when I look back on this tour I won't be able to remember every day but this one is one I'd remember forever. Indeed that continued to be the case for the rest of the day as there were so many amazing bits and pieces slapped back-to-back-to-back-to-back.

The hills were steep on the uphill and on the downhill and even though we left rather far back with respect to the group we had passed the vast majority of riders within the first 50 kms because we were taking very few stops (well - no stops I guess). After climbing a 1000 foot hill out of Carbondale PA we blasted down through a little town called Canaan which had a huge jail. From there for the next 22 kms the downhills were ever so slightly longer than the uphills and it seemed like I could ride at a blistering pace forever. I still have no computer so I don't exactly know how fast we were going but it felt faster than whatever we were actually doing. The trees were overhanging the road, the sky was overcast and it was easy to keep the body temperature down. The road was full of curves and I had a fantastic group of riders to push the pace with. I filmed a video of the descent which hopefully will end up on YouTube sometime in the not-so-distant-future.

The road changed from the little two lane with no shoulders and no traffic to a larger highway for the next big portion of the ride. The hills stretched out a bit longer than earlier in the day and it was finally possible to get into climbing mode on each one rather than the pseudo-sprint method of doing the short rollers that we'd been using all morning. Nathan and Josh are on the "leaner" or "more slender" or "lighter" end of the spectrum. (I'm trying to avoid the term skinny because it's not appreciated even though it might be somewhat accurate.) That means they dropped both Eritia and myself on each of the climbs and we'd catch them on the downhills. Eritia because she is the most aerodynamic person when all tucked in, and myself just because I've got body size to my advantage and don't flutter like a leaf in the wind.

Those longer rollers came to an end with a blazing fast downhill into the town of Milford that went on for a whole 5 miles and I'm sure we did most of it between 50 and 60 kph. We then had a nice flat-ish section along the bottom of the valley and our team of 4 locked into a big line behind myself as we cruised along in the upper 40s (according to the only working computer in our group of 4!). We then checked off our last state-line of the summer entering New Jersey just on the edge of town.

NJ

The last stretch into the town of Sussex included a big climb up to High Point which is the highest place in the State. It was about 3 miles of sustained climbing somewhere between 6 and 7 percent. Almost made me feel like we were in the early weeks of the tour, I forgot what it was like to have a hill go on and on for more than a few minutes. All good things come to an end though and we did summit the pass and were greeted by a little girl (5 yrs perhaps) Anika who was giving out cookies and watermelon and lemonade as she waited for her Mom, one of the other cyclists, to arrive. We probably could have coasted all the way into Sussex from the top of that pass but that wouldn't be quite as fun as hammering along the road and expending every lastr bit of strength that the day of climbing had sapped from us. Again we tore along down the road with Pieter Pereboom who also does well with the downhills as he's got body-size to his advantage just like me. I was behind him for a stretch of the downhill that really was crazy steep and could smell his brakes smoking.

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The end of New York

New York wrapped up this morning after about an hour of riding. The weather was cool and the sky was overcast but no rain was actually falling out of the sky although I was prepared with my windbreaker for it to start.

Stephanie and myself were riding along at a good clip and joining other groups for bits and pieces of the road for about the first 50 kms. At that point the road split and the planned route continued flat along the river and the other road went up a hill accopanied with a sign that said "No Trailers Longer Than 102 ft". Well that seemed like quite an invitation so we pulled out the map and made a detour up and over the mountain instead of continuing straight and flat. The detour paid off and even though we probably added more than 1000 feet of climbing and about 4 miles to the day the view from the top and the great descent made it totally worth it.

The campground had 2 showers and enough hot water for about 20 people... But I was one of the early ones and did get my 30 second splash in the warm water. I then took a 3 hour nap which wasn't supposed to be 3 hours long but that's just how it turned out.

The meeting this evening included a bit of sharing from a few riders as well as celebrating communion together. Pastor Len shared a revised version of the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Here's a link to Wikipedia's description of the parable. I'm sure you can imagine that the modification was one where some riders began out at the Pacific Ocean, others joined in the Mountains and still others caught hold of the tour near the Grand River. Well the point of the story is that the celebration is the same for us all, that we've each in our own way ahd the opportunity to work in God's field and gratefulness is the response not bitterness. There has been a significant amount of effort being poured into making the end of this bike ride end on a high note rather than a low one. It's tough to see things winding up but at the same time we have so much to be grateful for and happy about that the sadness that will come with the end of cycling is going to pale in comparison with the joy of seeing this journey through to completion.

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Hills

We're back into real hills for the first time in many weeks. Upper New York state is living up to it's reputation as hilly and spectacular.

I woke up with a bit of a sore knee from the previous day's ride. I think I mashed gears a bit too much trying to get up some of the shorter hills. It's easier than shifting with my shoulder as it is. I had myself a bit worried I was going to do a number on my knee just to save my shoulder. I was happy though that after an hour of riding things felt miles and miles better instead of worse. Today's hills were longer and steeper than the previous day's so I put out the effort to shift properly and took it easy on the knee.

I left camp alone but quickly caught up with Jenna Zee and Heidi Bentum who were rolling along at a good clip. I wasn't going much quicker than them and when I went by they latched on and followed in my draft. We pulled off the highway and checked out a huge waterfall and then soon were in Ithaca. The town was pretty cool and we stopped along a walking street downtown at a little coffee shop and bakery. We loaded up on caffeine and I bought a whole loaf of Olive bread which I proceeded to chow down on with a lot less help from the girls than I expected. Kinda reminiscent of the pancake breakfast the day before I remounted my bike stuffed full and started out of town. We climbed up the hill past Cornell University which I think would be a really sweet place to study (great bike racing community in the area too according to some locals). When I say hill I mean hill! This part of the country seems to have roads built before people had huge machinery (or at least the road-route, the surfaces are fantastic) and as a result they just run straight up the hills. We all managed up it with smiles on our faces and continued through the hills towards camp.

I have that camera of mine that was smashed in my crash replaced and it is working well except for the part where I want to upload photos from my SD card to the internet. I have to resize them with MS paint before uploading so only a few from today...

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Hammertime

I crawled out of my bed shortly after 7 am a whole half hour early for breakfast and was told that I was late for breakfast and they ha run out of oatmeal. A few of us who had slept in were a bit grumpy with this news and decided that we would need another breakfast on the road as a result. Now you might imagine that would make us get out of camp quickly but that wasn't the case because it was a bone chilling 10 degrees C with very high humidity. Anyhow, we took our sweet time getting out of camp and I left with Brad Geerlinks and John Vanderveen at about 8:30 hoping to catch Alex VanGeest and Kyle Meyerink shortly which we did indeed do. If you've been following my blog or others you'll know that this is pretty close to the same group I rode with when I crashed a week and a half ago. These are the cream of the crop when it comes to City Line Sprinting and with more than 30 towns to pass through (I am not joking about that number!) it should be an eventful day. I was not going to be racing but wanted to come along anyways to watch and cheer.

The pace was brisk as we rolled along over gentle hills around 36 kph. I no longer have an operational speedometer and I think that makes me less hesitant to ride at a faster pace as I don't think about going too hard because I have no reason to believe it's too fast as long as I feel fine doing it. That meant I was pulling our pack of 5 riders along for most of the first 40 kms. Up front means you're at the prime position for spotting city line signs and I did indeed spot the first one for Wheatland. I guess everyone else was distracted by the cold temperatures because they didn't see it and all I needed to do was 2 hard pedals to edge ahead of Kyle for the win. My victory cheer got under the skin of those guys because... well I'm a cripple and they don't like to loose. So for the rest of our 40kms before breakfast I didn't have a chance and mostly cheered for Kyle as he was second place to John about a dozen times in a row.

Our second breakfast consisted of coffee pancakes, bacon, eggs and hashbrowns and put everyone in a subdued mood for more sprints. I took advantage winning the next sprint on an uphill just by being the least sluggish... a bit more gloating about my accomplishment and that was the end of my victories for a few more miles.

Before lunch which was hosted by Palmyra CRC at a farm along the route I managed to snag two more wins from those guys because I was leading the pack for so much of the ride. I guess I should admit though the only ones I won were printed on white signs instead of the normal green. In some rulebooks these don't count because you can't tell if it's a city limit sign until you're within reading distance.

Lunch was great and while the food was excellent the nice grass was almost better as a dozen of us took the opportunity to take a big long nap under the trees.

Camp was on the shore of Seneca Lake which is one of the "finger lakes" of upper new York State. The final 20 kms of the ride we were rolling along the flat shoreline side by side. I realized that everyone is quite a bit fitter than we were 7 weeks ago. No-one would have thought about riding in the high thirties (kph) and breaking their own wind when they could be drafting off someone else. Well even after 120 hard kms we were still riding side by side because it makes having a conversation easier.

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