“The hills are alive with the sound of panting”.
Florida is flat and warm, which is fine to go out cycling and put in the miles. However you can get to a point where you think you are becoming a decent cyclist forgetting that in most other states you are required to ride up and down slopes, hills and sometimes mountains. With this in mind I got the idea to go on a road trip to find some hills to climb. After some emails and talking with Deirdre I had a plan. Drive to Philadelphia and visit family (and ride), go to New York to see my niece play field hockey for Columbia University, head over to Vermont and New Hampshire to conquer some hills and mountains, go into Canada to visit my brother in Halifax (and cycle) then visit my nephew at St FX University, back to Philadelphia (and cycle), down to Asheville and ride a few days in The Blue Ridge Mountains and finally home. I tend to get these mad ideas for road trips usually with my golf and especially trying to play the top 100 courses in the world. However this time I felt more like Lance Armstrong off to conquer the hills of North America.
Off I went in the Range Rover North on I95 for a couple of days until I reached Newtown Square near Philadelphia. One of my sister-in-law’s, Colleen, often puts up with me staying at her house as a staging post to play golf in and around the New York, Long Island areas. This time I arrived with my bike and a bag full of Lycra. Colleen told me of a purpose built cycling trail, which I later found and rode a nice 60 miles without much stress. Then it was pick up Deirdre from the airport (she can only stand so much time strapped into a car) and we headed to “The Big Apple”. After a cold night of field hockey and a Colombia win, the Anderson/Farkas/Edgerton clan met the next evening to go and see the musical “Waitress”. I have to say, not being a lover of musical theatre, it was great fun and really entertaining. Highly recommend it.
The next day it was back on the road North, via West Point, to Stowe in Vermont. Now finally I got to see some mountains. The following morning was cold but bright. Having got very used to the mid 80’s F in Florida, the mid 40’s F did feel sharp. However just after lunch, bundled up in as many layers as I could find, I pedaled off towards the nearest mountain. I returned 1 hour and 19 minutes later, dreams shattered and confidence shot. After a short ride along a lovely bike path beside a meandering stream I reached some steep slopes. Off I set up a side road in my smallest gear and began climbing. I managed only 120ft of elevation gain before I was panting so hard I had to stop, not exactly what I had envisioned. I had a break and sailed down the road to try it again, this time steadier and more determined. Maybe I got a further 30ft or so higher but again I was done. Just to really kill my ego, when I tried to start off again and head up further, I stood on the pedals and clipped my shoes in, only to find the bike not move until it fell sideways with me locked in and falling with it. My only saving grace was that I was very much alone as I lay laughing in a large fluorescent yellow Lycra heap in the road. Time to head back and re-think this. I did manage to ride for 15 miles with a rather ordinary 873ft of climbing, but I was defeated on this day. Next day Deirdre and I drove around the beautiful hills and came across the “real” Von trap family home which is now a resort celebrating the “sound of music” and the real story of the family. Unfortunately for me it felt a little tired and not very enthusiastic in its presentation, however it did bring back all of those songs my mother made me sing while she played the Steinway as a child. With the words of “climb every mountain” rolling around my head we headed off towards New Hampshire.
My next climb was attempted in Bretton Woods NH. Again it was cold when I ventured out of the “Mount Washington Resort”. Apprehensively I wandered around the foothills of the Mountains that surrounded the resort. Today was better and again I managed 1,000ft of elevation gain in around 14 miles.
After a beautiful drive to Nova Scotia we met my brother in Halifax, and then headed to Antigonish for a sit and freeze soccer experience. Unfortunately Joe my nephew was injured so wasn’t playing but it was fun to watch his team win and then catch up on all things St FX. A couple of days passed and we returned to Halifax and Deirdre headed back to Florida by airplane. I visited some vineyards and beautiful Lakeside locations with my brother. Also I completed another couple of hilly rides around the area he lives in.
Then off I drove from Halifax for 15 hours and reached Newtown Square ready to ride some more. A long, cold sunny day of 6hrs riding, (plus an hour at Starbucks) 61 miles and another 3,419ft of elevation gain. This did include 2 hills I actually had to push my bike up a little, but they were steep hills and I didn’t feel that bad once I had finished the ride.
Another long day in the car and I was now in Asheville NC, with the sun shining on the remaining yellow, red and orange changing leaves. There was actually snow on the high mountains to the west, but I had just made it in time to get a couple of days on and around the “Blue Ridge Parkway”. During my two rides around Elk mountain and the Parkway I clocked up another 34 miles and climbed 3,400ft. Asheville and the surrounding area is truly a beautiful spot to visit. I have been fortunate to go there a few times but on this occasion to take my time riding around, soaking in all its natural beauty was special. I hope this is a sign of things to come on my longer ride across the country, when I will be exposed to many daily views which I’m sure will be no less spectacular.
Finally it was back to Florida with an idea of how hard climbing on a bike really is, but with a determination to train hard to be able to conquer all that I will face.