Cincinnati, Madison, Louisville, and Nashville

Q. If a person goes on a bike tour, and doesn’t blog about it every day, did they really go on a bike tour?

A. Yes! I just haven’t had a solid couple of hours of downtime concurrent with good cell phone service for a while. This is a catch-up post covering Cincinnati to Nashville-ish.

The doctors visit for the dog bite went OK – I was told: “we haven’t had a case of rabies from a dog bite in Ohio in over 25 years.” The doc gave me a tetanus shot and a prescription for antibiotics, but not rabies PEP shots (a 14 day process). Looking back on the ordeal, I really should have hung around a bit longer after the dog bite, and asked a few more questions (e.g. owner’s name, phone number, and whether the dogs were vaccinated). Still, I did make a note of the owner’s address, which later proved useful. Since this encounter, I’ve probably been chased by 10 more dogs, and my evasive routine is now more refined (it involves having pepper spray at arms reach, yelling “down! no!” at the attack dog(s), and pedaling as fast as I can).

That same Friday, I rolled out of the doc’s office around 10 am with 94 miles planned to get to a warmshowers host in Madison, IN. I stupidly followed google bike directions to get there. These took me through downtown Cincinnati, which was fine. I met Grant P on the trail, who is planning to do the TransAm in about a month.

Things went “downhill” when I crossed the bridge into Kentucky. I planned to take route 42 most of the way to Madison (generally following the ACA Underground Railroad route). Entering Kentucky, I was met with about 10 miles of strip malls and deadlocked traffic (consisting of approx 80% pickup trucks). I plugged away at it, riding the sidewalk when I had to. The traffic eased when I got out into the country, but then the riding got downright scary. Two-lane, twisting asphalt with no shoulder through the hills of rural Kentucky during rush-hour on a Friday = really awful. I got buzzed by way too many trucks and chased by way too many dogs. If there would have been an option to bail out on that road, I would have taken it. Instead, I went into survival mode and just pedaled as fast as I could to just get it over with. I finally made it back down to the Ohio river, where I called my warmshowers host Bob. He suggested that I cross over the bridge to Indiana and ride the last 2 hours on that side of the river.

I followed Bob’s advice, the clouds opened up, the sun started shining, and drivers suddenly started moving all the way over to the other lane to pass me. It was magical. I rolled up to Bob’s house that night, feeling incredibly relieved, and vowing to never ride a bicycle in rural Kentucky again.

Bob is a semi-retired dentist who has ridden a bicycle across the USA three times. His hospitality was wonderful, and we bonded over bikes, music, and the massive bridge across the Ohio river which is visible from his house. After my vow to never ride a bicycle in rural Kentucky again, I decided to take a rest day in Madison, ride one more day through Indiana to Lousiville, and cheat the next bit with a rental car from Lousiville to Nashville. The whole point of the trip is to have fun, and I don’t want to take any more unnecessary risks.

This proved to be a great decision, as the rest day in Madison was the first truly fun day I’d had since Pittsburgh. Unlike many of the towns I passed through in PA, OH, and KY, Madison was bustling. Tons of perfectly-preserved buildings, a glorious riverfront, great restaurants, and a sweet guitar store (crawdaddy music). Here are a few photos from that day:


Sunday, I rode a pleasant 60 miles through Indiana to the Louisville airport, where I rented a minivan and drove it to Nashville, meeting up with Meredith and her Dad Brad. We spent a few days resting in Nashville, eating and drinking well, and seeing some country music at the honky tonks and the grand ole opry.

Two weeks in (part two)

While in Pittsburgh, I was feeling pretty good about the distances I was covering each day. I decided to alter my plan a little, and try to meet up with Meredith in Nashville on Tuesday, May 16 by putting in some really long days. To make this happen, I’d need to make it to Columbus from Pittsburgh in three days. My first stop (Wheeling, WV) was 77 miles from Pittsburgh – much of it on the panhandle trail.

The next day was brutal, one of the worst for a couple of reasons. First, I greatly underestimated the hills of eastern Ohio (super steep and seemingly never ending). Second, my rear tire (schwalbe marathon) suffered a cut on some gravel. Fortunately I had a spare tire so I didnt need to try booting it. Third, I got chased by a lot of dogs (and not friendly ones).

I made the mistake of taking some gravel roads, where the dogs see very little action. Although I was able to sprint away from most of them, there was a moment near Cambridge, OH where I crested a hill, only to be blocked by a guy unloading his pickup truck and his two dogs. They were small but vicious, and one of them bit me in the leg. He asked which one bit me, and didn’t know. His response: “I guess I’ll get the gun out and shoot me both.” I left after that, not thinking much of it, as I wasn’t really bleeding and it didn’t hurt much, and proceeded to set up camp at AEP recreation lands (a 60,000 acre parcel of formerly strip-mined land, now converted to a weird but free recreation area).

The ride to Columbus was long (almost 100 miles) but pleasant. I did another 100 miles down to Cincinnati the next day, 100% on asphalt bike path (it was great). Stil, the more googling I did, the more I thought I should see a doctor for the dog bite. Thus, I’m presently sitting outside an urgent care facility in Cincinnati, waiting for it to open. We’ll see what happens from here.

PS – big thanks to Jordan K in Columbus for hosting me, and my Dad’s friend Darin M in Cincinnati. You’ve both been incredibly welcoming, and I can’t thank you enough.

Two weeks in (part one)

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost two weeks. I left philly Saturday afternoon, April 29. Since then, I’ve ridden 774 over 10 riding days and 3 rest days. Once I left Chambersburg, it was smooth and scenic riding down to the GAP trail and on into Pittsburgh (aside from a few trees down from a storm). My friends were planning a tailgate for a pirates game at 5 pm Friday, so that gave me extra motivation to get there quickly. I spent 2 days resting and hanging out with friends in PGH – thanks to Mike Bailey for providing a couch to sleep on. Here are a few photos from that leg of the trip (in reverse chronological order, because that’s how they uploaded from my phone):

Carpenter Bees, Gear Tweaks, and Golf

I left York, PA at about 9 AM Monday, and I arrived in Chambersburg, PA at around 3:30 PM. My route Monday followed Pennsylvania Bicycle Route S. It was actually pretty terrifying – I don’t recommend that anyone attempt to ride a bicycle on route 234 between East Berlin, PA and Arendtsville, PA. I get the feeling that PennDOT designated these routes only to help their rankings as a “bicycle-friendly state,” without putting much thought into what it would be like to actually ride them. The shoulders were non-existent, and the semi-trucks were often unfriendly. Still, this was hopefully the worst set of roads of the trip. Tomorrow (Wednesday) I’ll hook up with the C&O Canal trail, followed by the GAP trail to Pittsburgh. Once I reach Ohio, I have a hunch that I’ll be able to find some mellow Midwestern back-roads to take me to the TransAmerica trail, which I’ll pick up in Cave-in-Rock, IL.

Anyway – how about a quick summary of my wonderful rest day in Chambersburg? My folks relocated here from Iowa City, IA almost 3 years ago. It’s been nice to have them so close to Philly, and I often stop by when driving back and forth from Pittsburgh. I took the day off of riding to play a round of golf with my Dad at Penn National golf course (I lost about one ball per hole, which is par by my rules). I also stocked up on several pounds of snack foods, tweaked my front rack and rear pannier mounts, washed some clothes, balanced my bags, weighed the whole bike loaded up (74 lbs!), modified my Tevas, slept a lot, ate some delicious meals, and got rid of a carpenter bee problem. It was great.

PS: The carpenter bees found a home in some treated wood supporting my parents’ heat pump. We think they chose this spot due to temperature. I replaced the wood with composite decking. I emerged un-stung from the endeavor.

Good Friends

I’m thankful to have some incredible friends in Philly. For day 1 of the trip, Dan rode with me from fishtown to his parents’ house in Malvern, where we crashed for the night (but not before meeting up with John at the flying pig). Jono met us (on his birthday) just to ride for a bit to the conshy brewery for a couple of celebratory send-off beers. He heads back to Cuba tomorrow.

These are some of the kindest, funniest, and most thoughtful people I’ve met. I’m gonna miss them (fortunately, we’ll be reunited at Oh7 fest in August).

On Charity

It’s not my style to hustle people for money. It’s also not my style to pass up an opportunity to stand up for things I believe in.

Many folks have asked if the purpose of this trip is to raise money for a cause. The short answer is no. The long answer is a bit more complicated.

Mostly, I just love riding my bicycle and seeing new places, so the opportunity to ride from coast to coast is a dream come true. I’ve spent a good bit of money optimizing my gear, and I’ll probably spend a good bit more over the summer on food, fun, beer, and who-knows-what-else. With that in mind, if the goal was to raise money for an altruistic cause, it would be more efficient to skip the bike trip and keep working over the summer. But where’s the fun in that?

Still, I appreciate how fortunate I am to take this summer off without much to worry about other than where to sleep each night. So it feels wrong to forgo any kind of idealistic soap-boxing. Thus, I’ve made small donations to each of the charities listed below. Feel free to use these links to make donations of your own, or choose something else you care about to donate money or time to. Join a protest, clean up a park, sign a petition, put a sign in your yard, have a conversation. Just don’t do nothing.

350.org

350.org is a wide-reaching environmental advocacy group working to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels to below 350 parts per million.

American Civil Liberties Union

The ACLU works to “stop the erosion of civil liberties before it’s too late.”

Common Cathedral

Shout out to my big sister Laura – a pastor at Boston’s Common Cathedral, “an outdoor congregation, housed and un-housed, sharing God’s love through community, pastoral care, creative expression, and worship on Boston Common. We are non-proselytizing and ecumenical. We welcome and support all people.” Last Christmas, I attended an outdoor service led by my sister at the Boston Common. I was moved by how something as simple as asking about someone’s day can mean so much to the right person.

Girls Rock Pittsburgh

Girls Rock is an empowerment program for female youths of all definitions, abilities and backgrounds. Girls Rock! Pittsburgh utilizes the process of making music to instill tools for amplifying self-confidence, creative expression, independent thinking, mutual respect, and cooperation while cultivating a supportive and inclusive community of peers and mentors. Girls Rock! Pittsburgh is committed to community awareness, social agency, and fostering a network of role models for the endeavors of girls and women that promote social change amongst its diverse participants.”

Howdy, World.

2017 will be an interesting year. I’ve been chipping away at some big life goals for a long time, and a few of them are suddenly becoming reality:

  • I’ve been writing folk songs since college. In February, I had the opportunity to record some of them at my friend Ted’s recording studio. The album will be released digitally in a few weeks, and a small batch of vinyl records will be pressed over the summer.
  • On April 21, I’ll sit for the PE exam (the culmination of 9 years of college coursework and civil engineering practice).
  • And the big one… I’m taking the summer off to ride my bicycle across the USA! I technically started the trip in February by riding out to Long Beach Island, NJ, but the real trip starts from Philly on April 29, 2017. This trip has been a dream of mine for years, and I’m incredibly excited to finally have the chance to make it happen. I’m also super grateful to have found someone crazy enough to ride with me for most of the trip (check out Meredith’s blog for slightly funnier posts than mine). Prior to even meeting each other, we were both independently planning on taking the PE in April, then moving out of Philly and riding our bicycles across the USA. What are the odds of that?!

A few friends have asked if I’ll keep a blog during the trip, so here we are. I’ll post some photos to instagram (@frontiersunrise), but this page should be a good medium for more detailed updates and higher-resolution photos.

The title of the blog refers to “The Long Cut,” a song written by Jeff Tweedy during his Uncle Tupelo days. I think the lyrics do a good job describing my mindset for this trip:

Come on, let’s take the long cut
I think that’s what we need

Finally, here are a few photos from the first leg of the trip (Philly to the NJ shore, then back the next day):