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By the time I finish writing this blog post (and editing it over and over), I should be 20 hours away from the start of my 330 mile trek to NYC. This might seem like a big feat to some of my readers, but keep in mind that the Guinness World Record for fastest circumnavigation of the globe by a woman on a bicycle (and other means) is held by Juliana Buhring, who completed her attempt in a total of 152 days in December 2012. This consists of traveling the length of the equator or 24,900 miles, and 18,000 of those miles must be cycled. This fact helps keep my ego in check and gives me something to strive for. I cannot begin to imagine how incredible it must be to cycle the globe, but I can dream it. Before that however, I have a three day tri-state trek to tackle. After that, I am not sure how much cycling I will be doing because I am starting North Bennet Street School in September and will be pretty busy between full-time school and my part-time job. I am considering cycling to and from school before the inclement weather begins, but am still up in the air about that. After this 330 mile ride, my next tentative cycling challenge is from Quincy, MA to Bar Harbor, Maine, which I am hoping to fulfill next summer for my second and final fundraiser for school (if needed). Ssshhh….please keep this on the DL (down low) because when I mentioned this idea to my loyal and loving girlfriend recently, I think I caught her rolling her eyes before she kindly told me to please just stick to the ride to New York for now. Although I joke with her, I am thankful she anchors me and reins in my kite’s twine sometimes because I can fly away with grand ideas in a fraction of a second. For example, after my recent experience riding 126 miles solo with no ride-along support, I began thinking about when and how I could cycle across the United States at a reasonably small cost. Perhaps this is the 20 year old dreamer stuck in a 40 year old body, still yearning to have backpacked or cycled across Europe or to have joined the Peace Corps and gone to Uganda. Alas, I digress. Remember where your feet are Liz. Currently my feet are straight out in front of me on an unmade bed from Ikea covered in dog hair due to my canine soul mate who is pressed up against me, and I am in the spare room of my 3 bedroom apartment in Quincy, Massachusetts typing one last blog post about my recent and future cycling adventures.
I apologize for having been an utter slacker when it comes to blogging recently, and it isn’t due to the lack of material. In the last three plus weeks since I last wrote, I took a solo 126 mile ride to Provincetown, cycled some serious “hills” in the Mad River Valley area of Vermont, cycled back and forth multiple times along the very straight and flat 18 mile stretch of terrain on Long Beach Island, and was on a week long vacation where I set a personal record for consecutive days of ice cream consumption…7. I have had lots to write about, but have been otherwise preoccupied I guess.
Alas, I am back and I will share a little about my latest cycling escapades. Approximately 3 weeks ago I had the bright idea that I would put my training to the test and see how I’d fare doing a ride of 100 miles or more. How about Provincetown, I thought, as I had ridden there a few times before for various charities. Within moments of the thought crossing my mind, I jumped online to check out the ferry schedule to see when the last boat from Provincetown leaves for Boston. 8:30 p.m. is the last scheduled fast ferry out of Ptown this time of year; so I figured that would give me plenty of hours to get there if I left at 6 a.m. I talked it over with my partner Justine, who at this point is all too accustomed to my spontaneous/impulsive ideas. She said she would pick me up in Boston, which I greatly appreciated because a 10:30 p.m. ride through Boston, down Morrissey Boulevard after riding more than 100 miles was not on my to-do-list. Moments later I bought the Boston Harbor Cruises tickets for the 8:30 p.m. ferry from Provincetown to Boston… so I knew there was no backing out now.
While preparing for my ride, I decided I would bring my trusty “little” REI backpack. This backpack has an incredible knack for holding a surprising number of items in several nifty pockets, and can also handle numerous items attached to its backside with two bottles on its hips. I brought a change of regular clothes because I did not want to subject passengers to my sweaty heavily scented bicycle clothes on the ferry ride home, nor did I want to sit in that gear for one more minute than absolutely necessary. I brought some food for the ride (3 protein bars, and one peach, plum, and nectarine); ipad to keep me occupied on boat ride home, back up battery for iphone when juice runs out; wireless hot spot to relieve the 4G; wireless speaker so I grab inspiration from my tunes while cycling up big hills; power cords to charge electronic equipment any chance I could get; wallet with cash, identification and plastic; sun block and bug spray, a clean pair of socks and bicycle shorts because it feels so refreshing to put them on halfway through a long day’s ride; and makeup and hair products because after all, it is Ptown and I need to look cute when walking the block . I vaguely recall reading an article about cross country cycling where the author made recommendations about packing lightly for long rides because whatever you pack, you need to carry. Needless to say, I did not heed this advice.
When I mentioned to my mother that I was planning on riding to Provincetown, she asked me my route. I wanted to tell her I was taking all the infrequently traveled back roads to Ptown, but somehow I managed to squeeze out the truth…I planned to take 3A to the Sagamore Bridge and primarily 6A after that. If she used titles from my Spotify playlist she would have said, “Oh sweet child of mine, what are you livin’ la vida loca or maybe you are just knockin’ on Heaven’s door?” As always, she shared her worries, which were recently reinforced when I was hit by a woman driving her weapon of choice and oblivious to the fact that she needed to look for both cars and bicycles before pulling into her driveway in front of me. My mother gave me her blessing anyway, but not before expressing her worry about the amount of anticipated traffic because traveling to Cape Cod is a very popular thing to do on the South Shore in July and August. I tried to convince her that traffic was really a good thing for a cyclist because it meant slower cars, but I’m not sure she bought that line. She wished me luck and told me she was proud of me…and in my book, there is nothing better than a Proud Mary!
I started the ride from my Quincy apartment so I was quite familiar with the lovely pot-hole littered roads along 3A in Weymouth and Hingham, and I knew how to avoid all those. The first ten miles or so, which usually goes by without me realizing I rode them, was unusually taxing. My back was swearing at me for carrying my trusty REI pack…and I was surprised by how much this small bag was weighing me down. Ten miles in at 7 in the morning, I knew there was no way I was going to make it to Provincetown carrying that pack on my back. I am definitely not a wimp, but my back was aching something fierce because it was unaccustomed to being in that position with an extra ten or fifteen pounds on it. After a few minutes of self-pity, I heard words of encouragement from my playlist, saying, “Don’t stop believing…I’m a survivor, and I will survive three hours with a backpack.” I say three hours because I knew the bike stores would be open by 10, and I could stop and get a rack put on my bike to hold the back pack. I put the temporary backpack problem out of my head; and before I knew it I was in Plymouth…and actually considering whether I should cycle the rest of the way with the backpack on because I grew used to the pain ;).
Besides Provincetown and a bike store to get a rack, I had one other destination priority, and that was Ali’s Galley to get me a hefty rare roast beef sandwich on an onion roll with horseradish and cheese. After stopping first at Benny’s to buy some bungee cords and a bike lock and second at Starbuck’s for a coffee frappuchino while charging my phone, I landed at the Ali’s Galley for a well deserved lunch. As always, Ali did not disappoint. The sandwich was amazing, and it was topped off by a mega-sized brownie hot out of the oven. I was able to spend a few minutes chatting with my old friend Ali, which was the best part of it all; and off I went heading towards the canal. When I asked Ali how many miles until the bridge via 3A, she said she had no idea but knew it was about 15 minutes by car and she warned me about the elevated Pine Hills section. I shoved off eagerly thinking I’d be at the bridge in about 30 to 40 minutes, forgetting how big Plymouth really is. I’m not sure how long it actually took me to ride to the canal from Ali’s Galley because I was segued into Serious Cycles bike shop and got superb service from Dennis, who fit me to an Axiom Flip-Flop LX Seatpost. A word of caution: If this starts a bicycle touring obsession, blame Dennis because he gave me “my new rack,” in a manner of speaking. Dennis mentioned that I would have to invest in a “more sturdy rack” if I wanted to do touring in the future, and that was all I needed to start me thinking about my cross-country tour. Dennis was a sweetheart, putting the rack on Old Yeller’ free of charge, and helping me to secure my backpack and seat bag to the rack with the four bungee cords I bought at Bennie’s.
I was so relieved to get the overstuffed REI backpack off my shoulders that I forgot that I would still be carrying the weight, but this time on my bike instead. When I rolled my bike out of the store, I was unaccustomed to the heavy weight on the back of Old Yeller’, and she almost fell over. I figured this would just take some getting used to, which was accurate because every time I stood up to pedal, the weight of the bike shifted to whatever side I was leaning. I decided that Route 3A was not the optimal test track for learning how far I could lean without falling into traffic, and so I chose to remain seated in order to stabilize the weight of my bike when cars were driving by.
All and all, my ride to Provincetown was exquisite. Mother Nature could not have created a more perfect weather day as it was high 70’s and dry, which is very uncommon for Massachusetts in July. The scenery along the way was charming and quaint, particularly when I reached the Cape Cod Canal because after that I was able to follow the Pan Mass Challenge signs to Provincetown, which allowed me to cycle less traveled back roads and bike trails through Cape Cod rather than Rte 6A as I anticipated. I have never been so thankful for the green PMC signs and inspirational words scrolled along the roadways before because although I have done that ride in the past, there were countless bikers to follow and volunteers to guide us with directions along the route. I stopped a handful of times along the way for ice cream (of course), cash, refills of drinks, and to savor the moments by taking pictures. Other than the sizable climbs in Truro on the last leg of my 126 mile trip, which I selectively and conveniently forgot about, the ride was a smooth sail. I arrived in Ptown at 7:00, so I didn’t have as much time to walk around and check out the scene as I had hoped…but of course I had time for an incredible burger at Bubula’s. However, I wouldn’t have changed a thing because the moments I had when stopping for lunch with a friend and having a home made ice cream at a locals’ favorite in Yarmouth were priceless. I am also very thankful for the hard lessons I learned about packing lighter and choosing to disperse the weight on my bike rather than cycling with a backpack because these led me to find creative solutions, brought me to Dennis at Serious Cycles who sparked my interest in touring, and gave me increased confidence to overcome challenges along the way.
Because I have written a lot so far, I will not go into great detail about the rest of my cycling the last couple of weeks. I will just give you the highlights and lowlights. While the 126 miler to Ptown was a great test of endurance for me, my biking through the Green Mountain State was a test for my quadriceps and hamstrings. I didn’t cycle huge distances, but the 25 and 30 mile rides felt twice as long because of the steep inclines. The speeds, which topped out at 45 miles an hour, were exhilarating and a welcomed sequel to the 4 to 6 mile an hour muscle straining climbs. It was all incredible though! I felt like I was 25 years old again, when I would pick up a bike map of whatever area I was in, and go wherever my spirit moved me to go. I wish I had more time to cycle out to Burlington and beyond, but the few rides I went on through the Mad River Valley left a lasting impression. NEXT GREAT CHALLENGE: Lincoln Gap, which will require a lot more squats, lunges, and hill training to prepare for.
The lowlights: Other than a couple of 40 mile rides in Long Beach Island and one 40 miler when I returned to Quincy, I have notcycled much this last week. This is for a couple of reasons. First, I needed to get my bike assessed and repaired, after being hit by a car more than a month ago. Second, I was forced to rest after pulling a muscle in my back doing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge when I hoisted a cooler full of 20 pounds of ice and water over my head…no comments please. I must say it is a strange feeling going into a 330 mile ride to New York tomorrow when I haven’t sat on my bike in 6 days, run for 9 days or lifted for 2 weeks because this is the longest break I have taken since my training began in April. I have been mainly icing my back, taking herbal concoctions recommended by my chiropractor, and going for massages and chiropractic sessions this week. I am going to trust that unlike in my high school and college days when I would cram for tests the night before and pray that the information stuck in my head long enough to pass the test, I don’t need to cram for this physical test because I have already prepared adequately enough over the last 5 months. I know myself well enough to know that if my physical self feels incredibly challenged over the next three days and tries to hijack my brain and tell it to quit, my McSharry perseverance and Rice toughness will take over and carry me through. Don’t get me wrong, I will definitely be praying to my brother and grandmother for a strong tail wind when ascending the mountains in Connecticut…but no matter what challenges I face over the next 330 miles, I will not quit! Is that MC Hammer calling me…Too legit, too legit to quit…
Sayonara…you shall hear from me (God willing) upon completion. Here are a few photos from my Provincetown and Vermont rides.
To donate to Liz’s Bike to Build at NBSS Fund, click here: