So how do the first three days of blogs get written and then from Day 4 to the finish fall off the map? That is where we will begin….
Days 4, 5, 6 and 7 were all interesting and my lack of blogging started on Day 4 as we traveled from State College to Lewisburg.
We actually arrived fairly early on a nice, easy ride. Steve and I were hungry and the rooms were not ready so we grabbed a bite to eat, I did some work for EarthShare NJ (I am an officer on their board) for a conference call that would take place Thursday. A few phone calls to the family and it was time to go to dinner. Hence why no blog.
Thursday was a tougher day as we rode into Hazelton and did not arrive until 3p. My conference call started at 3:30p and I had a few things to catch up on at Cooper Pest, by this time it was 5:30p, so again no blog.
I hope you are tuning up the violins!!!!
Friday, our day from hell (more to come) ended at around 3p, water logged, mentally exhausted, we ordered pizza, tried to dry out and get ready for the banquet, so no blog. And that brought us to Saturday where I was happy to be home so, again, no blog.
However, today is Sunday morning and it is time to get you caught up on the week. Yes, a blog and you can now put your violins away J.
Since there is a lot to cover, I will give you some bullets so you can read what you want.
The executive summary is:
- Dog: Big black dog tries to eat the team, Tarzan to the rescue (courtesy of Tanya Conover)
- Friday Fright: Fog & Rain do not stop the team
- UPS: Truck tried to hit the team
- Beth Heats Up, Literally
- The Eats Five Star Experiences, Otto’s (State College), Reba & Poncho’s (Lewisburg), Top of the 80s (Hazelton)
- Butch, The Constable, is this Duck Dynasty North?
- Nuclear Plant, it’s NOT Three Mile Island
- What’s ahead….Dan’s garage and Dan
- SAG-ETTIQUETTE, Jill protects the food
- New Rider, Jill Lissa
- Knee Update: My knee is perfect, no swelling
- A flatless week, Steve, Phil, Chris go flatless for first time as a group
- Strong Riding Team rides strong
- Amish Everywhere
- Café Galleria, All You Want to Know and Why you should go
- 5 year award for Steve and Phil, can it be five years already?
- Quakerbridge Mall and Family, it never gets old
- Afterthoughts of an Amazing Ride
WOW…are you sure you want to read on?
Dog, No Lunch for You!
When I think of dogs I think of Tanya Conover, my great friend and fellow cross country cyclist from 2012. It was in Kentucky that Tanya taught me how to scare away dogs by digging deep into your guts and bellowing out the words “NO.” It stops a dog in its track long enough for you to pedal very fast and get away. Trust me it works.
Enter Day 4, as we were all grouped together riding strong. It is not common for all of us to be riding in two’s but this day we were. In the lead were Chris and I (Chris on right, I on the left), behind us were Beth and Steve followed by Niall.
I guess we were riding around 18mph when out of nowhere to my left flies out of the yard a big black lab who goes straight at Chris. Not wanting to hit the dog and shocked, Chris hit his brakes as the dog skidded at the front tire, it all happened so fast. The next five seconds seemed like 60 but for some reason the dog did not bite Chris and decided Steve, Beth and Niall looked like a better dinner and whirled around them from behind and started the chase. By this time I was about ten feet ahead and Tanya kicked in. I let out the NO bellow and started pedaling really fast.
Now, that is not the version that Beth remembers. From her vantage behind me, the dog decided to change course, go behind them and then they heard a yell like Tarzan, not sure what was coming out of my mouth they were not sure whether to be more scared of the dog or what I was doing.
As soon as I yelled, it appeared someone had shot me in the butt as I accelerated quicker than they had ever seen. Niall’s heart nearly came out of his chest, he said he did not know his heart could beat that quickly. Chris was figuring out why we did not run over the dog and how the dog got from in front of the team to behind. I was long gone.
The Tarzan yell is now famous in our team. I know I yelled NO, my teammates are not so sure. But either way the black lab did not get his lunch.
Friday Fright: Fog & Rain Do Not Stop the Team
Friday July 14 will go down as one of the worst days of riding that I have ever experienced. It is on days like this that we all question our sanity, why we do this and how very thankful we are when we finish that we are all safe.
We knew it was going to be a bad day with the forecast. Rain and thunderstorms were forecasted all day from Hazelton to Bethlehem. So we donned the rain gear, for me my new Patagonia Orange rain jacket and my rain covers (booties) for my cleats. Wrap the Garmin (my computer) in a Ziploc bag, seal it with a rubber band, put my phone in the protective area of the jacket and get ready for a day of fun. That was Friday morning.
The good news is my body felt really good. The bad news, is Day 6 of this ride was going to be tough anyway without the weather. Lots of climbing in the mountains, some really steep down hills (which could have been tons of fun), 77 miles and five days of riding behind us.
We started late, around 7:40a, and the rain was coming down lightly but enough to get water on the glasses and make visibility poor. We coached our new rider teammate, Jill Lissa (more to come on her) on the do’s and don’ts.
Do: pump your brakes to get the water off.
Don’t: ride through puddles you never know if there is a hole that could send you on a header.
Do: give yourself more room with the bike ahead of you.
Don’t: get close to the bike ahead of you and get sprayed in the face with the spray coming off the tire.
About five miles in we had our first flat as a group (it turned out that Beth had a flat the day she went ahead with Niall while Steve, Chris and I circled back to the Shanksville Memorial). Niall’s tubeless tire took some serious damage but as luck would have it, Pete Garnish from Knapp’s Cyclery, our amazing mechanic who takes care of the cycles on the ride, was Johnny on the Spot. As Niall pulled to the side of the road, Pete just happened to drive up. All told we lost 20 minutes but gosh were we lucky.
The day did not get better as we fought dense fog climbing the mountains outside of Hazelton. Visibility was about 100 feet, and the climbing was tough. Even worse were the downhills. I bruised my palms from gripping the handle bars so tight, constantly pumping the brakes.
The rain never let up, sometimes a drizzle, sometimes much more. Fortunately, there were no downpours and no lighting. I can deal with rain, I am not a fan of riding in a lightning storm.
So as we arrived in Bethlehem at around 3:10p you won’t believe what happened. You guessed it, the rain stopped and the skies turned blue. Go figure!!
UPS – Truck Tried to Hit the Team
As bike riders, we always need to be aware of our surroundings. It is a dangerous sport with sticks on the side of the roads, pot holes, road kill and the other things that can make a really fun day turn horribly wrong, especially if you hit any of them at speed in excess of 20mph (not that we are always going that fast). Worse yet is vehicles, they are bigger, stronger, faster.
So as we were going down a hill, most likely in excess of 25 mph, a UPS truck was trying to make a left turn into our lane. I am positive he saw us coming and apparently thought twice of waiting, so he started to pull out and then stopped. Good thing as Niall swerved as he would have slammed into the truck. It was a healthy dose of reality and why we always need to be aware of our surroundings.
Beth Heats Up, Literally
Day 4 was a great day for all of us, riding from Lewisburg to Hazleton, that is all except Beth.
She experienced for the first time something that happens to most bike riders at one time or another, their body losing control of its heat regulation. I do not believe it is heat stroke but more like heat exhaustion. You just cannot get the body to cool down, your head feels like it wants to pop off and your legs do not work.
We spent that last third of the ride taking it super slow to get Beth through the ride. She iced her neck and head down, took frequent stops and we made sure she was safe. Fortunately the temperature was in the 80s but the bad side was 90% humidity and that is what we believe did Beth in.
Beth’s adversity was our good fortune as we had a nice leisurely ride in the country side, laughing, talking, singing (we do sing a lot on the bikes, sometimes solo, sometimes as a group). It was a one-day thing for Beth, she cooled down once we got to Hazleton and never heated up again. We always knew she was hot stuff!
The Eats Five Star Experiences
Otto’s, State College
Our eating on this trip continued to be an all-star experience. Once again, I have set the bar high for next year as I look for our best places to eat.
Otto’s in State College (a must if you are in State College) has amazing craft beer, outrageous food and our super server Abby, who made my birthday dinner special. We had our whole gang, sans Jill (I think she went out with her SAG gang). I was trying really hard to figure out what I wanted for dinner and I asked Abby if she were me and having a birthday dinner, what would she order?
She asked, “Do you like meat,” I never had a chance to respond as the table responded for me, “Yes.”
“So,” she replied, “there really is only one choice, the Three Meats.” (I think that was the name, pulled pork, ribs and knockwurst).
My initial reaction was, “Not really,” and Abby in a very sweet voice with a giggle asked, “Then why did you ask?”
The table rallied behind Abby and heaping plenty of abuse my way. Yes, I ordered the Three Meats, it was outstanding along with their amazing baked beans (some of the best in the country), and coleslaw. The rest of the night was just a lot of fun as we had bonded with our server.
The other thing you must get if you go to Otto’s are their smoked wings. Can we ship them back home?
But the day would not be complete without Niall buying me an Otto’s T-Shirt for my birthday and then the five of us piling into a Jeep Cherokee with four of us stuffed into the back driven by Uber driver, Emree, who was awesome. Chris was squashed like a sardine in a can, and Beth took a great selfie of us in the back of the car, all cozy. This is my kind of birthday dinner, thanks team!!
Reba & Poncho’s (Lewisburg)
Another big thank you goes to my other amazing teammates from the cross country ride in 2012, Kait and Mike Anderson (now married, just dating in 2012). Bucknell sweethearts, they were my source of information for our Lewisburg eats.
While there were several great choices, Reba and Poncho’s outside of downtown was the meal ticket and it was definitely worth the trip. Niall’s friend from college, Dennis, picked up Niall and Chris at their hotel (we were in separate hotels Day 4) and met Beth, Steve and I at the restaurant.
Interestingly, Dennis, who has lived near Lewisburg for 12 years had never heard of this place but is coming back real soon. Reba & Poncho’s is an unassuming house and home to this great place. The restaurant has a small but diverse menu offering everyone something. From homemade gnocchi, fish, chicken, beef and salads there is something for all.
The flatbread pizza with roasted cauliflower was awesome. Even Steve, who hates cauliflower had a piece and enjoyed it, despite his complaining before he tried it. When Steve started asking all kinds of questions about the gnocchi dish, the server asked if he would prefer to just have gnocchis with butter and parm cheese (off the menu). It did not disappoint, according to Steve it was perfect.
I had the half chicken, which again I would eat any day of the week, the flavors were off the charts. So, another great night of eats, thanks to Mike and Kait.
Top of the 80s
The view from our table
From the left: Chris, Niall & Jill
Hazelton was supposed to be a bad food day. The plan was to order pizza but word from Niall and Chris was there was a decent restaurant attached to the hotel. With a little research I quickly discovered pizza was off the menu and a quick reservation for six (Jill Voorhees was with us this night) was in order for 7p.
We got a window view and the mountains were shrouded in mist. It was simply breathtaking and the food was outstanding. Steve and I got shut out for the third time in one week on the meal we wanted. Meat loaf wrapped in bacon was what we independently decided upon but to no avail, it was all gone.
Devastated, I had to search the menu and settled on Barrimondi, a white fish. If you know me, fish is usually the last thing I eat but I could hear my wife Laura applauding me and that made me feel good. That was until Steve ordered Chicken Parm, which started my food envy.
My fish was good but not as good as Steve’s dinner. Fortunately for me, Steve shared a portion with me so life was good again. Then there was the strangest thing of the trip. Chris figured out at this restaurant if you order wine by the glass, it is cheaper than buying the bottle. Thinking this was impossible, I checked his math. It was spot on so wine by the glass it was for all of us. So freakin’ bizzare. But, being our last group meal of the week, as the banquet was the next night we had a wonderful meal.
Butch, The Constable, is this Duck Dynasty North?
You never know who you are going to run into along the ride. I cannot remember where we were and I really never talked to Butch but our picture of him with Beth is priceless.
This guy was in fatigues, apparently is the Constable of the town, wears his badge, and I bet he was carrying. Butch apparently stayed to greet all of the riders throughout the day at our SAG stop and seemed to enjoy himself. I can’t tell you much as I was just amused watching him. To B2, Beth and Butch!
Nuclear Plant – it’s NOT Three Mile Island
Riding alongside country roads, passing Amish buggies, fields of corn and beautiful country side you do not expect to see a nuclear plant appear out of nowhere. However, that is what occurred as we approached Dan’s garage for one of our rest stops between Lewisburg and Hazelton. Everyone kept saying it was Three Mile Island but I knew that was impossible. Three Mile Island is near Harrisburg and as it turns out I was right, we were looking at the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station, Nuclear Plant. The picture tells a thousand words.
What’s ahead….Dan and Dan’s Garage
SAG 2 on our ride from Lewisburg to Hazelton was Dan’s garage. You never know where our SAG stops will be, usually churches and schools but sometimes fun places pop up. Enter Dan’s.
Dan, a really cool guy, along with a girl (I did not catch her name but I would not mess with her) run the garage. Dan and I got to talking and he was curious about the ride, the cause, and where we were riding. I pulled out our cue sheet (that is the written turn by turn directions for the day) and he started looking at the cue sheet, shaking his head. He could not comprehend us getting the bikes up the steep inclines as he described each one blow by blow. As we did the rest of the ride I knew exactly what was coming and it was not as bad as it was in Dan’s mind!
SAG-ETTIQUETTE, Jill protects the food
I have not had a chance to talk about our great new teammate Jill Voorhees. A five year support veteran of the ride, Jill is our adopted teammate. By chance, she ended up rooming with Beth and being the nice people we are, we asked her to dinner with us on Day 1.
Jill fit in right away with us and the rest is history. Now, during one of our early dinners, Jill gave us what Beth coined as SAG-ETTIQUETE. Jill explained that at the SAG stops some riders simply are gross (well she did not use that word, she is too nice) and come in and unzip their shirts with sweat wanting to drip on the fruit, peanut butter and jelly etc. Then there are the sweaty bike seats that get near the tables. Our whole team was chuckling as Jill gave us a lesson on what not to do and the etiquette to follow when coming into SAG. So, let’s go back to Dan’s garage.
Dan’s garage is on a very steep hill so I had parked my bike against his garage. Earlier in the day, we had left the hotel but because we were staying at the Country Inn & Suites and not at the host hotel, we did not have air pumps to top off our tires as they were back with the main group.
Not to worry, my tires were at fairly high pressure and I knew once we got to SAG 1, I could top off my tires. SAG 1 was at Dan’s and of course there was a pump, but it was near the food table. Not remembering the lesson from Jill, I leaned my bike with my sweaty seat against the food table. Jill jumped into action, incredulous that I would commit such a violation after her coaching session.
I was actually pretty tired and just wanted to fill my tires and needed a place to rest my bike so at first I ignored her and then realized that might not be the best course of action. I asked Jill to hold my bike while I pumped the tires and we were set.
Over the next mile, my biking buddies were shaking their head at me. While this was going on, back at SAG 1 my great teammate Jill started worrying that she might have offended me, so much so that it bothered her the rest of the day. When we got to dinner she was so concerned she went too far. Worry not Jill, you were right, SAG-ETTIQUETTE is important. You ROCK!!!
New Rider, Jill Lissa
I am not sure where, but we picked up a new rider as part of our group Jill Lissa, hailing from Medford, NJ. I think it was day 4. She is really nice, a strong rider and it looks like a new team addition. She rode with us but has not become a full member of the dinner crew but we will see what next year brings.
The bottom line, she was a welcome addition and we really enjoyed riding with her. She finished her rookie adventure in fine style leading us into the finish. Way to go Jill.
Knee Update: My Knee is Perfect, No Swelling
Going into the ride I was really worried about my right knee. I worried that it would swell on Day 1, which was billed as brutal and it would all go downhill. I trained on hills to prevent this but I was getting swelling on each of my training rides. Whether it was the Turmeric, No. 7 (I have no idea what is in this supplement), the Bio-freeze applied to my knee, the KT-Tape on Day 6 & 7 (as precautionary measure) or my training, I do not know what worked, but I rode strong all week and my knee never swelled. Whew!!!!
A Flatless Week – Steve, Phil, Chris Go Flatless for First Time As a Group
After the ride was complete, Steve and I both said to each other how we kept thinking that neither one of us (along with Chris) had a flat nor mechanical troubles with our bikes. But none of us would say a word during the ride in fear that we would jinx it. It is the first time that one of us did not have some type of problem, it is so nice to ride without flats or issues.
Strong Riding – Team Rides Strong
What will be memorable about 2017 is how strong we all rode. Sans Beth’s overheating, we never were in trouble, rode together, conquered the climbs, flew downhill, flew along the flats in a pace line (that is when you line up about 1-2 feet from the other bike and draft taking turns up front, which is called pulling). We did 1 mile pulls and just cruised. Bottom line, this team hung together and had one kick-butt ride.
The ride this year was filled with Amish enclaves. Every day we rode, we would come across an Amish settlement nestled in the hills of Western and Central Pennsylvania.
I love to watch the buggies, the children and the simpler life they lead. As I mentioned before, they always settle in the same type of terrain, rolling hills with some very steep inclines. When you are riding you know immediately if you are in an area that most likely will be Amish. To riding in Amish settlements!!
Café Galleria, All You Want to Know and Why You Need to Go
One of the best parts of the ride is getting to know your teammates better. When you ride with the same people for five hundred miles, 40 hours in the saddle over seven days there is lots to talk about and lots of questions. Of course, poor Beth Caruso was subjected to me asking so many questions about the restaurant she owns in Lambertville, Café Galleria, but she was a good sport. From how she picks her menu, quality control, the inner workings of her kitchen, the challenges and the wins, I just enjoyed learning all I could about her awesome restaurant. There is a reason it Yelps a strong 4. If you have not gone you need to, you will not be disappointed.
5 Year Award for Steve, Phil, Beth & Jill – Can it Be Five Years Already?
Phil, Deborah Shepard & Steve Preville accepting their 5 year awards
Where do five years go?
I remember, convincing Steve that we would do this ride and now it is five years later. I am hooked on this ride for years to come. Steve ponders every year whether he is going to do it again, but fortunately for me, four times he has decided to return. I hope he comes back next year along with the rest of our gang.
Steve and I received our five year plaque, which is truly a big deal. So did Beth (although we have only been blessed to ride with her twice) and Jill Voorhees our adopted teammate who has been a support volunteer for five years. Five years in the books and many more to come. We do it for the kids!!!
Quakerbridge Mall and Family – It Never Gets Old
If you live in the Lawrenceville area and have never experienced the bikes arriving at Quakerbridge Mall, you are missing one truly great experience.
The volume of people grows each year, I suspect it is close to 1,000 people greeting us. Steve’s mom, Barbara got to experience it for the first time this year, joining Steve’s wife Tina, his daughter Corrine, grandson, Nova.
Of course Laura (my wife) and Andrew (my son) and my mom, Sybil joined the Previlles to welcome Steve and I back. The rest of our team all had family waiting for them also.
It’s overwhelming seeing all the riders together having conquered another 500 miles, raising over $460,000 for an amazing cause. It truly never gets old.
Afterthoughts of an Amazing Ride
Team picture (Left to Right): Jill Lissa, Chris Murphy, Niall McKnight, Beth Caruso, Phil Cooper & Steve Preville
Thank you all for reading the blogs of 2017. It was another memorable year, with no injuries, few flats, a few curses at the hills along the way, great eating, great conversations, renewed friendships and memories for a lifetime.
I am already counting down the days to the 40th anniversary ride next year as Anchor House celebrates an amazing milestone.