The First of the Lasts (Day 35)

Day 35: Fort Plain, NY – Fair Haven, VT

Distance: 103 miles

Vertical: 1,946 feet

Biking Time: 6:00

Today was my last century ride of the entire trip, and most likely my last century ride ever unless I do the STP next year. Besides being my last 100+ mile ride, it was also a monumental one because it showed me how much my outlook on challenges has changed since starting the trip. I remember how terrified I was on the first day of our journey as we rode towards the ominous Cascades. With every pedal, I got a little closer to those snow capped beasts, and with every pedal more and more butterflies populated my stomach. Today I felt the complete opposite. When Josh and I turned a corner and saw the beautiful green Appalachian Mountains of Vermont, we were filled with nothing but joy. I do not know if it was me looking forward to a change in pace, a new challenge, or just excitement to finally be surrounded by mountains again, but I couldn’t have been happier. Growing up so close to the Cascades, I have grown accustomed to seeing mountains whenever I want, after being away from them for almost a month, it was really cool seeing them again.

So colonial. So majestic

So colonial. So majestic

Today was a strange ride. Because Grandma Bean death grips his brakes when he bikes, he has worn down his disk breaks to the point to where he had to get them fixed before he could ride again. He claims that it’s a result of all the stop lights of the cities that fill the east coast, but that seems fishy. Because Nigel missed out on the first 50 miles of yesterdays ride while he got his spoke fixed, he rode with me today for the first 45 rainy miles. For the first two hours today, Nigel and I rode through a drizzle so consistent and drizzly that I almost forgot that I ever left Seattle. For those two hours we rode through compact gravel trails topped with a light layer of mud. It was surprisingly a really fun start to the ride, kind of like mountain biking but with road tires. As the clouds began to clear, Nigel celebrated the change in weather by getting in his fourth crash of the of the trip!

I met Nigel my freshman year of college. I was not there for his childhood so I do not want to jump to any assumptions, but after what I have seen I think that his dad took off his training wheels a little too early. The crash, for Nigel’s sake, was not his fault, yet it was easily avoidable. Along the trail was about 15 boys and a few adults, I assume that they were boy scouts working on their cycling merit badge. It’s been 8 years since I have earned that badge, but I assume that proper road sharing etiquette is something that is not taught anymore because they were taking up the entire bridge. I, like an observant cyclist, slowed down when I saw the obstruction, Nigel did not. Nigel claims that he did not see the scouts because he was looking down, but in my perspective it looked like we was trying to play the game ‘Red Rover’ with the boy scouts. Nigel lost. Apparently he noticed last second that there was a guy in the way so he tried to weave through him and clutched his breaks and fishtailed on the wet, slippery bridge and crashed pretty hard. The good news is that besides a bruise on his hip and a sore wrist, Nigel is perfectly fine.

By the time we met up with Josh, it was already so hot and so muggy that I couldn’t tell what was sweat and what was moisture from the prior rain. Instead of changing socks and shorts, Josh and I decided to just hit the road so that we could get to Fair Haven before it got too late. We “accidently” slept in until 10 am today, so we got a really late start. A few miles into the second stretch, I got yet another flat tire. My third flat in two days of riding!

After fixing my tire, we hit the road and started to pick up some momentum. The next 50 miles went incredibly smoothly. We were flying. There were periods where we even got upwards of 27 mph on the flat portions. I remember thinking, “Wow, this has been one of the easiest 100 mile rides of the trip, I don’t even feel fatigued” at mile 94. 97 miles into the ride it was made clear to us the New York did not want us to leave. We approached what I will call rolling cliffs, because calling them hills would be a disservice to them. They were so steep that there were warning signs at the bases of them. It was the first time that I thought I would need a gear lower than granny gear.

We wandered into Vermont today

We wandered into Vermont today

During the rolling cliffs, I thought to myself, “Man I am either totally gassed, or these are the steepest hills I have ever seen!” After the ride, Josh exclaimed, “Wow, that was a really really hard 60 mile ride.” Tell me about it buddy. No I am just joking, I was really happy to have gotten to bike the whole day. In the weeks leading up to the journey, I would have frequent nightmares about it, about me not being strong enough, about us not fundraising enough, or that we lacked the necessary skills to tackle the problems we approached. However, two days ago I had a totally different nightmare. I had a dream that I was laying on my bed in Ridgefield, WA longing to be back on the ride. After waking up, I am trying to take in these last couple days as much as I can. I will never experience anything like this again, unless I do it again next year.

Totally kidding, there’s no way I’m doing this a second time,

Matt Gaylor