Monday, September 1, 2008

End of the Tour

Aug 28, 2008

Today we left Binghamton and headed south east toward Pennsylvania and Lackawanna state park. It was very scenic with lots of tree covered hills and beautiful valleys the road was light rolling hills. We stopped at a small café for a light breakfast. There were a few other customers in the café and they were interested in the ride. We told them about the tour and they were very interested. When they left one of them informed us that he had paid for all our meals. There were 6 of us so that made it an especially nice gesture. As we continued on we came across not one but 2 old arched railroad bridges that were both impressive structures that were still in use. The last one was in Nicholson which was only about 7 miles from camp. That “only” turned out to be a hard but fun 7 miles of steep up and down and around hills to Lachawanna State Park. Even the final leg in the camp was up a very steep hill and it was a little difficult to find a level place to pitch the tent, but it is a nice quiet park with a good sized lake. Tonight we had a long peloton meeting and communion. It was nice but long. I found out that Andi is leaving for England from Chicago early on Monday so Bren and I have decided to leave directly from Liberty Island on Sat and meet Andi on Monday morning in Chicago. We will miss the final Celebration service and some of the goodbye’s and such, but that’s ok.

Total miles 3943 today 58

Aug 29, 2008

From a bikers prospective Friday was one of the toughest but most rewarding days of the tour. It had the most feet of climbing of the entire tour and was 82 miles long. Actually it ended up being 90 miles because I missed a painted arrow and added several miles. I was still going in the right general direction but I ended up staying on highway 6 most of the way. The part I wasn’t supposed to be on was pretty busy, but it went ok. Because the terrain was mostly short steep hills, I rode most of the trip by myself. In this kind of terrain it is hard for me to ride with the road bikes. I climb a little slower because of the heavier bike, but go down hills faster because of that weight and better aerodynamics. The aero really plays into the speed on the flats as well. Another reason I went on my own was today was that the racer in me wanted to run hard one last time on the tour. I wasn’t alone in that respect as several other of the “hardcore” cyclist on the tour did exactly the same thing. I did stop for short breaks at a couple of the sag and lunch at Wendy’s and still ended up at Sussex Christian School by 1:30. As I said before most of the climbs were short and steep, but one was reminiscent of the mountains out west, as it was fairly long at about 4 miles. It topped out at the highest point in New Jersey In the aptly named High Point State Park. Also the last ½ mile to the school was up a steep grade, which wasn’t really a surprise as that has happened to us on several occasions. I’m not sure why they always put the school at the top of the hill in those hilly communities. The Church community here served us a really great supper. Brenda had left Pella Thursday morning and arrived at the School about 7:00 pm. It was sure good to see her. We loaded all my gear and bike in the van so we wouldn’t have to mess with it on Sat. We spent the night at a nearby motel, which was great as it rained during the night and I didn’t have to pack a wet tent. It wasn’t so good as there was no water pressure in the morning or any internet connection either.

Total miles 4033 today 90

Aug 30, 2008

Let’s finish this thing. The Last Day almost seems like one of the first as we are again climbing into the fog through a huge forest of trees. But it’s also kind of like the prologue in the Tour De France where the race is over except for the ride into Paris. Everyone rides pretty easily as we have only about 50 miles to the rendezvous point. About 20 or more of us stop at a donut shop for coffee then move on down the streets. For many of us those streets had been an item of worry as we had heard the reputation of Jersey drivers and I had driven some of those streets in a car and didn’t like them at all then. In actuality they were not as bad as I thought they might be. There were some not so nice drivers, but not many. Ed had picked a pretty good route for us and it went through a variety of neighborhoods. It had rained the night before and the wet streets with plenty of debris did cause quite a bit of tire problems as there were quite a lot more flats than normal. We all met at a big parking lot and waited for our police escort. While we were waiting a group photo was taken. It was kind of hilarious as it was getting time to leave and more riders kept rolling in and we would all tell them to hurry and get in the picture. They had to run around a small pond as Jonathan our photographer would try and wait. One of the last ones to get in was Lawrence. He received a great big cheer from the group as he flew up on his bike and did a great bunny hop over the large curb and rode right up to us and jumped of the bike. After the picture we all assembled to do the last few miles with a police escort. Doug and I had decided to ride at the rear of the group just in case we could offer any mechanical assistance. Just as we were about to leave I ended up helping 2 people with flat tires and almost didn’t get in before the last police escort. I did end up helping a couple of people stay with the pack. The ride in was quite something as the riders fanned out in front of me. One of the police cars would hold crossing traffic back till we were passed then roar up the street beside us to the next intersection. We got to the park and kind of wound through it to the boat Ramp. It was quite a sight to see all the bikers lined up it looked like a lot more than 200. After a few words by Len and reciting the Lords Prayer together, we dipped our tires more or less simultaneously with quite a crowd cheering us on. It was quite an emotional event and we all kind of meandered around saying we couldn’t believe the ride part was over. Since I was not going to the rally I tried to find many friends and say goodbye, but even that was difficult to do. Most of the bikes were loaded onto semi trailers and then headed for the school. Brenda and I walked to the Parking Lot with Doug and Joy and their friends from Michigan. We said our goodbyes and turned the dodge toward home. As I write this from a motel room in Chicago a day after it still hasn’t sunk in that I won’t be getting up at 5 tomorrow morning and riding another 80 miles. I think it will take some time to digest it all. Already now I can say that it was a fantastic experience. I’ve seen a lot of cooperation and unity within the Reformed and Christian Reformed Denominations from many angles, be it country of origin or age or race. I hope we accomplished in some large or small way, our goal to raise the awareness of poverty issues. I know I as a cyclist on the tour, and I would guess all the other participants as well, will think of those things that hold people in poverty and continue to speak out on behalf of those less fortunate than ourselves.

A few stats for me on the tour
1. No falls or accidents
2. 2 flats that were a day apart in the middle of the tour. I replaced the front tire at that time. A short time later it went on the front of Claire’s trike and he wore it down into the cords. I replaced the rear tire before the last day as I discovered a bump on it. It had over 4,000 miles on it. The tires are stelvio’s and I really like them
3. Just about 4100 miles total, the official point to point total was 3881.
4. The only mechanical problem I had were some broken spokes on the front wheel. I am very happy with how well the bike performed.


CalvinGirl said...

Hi Mr. Gritters! I've been thinking and praying about the completion of your trip. I was so glad to see an update and so glad that it ended well for you. At this moment, I am especially thinking about Andi. Were you able to see her off? I'll miss her so very much, but I know her Mom and Dad will miss her even more. How did the send off go at the airport? Did you make it on time? Did Mrs. Gritters get the pictures I emailed to her? Hope you are able to make the transition back into a "normal" routine. Thank you for all your hard work this summer!

Doug and Joy Lutke said...

Hi Rick, Joy and I are trying to get back to (Normal?) life again. We helped disassemble the gear truck on Tuesday, then back to work on Wednesday again. It was really good to get to know you so well on the tour. It's still very hard for me to comprehend that we rode almost 4,000 miles together.
Best wishes to you and Brenda, I hope we can keep in contact.

Doug n Joy