Trip update VIII: The end of the Northern Trek (2014)

We headed north on 8 October using US 1 and ME 88 to reach Brunswick, where my cousin Rook lives. 2014-10-11 15.02.58Autumn was rapidly bursting into color. I was also looking forward to intercepting the new charger for my computer. The charger was stolen off his porch, so I was back to square one on my search for a solution.

We spent two nights in the Brunswick Inn, visited Rook and got a tour of the lobster operation where he works. We also rode around what used to be Naval Air Station Brunswick, which I remembered as a major anti-submarine base during the Cold War. We both mailed packages home, with things that we would not need in the next week.

To my surprise, Cheryl turned out to be an enthusiastic bargain shopper, so Freeport and Kittery became major stops on the road south. We enjoyed the unscheduled hospitality of the Old Orchard Beach Inn, and the Blue Roof Inn in Kittery.  We stumbled onto the Harvest Fair in Newburyport, where we caught the MBTA train to Boston. The International Hostel in Boston was a new facility with more amenities than most hostels.

We walked a lot in Boston. 2014-10-13 17.01.50At the U-Haul store, we found that the yellow bags for shipping mattress sets made excellent bags for shipping a bicycle on the plane. I went to the Microsoft Store in the Prudential Center and recovered the files I needed to work, while Cheryl got me a full-fledged tech appointment the next day.

On 14 October, I rode away from the Prudential Center with a “new” used charger from the repair lab in the back. They stood behind their guarantee, even though new chargers were not in stock. That day, we rode the Freedom Trail, visited the USS Constitution and the USS Cassin Young. Since we were in Cambridge, I took her to see my family’s ancestral home at 9 Farrar Street. She dared me to knock on the door, so I met the doctor who is the son of the woman who bought the house from Harvard University in 2003 and turned it into the duplex that it is today. We visited the REI store on the way back to the hostel, and closed the place. We both got wind pants for the cold, and I learned that REI was going to have a sale in November. That night, I synchronized the computer to the cloud and left it to charge up.

At 0200 on 16 October, I kissed Cheryl goodbye at Logan Airport, and she flew back to Vancouver. She had ridden 10,000 km, and I had covered 5547 km of it with her. By 0239, I was in a cab back to the Hostel. 2014-10-19 13.20.54After 5 hours of sleep, I checked out and started west for Chicago. First, however, I stayed with my friend Matthew in Brookline, so I could go get the medical tests that I had deferred while in Canada, and have lunch with Silvia, a colleague who had moved to Boston from Charlottesville.

Over the next week, I rode to Webster, Andover, and Springfield. There was no way that I could ride all the way to Chicago in ten days, so I caught the Lake Shore Limited in Springfield to Toledo. From there, I rode to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where my cousin Michele met me and took me home. 2014-10-25I spent six wonderful days with Jon, Erik, and Michele, touring Ann Arbor, Flushing, and Flint, riding to an orchard to buy cider, and eating very well.

2014-10-26-FlushingOn 28 October, Michele drove me to Ionia, and left me at the intersection of four correctional institutions. The idea was to drive through the violent front that was moving east, and the idea worked.2014-10-28 It was cold and clear on the other side, and in just a couple of hours, I was checking in with Zane and Sarah in Grand Rapids.

2014-10-28-fishingRain was not in the forecast, but the 29th was cold and wet all day. Grand Rapids and the wonderful bike trail network around it gave me a treat to make up for the weather. I made it to South Haven to see Lake Michigan and spent the night at the Inn at the Park, a lovely B&B near the now-closed bridge into town.2014-10-28-Lake Michigan

2014-10-30 11.35.02

Another reason for the smooth trip: the US Bicycle Route System.

The wind was hard out of the north the next day, so, after rounding the top of the neighborhood north of South Haven, I made incredible time to the Indiana line. I had planned to spend the night in Michigan City, but, thankfully, my host in Gary was wonderfully flexible, so I was able to roll into Gary, Indiana, two days ahead of schedule. Ty’s house was warm and friendly.

On Halloween, Ty and Olivia sent me into the freezing rain with sandwiches, which became my supper. I insisted on trying to finish the ride to Chicago in spite of the dire weather forecast, because this was my last opportunity to test my ability (and outfit) to ride in winter weather. It was the hardest, longest 50 km I have ever ridden. A full gale from the north brought the first lake effect snows of the year, and blew me backwards with winds of 50 knots at times. However, when I arrived at the International Hostel in Chicago six hours later, everything was still dry and warm except my feet. The space blanket liners that I was testing only worked when everything was dry. The next day I bought a pair of winterized, waterproof boots to cover my bicycle shoes.2014-11-05

Goblins and ghoulies were running amok in the halls. I changed into my black shirt and pants, and sat around looking like Johnny Cash for Halloween. I spent four days at the International Hostel, which was as new and well-appointed as the one in Boston, but cost half as much. I was sorry to have to check out on Tuesday to go to the Sheraton, because I had met some very interesting people in the Hostel. I also enjoyed being able to shop at Whole Foods and cook for myself. 2014-11-02 06.32.33Hostels International rocks.

Tuesday, I moved over to the 55th Conference of the American Translators Association at the Sheraton, where my boxes of suits and other materials were waiting for me. 2014-11-04I used to be famous as “the guy who teaches you how to price your work,” but by now I had become “the guy who rode his bicycle to the Conference.” I don’t mind a bit if the Freewheeling Freelancer becomes my new persona.

With the Conference drawing to a close, on the 10th, I shipped the last box of stuff to Charlottesville from the Post Office on my way to the train station. The next day, the Cardinal pulled into Charlottesville, Virginia. I claimed my bike, hung my panniers and rode back to the house.

2014-11-09 Coming home

Rolling into the driveway in Charlottesville.

The Northern Trek 2014 came to an end 9041 km after I left Charlottesville in mid-May.
It has been quite an adventure. I have seen places that I never thought that I would visit. I have made new friends, met old friends, and visited people that I have not seen for years.I have ridden hard, climbed high, and rolled down hills at almost 80 km/h. I have learned to camp and to travel light. I have been changed forever.
It is time to start planning for Europe 2015.

Starting next week, I will return to the regular format. Every other week will feature a discussion of lessons learned, and useful information about living and working on the road. Alternate weeks will feature a sea story from my past, usually including the bicycle.

Smooth roads & tailwinds,


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