Thursday, August 27, 2009


Home costs....

At the bottom of this there is a comparison of home costs and average income. The ratio in 1934 was 2.3 times annual salary and now it's 4.2 times annual salary. Plus I'm willing to bet there were less family members working per household.

If we're going to have affordable housing again in this country people have to start making more money or home values have to come down.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Day 13 - Woodstock to Saxtons River - 48 miles

We started the day with another great breakfast by Charlotte at the Ardmore Inn - this on top of the late night blueberry pie snack. That sealed her reputation as our best B&B chef. Sarah left us in Woodstock and headed back home; we continued cycling - back to carrying all our own stuff which at this point in our trip dwindled down to just the bare necessities.

Route 106 was recommended by our next B&B host - great route thru many small towns to Springfield VT. One thing we noticed, is that except for Middlebury up on the hill, we screamed downhill into every town and crawled back up and out the next day. Woodstock was no exception. Patty tried to find routes along rivers to avoid the extreme climbing; we had a gradual 4 mile climb along the creek out of Woodstock.

Our choice in Springfield was more uphill or we could cross into NH and ride along the Connecticut - a futile effort to convince Derna there was some flat riding in this neck of the woods. We chose to cross into NH and left behind the nice shoulders and low traffic of Vermont. We headed back over the Connecticut into Bellows Falls VT to Saxons River which was a quiet little town with a B&B, two restaurants and a grocery store - perfect bike tour-sized town. The B&B was in a old, rambling Victorian farm house - once a rooming house, now a B&B without the second "B" - no breakfast served. This meant the next day we could get up and out early and eat breakfast on the road; Jim's favorite routine.

Day 14 - Saxtons River to Ashburnham MA - 68.6 miles

Ron and Jim, with a combined total of over a dozen long distance bicycle trips, both agree that today's journey was in the top five hardest. Combination of hills and heat and distance made this a long day - almost 4000 ft of climbing and no flat riding for almost the whole way. The only thing that kept Jim going was thinking "this can't continue, it has got to get easier". The low point mentally and the high point physically was climbing Richmond Hill, about 20 miles out of Brattleboro on Rte 119. Jim was followed by a truck that probably had to gear down 6 times to make it up that hill and was only going about 10 mph at the top.

The ride from hell culminated when we finally turned on the last road of the day - Old Ashburnham Rd. We were fooled into thinking the worst was over with the freshly paved shady NH road, only 6 miles from the B&B. Our illusions were shattered when we hit Massachusetts - Jim described the road as "chucks of asphalt surrounded by sand" and the final straw was the "bridge out detour" which added another mile to an already long day.

This was not the scheduled ride; we were advised in Saxtons River to avoid Rte 12 to Keene due to construction. We had already been on Rte 12 the day before and the heavy trucks and non-existent shoulder led us to follow the advice. The amazing thing is that Derna and Ron had travelled much of this route on Day 1, when Patty was waiting for Jim to fly in. If we had done it once before there is no way we would have ever agreed to cycle it again. This says much about the sanity of Canadians.

We arrived at our last B&B, the Maguire House, with greetings of cold beer, a view of Mt Monadnock and Lake ? and much needed showers. We headed out to dinner in the "courtesy car" of the B&B and ate a huge meal at Little Anthony's. The waitress told us Little Anthony wasn't that little and based on those portions, it has to be true.

Day 15 - the last ride, Ashburnham to Lexington MA - 53 miles

After filling up on a nice B&B breakfast, we were off by 9am. We had a 15 mile downhill to and out of Fitchburg. Luckily it was early Saturday and there wasn't much traffic and it only took an hour to ride 15 miles - our fastest hour of the whole ride.

Second breakfast was at Tiny's in Ayer - Jim had his last fried egg sandwich for the year. After Ayer, we got off the main route and took back roads from Patty's training rides thru Harvard, Littleton and Acton to arrive at our lunch stop in Concord. It was our hottest day so far but we didn't feel that heat with the shady roads. There were even some sections that could actually be described as "flat" much to Derna's delight.

We arrived in Lexington by mid-afternoon and were greeted by Sarah with champagne, snacks and cookies. Nice to be home again!

Total miles by Jim and Patty - 634, Ron and Derna 689. We're not even going to think about how many feet we climbed!

Day 11..Middlebury to Woodstock..63 miles and 3,500 feet of climbing.

We had been talking about this ride for the whole trip...the day we crossed one of the Gaps in the Green Mountains. Up to this point we had been told a few hundred times that VT had hills but this was a REAL mountain crossing. The nice guys at the local bike shop gave us some good advice about which Gap to cross. The original route was the Adventure Cycling Route across Middlebury Gap but we were warned off because of poor road conditions and sent south about 10 miles to cross the 2,170 foot Brandon Gap on State Hwy 73. It turned out to be about a 6-7 mile climb with some really steep stuff on the last 3 miles. Ron and Derna shugged over the top about 20 minutes before Patty and Jim finished the climb. Then we were treated to what would be a mostly downhill 20+ miles.

Most of this part of the route was through the Green Mountain National Forrest and we were needing some grub when Ron and Derna stopped for a bathroom break. Patty and Jim kept riding down the hill to what turned out to be the only restaurant of the day. We ordered lunch and Patty started worrying about Ron and Derna. Jim figured they stopped at another place up the road that was closed and Ron was talking them into opening or at least out of a cold drink. Just as our food arrive a guy came into the restaurant and told us Ron had a fall up the road. This guy was a EMS professional, on vacation with his family and had stopped traffic with the emergency lights on his mini-van. He gave Ron a check up, bandaged the road rash and advised him to get in the mini-van for a ride to town. No way Ron Winney was going to let a 20 mile per hour fall from a racing bicycle stop him from finishing the task at hand...they kept trucking. The restaurant owner insisted I borrow his car and I drove out to check out the old road warrior who was still peddling away. We all ate lunch.

We needed that lunch because after a another mile we made a right hand turn and had to ride up a 7 mile hill but it wasn't too steep till near the top where we took another break at a country store where a bunch of folks were on sag for an AIDS charity ride. After Ron's accident Jim was nervous on the 7 mile down hill, into Woodstock, until a big guy from the AIDS ride passed Jim and the adrenalin kicked in; He beat him to town.

We're staying at the Ardmore House B&B. It would be hard to pick our 2nd favorite town in VT but Woodstock would be right in the running. Our favorite is Burlington because it has the best Cremee Place in the world...we recommend the large chocolate with waffle cone.


Day 10 Crown Point to Middlebury, VT...29 miles 2,000 feet of climbing

Since it was a low mileage day and Patty couldn't convince us to "tour" by stopping at Fort Ticonderoga, we got a later start from the B&B, heading out at 10am. Some up and downs on the 8 mile ride to the ferry in Ticonderoga. The ferry carried us back to our old hunting grounds in Vermont; the first few miles in VT were on our route a week earlier. It didn't seem like a hard ride and we were was a little surprised by the amount of climbing in less than 30 miles. Maybe the flat-landers in the group are getting used to the terrain? It was also nice to have Sarah carrying some of our load - we had taken only what we needed for the day on the bikes.

This was one of those days that had a nice start and great ending with out much to remember in the middle. The views of the wide valley up to Middlebury were wonderful; comparable to the expansive views we had of Lake Champlain. Middlebury turned out to be great. A person could do a whole vacation in and around Middlebury. Plenty of New England charm, great food and two good bike shops in one little town.

We stayed at the Middlebury Inn, which Derna declared to hve the best beds so far. We had a great lunch at Sama's and an even better dinner at Marie and Tully's, right on the river on their deck.


Day 9 Plattsburgh to Crown Point New York - 65 miles and 4180 feet of climbing!!

We're writing this on day 12 due no available internet and being to bushed to write up the day's report. This part of New York has some upscale areas particularly around Lake George and some dumps, which is unlike Vermont with it's consistent upscale hippie look and feel. Port Henry, NY is a good example with it's charming 1890's buildings which have vegetated into apparent slums. Port Henry should annex into Vermont and get in on the tourist trade. Having said that it would be fair to point out there are a few places in VT that I'm sure would look better with a few feet of snow to cover the junk. All and all, Vermont does a great job saying, "spend your money here".

We got an early start out of Plattsburgh and had a few flat miles before hitting the hills. As you can see from the number of feet climbed - there were a lot of hills with plenty of crash and burn grades. Ron and Jim agree it was their hardest day climbing since Missouri last summer. Jim started to fall apart a couple times but fueled up and kept on riding and ended up feeling good at the end of the day. Patty gave in and walked up two of the hills; Derna and Ron sailed up them all.

Crown Point was a nice lift after seeing sad Port Henry - the bridge traffic must bring in some extra money. Of course, those last miles to the B&B (Sugar Hill Manor), would have been nicer without those cars racing to get down broken down Rte 9N and onto the bridge to Vermont. The B&B was antique filled, large rooms, with afternoon tea and hearty breakfast - highly recommended.

Sarah met us at the B&B. After today's ride, it was nice knowing some of our stuff would be traveling with her in the car for a few days.

Note: Picture taken going over Ausable Canyon NY - we ignored the bridge closed sign to stay on route.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Day 7 and 8

Day 7 - Loop Day in Isle la Motte - 31.8 miles. We rode from and back to the Ruthcliffe Lodge, with its beautiful views of Lake Champlain. Our Tour Director made sure we got in a few miles of dirt road next to the lake. Then we stopped at the shrine for Saint Anne 'Our Lady of Lourdes' and a mile or so later had a snack (freshly made chocolate candy) at one of the many roadside gift shops you see in this part of the country. Since this is mainly a summer tourist area they do a good job of maximizing profits while the flowers are in bloom. About 10 miles out we went through Alburg headed for Swanton...THE BACK WAY. A couple of miles later, on a country road, we hit the Canadian Border and did a photo op in the no-man's land between the two countries. On our way back to the US we were followed by US Border Patrol for about 1/2 mile; we only hope this was done out of boredom by our national security and they aren't stupid enough to think that 4 old folks on the mighty bicycle were a threat to National Security. Then a little while later Patty and Ron - Ron has been promoted to Assistant Navigator - huddled up along the side of the road, point their hands in six or seven directions, and finally we hung a left. Derna and I followed along without mentioning the bridge-out sign - we know our place. By and by we ran into another Border Patrol, who in a very nice way let us know that our crack navigation team was lost - they claim the Lake Champlain Bike Map is wrong - that's their story and they are sticking to it. We never made it to Swanton. After a nice lunch at Kay's Cafe in Alburg we cruised back to the B&B. On the return trip, Ron noticed Patty's bike was grinding due to the chain being too long. Immediately, on the spot, Jim promoted him to Assistant Mechanic to go all with his navigation duties. He only accepted the job after we promised to double his pay. Here is his new pay schedule; 2X0=0. Back at the B&B we took links out of Patty's chain and adjusted the seat. I can say that Ron earned his pay. We had a nice dinner and drinks by the lake and called it an early night.
Day 8 - Isle La Motte to Plattsburgh - 44.4 miles.Turns out today was easier than yesterday's loop ride! After breakfast by the lake, we headed out early and pedaled back up the island to Alburg, then across wetlands to the bridge to New York. Patty and Ron did a little hand waving out of Rouses Point NY, which ended up as a left turn on Lake Shore Road to Chazy Landing. There are some fine homes on the lake in this area; it seems more up-scale than what we passed in Vermont. We had a snack lunch in Monty Bay at a campground/store/marina. The weather couldn't have been nicer, we had light winds and 75F today. Since meeting Bike Vermont Tours a few days ago, we been pretending to be our own tour company with Patty being the Tour Director, Jim as Head Mechanic and Ron as Deputy Tour Director and GPS whizz. Derna is the only customer - which means she pretends to be impressed when Ron and I work on bikes and Patty does route rap. So far she has done a good job controlling her smirks, snide comments and hasn't broken down laughing. It's probably unrealistic for us to expect a big tip, though. We're at the Comfort Inn, right by Route 89, surrounded by every chain restaurant and motel in the NY area. A big change from the quiet B&B at the end of the road on Isle La Motte but we are looking forward to a Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi meal tonight.


Day 4 - Lake Bomoseen to Vergennes 55.2 miles. I was joking around with Derna this morning about taking the direct 30 mile route to Vergennes and having cold beers ready for Patty and Ron when they arrived late afternoon. We couldn't understand why Patty thinks getting into the motel before 1pm is a bad idea. Our idea gained traction during the day, particularly when we found ourselves walking through loose gravel on the unpaved road we unexpectedly had to take. I've got a thing about loose gravel that the guide book promised we would NEVER see. Patty checked with a local farmer who assured her the dirt ended at the town line, 3 or 4 miles later, and luckily he knew what he was talking about. We caught our first glimpse of Lake Champlain this morning after about 20 miles. Our route was up and down Vermont hills except for a few flat miles (with a tail wind pushing us just when we needed it) towards the end of the day - we climbed over 3000 ft today. The hills were alive with the smell of dairy - can't even count how many red barns we saw today. We had a long haul today (which we had cut from 68 to 55 miles, thank goodness) but with the scenery, the great weather and the "interesting" road conditions, its a ride we won't soon forget. We're staying at beautiful B&B - the Strong House in Vergennes - and had our best meal so far at the Black Sheep Bistro.


New England trip..

Day One; It took me nearly 30 hours to get door to door from my house in Charleston to Patty's house in Boston. Even though Delta was screwing around with me in Charleston, Ron charged me for the dinner I did not eat in New England. Fair is fair, right? I figure it's another notch in Delta's 'let's screw the customer belt.'
I was so late getting in I missed the first days ride with Derna and Ron--based on their scarry hill stories probably not a bad thing. Patty met me at the airport and with Sarah's help we caught up by driving to Brattleboro and got in just in time to go to bed. DELTA!!!!!
Day 2; Brattleboro VT to Manchestter Village, Vt., 48.1 miles if you believe that piece of crap odometer Patty has on her bike which by the way won her the closest to correct milage and a free drink for the day. Derna and Ron kicked butt on the hills today and believe me, there were plenty of hills..probably over 2,500 ft in climbing, says Ron. We're staying at the Inn at Manchester.
We saw several covered bridges, lots of green hill and met some nice folks. Picture is of Patty at one of the many river crossings.

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