They Just aren’t the Same

apples ≠ oranges

Wheel full 70pxI’m spending the day doing hand-built detailed elevation profiles for the Mississippi River ride on a website called GPS Visualizer.  Both RidewithGPS and the Google Maps API will automatically create profiles from a route, but for the reason I will explain here I find them about useless for anything other than quick general info.

Wheel full 70pxHere’s why.  The next two images are greatly reduced Google Maps of two of the 50 mile/80 km days I have broken the entire 2,250 mile/3,621 kilometer route into.

Wheel full 70pxIf you look to the last 25 miles/40 kilometers of each day’s elevation chart you will see a what appears to be a honkin’ big hill in about the same place each day.  Note that the x-axis “Distance” of each chart is exactly the same length- 50 miles/80 km.  If that’s as far as you look, though, you are left with a sense that each day there will be quite a challenge right after lunchtime.  A closer look, though, discloses that the y-axis “Elevation” of each chart, even though appearing to be divided into equal units, could not be much less comparable.  The elevation “window” of the day on the left is about 400 feet/122 meters.  The day on the right is about 40 feet/12 meters.


Wheel full 70pxNow, I know that the folks at Google Maps and at RidewithGPS aren’t trying to mislead or confuse me.  I’m sure that there are considerations that cause the charts to be created the way that they appear, and that in fact most everyone takes away useful info when they look at them.  But here’s the two GPS Visualizer charts for the last 25 miles/40 kilometers of each day with the Elevation axis using the same measurement units.  First, the one that we know has the truly monster hill.

018-S St. Paul to Hager City Mile 0025 to 0050 800px

That clearly is going to present a challenge.  The second chart…

082-vic New Roads to South Baton Rouge Mile 0025 to 0050 800px

Not so much, eh?

Two days, 100 miles to go


Wheel full 70px I’ve been on the Keys for about 15 miles/25 km now.  I have almost exactly 100 miles/160 km to go to reach Key West, and I’ll ride something more than half that in order to make it to Bahia Honda State Park, where I have a campsite reserved for the night.


Wheel full 70px I started at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and the view from my picnic table-top bed this morning was very nice.


Wheel full 70px Strava, after a couple of weeks of behaving, was generating garbage yesterday, so no Relive track.  I’ll try again today, but it’s hard to look past the fact that RidewithGPS has generated 82 straight days of reliable ride tracking.  Just sayin’.

Wheel full 70px Tonight’s my last night on the road. I can do this!



Wheel full 70px Last night was the halftime point in  my ride from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Key West, Florida.   I have been on the road for 42 days and given my plan to arrive in Key West on November the 10th,  I have 42 more days left to ride.

Wheel full 70px My RidewithGPS app tells me that I have ridden  almost exactly 1,300 miles/2,100 kilometers since starting in Halifax six weeks ago.   It also tells me I have about 2,100 miles/3,350 kilometers to go.  This is what that situation looks like.


I’m at the map pin, eating breakfast

Wheel full 70px In order to accomplish the remaining distance, I will have to ride on average 50 miles/80 kilometers every day between now and the 10th of November.  That will be tough, but it has always pretty much been the plan, as I planned 60 mile/100 kilometer days every day south of New York City with a rest day about once a week.  So, believe it or not, I am pretty much on track to do this.

Wheel full 70px A big factor in my favor is that three quarters of the elevation gain is now already overcome and behind me.  RidewithGPS tells me that, since I started riding, I have climbed almost 68,000 feet/20,500 meters- a gain of more than 12 miles/20 kilometers.  On the entire remainder of the ride, there’s only another 22,000 feet/6,600 meters to go, and that works out to a little more than 100 feet/30 meters per mile/1.6 kilometers.  That’s less than a two percent grade on average, which is close to imperceptible on a bicycle.

Wheel full 70px Not bad for an old fat guy, eh?  Or at least I was at the start of the ride.  We’ll see if we can do the “fat” part of that in completely by the end.

Wheel full 70px See you along the way to Key West!


Took a Break

Wheel full 70px I took a break yesterday.  It was my birthday- my 64th- and I figured what the heck.  So I didn’t do anything.  Well, almost.  I did get on the (unloaded) bike and ride a half mile/800 meters downhill to get a Subway footlong double meat roast beef sandwich for lunch, then back just past the motel to a Rite-Aid drugstore for some first aid kit stuff and a tape measure, then back to my room.  Later I ate a middling size bag of air-popped olive oil and sea salt flavored popcorn and went to bed early after a nice phone call with my wife.

Wheel full 70px Oh, and I glued my rapidly falling apart left shoe.


Wheel full 70px Today it’s so far, so good.


Wheel full 70px We’ll see.

Wheel full 70px And, now that I think about it, I used the tape measure I bought to check out my waist size.  I got some bad news- none of my pants will even close to fit when I get home.  I’ll spare you the photo, as I’m sure you get the idea.

Wheel full 70px The rest of the day I relaxed and tried to figure out why a month’s worth of riding every day hadn’t seemed to translate into greater stamina and endurance.  I seem to continue to be running out of both go-power and daylight right around the 35-40 mile/~55-65 kilometer point each day.  I really had hoped to be solidly into 50 mile/80 kilometer days by now.  I’ve managed two.


Wheel full 70px I rolled different ideas around and around during the day yesterday and think that I have come up with the answer.  Along the Nova Scotia coast where I started, pretty much every day the total elevation gain was under 2,000 feet/600 meters, with most days less than 1,500 feet/450 meters climbed.  Since I’ve been riding in New Brunswick and Maine, comparable distances every day but one or two have seen a total elevation gain of over 2,000 feet/600 meters with a handful over 2,500 feet/750 meters.  My experience tells me that the hills in Maine and New Brunswick have been by and large more steep, too.  It is hard to get good grade information off of the RidewithGPS app on an iPhone, but I’m pretty sure that there have been a number of significant hills with a 10% grade or more.  I have a hard time believing, given my physical condition at the start of the trip, that I am pedaling all the way up these hills.  I know that a few have left me completely spent for a half hour or so after I reached the crest.  I know that I was not dealing, with but one or two exceptions, with any hills like these in Nova Scotia.

Wheel full 70px So I do have more stamina and go-power.  I’m just expending it on more significant hills, and my daily rides are shorter as a result.  There’s good news, though, ahead.  The total elevation gain projected by RidewithGPS for the entire trip is right about 90,000 feet/27,000 meters.  I have overcome, based on my cumulative daily ride stats, just about 55% of that gain- a little less than 50,000 feet/15,000 meters in the mileage ridden to date- about a quarter of the length of the entire ride.  This leaves 40,000 feet/12,000 meters of gain for the remaining three-quarters, and I’ll burn through about 10,000 feet/3,000 meters more before I leave Maine.

Wheel full 70px What I’ll do then is reduce my planned daily miles for about the next week.  I figure, adding in yesterday’s rest day and the low mileage days in the Acadia area, that this will put me five days behind the schedule I published in a post a few days ago.  I now expect to be in Boston on the 28th of this month and arriving in Key West in the second week of November.  I’ll update the entire schedule in a day or so.

Wheel full 70px In the meantime, I need to get back on the bike and ride.


Weigh-in #9 – Back Up to 333

Wheel full 70px Well, it looks like the hot streak has ended.


Wheel full 70px My weight’s back up to 333 pounds/just over 150 kg, which is where it was two weeks ago.  I’m not freaking out, mind you.  It’s likely that there’s enough variation between scales where neither this week’s result nor last week’s was on the money.  I’m pretty much religiously counting caloric intake on MyFitnessPal [linkie] and, to the extent my expenditure of calories when I am riding as calculated by RidewithGPS [linkie] is even remotely accurate, I am still well below the net intake that would be required to maintain my weight at a particular point.  So I can deal with that, and I’m guessing that there’ll be a return next Monday to the glide path downward I’ve been on the past couple of months.  Or not.

Wheel full 70px We’ll see.

Wheel full 70px Oh, and of far more immediate concern… it’s pouring rain.


The b2b Trip – Week #1

Wheel full 70px For those of you following along at home, it’s been a whole week that I’ve been on the road.  In that time, I’ve ridden 178 miles/~290 kilometers.  I’m making quite a bit of progress down the Southeast Coast of Nova Scotia.


Wheel full 70px I haven’t added it up with any precision, but a good ballpark elevation gain so far is about 10,000 feet/3,000 meters.  Not bad for an old guy, eh?

Wheel full 70px Here’s a bit closer look.


Wheel full 70px I have stayed on roads as close to the shore as I can, which has been both a blessing and a curse.  It’s great that, when those roads are level, they are absolutely flat, running just a bit above the high tide line, and sometimes for quite a ways.  The Nova Scotia coastline is as scenic as it gets, and I have hours every day to enjoy it.  Often these roads have minimal traffic, so I get to see the sights without worrying about getting knocked down by an inattentive driver.

Wheel full 70px On the minus side, when these local roads are hilly, they aren’t kidding.  When they were laid out, the cuts and fills of modern highway design weren’t in the cards yet, and there has been little effort to bring them up to modern standards.  The pavement is also often rough or otherwise in poor shape.  There are also long stretches without stores or restaurants for food or bathroom breaks.  You just can’t have everything.

Wheel full 70px I had planned to ride more miles each day.  What’s doing those plans in is my stopping every little bit to take photos.  I just can’t help it.  I’m probably also best off not trying to kill a bunch of miles/km a day at this point.  I am able to easily ride another 10 miles/16 km a day right now, I’m pretty sure.  I’ve not “bonked” yet.  My legs are feeling strong at the end of the day. We’ll see what happens when we pass Yarmouth and start rolling along on more level terrain.

Wheel full 70px A final word- Strava.  I am going to give up on Strava until I’m back in the ‘States and can turn my cellular data back on.  It has stopped working in the middle of the ride three of the last five days.  RidewithGPS, by contrast, has worked great.

Day Two – Made It

Wheel full 70px Here I am at Hubbard’s Beach Campgroud after an almost 29 mile/47 km ride yesterday that was surprisingly challenging around St. Margaret’s Bay.


Wheel full 70px The RidewithGPS link is here [linkie].

Wheel full 70px I guess I should note that this was after a 5 mile/8 km round trip early in the morning into the village of Peggy’s Cove, so that bumps my mileage up a little bit.  The Peggy’s Cove ride will be the subject of a separate post probably tonight.

Wheel full 70px The total elevation gain yesterday turned out to be significantly more that it was a day one of the ride. So much for trusting the RidewithGPS estimate that it makes when you plan out the route.   Or, it could be that the altimeter readings as I’m riding along are not accurate, I don’t know.  What it certainly is in any event is that where the rubber meets the road there were a ton of PUDS (pointless ups and downs)  the first half of the ride up the east side of the bay.  A crest of 100 feet/30 meters might look like a little bump on the elevation profile,  but it’s like riding your bike to the top of the 10 story building. Think about that. Now think about doing it over and over again maybe four or five times in an hour.  Uggggggh!

Wheel full 70px When I reached Provincial Route 3 at Upper Tantallon both the grades and hills leveled out significantly.   The lanes were no wider, but there were better site distances. Today, though, I’ll return to the local roads and so will lose that advantage.

Wheel full 70px Strava was still crapped out yesterday.


I deleted and reinstalled the app last night and we’ll try it again today.  We’ll see.

Wheel full 70px Oh, and I almost forgot a teaser.


Wheel full 70px Have a great Sunday, wherever you are.

Day 1 – Made it

Wheel full 70px Just a short post without photos or much description to let you know I made it on the first day of my ride to my goal: King Neptune Campground in Indian Cove, Nova Scotia.  I plan to write a detailed post with pictures and description for each day when I have some leisure time. Here’s the RidewithGPS information for yesterday.


Wheel full 70px The RidewithGPS link is here [linkie].

Wheel full 70px A couple of things from yesterday.   I was out the door and checked out of my room by 10, cleared the grocery store  where I bought some supplies for the day by 11 and was out of Halifax proper by about noon. All in all, I rode about three hours out of the eight I was on the road, averaging just under 10 miles an hour.  My overall average speed has improved about a mile an hour since I started riding with gear just a few short days ago.

Wheel full 70px I spent another two hour’s stop at Shaw’s Restaurant in West Dover  about 10 miles from my final destination eating an amazing dinner and sitting on a deck looking at even more amazing scenery.  Shaw’s will get a post of its own coming up.

Wheel full 70px By the time I left Shaw’s the sun was getting fairly low in the sky’s. Because some clouds have moved in it was getting darker  then I cared that it would be on a fairly busy road, so I skipped Peggy’s Cove and rolled onto the campground. This morning I backtracked about 2 miles leaving my gear at the campground to ride through this amazing village.   It will also get a post of its own.

Wheel full 70px While RidewithGPS hung in there, a couple of things didn’t work yesterday.   Strava crapped out and completely reset itself about 5 miles into the ride. I tried for a little bit, but nothing I had done was recoverable. I now feel rewarded for using both Strava and RidewithGPS even though it is kind of a “belt and suspenders” approach.  My Scosche heart rate monitor also appears to have died.  I had fully charged it the night before I left, but I was unable to ever synch it and it appears to be kaput.  I’ll look at it more carefully when I have some time, but I don’t have a lot of hope.

Wheel full 70px I said no pictures? Well, I can’t leave you without this teaser.   It just wouldn’t be fair.


Wheel full 70px Day 2 awaits!

Some maps with more detail

Wheel full 70px So, Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Key West, Florida.  About 3,600 miles/5,750 kilometers, but that’s because the route I’ve planned hugs the coastline to the greatest extent possible.  It’s actually a couple of hundred miles shorter because of a couple of ferry rides.


Wheel full 70px Here’s the RidewithGPS link:

Wheel full 70px The POIs on the RwGPS map are notional overnights.  They are 50 miles/80 kilometers apart north and east of New York City and 60 miles/95 kilometers apart south of there.   The reason for that dichotomy is because south of NYC the coast is basically flat as a parking lot. I’ve stuck with my “ride six days a week” plan from before, although that has never been set in stone.  If I depart Halifax this coming Saturday, the 13th, and all goes well I should make it to Key West by or before the 30th of October.

Wheel full 70px Here’s some larger scale RwGPS maps that will give you a quick idea of the route.


Halifax, NS to Acadia NP, ME


Acadia NP, ME to Boston, MA


Boston, MA to New York City, NY


New York City, NY to Ocean City, MD


Ocean City, MD to Nags Head, NC


Nags Head, NC to Myrtle Beach, SC


Myrtle Beach, SC to Brunswick, GA


Brunswick, GA to Cape Canaveral, FL


Cape Canaveral, FL to Miami, FL


Miami, FL to Key West, FL

Wheel full 70px I’ll post some specific thoughts and observations about each of these segments over the next few days.

And the answer is…



Wheel full 70px Tomorrow I’ll fly to Halifax, Nova Scotia, arriving just after midnight.  I’ll hang around in the airport until about five in the morning when the buses start to run.  At that time I’ll catch one and travel on to my lodgings for the next few days- an unoccupied (for the summer) dorm room at Mt. St. Vincent University.  For $22 a night it was a great deal.  I will then spend my time sightseeing in Halifax until my bicycle arrives on Friday.


Well, it is Fedex Ground

Wheel full 70px I’ll assemble the bike Friday evening and the next morning I’ll start riding as far south as I can go by the third week or so of October.


Wheel full 70px Key West, here I come.  A RidewithGPS map link will follow shortly.