Bay of Fundy Ferry

Wheel full 70px I’ll be on the ferry across the Bay of Fundy this evening

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Wheel full 70px Boarding is at 5:30. The crossing takes about two and three-quarters hours, so unfortunately I’ll be riding around St. John, New Brunswick tonight as it gets dark looking for a place to stay. But that’s an issue for later in the day; one thing at a time.

Wheel full 70px I’ll be a bit sad leaving Nova Scotia. At 64 years old in a few days I don’t know if I’ll ever make it back up here again. But you can’t do everything and I’ve been privileged to have done a lot.

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b2b Trip -Week #2

Wheel full 70px Yesterday, September 1st, I wrapped up the second week of the beach to beach trip when I rode into Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.   Yarmouth is the major city in the western part of the province, and from here I could catch if I wanted to a ferry to Portland, Maine.

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Wheel full 70px But that’s not the plan. I’m going to continue to ride in Nova Scotia for another two days, traveling on to the port city of Digby (left side of the above map about halfway down) where I’ll catch the ferry across the Bay of Fundy to St. John, New Brunswick. From the there I turn left and it’s just a couple of days to the international border in the just a couple of days to the International Border in the State of Maine.

Wheel full 70px As Treebeard said, it’s all downhill from there.

Wheel full 70px So here’s the 215 miles/345 kilometers I rode during the last week.

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Wheel full 70px The 30 to 40 mile days will end when I depart Nova Scotia. From there things will get much more businesslike as I plan to ride an average of 50 miles/80 km a day north of New York City and 60 miles/95 km a day south of there to Florida.  Right now if all goes as planned I will be arrive in Key West the first week of November.

Wheel full 70px I’m working on integrating the pictures I’ve been taking with a more detailed description of each day’s ride from my notes. No promises, but they’ll be coming along your way at some point.

Just Four Days Left

Wheel full 70px I spent last night at Clark’s Harbour on Cape Sable Island off the very southwest corner of Nova Scotia.

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Wheel full 70px If you look along the bottom of the map the town is about 1/3 of the way over from the left.  That dot and the island it is on is just about as far south in Canada as you can go outside of the Province of Ontario.

Wheel full 70px I don’t know why other than that I have always loved maps  but the name “Cape Sable” is one of those I recall from my childhood that made the world seem like such a mysterious and inviting place.  The reality, going  on 60 years later, is a little more mundane-  a place of small weatherbeaten saltbox cottages along quiet lanes and the curve of deserted beaches with the open Atlantic just beyond.

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Wheel full 70px But it’s all wonderful nonetheless.  I’m glad I’m here.

Wheel full 70px As I noted at the start of the post I’ll be leaving Nova Scotia in four days, catching the ferry across the Bay of Fundy- another childhood name- for St. John, New Brunswick at Digby.  Then in a couple more days I’ll be back in the United States in Maine.  It will be sad to leave the Maritimes behind, but I’m excited by what lies ahead.

Yesterday’s Ride

Wheel full 70px Just so you don’t think I’m hanging around hotel rooms eating donuts…

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Wheel full 70px I had the best ride of the trip yesterday.  The weather was gorgeous, the wind was reasonable friendly, and the hills… well, two out of three aren’t too bad. I hope to be doing 50 mile/80 km days by the end of the week.

Wheel full 70px I’m going to start checking my tires every other day.  They should run at 90 psi, but each was down to around 65 or so after the last six days.  Full tires really… Duh!… make a difference.

Wheel full 70px I continue to take many photos, of which this is a teaser.

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Wheel full 70px We’ll sit around a campfire soon and I’ll do a slide show.

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.

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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.

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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.

And the answer is…

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…Halifax!

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.

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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.

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

So let’s get this show on the road

Wheel full 70px Today really didn’t go as planned.  The Topeak cadence/speed sensor we were waiting on didn’t exactly work with my bike.   I’ll be getting in touch with the company, because a phone call to them from owner Garf Cooper at the ZenCog bike shop indicated that I might have gotten an older unit. Shame on someone.

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Garf giving the malfunctioning sensor the evil eye

Wheel full 70px So I spent much of the afternoon hanging around ZenCog  instead of getting going. My schedule is set up to accommodate things like this happening, but it’s sort of disappointing to blow the first day of the ride.   Garf and his crew are great folks to hang around with though, and I’d highly recommend ZenCog to anyone who has need of a bicycle shop in Jacksonville, Florida.  It’s a real bike shop and I could tell over the several days I hung around there that Garf does right by his customers.

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Abandon hope all ye who enter here

Wheel full 70px Here then is what I’m  doing tomorrow.  I’ll be up early to sort out the last packing of the panniers and loading of the bike.  Sometime around nine I’ll head out and ride west through the environs of Jacksonville, pass under the I-295 beltway,  and then pick up the Jacksonville – Baldwin rail trail.   Past Baldwin, the trail ends and I’ll pick up US 90, the old two-lane main route west that was replaced by Interstate 10.  I plan to stop for the day in Macclenny after cycling a bit more than 30 miles/50 km  and stay for the night at an inexpensive motel at the freeway interchange south of town. That will give me a good chance to check over and adjust as needed my gear and the bike before I set out on a longer riding day on Wednesday.

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Wheel full 70px As you can see, these miles are as flat is the proverbial parking lot.  They should go by pretty quickly, but I’m still a little nervous about the impact of four fully loaded panniers.   We’ll see.

Wheel full 70px I’m estimating four hours riding time making seven and a half miles an hour with a 15 minute break each hour.  That should hopefully put me in Macclenny before the day really heats up.

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Wheel full 70px This first week of the trip will get me by next weekend to Spring Hill, Florida where my sister Sue and her family live.

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Wheel full 70px I’ll visit with them ’til early next week then head off for Key West.  Back with you tomorrow.

 

 

Today is the day…

Wheel full 70px Folks have been asking for the story of what has been going on this past couple of weeks with my health and ability to do the ride, as I’ve indicated that the whole thing almost didn’t happen.  Here’s the whole story and some news about the route.  I wrote it overnight on the flight to Orlando just a few days ago.

-oOo-

So how did we get here, with me on a plane to Florida arriving just two short days before my beach2beach trip is supposed to start? I’ve not addressed the situation in a post to this point because, even as late as midweek, the outcome was seriously in doubt.

Things all started the second day of my cardio stress test- the day I was put on the treadmill. All was well until my heart rate reached 135, then it all went, as Sir Terry Pratchett so eloquently put it, pear-shaped.

My oxygen saturation level, which is normally a marginally OK 94% and which had stayed in the 90s up to that point, dropped all at once to 85%. My muscles, which were not getting any properly oxygenated blood, basically rebelled and more or less stopped working. My brain did the same, and I became disoriented. My doc, the amazing and gifted Natalie Beyeler, stopped the test at that point and, after giving me a shot of something through the IV port, helped me off the treadmill and on to a gurney, where I slowly returned to an acceptable heart rhythm and O-sat level. The day concluded with a return to the machine that measured gamma ray emission to determine heart function. I would learn later on that my heart works pretty good for being an almost 64 year old guy who has abused and neglected his body in countless ways over the years. Dr. Beyeler ordered me at the conclusion of the stress test to undergo three separate pulmonary function tests, which were scheduled for Wednesday of last week.

I was a little sore that evening when I went to the Alaska Club to ride the stationary bike for an hour, so I took a couple of newly purchased Ibuprofen before going. “Vitamin I” works wonders for muscle aches and I finished the session without incident.

The next day, a Friday, I was sore again, so I took another dose of Ibuprofen before riding. Tthat was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back, to turn a phrase. I was very shaky over the weekend and missed daily exercising for the first time in almost a month. I felt dizzy and lightheaded. On Tuesday of last week I stood back up quickly after bending over at the waist and found I could not control my legs, which were jerking. My wife drove me to the emergency room, where it was determined that I was dehydrated and that my creatinine and other kidney levels were elevated. I was hydrated through an IV and felt much better. When I appeared to be fully stabilized I was sent home.

The next day I felt well enough to do the pulmonary function tests and resume working out. A day later I accompanied my wife to an appointment with her doctor and was just sitting and listening in when, at the appointment’s conclusion, my wife asked a nurse who was in the room if she would take my blood pressure. Heather, who knows me better than anyone else on the planet, thought I looked peaked and pale. The BP reading, after several attempts to obtain it, was 60/40. That was not good. I was taken by wheelchair to the urgent care offices downstairs from Heather’s doc and from there was transported by an EMS ambulance back to our local hospital’s emergency room.

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At the ER it was quickly determined that I was severely dehydrated and that various bad kidney levels were through the roof. I was in the initial stages of renal failure. As a result, I was admitted to the hospital to be rehydrated, undergo various tests and be monitored. I spent Thursday and Friday night a week ago there, having IV bag after IV bag of fluid run through me. I felt like cra… well, you know. I was also pretty depressed, as I thought b2b at that point was toast.

The Hospitalist, Dr. Lutz, by Saturday had figured things out. He told me that, because of my diet efforts resulting in significant weight loss coupled with the daily moderately strenuous levels of exercise, my Azor medication should have been cut back, as it was pushing blood pressure down harder than I needed it to. The excess Azor levels also conflicted with the Ibuprofen in a way that had a direct impact on my kidneys. I contributed to that problem by drinking lots of plain water but no electrolyte. This all came together to create a “perfect storm” situation that sent me to the hospital in what the docs described in medical terms as “bad shape.”

The Azor and a couple of other meds were withheld during my hospital stay in order to flush them from my system and allow my kidneys a clear shot at recovery. By Saturday afternoon that had happened and I was discharged by Dr. Lutz with stern instructions to stay away from Ibuptofen altogether and a prescription for Azor at half the former strength. He also discontinued Niaspan and Torsemide.  My Vitamin D has also been cut back as I’m getting plenty (heh!  It’s inescapable) of sun.

On Monday of this week I was back in Dr. Beyeler’s office to check out the results of the pulmonary function tests plus a fasting complete blood panel taken that morning along with Dr. Lutz’s six page discharge summary. The only thing on my mind, of course, was “could I still do an epic bike trip?” To heck with all the medical stuff. I just wanted to ride a very long, long way.

I came, though, with a plan “B.” There is no transcontinental route without an elevation somewhere of eight or nine thousand feet in the west. The b2b route I had planned had a 9,600 foot plus elevation at Togwotee Pass in Wyoming, plus Teton Pass just west of Jackson, which is a bit more than 1,000 feet lower in elevation but which has an approach that is akin to bicycling about 3,000 feet up a vertical wall… Well, I’m exaggerating a bit but, again, you know what I mean. I looked had at the southern route , which skirts the border with Mexico from El Paso, Texas west to San Diego, California. Nope. Serious elevation gains and steep grades that way as well. Plus the Southwestern deserts from Texas on in late summer.  Uggh.  Given the results of my stress test, I was seriously concerned about my ability, even after several thousand miles of cycling, to ride across the United States from east to west on any route.  But what about south to north?

Key West is most of two weeks from Jacksonville on a bike at a slow, steady pace. Florida and the coastal plain and barrier islands for the the north are pretty much as flat as the proverbial parking lot. So let’s cross the U.S. from south to north along the coast and see what hills we run into. No hill higher than 400 feet? Check. More or less flat for a long, long way from the start? Check. Of epic length? Check.

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Thus the beach 2 beach two route was born. I threw in some extra miles in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, mainly because I could, but also because the coastline in the Maritime Provinces is drop dead gorgeous, and particularly in the fall. Also, as it turns out, Halifax, Nova Scotia is far less expensive to return to Alaska from than anywhere in Maine. Around the same length as the b2b trans-con route? About 4,000 miles, check. And the “beach 2 beach” meme? Well, you can’t ride along the Atlantic Coast for 60 days or so and not see a beach most every day. So while it’s not Atlantic Beach to Pacific Beach…

I’m a sucker for symmetry

…I think beach 2 beach still works just fine. So check and double check- the Atlantic Coast b2b route is born. And, come to think of it, I’m still riding across the United States. Just not in the east-west direction most people associate with that kind of trip.

Bonus check. Heather felt sorry for me because I had to change my plans and told me if this ride went as planned I could ride the original east to west b2b route next year. Whoa!

This post has gotten very long so I’ll wrap up quickly. With Dr. Beyeler on the phone, her equally fantastic ANP Debbie Chabot, Heather, Heather’s mother Frankie and I worked out a daily ride plan involving regular BP, BPM and O-sat monitoring and reporting, specific hydration and nutrition goals, along with adoption of the Atlantic Coast route. A further requirement was that all this needed to be blessed by a cardiologist. If she or he said no, b2b was over for the duration.

On Wednesday of this week I saw Dr. Thomas at the Alaska Heart Institute in the hospital’s professional building. When Dr. Thomas walked in the room my heart sank. He looked like a triathlete. I imagined what was going through his mind- here is this old, fat guy sitting in my office who’s lost a few pounds and now he thinks he’s Lance Armstrong.

Didn’t happen. Dr. Thomas, who had quite obviously read the rapidly accumulating sheaf of paperwork generated by my issues over the past few weeks listened to me describe in detail my daily plan and the Atlantic Coast route. He confirmed that the Azor had been reduced and that other changes had been made, then said, in effect, go have a good time.

And so here I am an hour out of Orlando at 4:00 in the morning. I have all my gear less what was sent straight to the ZenCog bike shop in a duffel bag that fits in the overhead plus a camera bag and a b2b flag (with a tiny frog pennant under it) made by my loving (and slightly frog-happy) wife. Other than being assaulted earlier in the flight by a drunk in the row behind me…ahh, but that’s a story for another day. Life is good. I’ll pick up my bike this afternoon.

I’m ready to ride.

-oOo-

Wheel full 70px Yes I am!  I’ll give you a link to RidewithGPS later today so that you can look at the new route in minute detail.  I’d love feedback from my Atlantic Coastal friends.  I’m off to ZenCog now to see if a last part has come in.

Wheel full 70px Thanks so much for stopping by.

David Edgren

The Final Route

Wheel full 70pxI’ve finalized the b2b route on Ride with GPS.  You can look at it on that site here [linkie].  This means I now have an official length: 4,129.7 miles/6,646.1 kilometers and fixed mileposts.  So, when you drill down far enough into the Ride with GPS map, the mileposts will show up.

RwGPS Milepost Example 800px

During the ride, then, when I say I’m at Milepost so-and-so, you’ll be able to spot exactly where I am.

Wheel full 70pxBear in mind that the finalized route is only based on the best information I have at hand right now.  Roads or bridges may be closed during the actual ride due to construction or for other reasons.  A levee top in Louisiana might be newly graveled and not reasonably rideable.  Or Google and the other mapping engines might just have a road or a biketrail wrong, and I’ll have to find an alternate.  But I will plan to stick as close to the route I have mapped as possible and will base my official progress on its mileposts.  I am guessing by the time this is all over I will have ridden between five and ten percent more than the 4129.7 miles, even if there are no necessary diversions.  Campsites and motels may be off the planned route.  I may have to go out of my way to stop at a bicycle shop for repairs.  I’ll make sure I keep you posted on those things, though.

Wheel full 70pxFinalizing the route allows me to develop some map products that I will be using on the blog to illustrate different things.  For example, a while back I divided the route into four 1,000 mile/1,600 kilometer stages and a fifth short remainder stage [linkie].  This was nice and uniform, but the stages were hard to grasp because by and large they began and ended nowhere in particular.

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Wheel full 70pxSo I’m taking a different approach now.  I’ll still divide the route into stages, but there will be four of them of varying length and they are based upon the dominating characteristic of that portion of the ride.  Hence

Unfortunately, the Ride with GPS screen is a bit confusing because I am riding across the map from right (East) to left (West) and the elevation profile reads from left (start) to right (finish).  Oh well.

Wheel full 70pxThe four stages are, then:

Stage 1: The Long Warm-Up – Atlantic Beach, FL (mile 0) to Little Rock, AR (mile 1,380)

Stage 2: The Fifteen-Hundred Mile Hill – Little Rock, AR (mile 1,380) to Togwotee Pass, WY (mile 2,922)

Stage 3: Down the Roller Coaster – Togwotee Pass, WY (mile 2,9220 to the Columbia River, WA (mile 3,714)

Stage 4: The Road to the Sea – the Columbia River, WA (mile 3,714) to Pacific Beach, WA (mile 4,129.7)

The name of each stage is pretty self-explanatory.  I only gain 250 feet/76 meters in elevation above sea level-the aggregate climb is 19,500 feet/5,945 meters or so- in the first third of the ride.  No hill is over 150 feet by itself and grades are relatively gentle in The Long Warm-Up.  The second stage immediately becomes more challenging on leaving Little Rock, Arkansas.  The Fifteen-Hundred Mile Hill is pretty much just that- a long, long climb over the Great Plains of North America up to the spine of the Rocky Mountains at the Continental Divide at 9,659 foot/2,944 meter high Togwotee Pass, Wyoming.  This is a gain of just under 9,400 feet/2,865 meters, with an aggregate climb is about 45,000 feet/13,716 meters, a little over half again the elevation of Mt. Everest.  The Down the Roller Coaster stage is exactly what it sounds like- five progressively lower in elevation summits and a final bump between Togwotee Pass and the Columbia River in Washington state as I lose almost all the elevation I gained- 9,225 feet/2,810 meters- in the second stage.  The grades are sometimes steep in this third stage and the aggregate climb is 22,960 feet/7,000 meters, but there are full days that I can just put the bike on autopilot and coast downhill.  The Road to the Sea, the fourth and last stage, is no day at the beach (I have to wait for the end of the ride for that) even though it is the shortest part of the ride by far.  I will lose the last 375 feet/115 meters of elevation between the Columbia River and my destination at Pacific Beach on the coast, but that’s not near the whole story.  Numerous hills on this final stretch, some approaching 400 feet/120 meters in elevation, add up to an aggregate climb of 15,900 feet/4,845 meters.

We’ll look at the elevation profiles and some other information about each of these stages in a post coming soon.

David Edgren