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Friday, August 19, 2016

Northern Transcon from Crew Member Perspective (Retta Deane)

The following is Retta Deane's own account:

Someone suggested a post on this blog concerning the role of the crew.  I speak as a greenhorn crew member.  As Susan our fearless leader stated pre tour, "We will have fun!"  Two veteran crew members whom I sought pre tour advice from said, "Expect organized chaos the first few days, pitch in and help where you can, then in a few days you begin to learn the routine."  All of the above has proven true.

I would describe each day as fast, fun, and furious - never a dull moment, long and exhausting, but extremely rewarding.  The duties range from hand washing thousands of dishes (PAC runs a "green" environmentally considerate feeding of their 48-58 hungry cyclists and crew), to purchasing groceries, preparing, cooking and presenting nutritious, delicious breakfasts and lunches, plus 2-4 rest stops a day.  As Susan said, "Can you believe it?  It is as if we open and close a restaurant twice a day!!"

Since I had our car with me, I have been privileged to help many cyclists get a "boost" from one rest stop to another, or a ride into the hotel after lunch.  A half dozen minor injuries occurred during this tour, and it has been my privilege to be with the affected riders at the emergency room where they received help, and to give rides to pharmacies.

I thank God for the marvelous experience of seeing more of His creative handiwork in the USA and for the joy of meeting amazing people who have become "like family."

Fearless Leader Susan Notorangelo

From left, Retta Deane, Michelle, Alice (joined us midway), Aracely
Front to back, Zoe Bohaty, Barb Bohaty, Dave Jordan, John Lake, Susan Notorangelo
Veronica, Michelle and Retta Deane
Retta Deane and Aracely
Phil Bohaty - long time crew member, Barb's husband and father of Zoe
John Lake, another long time crew member
Jim, Susan, and Susan's daughter Rebecca

Lunch on a rainy day under canopy

Still had time for some sightseeing
Our faithful CRV did a lot of duty.  Susan taking a picture
Jerry, veteran PAC Tour rider and crew member, joined us in Minnesota.  Like other crew members, he rode every other day.
Lon and Susan have been running these tours for 30+ years.  Lon designed and built all of the storage units in both trailers to make efficient use of space.  He is also chief mechanic and is an expert at making things work.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Northern Transcon Day 32 - Gardner to Boston MA

Our final day arrived - sunny and breezy.  An early breakfast (6 - 6:30) followed by a group photo, and then we were off through the streets of Gardner.  There was no real break in the traffic all the way to Peabody (a little north of Boston city center), and most of the roads were narrow and rough.  Consequently, there was little opportunity to look around and take pictures - I was too busy concentrating on avoiding potholes and dealing with the heavy traffic.

We had two quick rest stops before arriving at the final lunch stop in Winter Island Park, where a great meal had been prepared by the PAC Tour crew.  After a leisurely lunch (no pressure to get back on the road), we had a 6 mile ride back to the motel, where riders were engaged in disassembling bikes and packing them for the trip home.

Lon and Susan arranged a great catered buffet dinner, followed by a 50 minute video presentation of the last 32 days.  Each rider and new crew member then received a personal plaque to commemorate the journey, along with some comments from Susan.  It was a wonderful way to end the trip of a lifetime.

The trip went exceedingly well for me, with minimal physical issues.  Before the tour I was thinking I would need ice packs on my knees every afternoon, and taping of my ankles.  However, I held up with none of that.  I did not have a single flat tire for the entire distance, and no mechanical problems.

The time passed very quickly and it is hard to believe the tour is now over.  I am thankful for the safe journey and great experience.

Leaving Gardner early in the morning
One of the more pleasant streets - good pavement and little traffic
Retta at the beach in Peabody

Sridhar, Jack and I celebrating at the end
Progress map is now complete
Riders packing up bikes at the motel

Start of buffet line

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Northern Transcon Day 31 - Bennington VT to Gardner MA

This was the last full day of riding, although it could be argued that tomorrow's 80 miles still qualifies as "full".  Skies were cloudy but it was not until shortly after 3 pm that we got any rain, so many of the riders finished dry.  Jack and I were just leaving the last water stop 11 miles from the end when rain started, so we had a wet end to the day.

A real tough, long climb of 4 miles starting at mile 21 (after entering Massachusetts at mile 12) on Route 2 served as an introduction to the Berkshires.  This route is known as the Mohawk Trail.  It parallels the Deerfield River for many miles, and goes through the towns of Florida and Shelburne Falls, and ends in Greenfield.

Although there were mostly good roads with shoulders, we also had some of the worst pavement of the tour, and heavy traffic at times.  Fortunately most drivers were patient and gave adequate space when passing.

Following lunch at Great Falls Discovery Center (outside), the afternoon was mostly rolling terrain with long gentle climbs.

We have our last early morning outside breakfast (6 am) tomorrow in the motel parking lot, then it will be off to our final destination in Peabody MA.

Across the street from Bennington VT motel
Final state of the transcontinental tour

View from Western Summit of Mohawk Trail
A little extra energy within easy reach (top tube bag)
At the Western Summit of Mohawk Trail

Typical long grade that we climbed

Monday, August 15, 2016

Northern Transcon Day 30 - Little Falls NY to Bennington VT

This was our last day over 100 miles, and there was dry weather all day.  We had some climbing but not nearly as much as yesterday.  The challenges were more in the rough pavement and heavy traffic.  It is a balancing act as you keep one eye on a rearview mirror and try to find the smoothest part of the lane, then move over for traffic while avoiding potholes and large inline cracks.

Once we got off the main highway and onto some back roads, riding was pleasant and peaceful.  We had lunch at the city park in Saratoga Springs.
One rider, Cliff, had originally planned to turn south from Saratoga and ride home to NJ with a couple of friends.  His last night with PAC Tour was at Little Falls.

The PAC Tour Dodge Caravan died today so Retta was called on to help shuttle some crew members around.

The climbing is not over yet - there is supposed to be 5000 feet of climbing tomorrow as we enter Massachusetts.  Then it will just be the final segment to the finish on Wednesday.

Getting ready to depart from Little Falls NY

Rural scene in western NY

Erie Canal

Typical scene as we traveled through NY



Sunday, August 14, 2016

Northern Transcon Day 29 - Geneva to Little Falls NY

Everyone knew this day would be tough, from the advertised elevation gain.  Those with a Garmin claim it was more like 8400 feet than the 7700 feet on the cue sheet.

We were treated to a few rain showers in the morning, including a couple of brief downpours, but the overcast skies and cooler, less humid weather made for ideal conditions to climb all of the hills.  None were as long as the Big Horn Mountains, but were just as steep.  We followed a route south of Syracuse and I-90 through many small towns, including Seneca Falls, Lafayette, Bouckville, and East and West Winfield.  The most difficult climbing was between mile 35 and mile 81.  There were long steep grades followed by fast downhills where you would lose all of your elevation and have to gain it all back when the road turned up again.

Tomorrow we have a little later departure time (7:15 instead of 6:30) due to riding a shorter distance (108 instead of 132 miles).  The destination is Bennington VT.  We still have some serious climbing over the next two days.

Old downtown area of Seneca Falls NY
Seneca Falls
First Presbyterian Church in Seneca Falls
Finger Lakes region of western NY
An example of the type of terrain we had today.  In the distance it can be seen how the road curves up steeply.  Picture was taken after we had climbed this long grade.
A big outdoor flea market in Brouckville.  These tents and canopies continued for a couple of miles.

The Erie Canal at Little Falls NY