We rolled up the driveway of Kristin’s parents’ house in Far Hills, New Jersey on Saturday, June 28th, following a trail of red and yellow balloons through the last couple turns of our 4,885 mile journey. Sisters, parents, and our niece and nephew maintained a constant watch for our arrival, ready to provide just the reception we may have imagined if we ever stopped to ponder just how far we’ve come.
With the obligatory trip to the Atlantic completed, we spent the next nine days riding southwest through the mountains of New England, averaging 63 miles and 3,200 feet of elevation gain per day. Make no mistake, our most physically demanding days took place in the hills of western Maine and New Hampshire, with back-to-back rides over 70 miles in length and containing over 4,000 thigh-burning feet of climbing per day. The lofty mountains of the west bide their time and unleash a single, occasional, haymaker. Absorb that lone, predictable blow and live to fight another day. Those worn down, ancient Appalachians beat you into submission with a flurry of jabs that never ends. It’s death by a thousand tiny hills. And more than a few kicked up to a 19% gradient.
Those nine days of steady riding back through New England landed us at the doorstep of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, where we spent our final rest day touring the museum and walking the steamy streets of this quaint lakeside town. I always knew I’d make it there before a Mariner player.
The day off the bikes in Cooperstown was bittersweet as we knew three days later, we’d be off them for a month. We made the most of those final miles in New Jersey, slashing a southerly route through the northwest corner of the Garden State on a collection of backroads most would never associate with the state. With neither an exit number nor refinery nor skyline to see for a hundred miles, we turned the bikes onto gravel paths, dirt trails, and even some singletrack. We spent much of our final day on dirt, choosing to enter this most densely populated of states the way I know best: through the woods. Rolling through Stokes State Forest I recalled the hunting trips I took with my father as a young boy; passing Allamuchy State Park reminded me of my brother’s many stories about his mountain bike racing. Crossing the upper branches of the Delaware River reminded me of childhood canoeing trips. No, I’ll probably never end up living in New Jersey again, but I’m sure glad I grew up here and wouldn’t change my memories for anything. It’s great to be back.
We’ll be spending a full month visiting family and friends in New Jersey, my longest summer visit since I was a teen. Trips to the city, the shore, and Great Adventure are, of course, planned (i.e. New York City, the beach, and Six Flags for those not from NJ). Of course, we have a wealth of chores to tackle before we leave on the Queen Mary 2, bound for the UK, on July 28th. Here are a few tasks you might find of interest.
TwoFarGone Website Updates
I spent the past few mornings working on some updates for the site including a new video slideshow, an update to our Countries Visited page complete with route map and expense data for our North America segment. I also made a few updates to the gear lists. Here’s the new North America video.
Best viewed at 720p (click the gear icon) in full-screen. May not be playable on mobile devices.
Matters of Gear
The vast majority of our gear worked out as we had hoped (or better) but a few items did break, some was lost, and one or two items were eventually deemed unnecessary and won’t be continuing with us to Europe. A couple of lowlights:
- Going Tarpless: We’ll be leaving the tarp behind. We only used it once thanks to the immense vestibule of our tent and the Kelty Noah 12 is just too big, heavy, and cumbersome to bother carrying any longer. It’d probably be a good tarp for car camping though I wasn’t very fond of the shape.
- Odor Proof Food Bags: We bought several very large odor-proof ALokSaks and never ended up using them. In bear country, I just hung the entire pannier. And we never had enough left over to worry about significant odors, as “wet” foods were always eaten the same day they were purchased and carried outside the panniers, under the cargo net.
- Bike Pump: The biggest disappointment of all was the Crank Brothers Power Pump. I had to use it twice and both times, no matter how careful we were to brace the wheel, to prop the base of the pump, and to be as gentle as possible, the action of the pump caused a slice in the valve stem as it sawed back and forth against the rim. I cut a total of four valve stems while repairing two flat tires. I ordered the Topeak Mini Morph which not only has a foot peg, but a hose connector so we won’t be stressing the valve stem ever again. Considering I once went through three pairs of Crank Brothers “Candy” pedals in one season, I’m forever done with this company’s products.
- Rain Pants: Kristin’s Novara rain pants (bought in 2010) started to wear out in the seat after just a few uses. I have the same pair and they’re holding up just fine so we think this may have been a freak occurrence. We already exchanged them at a nearby REI in New Jersey for the new and improved model.
- ALokSak Troubles: Though we never did use the large odor-proof ALokSak bags, we did use smaller ALokSak multi-pack bags for our toiletries. That is, until both bags split below the ziploc seal, essentially allowing everything to fall out inside our larger toiletry packing cubes. We’ll be replacing these “premium” resealable storage bags with EagleCreek’s spillproof zippered bags that have proved very effective for containing our electronics and bike parts. Stay clear of these bags, as they are completely unreliable.
Other incidentals that need tending to include the broken metal braces on our Planet Bike Cascadia 29er fenders (fixed en-route with a rubber band); one broken spoke on my rear wheel (presumably from the last day of riding); both drivetrains need to be replaced and parts are en-route; Kristin’s front blinky went missing and needed replacing; my rear blinky met an untimely death somewhere in Ontario and also needed replacing. We also lost one of the Ortlieb rack-spacer adapters from Kristin’s front bag and the snaps on our Ortlieb handlebar bags are all being replaced with Velcro, as the snaps proved to stick, hang, and just generally annoy us on a daily basis. Lastly, I’ll be sanding and repainting the Tubus racks and wrapping the mounting rails and rub-spots with thick automotive tape to prevent corrosion and wear as the bags jostle and rub against the racks.
Press and Promotion
We did an interview a reporter from the Courier News the other day so those in central NJ should look for an article about us to appear in the Courier News and their sister-paper the Home News Tribune sometime in the next few days/weeks. We’ll be sure to link to it when it goes live. To that extent, the Snoqualmie Valley Record in Washington ran a story about us in June.
While in New Jersey, we’ll also be giving a presentation to the residents of the retirement community where Kristin’s mother works. We’re going to try and record it and post portions of it to the site.