Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Day 2 - Ausable Chasm, NY, to North Hero SP, VT

NORTH HERO, VT - Had dinner last night at McLean's Family Restaurant in Keeseville, a typical local diner sort of place. Stopped on the NY9 bridge over Ausable Chasm on the way back and got a picture, the usual postcard shot of the upper falls into the beginning of the chasm.

Back to the tent, listened to music, read for a while, to bed by 10pm.

Slept reasonably well and got up around 6:30, packed up, and on the road by 7:30. Flat easy ride, much of it in the large chainring, a big change from yesterday. Many lakeside views, but otherwise not much to see. Had breakfast sandwich at Stewart's south of Plattsburg, then picked up a bike path that paralleled NY9 for a ways. The Champlain Bikeways map was wrong about this one, showing it adjacent to the lake and well away from NY9, so that was a bit confusing. Plattsburgh traffic mildly annoying, but then out of town and continued north.

Hard to find a piece of public shoreline to take a break anywhere. Finally stopped around 30 miles at a boat launch, had a snack, and rested in the shade. Then, on to Rouse's Point and a slice of pizza for lunch. The long bridge crossing was uneventful, since the shoulder was as wide as the driving lane. Arrived in Alburg, the only library option for the day, to find all but Google OK, but Google inaccessible. No email, no Blogger. So, on to North Hero State Park.

Campsites are very nice, with excellent separation. But this place is built on a swamp, and the mosquitoes are unbelievable, the worst I've ever seen, no exaggeration. So bad, in fact, that I'm reconsidering my plans. At the moment, I'm sitting at the "beach", which has several tables and a rocky shore. No bugs here. I think I'm going to have to cook and eat here tonight, since there's really no other establishment within easy reach. That means dragging everything to the beach, because the campsite itself would be an unbearable place to try and do that. Then either swim or shower, and hide in the tent for the rest of the night.

(LATER) Showered, put on long pants and long-sleeved t-shirt. Stuffed everything in the tent except the pannier that had the food and cooking stuff, and headed for the beach. Cooked a batch of Ramen noodles, real haute cuisine. Looks like big storms just north of here, hopefully moving west to east. Back in the tent by 5:30, and will probably be in for the night - not much else to do, and nowhere to go. Early to bed - tired from yesterday.

Re: that change of plans I hinted at: I'm thinking I might go out and ride Isle La Motte tomorrow, not loaded, and then pack up and head for Grande Isle SP, only about 17 miles away.

The Numbers

Distance 57.75 miles
Rolling time 4:11:46
Elapssed time 6:45
Max speed 32.5 mph
Avg speed 14.0 mph

Stopping for night at North Hero SP

Bugs miserable. May leave tomorrow... More when I find a library...

Monday, July 30, 2007

Day One, (cont'd)

KEESEVILLE, NY - After I left the Willsboro library, it was close enough to lunchtime (11am), so I went to the Sportsman's Diner, a local institution, and had a nice salty cheeseburger, chips, and lemonade. Then I went to the local IGA and picked up another quart of Gatorade, thinking I might need it with all the climbing ahead and temps already over 80. Sat in the shade of a nearby tree for a short while, then decided it was time to just do it. The climb out of Willsboro to Highlands Road was nowhere near as bad as I'd been fearing, and the unpaved part of Highlands Road was a delight, a very good gravel road. Thanks, TourPro! But the later hills on Highlands Road did me in. These were either steep or long, and one that was both which actually saw me walking for a ways. I just didn't have the legs left, and couldn't stop halfway because I wouldn't be able to get back on the bike and get started again. Continued on and reached the Ausable Chasm Campground around 2pm. This one is not so nice, and really beat up, but I'm here and it will do. It has a pool, if being used by more than one person, and it has showers. One way or the other I need a good rinse!

(LATER) Got cleaned up, had a giant Pepsi, and lay down for a while, just to relax and do nothing. Now I've biked about 3-4 miles into Keeseville for dinner, and to update this at the library. Not sure I'll do any Ausable Chasm tours today/tonight - I'm just beat. The day was everything I expected it to be, and more. Much easier day tomorrow into North Hero.

The Numbers:
Distance: 50.56 miles
Elevation: 3550 feet
Rolling time: 4:28:09
Elapsed time: About 8 hours
Average speed: 11.3 mph
Max speed: 35.0 mph

Day One - Crown Point to Ausable Chasm

WILLSBORO, NY - Slept off and on last night, but probably got 5-6 hours of pretty good sleep. Up with the light and the birds at 5am, figuring it would take me an hour to pack up and be on the road by 6. It really would have been too dark to start any earlier than that, but I really NEEDED to get up anyway. Dropped the car at the Visitors Center, packed up and got going. At first I was surprised at how "rolling" the road was - there never seemed to be a flat stretch. And it's been that way pretty much all morning to this point. I'll never whine about hills at home again.

After about 18 miles, I stopped in Westport, at the cafe of the "Inn on the Library Lawn", and had pancakes and sausage, both for fuel and for salt. Then came the second long climb of the day. The first, out of Port Henry, hadn't been that bad, but I'm expecting a cumulative effect before the day is out. The second climb also went by without a hitch, and provided some good westward views of the High Peaks as I cruised across the top of the hill I had just climbed.

In Essex, I stopped at a small park just off the main street, and just relaxed for 15 minutes or so, reviewed the map, watched the boats, etc.

And at 10:15, I reached Willsboro, 33 miles into a 49-mile day. So here I am, at the library. I've decided to try and kill some time in Willsboro, eat lunch and relax, before starting the biggest climb of the day. It isn't really much bigger than the climb out of Westport, but I'm waaaaay early, and a break seems like a good idea.

I'll try to update this later when I actually arrive in Keeseville. I no longer have much doubt of that.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Crown Point

CROWN POINT, NY - Arrived at Crown Point DEC Campground and set up on a very nice isolated site. This place is only about 1/4 full, so it should be a quiet night. Temps have dropped, as has humidity, and it should be comfortable sleeping. Did walking tour of Crown Point Historic Site across the road, and it was well worth it - pretty spectacular views from the fort, with the lake, the bridge, and the mountains in the background, all under a British flag. Checked in at Visitors Center re: parking. Suzanne not in on weekends, but "if she OKd it, then no problem." I'll leave her a note in the morning anyway, with an explanation and contact info for the week. Dinner at Frenchman's in Crown Point - very good. Meat loaf, fries, corn on the cob, soup, applesauce, and Boston cream pie for dessert. that should get me off to a good start.

There's another group of at least 5 guys, and maybe others, staying here and starting up the west side of the lake tomorrow. They're from the Hartford, CT, area, and are out for 5 days. Their plan is to cross into and stay in Canada the second night, so our schedules and ambitions are similar. We'll probably play leapfrog for the next couple of days.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Ready to go

Finished packing (mostly) yesterday, and the only concern right now is the expected weather for the beginning of the week. It's not enough to make me reconsider, but I will need to think seriously about keeping everything dry for the first couple of days.

I plan to drive to Crown Point tomorrow afternoon, set up camp when not raining, and then visit the Lake Champlain Visitors Center and the Crown Point Historic Site before heading out for dinner somewhere. Monday morning, I'll be off up the west side of the Lake. Hopefully, I'll be able to add updates here occasionally from libraries along the way.

Thanks to TourPro for the route comments on my previous post. I was planning to decide between NY22 and Highlands Road once I got there and saw what the "unpaved" actually looked like. But now, knowing that NY22 "sucks" will play a big part in that decision. Weather permitting, I really do hope to make Keeseville on Day 1.

Stay tuned as the adventure begins!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Few More Late Changes

I was pulling together the cue sheets from Lake Champlain Bikeways, and I noticed that the right turn onto Highlands Road from NY22 north of Willsboro, at the top of the big climb (Day 1), resulted in the next 1.3 miles of riding being on unpaved road. I don't much care for that idea, with 110-lb tires and a full load. So there's an alternate route, which is to continue on NY22 to NY9, and thence on into Keeseville.

This route is actually a little shorter, and avoids the two final climbs to Ausable Chasm at the end of the other main route segment. The disadvantage is that NY22 continues to climb from that intersection for another 400-500 feet, making the total climb from Willsboro about 6.6 miles and 1000 feet. That's only an average 2.6% grade, comparable to but a couple of miles shorter and a couple hundred feet less elevation than the local climb up to Mariaville from the river. But it comes after doing about 30 miles and 2300 feet of climbing earlier in the day. Have to see how that goes, but this alternate looks like the better choice, with less climbing for the day overall, and a long finishing descent into Keeseville. The weather forecast is for HOT both Sunday and Monday next week, so that's another consideration. Still, I just can't imagine stopping for the day after only 30 miles, well before noon I imagine, so would rather try to manage the elevation and the heat and make it to Keeseville. Worst case, I turn around and head downhill back to Willsboro and a motel for the night.

I'm now leaning toward staying Sunday night at the DEC Crown Point Campground, rather than the private Laku Campground nearby. I still just don't have a good feeling about that place, sight unseen. Concerns about intruding on permanent residents, water and restroom availability, and the "we can probably make it work" nature of the guy's offer just aren't sitting right. And if Sunday is going to be hot, a place for a shower would also be a big plus. The Lake Champlain Visitors Center is right nearby for last-minute information gathering, Crown Point Historic Site is just across the road, and the parking for the week is free. Think I'm just going to go with my gut and choose the obvious and predictable public solution and not take a chance on the other unknown quantity. Only concern would be car vandalism, but will check into that, and also minimize the risk by a smart parking location and notes on the dash regarding "no valuables".

Given the expected heat, I'm suspending the low-sodium diet beginning this weekend and resuming a "normal" level of intake. Will also supplement the Gatorade with other stuff while riding those hot days. I SHOULD be able to do this, and if not, something needs to change in the meds and diet departments.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Climbing - yikes!

A couple of nights ago, I happened to take a look at another dimension of my planned route, and it was an eye-opener:
The 3550 feet of climbing on Day One concerned me more than a little. It seemed like I could be setting myself up for failure right out of the gate. The biggest ride I've done so far this year was maybe 1500 feet of climbing, and I have yet to do any ride over 50 miles. This had all the earmarks of biting off more than I can chew, just as I did last year. So, I took yet another look at how I could make this more do-able.

As it turns out, if I were to stop in t he Essex/Willsboro area, I'd have done about 2000-2200 feet of elevation and 28-30 miles. Immediately north of Willsboro comes the biggest climb of the entire trip, followed by another smaller but significant one to Port Kent. Day Two would then need to be extended, so I'm thinking the Plattsburgh area, about 33 miles and 1880 feet of climb. From there, I'd be in good position to hit North Hero SP on Day Three, after 43 miles and only 656 feet of climbing.

Next came "Where would I stay?" There is at least one motel in Willsboro, as well as a couple of somewhat pricey B&Bs in or near Essex, but no nearby campground. At least on the New York side. If I were to buy a round-trip ferry ticket and cross over to Charlotte, VT, there's a campground within 3 miles of the ferry dock. I would also get in my ferry ride (twice!), and eliminate the "need" for the 3300-foot ferry alternative on Day Six, going straight down the east side to the Crown Point Bridge and the car. Plattsburgh has camping in Cumberland Bay State Park, as well as every motel chain in creation, so no problem there. I could also push on to Rouse's Point on Day 2 to shorten Day 3, and there are motels there as well. So I have many options.

I think that for at least the first 2-3 days to North Hero, I need to avoid making any reservations, and see how the days go. Take phone numbers along, and call ahead as things clarify to the point of knowing the day's destination. For comparison, I looked back at the 2005 Bon Ton Roulet daily ride profiles, and 5 of 6 days were over 2500', and two were well over 3000', one of those also being 69 miles. It's entirely possible that the original plan could work, but that will depend on my energy, the weather, and possibly other unknown factors. At least now I know I have options, and that's always a good thing.