Tuesday, June 12, 2007

We're home! Mobile-to-Cincinnati Leg is Completed.

Yes, indeed, I am writing this from the comfort of home. We arrived home at about 10:40 Tuesday morning. We found our son, Dave, and our neighbor, Sue, waiting on the street as we rolled up, a nice little welcoming committee! It was very odd to just bike through our neighborhood, down our street, and to our house, after all this time.

To quickly update the last few days since the last blog entry:

Sunday June 10: The overnight at the campground at Kincaid State Park was quite cold, and caused us in the middle of the night to put on our rain jackets and rain pants to get some extra warmth. In the morning, there was a tremendous amount of condensation on the tent, but we just packed it all up wet, and hit the road by about 8:10 am. Our objective was Maysville, Kentucky on this day. We had to navigate through about 50 miles of pretty significant hills, but we managed them all pretty well. We got lost via a missed turn once, but with helpful directions from some nice local residents, were able to recover and get back on route without having to do a lot of backtracking.

We arrived in Old Washington, KY (residents simply call it Washington) late afternoon, and found an impressive array of very old, very original buildings dating back to the late 1700s and early 1800s. One was the original home of Marshall Key. Marshall's daughter attended college in Cincinnati with Harriett Beecher, and Harriett came to visit her friend at her home in 1833. Marshall was a slave owner, and took the girls to see a slave auction there in town. It made an indelible impression on Harriett, and formed the basis of the slave auction description that she would years later include in her book "Uncle Tom's Cabin". On this day that we visited Washington, the house was closed, but Joan went into the Visitor's Center, explained our trip on the UGRR route, and a very nice woman took us down to the house and gave us our own personal tour. Very interesting.

By the time we hit the road again, the other Underground Railroad-related museum we had wanted to see in Maysville, just down the hill from Washington, was closed. So we bypassed Maysville, made our way across the bridge over the Ohio River, and entered Aberdeen Ohio. There we had our choice of only very low-end motels. We picked one and spent the night. We were at least now back in our home state.

Monday, June 11: We left Aberdeen and biked the 8 miles or so to Ripley. We're beginning to close circles with this trip. This is the same Ripley Ohio that 6 weeks earlier we had gone to see, and to meet the group of inaugural riders who had just arrived there on their trip. We had a very nice chat with a man, a resident of Ripley, who we had talked to that day 6 weeks ago, keeping our promise to come see him when we did the UGRR route ourselves. Upon leaving Ripley, we had 2 hills to contend with which on the map looked mammoth. We are obviously getting stronger with these hills now. The first one was really no problem at all -- long and high, but the grade was not too steep, and we were able to climb it without much stress. The second one was a bit more challenging, but still quite manageable. Beyond the hills, in the town of Georgetown, we were joined by a local rider, Greg, who showed us a great back road that enabled us to bypass a very busy road. He continued to ride for perhaps 15 miles with us along our route, and we enjoyed his company.

Then, we closed another symbolic circle.... Weeks ago, when we did some training rides to get ready for this trip, we followed the UGRR route maps backwards from Cincinnati in a couple of 45 mile segments. Well, we were now hitting those roads that we rode back then. Now, from this point on, all the roads were familiar, we'd done them before!

We arrived in Batavia, just about 15 miles away from home, but it was getting to be late in the day, Cincinnati rush hour was starting, and so we booked a room at a hotel there, and stayed the night. So close to home...! Dave, our son, who came down that afternoon from Columbus to be on hand to greet us at home the next day, met us at the hotel and had dinner with us. Very nice to see him!

Tuesday, June 12 (today): We waited for the morning rush hour to end, and got on the road at a little after 9 am. An hour and a half later, we were pulling onto our street, and found ourselves home. I'd like to say that the emotions burst and flowed over, but to be honest, I think both of us were feeling just kind of amazed, and a bit stunned by what we were completing. I suspect that it will take a little time to process all of this. I will say that it is very nice being home, seeing our friends, reintroducing ourselves to our cats, and having what feels like a sudden tremendous array of clothes available to wear!

So, at this milestone point, here are the basic statistics:
-We have completed the first 1260 miles of the UGRR route. In so doing, we put 1377 miles on our bikes.
-The trip took 31 days. We left Mobile on May 12, arrived home on June 12. Of these 31 days, we biked 27 days, and took 4 days as off-days.
-On the average day, we biked just under 50 miles, plus some around-town riding after arriving at our daily destination. Elapsed pedaling time averaged just under 5 hours each day (This does not count time we were stopped to rest, eat, etc., nor the riding around after we'd reached our daily destination.) We averaged 9.9 miles per hour. Our daily maximum speeds were typically about 30 mph for Mike, and about 26 mph for Joan. (Yes, Mike is wild and crazy on the downhills.)

So, the big question is: What's next? As I said before, we want to think through carefully whether or not to embark on the second leg of this route up to Canada, but that process has started and our initial thinking is that we will in fact do the rest of the trip. We have about a week and a half of personal and family affairs, and work items for Joan, to take care of, and assuming all that goes well, we are tentatively planning to depart for Canada sometime shortly after June 20. Final decision will be published here, and of course, if we go, the story will continue.

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