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Beautiful Things


Andy just sent me the photos from our weekend in Avalon – I think Mac took these?  Thanks, Mac!

 

Uncle Lee with a K, Andy, and part of ken... outside the ice cream shop.

Uncle Lee with a K, Andy, and part of ken... outside the ice cream shop.

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heading to the beach

heading to the beach

 

such an awesome moment.  we conquered!

such an awesome moment. we conquered!

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I was writing someone about our trip yesterday and was going back through the blog… I really miss exploring a new place every day and riding so many miles all the time.  I just rode from Atlantic City to Avalon this morning… a whopping 26 miles.  Still loads of fun, though – especially with the wind at my back.

This might be a little bit of a late notice, but our great friend Trudy, the brain behind the moniker acronym of “Team QAK” is having a welcome back party for us tonight at her apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. If you’re in the city and haven’t already gotten the email from her or from one of us and you want to come welcome us back, we want to see you.

And now that I’m finally back in front of a fast computer with photoshop all day long, I’ve been able to stitch together the panoramic photos I’ve been taking during the trip. Another great friend, Halston, loaned me her Canon G10, which is a fantastic camera that I wish I didn’t have to give back. It’s got a spiffy function that makes taking panoramic photos like this somewhat easier. You can click on them to view a larger image. They’re also up on my flickr account.


This was the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon, on the very first day of our trip. Looking at these photos again reminded me that I’d almost forgotten how many beautiful things we passed by and how long ago it really was.


This was between Malta, Idaho and Snowville, Utah. Flat.


On the way up & over the Rocky Mountains.


At the top of Logan Pass, where we crossed the Rocky Mountains. It was one of the most spectacular views of our trip, and it was absolutely freezing up there. The couple to the right side of the photo was huddled beneath a blanket.


Bear Lake, from the bottom. It’s the lake you can see in the photo above, from the top of the mountain.


The Needles, one of many things from our favorite state, South Dakota.


The Badlands. Also in South Dakota.

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It has been a perfect weekend in Avalon.  The weather couldnt have been better – okay, maybe a little less wind..but it was fantastic.

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My two youngest sisters are living and working in Avalon this summer.  Our first stop apon arrival was for Ice Cream – this is my youngest sister Rory at the ice cream/candy shop where she works. 

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Later that day we went and visted my other sister Wesley, who works at the pizza shop down the street. 

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The ice cream shop has a 10 scoop ice cream challenge where you eat 10 scoops of ice cream and try to beat the times of the winners.  You can choose any flavors you want and its covered in whipped cream and a cherry.   those are cups of warm water to help with the brain freeze. The guys both beat the winning time by a minute!  Jarrett came in with 4 minutes 3 seconds and Andy with 4 minutes 15 seconds.  and then, when it was all over – they ordered more ice cream!  they said they couldnt actually taste the ten scoops as they were just shoveling them into their mouths, so they felt they needed to eat a couple more scoops in order to enjoy the taste.  the owner said that it was the first time anyone has ordered ice cream after eating 10 scoops of it! 

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The guys had never really surfed before, so I tried to give them some basic instruction and send them into the ocean.  My dad is a big surfer and I tried it for a while when i was younger… I helped as much as I could from the shore.  Not the best waves for surfing, but they did really well for their first time.

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They finally decided they had enough and just jumped in the ocean.  It was a really beautiful evening.p1040167

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Between Waynesboro & Easton are several Pennsylvania locales I’ve heard a lot about but never really been to. Lancaster, for instance, is supposed to be the Amish capital of the world (even though the largest population of them is in Ohio). We didn’t come across any Amish until we were near Kutztown.

a bit blurry, but there's an amish girl back there who rode with us for about a mile near Kutztown. She was on a comfort bike with Time Trial bars

a bit blurry, but there's an amish girl back there who rode with us for about a mile near Kutztown

We did hit up the recommended “Lancaster Dispensary” where the bartender played Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in it’s entirety, making us nostalgic for our iPods, and the waitress invited us to pitch our tent in the sprawling 1/4 acre backyard of her historical landmark home.

This backyard extends all the way to the next street over. It's HUGE!

This Lancaster back yard extends all the way to the next street over. It's HUGE!

Out of place “on the wrong side of the tracks” next to tenement-style brick buildings, Susannah’s wood sided 1.5 floor bungalow’s property extends way back until the next block. As sleep crept closer, the arbitrary outbursts of her neighbors became less & less startling, and we slept like babies.

The next day, we stopped in Reading, where I’ve only been once before to buy some unstylish stonewashed jeans from the city’s famed discount outlet stores when I was a teenager. From there, I called Mike Fegley at the Allentown Brew Works to tell him I was going to be there in a matter of hours to say “hi”.

Allentown, Bethlehem & Easton make up the third largest metropolitan area in Pennsylvania behind Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The Billy Joel song is about that Allentown, but it was based more on Bethlehem, where the factories were being torn down and have recently been turned into sprawling casinos. Easton is famous for Crayola Crayons, Larry Holmes (who beat Muhammad Ali back in the early 80′s), and being the second place that the Declaration of Independence was read publicly.

Allentown doesn’t have all that much going for it, and Mike was disappointed in his attempts to attract the Bicycling Hall of Fame to the unused storefronts across from his brewery. Still, in spite of the perceived disinterest express from his community, we boldly encouraged him to continue the Tour De Brew – the only USCF sanctioned event that goes THROUGH an occupied building before continuing on to the streets. A while ago, I had screened a youtube video he had cobbled together of the race after my Mom had saved a clipping from the Morning Call to show me last Christmas. It’s open to amateurs, and if he does this event again (which runs concurrently with a beer fest), I’ve promised to come & drag some New Yorkers with me.

I was going to lead twoarmparty into Easton by the Lehigh River Canal bike path, but we were already a few beers deep and on the last 20 miles of an 85+ mile day, so I skipped the scenic & went for the direct, which brought us past two Blockbusters I used to work at, my High School & Middle School, a Laneco I got caught shoplifting at, the Dixie Cup factory, and some of the less lovely parts of downtown Easton. Then we rolled up on Pearly Baker’s where my Dad was waiting for us with several empty seabreezes in front of him. Apparently he thought we might get there quicker. Family & friends rolled up and we had a great time beginning a relaxing day in Easton. Quinn did a great job recapping that in the last post.

Jersey

Jersey


Someone else’s photo of the bridge we illegally rode over. There was no other way! The best part was how I got a flat tire at the very base, by running over a drainage grate. There are few things in life I’m afraid of. I am, afterall, fearless. But of those few things (Tornadoes, opening car doors, wet metal construction plates, and expansion joints on bridges), I pretty much ran into two of them crossing this bridge, because having a flat tire makes you just about as stable as riding over a wet metal plate. And yes, as Quinn mentioned, we stopped on the other side of the bridge to take that Jersey State sign photo (impressive sign, New Jersey!) and fix my flat. That took a good 15 minutes, and nobody did anything about it. So the moral of the story is IGNORE THE LAWS, KIDS! I wish I had known this when we were at the Crayola Factory the day before….

Instead of heading south from Pittsburgh straight to the jersey shore, we went the QAK way and headed north for a bit up to see Ken’s family in Easton Pennsylvania.  After many exhausting, but beautiful days of climbing, it was nice to ride through the still scenic, less steep, hilly PA.  On our way to Easton, we stopped in Allentown to have a beer with the head of Marketing at the Allentown Brew works, Mike Fegley.  Mike has put on a criterium through the pub for the past couple years.  A criterium, if you dont know, is a loop of some kind that the racers go around a number of times (20ish usually) and its all very technical.  I personally like these races, but i’d like them a lot more if they all went through pubs like Mike’s race.  We all encouraged him to continue this, in hopes of participating some time soon.  

Also, Andy’s dad Mac has been trying to meet up with us somewhere along the way, and finally we were all in the right place at the right time.  Well, Mac drove 10 hours to be in this place, so..that’s not exactly true.  Mac met us at the Allentown Brew Works, had a beer and got directions from Ken to Easton.  We all met in easton at yes, another bar… where Ken’s dad was sitting waiting for us.  It was a great little Stanek/Knepshield get together.  Ken’s mom and an old friend of Ken’s all joined us for more drinks and a nice dinner.  

So, I feel like i’ve learned a lot on this trip, about loads of things – including ken and andy.  but, seeing them with their fathers and talking with Don, Patti and Mac a bit more about their perspective on our experiences and such.. well, i learned a lot more.  We stayed with Ken’s mom, Patti and she made us an incredible breakfast in the morning.  Ken’s parents both had to work, so Mac took us around all day to see the sights in Easton.  We saw the Crayola Factory and learned that you’re not supposed to go in there unless you’re 6yrs old or have a 6yrd old, but it was still fun.  Then to counteract this, we went to the Yuengling Brewery in Pottsville and drank and learned about beer.  It is the oldest privately owned brewery in the country.  Then we all went to Don’s house for a lovely dinner and grappa tasting.  Have you had Grappa?  No… well, its an experience, that’s for sure!

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The next day we had coffee with Mac and got back on the road.  Thank you for everything, Mac, Don and Patti!!

In easton, we were only about 75 miles from home sweet home, but none of us wanted to go back to the city without a nice weekend on the jersey shore…so we headed south.  The ride along the delaware river was beautiful and we stopped at Ken’s friend’s place on the way for a delicious, very filling lunch. Ken’s friend John really wanted us to stay with him, and if were weren’t so determined to get to the beach, it would have been a perfect place to stay!  We continued on to the Burlington-Bristol bridge into NJ… no bicycles aloud..  that didn’t stop us.  Nor did it stop ken who got a flat tire the moment we started sprinting over the bridge.  We gave the bridge guards/police plenty of time to ticket us, becuase as at the bottom of the bridge was the welcome to NJ sign and ken sat there and changed his flat.. so it couldnt have been too big a deal for us to cross there.  We rode a few miles further into Mt. Holly (no, not a mountain, there is a hill that goes up about 4 feet, thats about it) and found a bar to sit and have a beer.  At the bar, I asked our bartender if he had any idea where we could camp… anywhere at all, even behind a gas station would do.  We were tired and this town was not one that would have camping.  Well this guy, James Diamond, generously offered his backyard and boy were we thrilled.  He still had to work, but we went to his house and knocked on the door to meet his parents Carolle and Joseph Diamond – they gave us a very warm welcome.  Insisted that we come inside, offered the shower and opened up their house to us.  We set up our tent inside and when i came in to say thank you and use the bathroom, they explained that they had to be at work at 6am, but they would leave coffee and breakfast for us and please do not go out and spend money.  Geees, so nice!!!  We woke up, drank a pot of coffee, cooked some eggs, cleaned up and got back on the road.  Thank you so much, Diamond Family.  It is so nice to experience such generosity on the east coast.

We were all anxious to get to Avalon and so we made great time, even into a pretty strong headwind.  I grew up in Syracuse, NY but have been spending my summers in Avalon since I can remember.  After a few years of renting, my parents bought a perfect little house near the beach and we have been coming here since.  My brother and I have lived here together over past summers and this year, my two youngest sisters live and work in Avalon.  So when we arrived at 1:30 in the afternoon, we went straight to my sisters ice cream/candy store to say hi and of course, eat ice cream and candy.  As we’re standing there talking to my youngest sister, Rory, Andy gets a call from his dad saying that he and his Uncle Lee are 4 blocks down the street!!  What an awesome surprise.. they met us in Avalon and thankfully took photos when the three of us ran down to the ocean and jumped into the water (in full cycling gear).  It was the greatest moment.  Felt soo good to jump in the water and to know that we have officially made it to the other side of the country!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Another 150 miles to brooklyn, but that’s just some extra… ‘cus we MADE IT!

The rest of the evening was spent drinking beer on my porch with Mac and Lee and my two sisters.  Umm, my sisters were definitely not drinking because they are not 21!  And we ate another incredible, grilled dinner made by Andy.

 

Thanks everybody!!  We’re going to relax in Avalon for the weekend and then head home.

We tried to enter our bikes under the category of “special interest” in the 4th of July car show in McConnellsburg, PA, figuring that we’d be a shoe-in for the top three spots, but the judges didn’t buy it.

bikes, cars, mountains

bikes, cars, mountains

Still, we got to browse the rows of beautiful cars we’d seen pass us all morning long on the way to Waynesboro, where we were going to stay at my friend Scott’s place. You may remember Scott from such previous posts as “Dang, I look good in a tux”.

This guy.

He’s on his honeymoon right now, but during his wedding last week, he gave me the keys to his house (with his new wife’s acknowledgement, I’ll have you know) so that we could crash, do laundry, watch fireworks, watch TV, and veg out along our way. The Buhrman’s also left a kitchen island full of snack food and Jim Beam which we blitzkrieged as soon as the door creaked open. Thanks again Scott & Liz. I hope we remembered to turn the toaster off. :)

Even when the weather doesn’t agree with us, it agrees with us. That’s what I was going to write about how the persistently poor Pennsylvania weather works in our favor when we’re pedaling up the biggest hills since the rockies, burning up inside, but cooled by the clouds and an intermittent sprinkle. The mountains out here have nothing on the Rockies. That’s also what I was going to write until we hit three big climbs in one day on the way to Waynesboro. 50 miles seems like a lot more when half of it is steeply uphill. Of course, the downhills are a blast, but like I said, sometimes the weather didn’t really agree with us.

On our first day of tackling Appalacia, a spritz here & there cooled us off. Then an extended shower kept extending until it poured on us during the entire climb over Laurel Pass into the Highlands. 2,600 feet in the sky is truly nothing for twoarmparty, but when you descend another 1,000 feet then go back up a few times, in the rain…that begins to suck.

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So we stopped in Jennersville, a small town just past our first pass, and had some ice cream while we drip-dried. An older lady who we asked about camping said that her daughter was at Camp Sequanota up the street with her grandkids, and maybe we could set up under a pavilion there, or at least in an unused campsite. She made a few quick phone calls, and by the time Andy’s Sundae came out, we were hooked up with a place to pitch a tent at the camp, which happened to be a Lutheran summer camp. And this was family week.

We rode back up the road a bit to Camp Sequanota, and found our way to the main offices, where Linda, the woman’s daughter, came out to greet us and direct us where to go. Shortly afterwards, Pastor George came out, and as we all looked at the darkening skies above the mountains to our west, feeling mists of future downpours drift past our faces, our place to stay was negotiated. What was once a spot on the ground became a spot on the ground under a pavilion, then an unfinished, dusty cabin, then cabin six with twelve beds, electricity, and two bathrooms.

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dang...i forgot to rotate this image...but...you get the idea

dang...i forgot to rotate this image...but...you get the idea

“Why don’t you join us for dinner,” Pastor George asked. Twoarmparty never turns down an act of generosity. So we walk into the dining hall where teenage counselors are frantically setting dozens of tables, families are chasing around kids who have fallen ill with cabin fever (it’s been raining all of family week), and the staff poured pitchers of Kool-Aid. We stood around a table with Linda, Pastor George, a counselor and another couple while a camp leader lead the room (with more people in it than the entire population of Philip, South Dakota) in the “Johnny Appleseed” grace. It involved lots of hand motions and gutteral sounds that none of us understood and seemed somewhat cultish. But that’s probably just because we’re heathens. Nonetheless, Andy and I had some Kool-Aid and came back later for the puppet show. It was a delightful reinterpretation of classic 50′s songs set in a diner, based on the gospel of Mark, chapters 4, 5, and 6. Even the 18 year old counselor with tattoos, piercings, and a torn Misfits shirt who Andy said “That was me, when I was at Bible Camp” was getting into it. Hanging out with the Lutheran Family camp in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania was just like hanging out with the guys at Pactola lake, way back in the Black Hills of South Dakota, except this time, they were drunk on the love of God.

It has been a long time since we have had access to a computer and I rarely notice it when we do.  Usually it takes Ken to spot it.  Big surprise.  Nerd.  Anyway, here’s a re-cap of my week in Dayton…alone…just team A.  It was a long week and a half in Dayton, but it is still Dayton so here are just a few highlights.

In Indianapolis we had two options:  either take a rest day there and partake in Karen-oke on Tuesday night or not take a rest day and make it to Dayton by Wednesday night for karaoke at Blind Bob’s.  Of course, with my persuasion we opted for an early arrival in Dayton.  Ken performed his staple Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show, which brought the house down.  The only other act that came close was my good friend Jon Gassett’s rendition of Material Girl.  Both fabulous in their own respects.

The next night we grilled out on Emily’s back patio.  I made up some bleu cheese stuffed burgers, Nathan’s hot dogs, grilled corn on the cob, potato salad.  Delicious.  I regret not having my camera around but don’t mind being distracted by great company.

Friday night we went to see the Dayton Dragons play the Michigan minor league team.  Dayton blew it 0-6.

Saturday was Brett’s big day.  Again, thanks to EP maggie and emily we all looked pretty decent for the occassion.

Sunday afternoon was supposed to be spent bridge jumping in Pleasant Hill with Brett and the rest of the wedding party.  That didn’t happen.  Instead Emily, Noelle, Casey, Ken and I all went to Yellow Springs to swim at Glenn Helen National Park.  It was beautiful.  There are two waterfalls and one emptied out into a deep area that allows you to jump off the top of the waterfall.  Although, you have to shimmy up a fallen tree to get back to the top.

After the weekend I lost track of days.  It’s a miracle I remembered which day to leave for Columbus to meet back up with Ken and Quinn.  The rest of the trip was awesome, though.  We finally did end up going bridge jumping in Pleasant Hill.  That is where Eric grew up and bridge jumping is how he spent his childhood summers.  It was Eric, Maggie, Emily, Martin, Martin’s daughter Penelope, and myself.  The bridge is only about 15′ high but you have to go up to the roadway and make sure you don’t get seen by any passersby or they might call the police.  It’s not neccessarily legal.  There was also a swinging rope hanging from the bridge into the creek.  It was only about 5′ long but still fun nonetheless.  And just to ease the nerves of the parents, every year the kids move rocks to dam the creek to make it deep enough to jump in.  No worries.  There was also another waterfall further downstream we could stand under.  I never knew Ohio had such magical places.  Later that night I even experienced my first Drive-In movie.  We saw Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.  It was pretty entertaining and made me wish NYC had drive-in movies.  Or bike-in movies.

For me, this trip has been the first time I’ve met a lot of babies of friends and family.  In Milwaukee I met the adorable Mabel Steffeck, Roxanne’s daughter, and Miles Divozzo, my nephew, I also got to meet my other nephew Peyton Allen, my sister Rachel’s little girl.  To all the new (and experienced) mothers, your children are beautiful and I’m glad this trip has allowed me to meet them because who knows when I’ll get another chance.

One of the last nights I was in town my friend Eric Hoyer took me on a bike ride.  Just about the only time I used my legs while in Dayton.  There is a group ride every Thursday night around 10pm that he organizes.  In all about a dozen people, maybe a couple more, showed up.  We rode with the pack for a bit but then we broke off and he took me up into some of the only hills Dayton has to offer.  It was real fun and I’m glad he reminded me Dayton can be fun to ride around.  He was pretty upset that I wasn’t winded though, given his competitive nature.  But Hoyer, I’ve been doing this for 2.5 months now!  Don’t be mad.  When we were on our way back downtown the skies opened up and began to pour.  It was great!  Nothing I love more than sweet summertime rains.  That about does it for Dayton.  I thank the whole of Gem City for being so awesome.  Always a hole in my heart for ya.

 

that's Brett's dad in the middle..

that's Brett's dad in the middle..

Everyone riding to the reception

Everyone riding to the first party spot

 

the married mobile

the married mobile

 

Eric and Andy (andy rode Eric's BMX bike all day)

Eric and Andy (andy rode Eric's BMX bike all day)

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after the wedding we went to this bar, then the reception, then eventually back to this bar.

all the single fellas

all the single fellas

It was a blast going to Brett and Janell’s wedding.  Congratulations!   Janell looked soooo beautiful.  Brett was very handsome – i love the beard.    It was really nice to get out of my one outfit and feel like a lady again.  We all made our way out to the dance floor at some point and showed off our moves, none of which compare to those of Brett’s dad.  He was amazing!!

During these next few days, team QAK splits up.  Andy’s hangin in Dayton, I’m flying to Syracuse to see my family, and ken’s headed to his home town to be in his friends wedding.  I was anxious to get to Syracuse so I scheduled an early monday morning flight.  This meant that i had to get up and ride to columbus today to catch my flight tomorrow.  Didnt actually get to sleep till 2, but felt good in the morning and was siked for my solo ride…and i made pretty good time considering there was no one to draft off of.  Got into Columbus at 3 and met Lee who rode with me back to his place.  Ken, Andy and I will meet at Lee’s place on the 28th and get back on the road the following morning. Hopefully our muscles won’t disappear in the meantime.

The ride to Columbus was much nicer than I expected – I had high expectations as there were bike trails the whole way, but it was really a beautiful ride… very quiet, with loads of wildflowers and wildlife.  And the bike trails took me all the way to London, about 25 miles outside of Columbus.  On my ride, I passed a friendly older couple that said hello and then caught up to me a bit later when i stopped to stretch and call my dad, HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!… well, i rode with them for a few minutes and told them about the trip and they insisted on taking me to lunch.  More amazing people.  Phillis and Bill Evans have toured all over the country and ride the Ohio bike trails frequently.  Thank you again!

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Two awesome shirts found by Eric's talented girlfriend, MAGGIE. Dorothy, we thought of you when looking at the shirt andy's got on.

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a bit confused.  trying to fix a hole in ken's pants - i went over and took care of it after laughing for a bit...  love this photo.

a bit confused. trying to fix a hole in ken's pants - when i saw the photo op, i couldn't stop laughing. Â i eventually tagged in and fixed the pants for them.

Getting all dolled up.   The bride on the left with Maggie to her right.

Getting all dolled up. The bride on the left with Maggie to her right.

Emily doing a beautiful job on Janell's hair.

Emily doing a beautiful job on Janell's hair.

A little tooo tight...

A little tooo tight...

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