Friday, September 9th and we are up bright and early to make the drive up to the starting point in Milford, PA. The plan was to be on my bike by 9AM, but we faced a few delays. We unloaded in front of the Pike County Administration building in downtown Milford. While getting ready, the Commissioner inquired about the ride, and I got my first photo op!
Today's plan is to ride from Milford to Tunkhannock, PA; which is approximately 85 miles with a lot of elevation to climb. I was pretty nervous to get started. It was hard to believe that this was actually about to happen. I got a hug and a good luck kiss from my wife, and I was off. As a side note, my wife is a part of this journey. Our plan is meet every 30 to 50 miles to make sure I have enough water and food to eat. We would also meet up each night at our designated campground. Being properly fueled and hydrated is important to my health. This also gives her peace of mind that in case of an emergency, she is never more than an 1 1/2 hours away.
The bike felt very heavy with the first few pedal strokes, and not just from the weight of all my gear. I was feeling the pressure of making this happen. I was confident that I had trained hard, but I still had this voice inside me saying "You better not fail". A lot of friends and family have stepped up to support me. My charities, the National MS Society and Wake Up Narcolepsy were counting on me, and I didn't want to let my son and sister down.
As I began to pick up speed down Main Street - Route 6, I calmed myself by remembering why I was doing this. Yes, I want to raise as much money as I could. Money that can go to research for new treatments and ultimately, lead to a cure one day. But the fact of the matter is that day in and day out, most don't see the impact of donations made outside of the drugs that they take - drugs they still have to pay for. My main focus is to raise awareness, and to let them know people do care. I wanted to put myself in the shoes of my son and sister. I wanted to put myself in a place where I could sense the pain, the exhaustion, and loneliness they have encountered as they have faced their diseases each and every day. By doing so, I wanted them and others with MS, with Narcolepsy, and quite frankly any other ailment, to know that people do care. I want my ride to inspire others to take a moment, and think how they can support others. It doesn't have to be a bike ride - it can be as simple as picking up the phone and calling someone to let them know that you care, or to wish them a good day.
With those ideals in my head, my load became lighter and I had a sense of calm. At the end of Main street, I made a right hand turn and began to climb out of Milford. I was off and was feeling good, but the challenges of the ride were just beginning.
The best way to talk about day 1 is to list the highs and the lows. The highs where simple. This part of Pennsylvania is beautiful. I would pass through some great small towns: Hawley, Honesdale, and Carbondale. I also got to see plenty of wildlife; including turkey and a black bear - both of which came within the first 2 hours. I spoke with my son the night before I left, and he asked me if I had any bear spray. Of course, I said no. My reasoning was, I was staying in campgrounds and wasn't too concerned. I guess I didn't think I may need it on a bike!
I was on a climb that was about 3 miles long and in a pretty good cadence. I was about 1/2 way into the climb when I looked up and 200 yards ahead, I watched a bear begin to cross the road. Although I wasn't going very fast, I still slowed up and watched this wonderful animal. When the bear was about 1/2 way across the road, he stopped and looked in my direction, and we had ourselves a bit of a stare off. He kept his eyes on me and then slowly began to walk again. I never came to a stop and probably got no closer that 75 yards before he entered the woods. I cautiously passed where he entered and surprising, found the ability to finish that hill at a pretty good clip.
Now I'll talk about the lows a bit. Throughout my training, I never encountered any rain, so of course on my very first day it began to rain. In a weird way, I was a bit excited. I mean, I had bought all this rain gear and hadn't yet used it. I pulled over, and on went the rain gear. It wasn't raining hard, but I definitely wanted to stay dry as I still had a long way to go. The rain didn't last too long, but it was nice while it lasted as it was very hot - low to mid 90's and the humidity was high as well. I am guessing within the first two hours, I consumed 6 bottles of water and was still concerned about dehydration.
The other tough part of the day was avoiding the part of Route 6 that heads into Scranton, as these are not very bike friendly roads. I thought I had programmed my Garmin Edge 1000 to avoid these roads, but that ended up not being the case. To make matters worse, even though my computer said I had about 30 miles to complete the day it suddenly said you have reached your destination! Now I found myself on a terrible road, not sure where to go, and the weather was looking like rain again.
I finally called my wife and we met to discuss how to solve this problem. We decided that she would drive me about 7 miles to a safer road and I would continue on to our campground. I was good with this as it would end up being the same milage. While it was a good plan, mother nature had a different idea. We were about 1/2 way to where she was going to drop me off when the rain along with thunder and lightning erupted. I was hoping it would pass quickly, but that was not the case. I had to call it a day and we headed to the the campground. I would have to figure out how to make up the miles.
In the end the day's totals were 61.5 miles, 5,276 vertical feet of climbing, and I was in the saddle for 4 hours and 48 minutes. The average speed 12.8 MPH, max speed 37.1 MPH, average cadence 78 RPM.
All in all, a good day - bring on tomorrow.
Stay tuned for Episode 11 for the first night of camping.