Thursday, July 31, 2008

onward to pennsylvania

Dinner at Tony and Joan's wonderful home was delicious - we enjoyed tasty chicken kabobs, potato gratin, and salad with pie for dessert. We should note that Tony was surprised how much we could eat - he ended up firing up the grill a second time just to satisfy our appetites! We also enjoyed getting the extensive tour of Tony's slot car collection. For those young blog readers out there, slot cars are awesome - they are small race cars (a little bigger than the matchbox variety) that race around an electronic track at the push of a button. As we learned from our demo try, Russ may have found a new career in this sport.

Quick aside - a weight update. To correct an earlier reported post, we had an accurate weigh-in at Tony and Joan's residence.
Alex: 150 (down), DMo: 153 (down), Russ: 159 (up), Sarah and Jen: no change. (DH would be proud)

We left North Canton under a clear Monday morning sky ready for our last ride through Ohio. The group was excited to know that Dan's Uncle Marvin would be meeting us along the ride and assisting us by carrying our gear. The plan had been to meet at the intersection of route 5 and another smaller numbered road. This, however, turned out to be more of a challenge than anticipated. Having been detoured from our original route and giving Uncle Marvin coordinates that didn't exist, it took us some time to find a common meeting place. Nevertheless, after Dan and Uncle Marvin exchanged multiple rounds of cellular communication, we finally found ourselves traveling down the same road. Jen and Russ were riding ahead and nearly missed Uncle Marvin in his blue Toyota Highlander. However, from the back of the pack, Alex and Dan spotted the bright, luminescent and orange Miami Dolphins attire from miles away. Uncle Marvin wanted to follow us along the way by driving behind us. After several miles on Route 5, however, it was made clear that we do not bike as fast as cars tend to travel. He quickly, and smartly, decided to meet us at our lunch destination.

We stopped to eat at Caesar's where we proceeded to order and finish an entire sheet of pizza (24 slices) with a side of PB and J. We found ourselves moving quickly without gear and, thus, had a relatively easy ride. Staying true to most days, we stopped for ice cream/shakes at a local establishment. This time Lickety Split was the lucky winner. A peanut butter bananaramma was ordered. Part of the group opted for a quick power nap instead. After ice cream, we climbed into Pennsylvania toward Cianci's Inn in Greenville. Finding the hotel was tricky because we had misunderstood Uncle Marvin and thought he had said Cialis Inn (this got a few laughs). Luckily for us, this was the only hotel in town. After a grocery stop at the famed Giant Eagle, we ate a nice dinner at the Stone Arch Family Restaurant. As if one ice cream stop for the day had not been enough, members of the group ordered pie for dessert and then walked all the way across the parking lot to Dairy Queen for dessert number two.

Tuesday was a great day - our first day riding for the whole day without gear. We departed Greenville with the ups and downs of the Alleghany Mountains ahead of us. Our lunch conference with Uncle Marvin took place at the Washington House, a wonderful establishment in the town of Fryburg (P.S. if you are interested in checking this town out, it is just past Venus on the map). If this was even possible, we out did ourselves again for lunch this time, ordering monster-sized burgers, entire pizza pies, and triple-stacked BLT's. The cook was so generous that she made us complementary appetizers to satisfy our hunger prior to the meal - deep fried squash and cauliflower that had been picked that morning (essentially defeating the purpose of eating a healthy vegetable).
Our ride to Marienville was fairly easy, except for the fact that our stomachs were stuffed full - why do we do this to ourselves every day? The answer alludes us, but this trend continues, day after day. Uncle Marvin had wisely selected the brand-new Microtel Inn in Marienville for us to stay the night, despite them having hung up on him 3 times the night before on the phone. Microtel offered us 2 rooms, an extra conference room to hold our bicycles, and continental breakfasts for all. The only alternative in town, the Bucktail Hotel, offered fewer amenities, and, when we checked it out later that evening, we noticed that there were no cars at all near the premises. Uncle Marvin comes through again.

After a few intense discussions of Civil War and WWII history with Marvin and the sleepy bikers, talk of dinner surfaced. While the girls opted to sleep, the men traveled to the local Italian restaurant, Betina's. Despite the recommendation by John at the hotel to sample the ice cream at a state favorite 40 miles away, we opted for the good stuff 1/4 mile down the road - and we of course notified the proper authorities that we were "taking some home" for Jen and Sarah.

On Wednesday morning, we left Marienville, but not after a photo-op with Uncle Marvin. It was great to spend time with him, and we are so appreciative of everything he did for us - we were truly spoiled for a few days. Now, it was onwards with our gear once again on our bikes. After a flat tire on Jen's bike and a couple of worthy uphills, we found ourselves stopped with another flat on Jen's bike (more to follow) in the center of a town. While the tire situation was being evaluated, Sarah, Alex and Dan headed to the local Pizzeria to find a restroom (it is much more difficult to tend to nature's calling in the middle of busy towns we have found). While taking care of business, we spoke with the owner of the Pizzeria and told her all about our trip. They would have offered to make us pizza had we been there longer or closer to lunch time. After declining the cookie we had been offered (we forget why we would ever decline food, but probably because we were too hungry to process this information correctly), we headed back outside to see how progress on the bike was going. Soon thereafter, the owner came out to us to offer some wraps (chicken, turkey, and vegetable) for the road. This time we certainly said yes. The group kept riding and was looking forward to the lunch break. The only other stop came when there was yet another flat on Jen's tire. This time it was decided that perhaps the ridiculously skinny tire on the back of the bike might need to be replaced as it was clearly not cut out to do the work it was being asked to do. Shame on you tire which is skinny.

Per usual, we stopped for lunch at a drive in (complete with selection of 24 ice cream flavors of course) in Smethport. After finishing wraps, PB and J, and several day old Tabouli (in questionable condition at best) we proceeded to order dairy products. On the way to the front window to order, we were stopped by some locals who questioned us about our trip. We had a pleasant conversation with Becky and Marcia who both generously made donations to Lea's. They warned us about the uphills to come and the rain that was expected. After thanking them, we finished our ice creams just as the rain began. It was just light at first but more was to follow. We headed out quickly to try to avoid the worst of what was to come. However, after only a few seconds, Alex needed to pull over in order to put on his rain jacket as it started pouring down heavily. Luckily for the group, the process of putting on the jacket took some time. On try number one, Alex left his Camelbak on making it hard to put on the jacket. Try number two and some real quick thinking took place immediately following try number one. This time the Camelbak was successfully removed and the Jacket put on just before actual soaking occurred. In the meantime, Dan waited patiently behind Alex in proper group formation and accumulated significant moisture on his forehead along with streams of water pouring down his sunglasses (he promptly thought about installing small windshield wipers, then opted not to since that would have taken additional time). As the commotion went on, this allowed Becky enough time to leave the drive in and pull up behind us. She got out of her car in the soaking rain only to slip Dan an additional donation for a hotel room that night. We thanked her yet again for her kindness and followed her down the road.

Although the hard rain only lasted for about fifteen minutes, it was enough to leave us drenched. Immediately following lunch, we had some pretty decent uphills to conquer before arriving at Coudersport. On the longest uphill since Colorado, we found ourselves amidst a procession of automobiles. First to pass us was a cop car, followed by an oversized load car. After that, we simply heard noise for about five minutes. All of us were wondering what might be trying to make its way up the hill (and why the heck was it traveling at roughly our speed?). Only DMo can answer this question. As the enormous truck carrying portions of a bridge eventually passed us, we were greeted by a long line of cars that had been stuck behind these two massive semis. Dan was happy to get many a thumbs up from passengers in those cars. At the top, a group bathroom break was established (luckily by that point the traffic had cleared up). It was notable that the bathroom lineup was in boy-girl-boy formation.

After the majority of the hills were conquered, we rode through Port Alleghany and were somewhat surprised to find ourselves in Buffalo Bills territory. We marched onward to our final stop that day in Coudersport. Still wet from the ride, we attempted to situate ourselves at the Westgate Inn. We were, however, denied a donated room and so went on to get groceries instead. At the store, a nice lady at the register called other hotels in the area to try to help us find a place to stay. She was finally able to negotiate a room at a reduced price. Before heading to the proposed hotel several miles down the road, we decided to treat ourselves to a dinner at the local Erway's Restaurant. As we were finishing our meals, we received a call from Dr. Keat Sanford, the Dean of Admissions at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. After informing Dr. Sanford of our situation, he generously informed us that he would be putting us up for the next two nights in Coudersport at the Westgate Inn (which we had just previously been rejected from). We were all ecstatic to hear the news as we sat in the restaurant and were even more surprised when a waitress came up to our table and asked if we were the group from Connecticut. Apparently, Dr. Sanford had asked the hotel when making reservations where a good place to eat was. They had suggested Erway's which we coincidentally happened to be sitting in already. The waitress proceeded to explain to us that Dr. Sanford was on the phone and in the process of setting up a tab for us to cover our food expenses throughout our stay in Coudersport. The waitress explained to us that she had to convince Dr. Sanford to lower the amount of money on the tab because she did not think that there was any possible way for us to run up a tab to that amount at their restaurant. Thank you Dr. Sanford, you have certainly made our stay in Coudersport as comfortable as possible. Not to mention, when we entered the suite at the Westgate Inn, we found a gigantic room with three beds, two tables, plenty of space to fit our bikes, a kitchenette, and premium cable television. Plus, it's Shark Week which makes the TV all the more essential. Again, thank you for your generosity and support Dr. Sanford.


Becky said...

Russ, Sarah, Dan, Alex & Jenn-
I enjoyed talking with you at the tiny drive in in Smethport, Pa. I wanted to let you know that I am extremely touched by your desire and efforts to help others. I'm sure that this trip will stay with you for a lifetime (the good & the bad). Reading your blog makes me proud to live in this country. I don't know any of you, but I am proud of you, as I'm sure your families are. You should be proud of yourselves.
I wish I had taken your bike gear and driven it to Coudersport, as you tackled some of the biggest hills in Western Pa. Sorry I didn't think of it until later.
Good luck to all of you with your endeavors in Med. school. I'm sure all of you will succeed and make compassionate physicians or researchers.
I intend to continue to send my financial support to Lea's Foundation and that is simply because of all of you.
I don't know if many people say this to you but.. THANK YOU. You are all great.
Take care of yourselves and each other.
Becky Erickson

Ankita Sharma said...

i just wanted so hi!