Bringing Cliff Home – Day 1

August 15, 2016 § Leave a comment

The day began relatively early. Although there wasn’t much in Little Falls, the Travel Lodge did offer us some breakfast, and we were able to get a solid base in for the long day ahead. The plan was to set off with Cliff’s PAC Tour buddies (The EFM Crew) and ride with them into Saratoga Springs where they would stop for lunch. There we would split off and head Southeast while the PAC Tour continued East. Along the way about every 20 clicks or so, the support vehicles would set up a snack and water stop. A place to regroup, and recharge. There would be two of these, and we had our own Sag wagon being driven by Michael. Michael did a fantastic job provisioning everything. By my estimates, we probably could have made it all the way to Florida just consuming all the consumables that he put together for us. In addition Michael brought fold up chairs, and a shade canopy, so we were going to Sag in style and comfort.

I imagine that every morning on a PAC tour begins the same way, with the tour vehicles open and tour staff out and available to help the tour riders get started. The PAC tour does maintain a certain level of discipline over the riders day to day. They learn fast who the strong riders are and the pecking order down the line to the weakest rider, and they use this to maintain a fairly strict who can start when policy. What they don’t want is for the fast group to get more than twenty miles ahead of the slow group so the fast folks are all held back, and the slower folks have be the first ones off. You can’t have the front group getting beyond the range of the vehicles ability to service everyone during the rest stops along the way. While Cliff’s group wasn’t the slowest group, they called themselves the EFM crew. They were going to ride Every Fuggin Mile, and not be forced into “The Van”.

“The van” is the vehicle that rides at the rear and has the responsibility to pick up riders who, in spite of everything done to keep the group relatively together, still fall too far back and need to be ferried up the road. Cliff arrived ready to ride this tour, having put in the requisite training miles, and logging the long rides. Most everyone else did as well, but there were some people who misread the training miles required, and there were riders who though strong for their respective ages, were in their 70’s, and the PAC tour is a beat down on even the most fit riders. So “The Van” is needed, and Cliff’s crew maintained a pace and consistency that was sufficient to avoid “The Van”

After breakfast, John, Doug, myself and the EFM crew rolled out of The Travel Lodge in Little Falls and our Bring Cliff Home ride was officially begun. Our route would include 102.5 miles of New York State country roads as well as a number of Bike Path segments once we got to the Hudson River. Though the last 30 miles of the ride would be relatively flat we would still manage to rack up over 4000 feet of elevation gain due mainly because the route to Saratoga Springs would take us up into the rolling foot hills of the Adirondacks.

The road surfaces in New York are, for the most part, in good condition, and New York State seems to support a transportation system that believes in adequate shoulders. Granted those decisions, can rest with County officials on a lot of roads; I personally have ridden few roads in NY that didn’t have some decent shoulder. It depends on the road and the location. For example, road around the East shore of Lake Saratoga divides some properties between the house on one side of the road, and the waterfront along the other, so along that section the shoulder was pretty tight, and not in the best of condition. But, the stretch was short lived and we enjoyed better than average conditions most of the day.

The PAC Tour forces its riders, actually its probably better to say that an environment is created in which the organizers do everything they can to make sure that your machine is in tip top shape each day. That means that when you pull in the previous afternoon, most people are encouraged to clean their bikes that moment, getting them ready to ride again the next day. That means sponging everything down, cleaning the chain, maybe even breaking down the rear cassette and cleaning each cog, and then putting it all back together again. Inflating tires, and adjusting anything that needs adjusting. Every single day. Most people who know me, know that I pretty much ignore my  bike until I can’t ignore it any more. My bike is dirty; It doesn’t look that great; It has nicks here and there; The front derailleur is sticky; The list goes on and on. While I haven’t made much of an effort to change, I did make an effort this year to replace a few items. I bought an  oval set of compact chain rings from Absolute Black, for which I needed a compact set of cranks, so I ordered a set of Shimano Cross compacts. I realized that my bearing cups were shot, so I ordered brand new ceramic bearing cups from Kogel. I replaced my chain, my rear cassette, and I did some maintenance on my rear cassette hub body. I even cleaned some of the dirt off the frame, and the bike was looking a lot better. By the time I got to Little Falls though, all the newness had worn off, and I felt I had some issues that I was simply riding through.

During one of the morning pit stops, I decided to ask Lon from PAC if I could borrow a Shimano Crank tool because I could feel some play on every revolution of the crankset. He may have rolled his eyes, but he was obliging, and I performed some maintenance. It would get be through the day. This would be revisited over the next two days.

We arrived in Saratoga Springs, and easily found the lunch location. Michael had setup in the same field as the PAC Tour, and we all shared space together and enjoyed our respective meals, and when it came time to part ways, Cliff said his final goodbyes, and we were off on our own. We needed to get our miles in today, so we wouldn’t have that many tomorrow. As with the roads into Saratoga Springs, the roads out were wide and scenic. We found our turns, and soon we gave up all our elevation and settled in along the Hudson River. From here we would utilize a combination of highways, bike paths, short causeways, and then finally a bike path to get down to Albany. We had one final pit stop dialed in, and then we made the final push to The Barge Bar and Grill where we found ourselves a couple of tasty cold beverages. Michael found us there and we decided we needed to get back to Saratoga Springs and our hotel, before we drank too many beers.

Back in Saratoga Springs, we hooked up with the rest of our party that would join us for the last two days home. Johnny Conway, Ray Villa, Larry Centro and Alex Rosanno met us at the Saratoga Downtowner where after some cleanup we departed for the City Tavern, for a few beers, and then to One Caroline for some fine eats. Day 1 was a good day.



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