A little tumble

After leaving Fitchburg, MA in the morning, lunch today is atop a small mountain.  Some of us turned Bike & Build into Hike & Build to make it to the summit of one of the inclines.  That said, once we arrived, the lunch spot was beautifully nestled into the side of a lake and shaded by trees a plenty.  Today I am riding sweep with Abby, which means that it is our responsibility to stay at the end of the pack and make sure everyone does okay.  This is also an excuse to go slow, smell the roses, and take lots of pictures along the way.  Near the end of lunch, I am working on a fellow rider’s bicycle trying to increase the tension on her front derailleur.  Unfortunately, the fine-tuning adjuster is maxed out and the only way to make a greater adjustment is to play with the spot where the cable is secured to the derailleur.  This is one of those situations where I know what I need to do and how it’s supposed to work, but making it all happen as I imagine is never as easy as it seems.  In the end it takes three of us to make her shifter functional again, but after some success we are ready to continue on our journey.

At lunch, we also learn of a section of road that bicyclists are not allowed to ride on due to construction or some other crazy excuse.  Regardless, we are forced to detour.  Continuing onward from this lunch spot we make our way through a beautifully wooded even if pothole-filled road.  The road also starts to pitch downwards more and more as we continue, and a steep grade plus potholes can make for a slightly trickier ride.

I pick up speed as we continue down this road, and as we round the last corner, the main road on which we’ll be turning comes into view, and for the sake of this story, I’m going to stay that this happens rather suddenly.  I feel that I can safely make the turn at the bottom without going too far into the road, so I slow down slightly and prepare to lean into the turn.  I’m also pleased that my current momentum might help me up this next uphill stretch.  My miscalculation comes at the bottom of this hill just before the turn.  There is a healthy patch of sand and gravel, and as I am already aware of, road bicycle tires and loose gravel don’t get along very well.  As I am turning at regrettably too fast a clip, my tires slide out from under me and I am soon sliding through this patch of road.  Being clipped into my pedals, I remain fully attached to my bicycle.  I also unintentionally continue holding onto my handlebars as my slide across the sand, gravel and pavement finally slows.

The slide seems to last a while, but in reality, I recognize that it was probably no more than a couple seconds, if that much.  I come to a stop, and I don’t move for a a little while as I try to assess the damage.  The adrenaline pumping through me makes me feel superman-esque, but as my heart rate returns to a normal rhythm and I unclip from my bicycle and stand up, I begin to acknowledge what hurts.  The road rash on my arm is obvious, full of sand, and quite tender to the touch.  I take a look at my leg because it is sending my brain all sorts of pain signals, but I don’t notice anything.  My lower leg because it was bent slightly inwards as my foot was attached to the pedal is relatively unscathed.  I then notice that under my very stylish Bike & Build cycling bib, a little red is permeating through where there hadn’t been red before.

By this point, two fellow cyclists, Abby and Alex have caught up to me and are quite concerned.  That might be because my adrenaline still has my legs shaking a little bit, but also because anytime a fellow rider sees another rider go down, the reality of the risks of cycling come into stronger focus.  With them as an audience, I pull up my spandex a bit to expose the nickel-sized divot that has been carved out of my leg.  Similar to a golfing divot, I attempt to replace the patch of skin that was ripped off and place it back over the uneven turf that is my lateral upper thigh.

Although there is some consequences involved with this type of accident including the rather intense shooting pains felt when cleaning out the wound with soap, water, hydrogen peroxide, and alcohol swabs, in the grand scheme of things, I was fine, my bicycle was relatively fine (the derailleur needs to be bent back into shape), and other than a good story and a small scar, the trip will continue.  As one of my riders really likes to say, “It’s all just part of the adventure.”


Week 1 – Bike & Build

6/15 – 6/18: Portland, ME
Mileage: n/a (arrived by airplane)
Host: St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 678 Washington Ave

After a couple days on our own, the trip leaders are joined by the 24 other riders whom we will help safely reach the other side of the country. We play name games, give presentations on what they should expect, share a couple meals, run through a couple practice rides, and stress anything safety-related whenever possible. We teach our riders how to care for their bikes, how to communicate on the road, and how to prevent common bicycling errors. Policies and rules are discussed, fears and anxieties are addressed, and general excitement for the adventure to come is shared.

Turning left

We also get to have our first build day at the Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland. We install windows and put up insulation, climbing around scaffolding and up ladders all the while. There is a slight drizzle and breeze making the day almost too chilly, but the pizza provided by Habitat helps to warm us all up.

Leader crew

6/19: Kittery, ME
Mileage: 71
Host: Second Christian Congregational Church, 33 Government St

First ride. First day on the road. We dip our rear tires in the Atlantic and are on our way. Some riders are better acquainting themselves with cue sheets, riding as a group, and learning how to communicate with each other. A couple groups of riders may have gotten themselves a little turned around throughout the day. Lunch is had in a beautiful park in Kennebunk, ME, and a sigh of relief is shared upon completing this first slightly trying yet absolutely beautiful ride.


6/20: Andover, MA
Mileage: 60
Host: The Pike School, 34 Sunset Rock Road

We start the day with a little more routine than before. Chore groups complete their tasks. Riders prepare the bicycles with more ease. Morning route meeting is relatively efficient and seemingly smooth. And the spacing between rider groups almost seems natural. After bicycling for about 60 miles including some challenging hills near the end, we have our fabulous dinner with the Webbers and start feeling a little more comfortable with the idea that we might be doing this for the next several months.


6/21 – 6/22: Fitchburg, MA
Mileage: 44
Host: First Parish Church Universalist Unitarian of Fitchburg, 923 Main St

Today was a shorter ride coming in at just over 40 miles, and it was nice arriving at the host a litter earlier. The extra time meant we could take a slightly more leisurely shower at the nearby YMCA as well as enjoy some of Neil’s anecdotes. Neil greeted us at the First Parish Church and even though he was a bit older than the rest of us, he spent the night on the floor in a sleeping bag in solidarity. Both mornings—one before our build day and one before our bike ride—Neil serenaded us as we woke in the chapel. Neil was full of facts, stories, and just general enthusiasm.


The build day was particularly exciting as we were asked to move about 30 tons of stones to fill a trench in the backyard. We finished the task with 2 minutes to spare at the end of the day. It was fun seeing the hustle in our team after lunch.