Sunday, August 5, final day. I’m pretty sure that the weather forecasts for the last two weeks have warned of thunderstorms everyday, from a 20% chance to 60 %. Brian and I had been amazingly fortunate avoiding rain, but not so with heat and headwinds. All-in-all, I think we were better off soaked with perspiration than precipitation.

So when I left Holland, Massachusetts for the relatively easy 45 mile ride to Wethersfield, Connecticut, I was not that worried about weather, even though gusty winds and torrential downpours were possible. But I left much later than usual, 1:15 in the afternoon.

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The first time I got lost, it was my fault. There are two roads that cross the hill between Holland and Route 19. I should have gone straight, but I took the right into Union, CT. I found fresh pavement on remote, rural roads, thick with trees, steep with hills, and pestering flies that enjoyed my snail’s pace on the climbs. At first I was so lost that I didn’t even know I was lost. After several descents, I realized my mistake. There was absolutely no way I was turning around and climbing back so I relied on my compass (again) and pressed onward, trying as best I could to go west and south.

I found my way into the tiny town of Stafford and kind of knew where I was. In Stafford Springs the road signs disappeared and I was soon confused (again). My compass heading was acceptable, I pedaled on, and I kept a wary eye to the north-east at a line of thunderstorms. In short order, I began to hear the thunder; long, deep, rolling and growling. Soon after that, the line of clouds would illuminate from within as lightning looked for a path to ground. Scanning the homes to my left and right, looking for one with a big enough front porch, or an open garage door, the wind suddenly got stronger and colder. Just a few seconds before it reached me, I could hear the rain pelting the thick, dark green, August leaves, like a freight train rumbling in to town. It was time to seek shelter. With the amazing luck that has followed me across the country, it is no surprise that at that exact moment I spied a house with a front porch, no steps, just a few feet from the road. I knocked on the door and when the gentleman answered, the rain was sweeping through and the lightning bolts were zig-zagging. The thunder no longer purred like a hungry stomach: it cracked and exploded with July 4th intensity.

No problem. Been there done that. I checked the weather radar on my iPad and saw that I would soon be back on the road. I calculated that I might reach Hartford before the next line of storms moved in. We both arrived there at the same time.

Barely 5 miles from my destination, I imagined pulling into the Old Town Cafe, soaking wet and bedraggled, standing at the bar as a puddle of water formed at my feet. I crossed the Connecticut River on the Charter Oak Bridge, rising high above the watery obstacle. The gang of thunderstorms was terrorizing the north-end of Hartford and I had a ringside seat while I was trying to skirt to the south. Highly motivated by weather, the thought of finishing, and sharing a beer with my friends, I pushed hard on the pedals, and tried to stay cognizant of road hazards and traffic (I was too close now to suffer a stupid accident). I arrived at the Old Town at 5:50, just as Ron Kapraszewski got there with his van. “Hey Neal”, he yelled, “do you want to put your bike in the van?” The question didn’t really need to be asked. With the efficiency of a Tour de France mechanic changing out a bike for the wearer of the Yellow Jersey, we had the dirty, and somewhat tattered Waterford bicycle safely tucked away. And then it rained cats and dogs!

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My total mileage for the trip is 4,262 miles. I weighed myself this morning and I am 21 pounds lighter. I started on May 26, took a total of 15 days off, and finished on August 5. I think that is an actual 57 days on the bike.

I have two or three more posts in me before I stop blogging. One will be a thank you post. One will be a reflection on Canada, and I might do one about Detroit. And I’m pretty sure I can say some nice words about my sister too.

Bonus photo (credit Brain Pawlow); Weston, VT, July 29.

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