7/26 Day 4: Manchester, CT to Windsor Locks, CT- 20 miles
So today we took a day "off" and only rode the 20 miles north to Windsor Locks, the beginning of the ACA trails for us. We slept in late today, had a great breakfast at the Ellis household and headed out. Our day was pretty mundane; we stopped by the bike shop, the grocery store, and generally noodled around as we took our time to allow our tired muscles to rest up. The real action didn't happen until we got to Windsor Locks. We had planned to stealth camp behind the Windsor Locks High School, but found that it was actually a skate park full of people and not really ideal for our needs. Meanwhile, dark thunderheads were rolling in- and fast. We knew the forecast called for storms, but had hoped we would be lucky enough to avoid rain for the 4th straight day. Our hope was not well founded. As the winds picked up we decided to call the Windsor Locks Police and see if they knew any place for us to camp. They informed us that camping at the school was not allowed...but they would be fine with letting us camp behind the police department.
With the storm clouds rolling in and the rain just starting to fall, we rushed over to the PD, only a fraction of a mile away. We pulled up, Erin rushed in to talk to the sergeant and the rest of us waited uneasily out in the field while the rain got heavier. As she ran out to give us the thumbs up, the sky opened. What ensued was undoubtedly a hilarious scene for the cops inside as we scrambled to put up our tents in the driving rain and heavy winds (not to mention the brief tornado watch we only found about later.) 45 minutes after, we could be found laughing at ourselves, soaked and huddled under the awning of the station while the sun broke through and a rainbow arched over the woods. We made dinner, hung our things out to dry and prepared the camp for bed.
7/27 Day 5: Windsor Locks, CT to Lakeville, CT 56 miles
Little did we know when we woke up today at 6 that we were about to tackle not only our hardest day yet, but one of the hardest days we will probably have on the trip, given our conditioning at this point. We had planned a normal 50 mile day at first, but on discovering that Mandi had some friends in Lakeville, we ended up stretching it out to 56 miles to reach their home. One thing we didn't know: today is the day we cross the Appalachian Mountain Range. Now, you might be wondering how we could be surprised by this, and you would be justified in thinking we should probably be aware of all major geographic features we will be required to traverse. Our only defense is that we are green-very green- at this touring business and some of the finer points of topographical maps were lost on us until today. It wasn't until we summited a huge climb of a mile or two at 8% grade that I turned to Erin at the top, huffing and puffing, and said," I don't think that was a hill... I think that was a mountain."
The rest of the day was easily one of the toughest days of cycling I've ever done. Our highest elevation today was 1350 ft and we started basically at sea level. We had three or four grueling climbs over our 56 mile trek to Lakeville, and plenty of smaller ones. However, in addition to this being the hardest day I've ever had in the saddle, it was also easily the most rewarding. We crossed the Appalachians, the Appalachian Trail, saw the highest town in Connecticut (Norfolk, CT), broke some personal barriers for what I thought I could physically do, and, after all of it, I feel like I could do it again tomorrow (I certainly don't want to, for the record.) We made it to the house of Robert and Carol Sadlon in Lakeville, and they have been kind enough to feed and provide facilities to us for the night. We have been the recipients of alot of kindness in only the last five days, and to everyone who has hosted us, thank you so much.
We're not sure tonight of the fate of Dustin ad Beth's ride, but we're hoping that a day or two of rest will have them back in the saddle, we'll know more tomorrow. Until then.