• Patrick Gabrion

Pedaling to the party

I’m currently reading “The Wright Brothers,” a book written by historian David McCullough and published by Simon & Schuster in 2015. It’s amazing what bicycle shop owners Wilbur and Orville Wright accomplished in the early 1900s when they created their flying machine. With no scientific background, and basically putting aside most of the experimentation done by others, these two men from Ohio are credited with an invention of astounding proportions.


But for me, one incredible element stands out over all others. It is the fact that their early flights in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and at Huffman Prairie, just outside of Dayton, Ohio, were pretty much ignored and disbelieved. Almost everyone it seems was convinced that what the Wright brothers were attempting — and did — was just not attainable. Man flying like a bird, that’s crazy!


Road riding in early March in Maine.

I have my own bizarre project, albeit not even remotely as significant and historic in nature as their great achievement, that I want to attempt in the near future. By now, you all are quite aware of my love for riding bicycles. There’s nothing I enjoy more than being perched on a bike saddle cruising down a country road or skirting along a forest trail.


So, I’ve come up with this far-flung proposal, which is still in the early stages of development. My high school class of 1971 will be holding its 50-year reunion at some point during the summer of 2021, and I have pretty much decided to attend this celebration. While that in itself is not unusual, I’ve got it in my head to get to this party in my hometown of Ithaca — from Maine to Michigan — by way of riding a bike. A sensible idea, right?


It’s not the first time I’ve gone for a long bicycle ride. In 1982, I explored southeastern England and the channel coast of France, ending with my run-in with a truck. And in 2002, I traveled nearly 25 days from the western mountains of North Carolina to Texas, to support the Lance Armstrong Foundation. I guess this next adventure is some sort of 20-year itch that can only be satisfied through pedal power, although technically it will be 19 years since my last one.


As I stated earlier, I’m just beginning the logistics for this five-state, one province trip. Right now, I envision cruising along the East Coast Greenway from my home in Hallowell to southern Maine, and then making my way — through maps provided by Adventure Cycling — across New Hampshire, Vermont, and into New York.


Once in the Empire State, I really want to hook up with the Erie Canalway Trail, which is a 360-mile mostly unpaved path that runs the entire length of the state, from Albany to Buffalo. From there, I will enter southern Ontario, Canada and, again utilizing Adventure Cycling maps, ride along the northern shore of Lake Erie. Eventually, I will take a hard right toward Sarnia, where I will re-enter the United States at Port Huron, Michigan. Then, it’s just a matter of negotiating miles and miles of flat farmland to my final destination.


While I already have six bikes of varying types, I have a new one actually arriving today at the bike shop — yes, I told my wife — just for this particular trip. It’s a Trek 920 adventure beast that comes with front and rear racks for my needed panniers. My plan is to stay in motels or bed-and-breakfast spots most nights, but it will be a self-supported journey.


Because all this is tied to a school reunion and the fact that I’m returning to the place where I grew up and was educated, there is one more part to my plan. I will be establishing a GoFundMe page for the following purposes: 25 percent of all the money people generously donate will go toward trip expenses, while 75 percent will be given to the Thompson Home Public Library in my hometown of Ithaca, Michigan.


So there you have it, my wild idea. Maybe I’ve gone bonkers, but I’m looking forward to it; seeing parts of the U.S. and Canada the best way possible and meeting the people who inhabit those areas. I’ll keep you posted on my progress as I prepare for my “Reunion Tour.”

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