The hills begin today.
I now know this country as a giant basin.
The bowl of the plains and midwest bounded by the rims of mountains on either side.
And now it's time to climb the rim.
Today we will climb 2,100 feet - a warm-up.
Tomorrow it will be 5,050.
And Sunday - 6,000! Our biggest climb of the entire journey!
Are they trying to kill us?
As I begin that first big hill out of the valley I look back on Little Falls, New York.
The hills are so beautiful.
I wish I had had time to get to know them.
This hill is beautiful.
Where before I had cursed the strain hills caused to my legs...
I now enjoyed the climb for the new vistas...
Each turn brought fresh views....
The valleys below...
The placid cows unperturbed by this one lone biker....
Lovely old homes with straight clean lines and wavy glass windows....
The creeks tumble by with sparkling rocks and the clearest joyful water.
An old church...founded 1767.
Europeans laugh at our small American history.
Two hundred years is a baby next to the Coliseum.
But there's still a thrill to see glimpses of our past in these lovingly preserved old structures.
Wow! I have to stop!
Crumbling old pillars...
Statues of white men and a lovely Indian maiden....
What is the story?
I later find out she was Kateri Tekakwitha - "the fairest flower that ever bloomed among the redmen."
She converted to Christianity and for that was shunned by her people.
Her face was scarred by the smallpox.
But she lived a life of purity and dedication to the church.
They say when she died at the age of 24, her scars melted away revealing a woman of extraordinary beauty.
She was the first Native American recognized as a saint by the Catholic church.
And what's this sign next to the memorial?
Shrine land for sale?!
I can't believe it.
I bike along - shaking my head...
Stop at the farmer's market...
Wow! Wonderful colorful fruits and veggies!
Sue offers me a taste of their sweet red berries.
She's so proud of their produce.
I love buying food directly from the person who picked the fruit from the fields.
First SAG stop and Barb is setting out fresh peaches for us!
Texas Tom is there - the first one to catch up with me today.
He's one of our fastest bikers.
But he takes the time to salute every time he passes an American flag.
Tom tells me Rick got held up by two flats today.
And he hadn't had any flats until the one yesterday.
I take off while Tom is still tasting the peaches.
I love the old bridges...
Their intersecting angles make such interesting patterns...
And they make me think of change...
crossing over from one side of our life to another...
But what's this on the horizon?
Dozens of bulldozers and steam shovels chomping at the top of this hillside.
They're in a devilish hurry to finish this giant warehouse
What are we doing to this world?
But there's more beauty ahead...
The joy of the descents...
...into a valley
This whole day has been alternating beauty and destruction!
A HUGE cement plant...
Chewing off the cliff face...
...filling the small stream with mucky silt.
Our tires slush through gray thick puddles.
Here's what I've been looking for!
All over the country I've seen these signs.
I want to buy it all!
Plant trees and prairies...
Protect some small portion of our great country for the future.
Leave a patch or two unpaved, untrammeled.
That's why I believe in these local land trusts.
The local people who care about the shrines and the creeks and the roadside farms.
Here it's the Otsego Land Trust.
At home it's the Red-tail Conservancy.
Each group protecting land in our own backyard.
Like our Land in Indiana.
OK. Back to the bike ride....
We found a wonderful bike path along the Mohawk River.
Here's Ellen with a big smile.
She wanted to quit back in Casper.
She's always been behind even me.
Now she's slimmed down and ready to roll!
Beautiful wetlands restoration.
Why two birdhouses so close together?
Swallows will take one - but another swallow won't nest so close.
So that leaves it open for a bluebird family.
And here are the people doing the restoration
The New York Department of Transportation!
Is that cool, or what?
Leo's enjoying the trail...
He stops for photo ops almost as much as I do.
We turn onto a busy street...
Need to squeeze by the local walkers.
But it gets us to the famous Jumping Jack Drive-in!
Hope they don't mind if we Bike-in.
It's a biker party!
I think everyone is thinking about the fact we only have three days left.
They are slowing down....
taking time to smell the roses...
...and taste the ice cream!
SAG stop and I finally find my biker chick, Al.
She shows me her biker tattoos...
Look at these legs!
It's a jovial stop.
We're all together now.
The question of the day...
Who hasn't had any flats yet?
Katie and Gerard are the flatless ones.
Great downhills along the Mohawk leading into Latham.
But I end up with a flat.
It's fixed by the team, Mike and Karen - always in matching outfits.
Everyone watches the masters at work.
At the hotel at last we all line up for Jim's nightly mechanics session.
We all want our bikes ready for the big day tomorrow.
Tonight's route rap is serious stuff.
We know we have major climbing tomorrow - more than we've seen since Mt Rushmore.
Gary studies the route map intently.
Dereka and Teresa listen and wonder...
Can I do it?
Time to sleep.
We'll find out tomorrow.