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We did it! In April I posted about my Colgate University class’s campaign to raise $50,000 to endow a scholarship in honor of our classmate, Dr. Tonya Gscheidle Henderson ’98. I asked for your support, pledging in turn to ride my bike 113 miles.

Not only did I raise more than my $1300 goal, as a whole we have raised over $52,000. In June the fund became an official endowed scholarship. It will have its first recipient this fall.

Thank you. Whether you shared social media posts, donated financially, or sent positive thoughts, your support made this happen. My classmates and I are incredibly grateful.

On Thursday morning, Tonya’s 45th birthday, I started my ride in Schenectady. It was the best weather the east coast had seen in a month; I don’t know how I pulled that off. My biking buddy, Susan, joined me for the first 25 miles, which made that portion go by quickly. We took the Erie Canal path. With all the rain we have had lately, the water was crashing through the locks.

The Sprakers Reformed Church offers their building as a “comfort station.” I was grateful for the clean restroom and the bottled water.

I saw a variety of animals along the trail: three deer, two groundhogs, a small snake, a turkey, a handful of rabbits, and while going by a farm, some really big pigs.

The biggest obstacle occurred around Herkimer. I knew there was a chance part of the trail would be unpaved. Indeed there was. Without warning, the surface changed from pavement to stone dust. This is a step above sand, and not something you really want to ride on with skinny road bike tires. I was looking forward to my next turn, but when I glanced to see where I was supposed to go, all that was in view was a muddy hill. Without a mountain bike and/or hiking boots, there was no way I was tackling that. The turn was supposed to be a short cut. Even though I was afraid continuing straight would add a few miles, that was clearly the better option. Miraculously, it didn’t add any significant mileage.

When I initially planned the ride, I was going to get off the canal trail around Ilion. I later adjusted that, deciding to continue on to Utica. From there it would be local roads. It was therefore a big deal as I approached the city line. There were some nice areas of the city. This, however, was not one of them.

I was slowing down at this point. I was tired, a little sore, low on water, and had reached the uphill portion of the program. I invited my father, also a Colgate alum, to join me for the last 13 miles. I was running late, so he met me at the 97 mile mark. After having ridden 72 miles alone, it was incredibly comforting to see him. Our paces are different enough that we didn’t really ride together for those final 16 miles. But between knowing he was there, and being on the home stretch, I got enough of a second wind to power through.

By the time I reached Lake Moraine Road, I was on autopilot. I could see the campus from afar, and felt at home.

Nine hours after departing, I reached 113.8 miles as I coasted along the pathway to East Hall. Darcie Leach Loveless ’98, Associate Director of Stewardship, greeted me with a huge smile and a hug. She brought swag, and I felt like I was on the Tour de France podium.

Somehow, despite the fatigue and sore muscles, the experience was amazing.

Class of ’98 and Class of ’72: An Alumni Event

Videos

My camera only has four hours of battery life, so I couldn’t record the entire ride. Believe me, you wouldn’t want to watch that much anyway! There are three options below: short, medium, and long. I recommend watching these with the sound off. Most of what you hear is the camera rattling.

Frank Dining Hall to East Hall (1:22)

Oak Drive to East Hall (5:26)

Colgate Inn to East Hall (8:54)

Up the Hill, with Profound Determination

Photo by Andrew M. Daddio, Colgate University, August 5, 2009. Retrieved from flickr.com.
“1819” sung by the Colgate 13, Cutting it Close, 1980

I’m going on a bike ride, and I need your help.

After years of saying I don’t want to do charity rides, and I hate fundraising, I’m doing a ride to raise money.

Here’s what you need to know. My friend and college roommate, Tonya, has cancer. She has reached the stage where there are no more treatments available. Over the past several months, she has been in hospice care. In her words:

Facebook post, April 2021

Tonya has immeasurable wealth. It is not the kind backed by a federal agency, but a wealth of faith, determination, courage, and an ability to befriend anyone who crosses her path. My classmates and I want to honor this spirit; it is the “spirit that is Colgate.” In order to do so, we need to raise tangible funds. Everything we raise will go toward financial aid. Hopefully we will raise enough to endow a scholarship in Tonya’s name. Financial aid made Colgate possible for Tonya, and our goal is to pay that forward (More about Tonya in our official ask below).

It is in this same spirit that I am committing to ride my bike 113 miles, ending at East Hall, our freshman dorm. The ride will take place on Tonya’s birthday, July 22, 2021 (severe weather threats will change the date). I hope you will consider supporting this effort. My initial goal is $1300. All money raised will go directly to the fund set up by Colgate. This is not a glitzy fundraiser; swag is pretty limited. Any gift amount will be appreciated, you do not have to choose from Colgate’s default amounts. If you need some inspiration, here is a range of possibilities:

$13: Sets the thing in motion (listen to the song at the beginning of the post). Colgate’s lucky number.
$18.19: Year of Colgate’s founding.
$19.98: Year of our graduation.
$41.31: Tonya’s CU mailbox number
$56.50: 50 cents per mile!
Anyone pledging at this level or above will get a handwritten, rather than email, thank you note.
$113: One dollar per mile!
Anyone pledging at this level or above may opt to receive a text update from the road.
$133.46: Colgate’s zip code
Anyone pledging at this level or above may opt to receive a selfie from the road.
$197.75: One Slice per mile! (At current day prices. Still plain only.)
Anyone pledging at this level or above may opt to receive two selfies from the road (neither selfie will include pizza).
$282.50: Two and a half dollars per mile!
Anyone pledging at this level or above may opt to receive three selfies from the road.
$565: Five dollars per mile!
Anyone pledging at this level or above may opt to follow me electronically through Garmin’s Livetrack*, and receive three selfies.
$860: Number of students starting out in the Class of ’98. The biggest and the best!
Anyone pledging at this level or above may opt to receive four selfies.
$1130: Ten dollars per mile!
Anyone pledging at this level or above may opt to be tagged/thanked in social media posts, and receive five selfies.
$1300: Genuine fan of Tonya.
Pledge this much, I’ll buy you something from the bookstore.

*Limited number available

Prefer to drive rather than write a check? I am also looking for someone (must be fully vaccinated) to help get me to the Schenectady area (beginning of the ride) from Colgate (end of the ride). I would like to leave my car at Colgate, and have someone drive me from there – the day before the ride – to a hotel near the starting point. Please let me know if you can do this!

Next steps!

— Donate at: http://colgate.edu/hendersonfund (Please contact me if you’d prefer a different method. Please note that donating directly to Colgate comes with a tax deduction, other ways do not.)

— In the comments section, please write, “Jennifer’s bike ride.”

Email me your gift level and phone number (for texts or selfies)

If you would like to follow my training progress, sign up here to receive updates Sorry, too many issues with the site. See my usual FB updates.

— Follow the fund’s progress (updated weekly)

Also welcome are cheerleaders at East Hall! Our official ask is below the map. Please let me know if you have any questions. THANK YOU and GO GATE!

tonyasride@gmail.com
Tentative route – with elevation. It’s going to be a climb at the end!

Our official ask:

It is with a very heavy heart that we write to tell you that our classmate, Tonya Gscheidle Henderson, is losing her life to a rare form of cancer. Tonya was, to so many of us, the epitome of what was best about our Colgate years. She was a community builder, spreading ’gate enthusiasm and creating lasting friendships in every corner of her campus life. Tonya’s grit and joy forged the course of her life, and Colgate was a momentous chapter in that journey. 

After Colgate, Tonya earned her PhD in School Psychology and recently won School Psychologist of the Year for the state of Oklahoma. Tonya was the first person in her family to graduate from college. In many ways, Colgate changed the trajectory of Tonya’s life. We would like to ensure that more students like Tonya attend Colgate by raising $50,000 to endow a scholarship in Tonya’s name. 

We hope to make it possible for Colgate to be an important chapter in another student’s life, so that like Tonya, they can go on to build community wherever their life journey takes them. If we reach our $50k goal within the next year, an endowed scholarship will be named in perpetuity for Tonya.

$50k is a great deal of money to raise in a short period of time. “Up the hill with profound determination” is our guiding motto. Tonya has never given up. Not when she was told Colgate’s hills might be too difficult for her as someone diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. Not when she was told to retire because of her health, but continued to work. Not when she was told there were no more treatment options, and has lived long beyond any medical experts’ hopes. We will not give up. We will walk up that steep hill. Please join us on this climb as we raise $50k to honor our determined and brave classmate.

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One Hundred Two

Around this time last summer, I decided I needed a new bicycling goal. It had been over a year since I surpassed my goal of biking to work every day for a year. For the past few summers I’ve aimed to (and reached or exceeded) ride 100 miles a week in July. And while there are certain hills I look forward to incorporating into my routes each season, and particular roads I enjoy returning to, without a goal it sometimes feels as though I’m merely going around in circles.

While I do accumulate many miles each year, I am not fast and have no desire to race. As I see it, this leaves me with repetition and distance. Cue Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams and the voice saying, “Go the distance.”

Each summer I manage to do at least one 50-miler. Occasionally I have done a 60 mile ride. I’m fairly certain that at some point I said I would never do a century, but it was starting to feel right. A century for cyclists is about what a marathon is for runners. I’ve been at this for a while; it seemed to be time.

I had certain parameters, though. There are many supported century rides to select from, but they don’t have rain dates. While I’m willing to ride less than three miles to work in the rain, I have no desire to pay for a ride and then be in wet spandex for dozens of miles. Many of those rides also have a fundraising component, and that is not for me. Did I want to invite someone to ride with me? Sure, it would have been nice to have someone along to chat with, to help change a flat tire if necessary. However, I didn’t want anyone struggling to keep up with me, nor did I want to struggle to keep up with anyone else. More importantly, the date chosen for the ride needed to be a date when my body, with its various and sundry limitations, was ready. I wanted to reach my goal without hurting myself in the process. I concluded it was best to ride alone.

Where did I want to ride? I could start at home (another advantage to riding alone) and ride round trip to the Connecticut shore, or do a loop in the central part of the state. At some point I decided I wanted something more adventuresome than repeating the roads I’ve been riding for two decades. I wanted to make it an event; to start at home and go in one direction or another for 100 miles.

Sitting in a coffee shop one winter day, I shared these thoughts with a good friend. How we got from my “I want to ride 100 miles in one direction” to her “my family’s house is 100 miles from here,” I no longer remember. But between then and now I spent copious hours on mapping websites, calculating any number of possible routes between Chez CyclingArchivist and the Homestead of the Family W (century routes – one, two, three – and 50 mile routes for the area where I’d be riding are publicly available).

The goal was set.

I found a training plan that would be a good model for me. When spring arrived, I started pedaling. As spring became summer we started discussing dates. The chosen date made its appearance in the 10-day forecast, sunny at first, then progressively rainier. At the 11th hour we postponed from Tuesday to Thursday.

Thursday morning arrived and the weather was perfect. The ride itself was better than I had imagined. The Connecticut portion was quite familiar. I had tried out the segment between Lake Congamond and Northampton, MA once before. The rest was entirely new. The Connecticut River Valley in Hadley was green with ripening corn, with equally colored,  tree-covered hills in the distance.  Move over Filet Mignon, the first protein bar I ate, at almost 39 miles in, was the most delicious food I’d ever encountered. I’m pretty sure that was situational. An employee of the Sunderland Corner Store generously let me use the sink to refill a water bottle. The one portion of trail I wasn’t sure actually existed, was in fact in place, and was followed by one of the more unusual buildings I’ve seen in a while.

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Your guess is as good as mine.

Back along the river, Turners Falls provided a scenic snack break, my second of three.

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Protein bar with a view.

I sent a selfie to my co-workers when I crossed the Vermont state line.

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Say cheese!

At that point I still had over 20 miles (uphill!) left to ride, but it was an accomplishment nonetheless. My penultimate stop was a photo-op with the West Dummerston Covered Bridge.

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Longest covered bridge entirely in VT.

A few more miles of climbing, and I was there.

My bike computer was set to display the number of miles left to ride. I tried not to read it too often, but it surprised me how the numbers seemed to melt away. 89! 49! 34, I can do that after a full day of work! 17! 2.9, that’s my commute to work; think how quickly you get down Park Street!

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Yay, I made it!

I arrived with a smile on my face. I didn’t get lost, or have any mechanical issues. Perhaps I should have had more water, but I wasn’t parched. Mentally, the last seven miles were toughest. But I made it.

Total mileage: 102.11 Moving time: 7:11:38 Elapsed time: 8:15:37

My friend had driven up just to meet me and bring me back home. When I first discussed this with her, I’d envisioned meeting her there at the end of one of her stays. I never expected she would travel all that way for me. After I got cleaned up, we enjoyed some time on the porch and walked around the property (the house is amazing, and there’s some manuscript material I’d love to see some day). We had burgers at a local restaurant, then drove back home.

Two days later I remain elated. My training had been effective. I accomplished another goal, on a beautiful day with a spectacular route. And I enjoyed the absolute best of friendship.

 

How I planned a bike ride and ended up with an adventure (or, Bike-cation 2012: Waterside Edition)

Gillette Castle State Park, East Haddam, CT

I tend to ride the same roads repeatedly and, having a break from my usual group ride, decided to embrace change. At the same time, having a week off from the group ride is a great time to get some culture. High on my culture-to-do list of late has been visiting Gillette’s Castle. As I do not usually ride the roads surrounding the Castle, it seemed like a match made in cycling-culture heaven. All I planned was the route. The rest of it fell into place, making it a fabulous, full day adventure.

Posted in every stall, Visitor’s Center, Gillette Castle State Park

Not having any desire to ride a century, I decided to put the bike in the car and drive to Gillette Castle State Park. They do not charge for parking, and have restrooms, making it that much more attractive to the Cycling Archivist. Well, I’m not really sure “attractive” and “restrooms” should be in the same sentence.

Moving along, my route took me over the East Haddam swing bridge (cool article from 2007), along Rt. 154 to Essex, and down to Old Saybrook. Though my aunt recently sold her cottage at Chalker Beach, I asked the guard/attendant if it would be ok for me to dip my toes.

The dip, Chalker Beach, Old Saybrook

The water temperature was fabulous; I could have gone all the way in. Next it was over to Indiantown, where I sat in the shade and had snacks with friends. I continued along Rt. 154, through Katharine Hepburn’s part of town. I have to go cliche here and say that if you haven’t biked this stretch, you are missing out. My phone’s camera wouldn’t really capture most of the beauty, so I took few photographs. Heading north, I had an impromptu watermelon stop with cousins before reaching the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry (as my ride last Sunday also included watermelon, I am now completely convinced all summer rides should include this treat). Being a native of Glastonbury, my ferry of preference tends to be the Glastonbury-Rocky Hill, but after the budget woes of late, it is so great both ferries are still running. From the ferry ($1 for bicyclists), my final destination was in clear view.

Gillette’s Castle, as viewed from Chester-Hadlyme Ferry

Being in the business, I can be rather critical of house museum tours. This one ($6 adult) was self guided, with story telling docents in the rooms. On a scale of yes or no, I would say that yes, it was worth it. The castle interior has incredible woodwork and you get to hear stories about the practical jokes William Gillette, “America’s Sherlock Holmes,” would play on his guests.

Chester-Hadlyme Ferry, as viewed from Gillette’s Castle

With both cycling and culture achieved, the only thing left to really make this an adventure was the requisite ice cream stop. I had thought about the James Gallery and Soda Fountain earlier in the day, but ended up at Hillside Sweet Shoppe ($2.75, single scoop, Gifford’s Mint Chocolate Chip, sugar cone). Though lunch mysteriously disappeared from the agenda, I was rather pleased to have a full day of close-to-home fun for less than $10. It was truly a full day. I left my house at 9:00 AM and didn’t get back till 6:00 PM.

I saw the Essex Steam Train go by twice. I passed sheep along one road, and there were egrets and swans in the water as I pedaled over the causeway. Even though I was cycling alone, I spent enough time with other people to make it a social event. I’m amazed at how, with so little planning and effort, I ended up with such a wonderful bike-cation.

Friendship II

I was amazed at the support I received after posting about Friendship a couple months ago. One friend even told me that another conversation, in another medium, was based partly on the post. Wow!

I have done a few things differently over the past two months. Another friend and I try to take a walk together once a week. We have been thwarted several times by our schedules and the weather, but if nothing else, it means we get in touch with each other weekly.

A third friend generously gave me tickets to an event recently. Knowing a blanket invitation to all of Twitter would not be fruitful, I emailed people individually until I found someone who could go with me. It ended up being a great evening with an old friend. She had never previously been to one of these events, but as we sat in our seats reading over the list of future events, she said, “These two sound neat. I’ll go with you if you’d like.” Awesome.

I still enjoy using social media, and am enormously grateful for the people I have met through it. I get so much more out of friendship, though, when I throw off the limitations of 140 characters.

 

Friendship

How do you define “friend” and “friendship”? I have to say, this is one of few times even the Oxford English Dictionary doesn’t really help me.

1a. ‘One joined to another in mutual benevolence and intimacy’ (Johnson). Not ordinarily applied to lovers or relatives (but cf. senses A. 3, A. 4).

Ok, I can work with that, but let’s see what else they have.

2. Used loosely in various ways: e.g. applied to a mere acquaintance, or to a stranger, as a mark of goodwill or kindly condescension on the part of the speaker; by members of the ‘Society of Friends’ adopted as the ordinary mode of address (cf. A. 7). Also often ironically.

Great. Even the OED has succumbed to the Facebook definition. A friend is now a stranger. I also particularly like the part about how it’s used ironically. I don’t dare look any further (the definitions for ‘friendship’ require knowing the definition of ‘friend’).

The second definition, though, is pretty much why I’ve been thinking about this. In my mind, a friend is a person you want to spend time with, as opposed to those you have to spend time with (co-workers, people on mass transit, etc.). Over the past few years, the majority of the people I have encountered who I would like to spend time with, I’ve ‘met’ via social media, particularly Twitter. The problem is, in 140 characters or less, my friends leave me feeling more like I’m 13 than 35.

I was having a bad day last summer and in reply to something said by Friend ‘A’, I commented sarcastically, “Well, I don’t have any friends, so I don’t have to worry about that.” ‘A’ didn’t pick up on the sarcasm and asked, “Who do you think you’re here with?” An interesting question, considering I don’t think ‘A’ has ever directly invited me to do anything, which is one of the characteristics I associate with friendship. I have met, and spent some time with ‘A’ in person, in addition to conversing online. Does ‘A’ actually care if I exist, though? I can never tell.

I have grown far too uncomfortable to directly ask one person if they want to do something/go somewhere with me. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time someone actually said yes. That never leaves me feeling good, and I’d rather avoid it. I have tried putting out blanket invitations on Twitter, to no greater success. What hurts more in those instances is not that people can’t/don’t want to do whatever/go wherever, they simply don’t respond. For me, communication a key part of friendship. I am grateful to Friend ‘B’ for at least telling me after the fact that, in their case, it was just bad timing. It still leaves me wondering if these people are truly my friends.

I know I am not alone. Friend ‘C’ occasionally takes a break from social media. I always notice when ‘C’ doesn’t tweet or update a Facebook status, but do others? Often, upon returning from hiatus, ‘C’ expresses disappointment that no one has remarked upon their absence. As in my situation, ‘C’ actually knows these people in real life. If they are truly friends with ‘C’, wouldn’t they check-in during a prolonged silence?

I guess I’m scared of what it means if the person who never invites me to an event, the people who rarely communicate, and the person who doesn’t check in on the silent tweeter,  actually are my friends. Does this mean I’m doomed to live in this Junior High atmosphere for the foreseeable future? Is there a way out? I didn’t like it then and am disappointed that those who told me it would go away when I grew up, were evidently wrong.

No one can just declare that another person is their friend, but how do you find out who your friends really are? I’m not sure there are answers to any of these questions. It’s also possible I don’t want to know the answers. The other day I approached Friend ‘D’, who gave me a hug and commented, “I haven’t seen you forever.” A hug, to me, indicates the mutual benevolence in the OED’s first definition of friend. Yet many of the aforementioned thoughts were going through my head, and I found myself (whether justifiably or not) wondering if it was friendship or simply politeness.

To avoid spending my time in a padded room, I’m going to assume ‘D’ was being friendly. I’m going to assume ‘A’  does enjoy spending time with me, that ‘B’ isn’t a mind reader and had no idea an online reply would have made me feel better, and that we are all so busy and have extra long Twitter feeds, that we honestly don’t notice when it is short a few updates from one person. I am also going to continue making the attempts I have been making, because it is so much more than I’ve done in the past. In the meantime, I will hope someone reads this and randomly calls me up some time soon with an invitation.