Evie Weber of Arlington Heights and her sister, Norma Witherbee, are familiar to Daily Herald readers who followed their bicycle travels on the Lewis and Clark Trail and the Underground Railroad. On Aug. 19, the sisters (Norma, 76, and Evie, 72) embarked on another adventure, the 2,700 miles from Bar Harbor, Me., to Miami, Fla. Stay with dailyherald.com and the Daily Herald through October for Evie's dispatches from the "M&M" ride.
The day has finally arrived that I have been looking forward to and dreading at the same time. It's sort of like being pregnant. You're excited about the new baby but not looking forward to the labor. Well, that might be exaggerating a wee bit, but that's how I felt when it was time for my husband, Larry, to go home.
I wanted him to be on his way, but when he's gone he takes all of our security with him. Norma and I have become dependent on being able to call him when we have a dilemma or if the going gets tough.
When he is with us we do not have to carry all of the necessary gear needed for existing on the road. We can travel with a light bike and what a pleasure it is not to have to tote an extra 80-90 pounds up these hills.
He makes sure we always have food and water. He would warn us of any dangerous road conditions and complain loudly when he got lost due to inadequate road signs.
You know the saying, "Real men don't ask for directions?" Well, I'm married to a real man.
Aside from all of that, we will not see each other until the end of October. Perhaps that's the secret to our marriage of 49 years. There would be times when we would not see eye to eye and that's when he would say, "Don't you have a bike trip planned?"
In other words, for us, time apart IS an essential ingredient to our long marriage.
Larry had many concerns about us doing this trip.
"I still have room for two bicyclists in the truck," he said, as he was packing. "This trip is brutal!" was another comment he frequently made.
He is right, but being the stubborn Germans that Norma and I are, we insisted on continuing.
He left us in the back country of New York and I have to say my heart sank when he drove away. When Norma and I are on our own we have a knack for getting ourselves into unusual circumstances and by the grace of God and the skin of our teeth we manage to survive. However, we really were not prepared for what was waiting down the road, or I should say UP, the road from us.
As we cycled into the Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area we welcomed the relief the thick forest provided us from the intense heat of the afternoon sun.
Where did they go?
Norma and I were enjoying the peace and quiet so much we were oblivious to the fact that as we cycled past the houses and farms there were no tractors in the fields or cars in the driveways. We didn't notice the lack of dogs on the porches or that the clothes lines were rotting on the posts.
The scenery was serene as we cycled past streams, up and over the countless hills and descended into towns that appeared to be deserted.
As our ride progressed and the sun started slipping behind the hills the remoteness of the area began to sink in on us. We contemplated knocking on someone's door to ask permission to camp in their back yard, and that's when we discovered that no one was home! These houses are not inhabited.
Later we learned that back in the 60s the government bought out all the inhabitants, towns included, to build a dam and flood the area. After they displaced everyone they discovered the land would not support a dam. Imagine that!
The National Park Service has since developed this into a 60-mile linear parkway of which we have now completed 30 miles and have no hope of us reaching the other end before total darkness.
I had just finished praying, "Lord, it's getting dark and we have no place to call home for the evening, we really need your help." when minutes later a man on his bicycle appears along the road.
"Hi ladies, how are you doing?" I replied in a voice resembling a whine, "Not good. We have no place to stay this evening."
Without missing a beat he says, "I have a large piece of land you can come camp on it for the evening; in fact I have a cabin that you can go in and take a shower."
"A cabin," I said. "Would you rent it to us?"
Our hopes were dashed when he answered, "I'm sorry, it's just not presentable right now. I'm following my wife who is out running. You go make yourselves at home I'll be along in about 45 minutes," and off he went.
Now you know what I'm thinking - once his wife learns of us she'll insist that we stay indoors, and that's exactly what happened.
This cabin was more that presentable, it was beautiful and we were thinking perhaps we could put our sleeping bags on the living room floor. But when Jim and Lee Ann Heigis met us at the cabin she said,"No way, you are sleeping in a bed this evening." YES!
"And further more, what do you have to eat for dinner?" I pulled from my pack a nicely compressed pack of Noodles Ramen.
"That just will not do, you need more energy for tomorrow." And with that she disappeared out the door.
I know you are wondering, where did these people come from if the government bought out everyone? Answer, they were the only ones who refused to sell. They have a restaurant called the WalPack Inn and that's where Lee Ann went to get some food for us.
It was a feast. Shrimp gumbo, chicken breasts with a special herb breading, baked potatoes and for dessert, chocolate mousse. Eggs, coffee, cream, strawberries and orange juice for breakfast.
A bottle of merlot appeared on the front porch and we all sat back with a chilled glass of wine and enjoyed the view. Picture this: Before us was an expansive meadow hosting deer and an occasional bear or two.
Off in the distance the hills were slowly being encased in shadow, giving that added touch of serenity. Norma and I kept pinching ourselves to see if this was for real.
Jim brought over his brown bread mix that he had developed for his Inn. He popped it into the bread maker and the aroma of fresh baked bread filled the nighttime air as we drifted off to sleep.
Breakfast was enjoyed with fresh baked bread slathered with homemade jam and butter.
Can you believe it, the hills got taller overnight. The next day it took us 21/2 hours to go 10 miles. I've never pushed my bike up so many hills in all my years of biking.
At this point we are literally struggling with our bikes up this hill ... no, mountain. This road was built in the 1600s so that gives you an idea of what the grading is like.
I never knew that Our Lord had a sense of humor. Again I say a silent prayer, "O.K. Lord, now would be a good time to send a pickup truck."
Instead, He sent a group of cyclists. They too were pushing their light bikes up this three-mile hill. The men in the group immediately traded their bikes for ours and proceeded them to the top.
We later learned that Bicycling Magazine rated this hill one of the 100 of the most difficult in America. We were lucky enough to find it!
The Lord wasn't done with us yet. Norma and I were at a "T" in the road wondering which way to go when along comes this Hummer.
"Are you lost?"
Well of course we were, we always are.
"You know, I think I better drive you into town."
She had her husband put our bikes in the back. He crawled up onto the tailgate and with one had held onto our bikes and with the other hand held on to the side of the Hummer for dear life as his wife flew down the mountain, hitting every pothole she could find. I asked her if she was trying to get rid of him and she just laughed.
Just survive, baby
Our main objective is to cycle the Atlantic Coast and at this point both the book "Cycling the Atlantic Coast" and "Adventure Cyclist" has us on the same route. We were hundreds of miles from the ocean, in the hills/mountains of New York/Pennsylvania/Delaware.
We've cycled all of the above on other adventures so we know we can do it, slowly, but we can do it. We want to see the ocean, walk on the sand and listen to the soothing sounds of the waves.
Larry has been gone for just two days and this journey is beginning to feel like a Senior Survivor Show. Our funds are starting to reach a shortage, indicating that we might not be able to finish the journey.
We were debating what we should do when the decision was taken out of our hands.
To be continued ...
Happy Trails from two very blessed cyclists, Evie and Norma.