Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Jumpoff

Seth Sweetser left England to immigrate to Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1640, settling and establishing a farm on the shores of the Mystic River in Charlestown---the town situated across the Charles River and north of Boston. Seth is my first direct European ancestor to settle in the American colonies. My Dad, older brother, and I during the summer of 2011 drove through the area that this farm was likely sited. We were on a quest to determine the authenticity of a large pewter platter that supposedly belonged to William Brewster, another ancient relative.

Brewster was a Pilgrim of Mayflower fame. He was the spiritual leader of the small group that settled in Plymouth, MA in 1620. Turns out the platter is early 1700s, not old enough to belong to Brewster. Still pretty old though, and reasonably rare since pewter was frequently melted down for shot during military needs which the northeast has had more than its share. Pewter also has a short life span; it tends to easily melt if left too close to the fire.

Charlestown as it is today

It is unlikely these two ever met. However, somewhere along the years the Brewster and Sweetser blood mixed and I ended up with a pewter platter that passed from Brewster to Bradford to Sweetser lines to me. Though probably more apocryphal than true, the oral tradition has it possibly sharing the table at that first Thanksgiving so many years past. So go the annals of history.

At any rate, Seth never left New England. And the northeast still holds the greater portion of his descendants, though Sweetsers tend to be a rare breed. When I began to contemplate this trip, early on I decided Seth's farm would be the jumpoff point. The call of the clan. And after all, history proclaimed, "Go west, young man!" Instinctively it seems more appropriate to follow the country's development along those lines, east to west, following the rivers and old train lines that opened the country from sea to shining sea.

The first comment from friends who know anything about bicycle touring has been, "Into the headwinds?!" Seems everyone knows the prevailing Midwestern plains winds are from the west. My judgement was being called into question. To counter those insinuations, I considered some benefits.

  • The country developed east and to west. It just feels more logical to do the same. History.
  • Towns and villages are much closer in the east. More options to quit early in the day. Proximity.
  • Most of my friends on route that I can stay with are this side of the Mississippi River. Accommodations.
  • There are also more services, more restaurants, more ice cream east of Big Muddy. Ice Cream!
  • As I leave that breakfast diner at an early hour, the 5400 pound SUV coming up behind me, texting their friend about last night's movie, juggling the phone, coffee, and Egg McMuffin, while breaking up the children's backseat wrestling will have the low morning sun on my back and not in their eyes. Survival.
  • Mountain crossings in the east are lower, though possibly steeper. Training.
  • More shaded roads. Coolness.
  • Lots of rivers and water in the east to cool off in. Splash.
  • Starting in the early summer east before the high humidity days later in the season. Comfort.
  • This allows the first portion of the journey to condition the rider who hasn't had all the time necessary to train as they would like. By the time they cross The Mississippi (and head into those threatening winds), conditioning, equipment, and routine should be well established.
The balance of the route is influenced by a love of rivers, Lewis & Clark expedition, native communities, and connecting point A to B.

TransAm2013...Boston, MA to Portland, OR
June 16, 2013 is the launch date! From Seth's farm and the waters of the Mystic River.


1 comment:

  1. Good luck Robbie! Wishing you all the safety a cross country journey can have, and all the adventure! I like your reasoning for east to west route. I always thought I'd head that way too and my first reason was convenience. "Hey, I'm already here!" If I liked the adventure and was still into it when I reached the Pacific, I could always just ride back.
    Ah, the luxury of time and the imagination that tells me it's real, as if I really have that much time off! Ha!
    Looking forward to your posts fellow Fool of the Chainring.


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