Jeremy Chapman rides his bicycle on a road near his home in Hebron. Chapman just finished riding the 750-mile Empire State Trail in New York over the course of seven days. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Jeremy Chapman is “that” guy.

Not the kind of guy who has hiked all 67 mountains in New England over 4,000 feet. Or, the type of guy who rides his bike 750 miles in just over six days.

No, Chapman is a spreadsheet guy — who just so happens to have done both those things.

“A light bulb goes off and then the spreadsheets start,” said Chapman, who lives in Hebron.

“All these crazy adventures start on a simple spreadsheet.”

No wonder Chapman has a hard time getting going.

“It’s hard to get started,” said Chapman. “It turns out to be easier once I get going.”

The problem with spreadsheets is they don’t predict snowstorms, being lost in New York City at midnight and four flat tires in one day.

After Chapman, 43, had his latest adventure laid out in front of him, he put his bike in the back of an empty U-Haul van on April 16 and headed to the New York border where it meets Quebec.

The plan was to ride the brand new Empire State Trail, a 750-mile multiuse trail that crosses the state of New York from North to South and from East to West.

Why did Chapman choose to leave so early in the year, to drive across the White Mountains in New Hampshire in whiteout conditions and start his ride with toe warmers more commonly used by skiers rather than cyclists?

Having just opened in December, Chapman wanted to be the first to complete the entire Empire State Trail. “If I’m going to do it, being the first to do it doesn’t hurt,” Chapman said.

Jeremy Chapman picked up road riding when COVID-19 safety measures during the early stages of the pandemic made streets quieter and safer for cyclists to ride on. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“Everything was brand new,” said Chapman. “The infrastructure, the signs, the concrete, the bike stations were all brand new. It was like I was unwrapping all of it.”

Technically, Chapman’s trip started in the parking lot of Duck’s Auto Parts where he dropped off the U-Haul. From there, Chapman rode North until he could see the U.S. Customs and Boarder station and his trip was officially under way.

“It was chilly,” said Chapman. “I put toe warmers over my biking shoes and then put overshoes over that and headed up over the Adirondacks … Long ups and long downs.”

Day one consisted of riding his bike 163 miles, climbing over 8,000 feet of elevation, more snow and Chapman finished the day in the dark in Fort Edward, New York.

Spreadsheet planning helped the next day as Chapman biked 58 miles to Albany, where he and his bike would catch a train that would take him to Buffalo.

“The Empire State Trail is laid out like a giant T laid on it’s side,” explained Chapman. He rode the left top of the letter T on day one and then took a train to the bottom of the T, where day three would begin.

Chapman’s passion for cycling has not been around as long as his passion for spreadsheets has. You could call the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic a silver lining for cyclists. When Maine Gov. Janet Mills encouraged Mainers to stay home to reduce the risk of transmitting the coronavirus, some, like Chapman discovered that road riding was a great way to get away from COVID-related stress.

“There was literally no one on the roads anywhere,” Chapman said. “I rode down Center Street in Auburn and saw no-one. It was surreal for sure.”

Chapman rode 6,000 miles in 2020 and set his goal even higher for 2021. “I want to do 7,000 this year,” said Chapman.

The third day of Chapman’s trip across New York consisted of 104 bike miles and four flat tires. “Four flats in a row took the life out of me,” said Chapman. “I knew I had a snowstorm coming in behind me so I was trying to put in some miles to get ahead.”

People that Chapman met along the trail kept reminding him about the incoming storm. “Yes, I know,” Chapman said while gritting his teeth.

Chapman made his way from Brockport to Syracuse on the fourth day of his trip. He covered 125 miles.

Day five lived up to it’s hype.

“Syracuse to Troy was all snow and sleet,” said Chapman. “Sleet was bouncing off of me. I just lived in it that day. Construction workers in Utica had a hard time understanding what I was doing.”

So did he ever think about calling it quits?

Jeremy Chapman rides his bicycle on a road near his home in Hebron. “I enjoy leaving from the house,” said Chapman. “That is one appeal to road biking. You’re not going to run out of good roads around here.” Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“I knew I could not go there,” Chapman said. “I went down there with a mission. I did not have anything else to do except ride my bike. I had no other option but to keep going, just keep going.

“I knew that I could do it,” he said . “That is what mattered the most on those storm filled days.”

Chapman said that having climbed all 67 mountains in New England over 4,000 feet helped him prepare mentally for his bike trip. He remembers climbing Mt. Washington in the winter.

“Hikers would hike up, shoot a selfie by the sign and head back down,” said Chapman. “Not me. I pulled a whole chicken and a half of a blueberry pie out of my pack and sat next to the weather observatory and ate it.”

Chapman covered some ground on Day 6, the day he hoped to finish his trip because it was Earth Day. But after riding his bike 193 miles and a phone call from his mother, Chapman said the flicker of lights from a Hilton Garden Inn was too much to pass up.

While trying to navigate the streets of New York City at 12:30 a.m. on Friday, April 22, Chapman received a phone call from his mother. “She wanted to make sure I was ok,” said Chapman. “I told mom that I could see the lights of a Hilton Garden Inn. I went in and crashed for the night.”

“You gotta go with the flow a bit too,” said Chapman.

Chapman said his love for adventure came about following a particularly tough year.

“2018 was a rough, rough year. I lost two brothers unexpectedly that year,” the same year Chapman closed down his landscaping business.

“Business was great, the money was there,” but he had a change of heart following the loss of his brothers and put his efforts into living a healthier life.

“I started to eat cleanly,” said Chapman, a husband and father of one daughter and one son. “Eating cleanly made this trip possible.”

Chapman rode the final 30 miles of his trip to Battery Park on Manhattan Island on a “perfect spring day.” Battery Park is the southern terminus of the Empire State Trail, 750 miles from the start at the Canadian boarder.

“I started drinking mochas and eating all over town. And then I got my haircut at Frank’s Chop Shop,” Chapman’s first cut since COVID-19 swept in to Maine in March of 2020.

Chapman said that even 11 days after he finished the 750 mile trail, he is still feeling the effects of the six-day ride. “I’m paying it back with a lot of interest,” he said.

“I’m hungry like a wolf,” said Chapman. “I’m trying to keep it cool, but I’m still eating.”

“What I saw was pretty amazing,” said Chapman. “I started out in the country, going over mountains, meeting lots of people, going through all these towns.

“It was a lot to take in. To do it on a bicycle was the icing on top.”


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