Just text, an update: South of Buffalo

Okay so I’m a little behind in updating this. I’m currently at a Wegman’s (which is a nice grocery store) south of Buffalo with Sarah who joined me two days ago. We saw Niagra Falls yesterday which was spectacular. We stayed with a mechanical engineer named Tommy, his dog Browning (a huge, but incredibly sweet Chesapeake Bay Retriever), his two cats and Friend the hermit crab. We had a great time, got a shower and slept indoors which is always nice. Sarah rides a little slower and isn’t capable of the distance that I am yet, but it’s been great having someone to ride with, especially since it’s her. We have not, yet, tried to kill each other despite a few failed attempts of mine to disconnect her brakes.

I’ve also decided that I’m going to cut my trip’s mileage a little short, I’ll be going to Columbus, OH and then catching a ride home with my dad. There’s isn’t anything in southern OH or northern KY that I haven’t seen before so I’d rather spend my time seeing new places in western NY and PA. I plan to return to Lexington the weekend of the 21st and return to work on the 23rd.

Also, no pictures this update. I’m full of Asian food at the moment and too lazy to bother uploading, resizing, editing, etc. Truthfully there aren’t that many pictures to upload. 19 more miles to our campsite for the night which should mostly be along the coast of the lake and hopefully scenic.

Here’s a portion I’d typed up several days ago, so keep in mind this all happened previous to the last few paragraphs.

I spent an extra day in Syracuse which allowed me to dodge another rain shower and see the Wandering Mercuries. What’s that? I’ve mentioned them before, just not under that name. Turns out when I pulled up to my couchsurfing host’s house, there were two other surfers staying there to arrive later. It turned out to be two of the three bike tourers I’d met yesterday.

The house I stayed at was interesting, a cohousing collective of socialists. All told they seemed to be doing rather well for themselves considering they’d just bought the house in the lot behind them and were in the process of fixing it back up again. I spent a few hours helping them hang drywall since that’s something I’m halfway decent at. There were 9 people currently living in the first house (the one being fixed up was not suitable to living yet) and they seemed to be more of a loose knit family than a group of housemates.

I left Syracuse yesterday afternoon and was making good time until I discovered…

…apparently my bike rack was not designed for the rigors I’m putting it through as it broke again in the exact same place only on the opposite side. Lucky for me I broke it less than 1,000 feet from a welding and fabrication shop. Cool! Unlucky for me they weren’t open on Sundays so I got stranded here in Port Byron for the night despite having several hours of day light left. I camped out and getting the rack welded in the morning was 15 bucks (five of which were ATM charges from my bank and ATM).


Tolland, CT into Upstate NY

The rest of the ride to Tolland went well, though it was exceedingly hot. I spent two days there being absolutely spoiled by Sam and her mother with them pushing food at me every chance they could. Clearly, I was a victim. We went into Hartford for a day, had some awesome food and beer at the Steam Cafe Brewpub and saw the city. It’s strange to most people it seems but I have absolutely zero inclination to see the normal sights. I’m more interested in watching the city, the way people move through it, the shops, the rundown buildings, graffiti tagged across highway overpasses, natural scenery etc. I’d rather see how a city feels just riding around in it than see the sights. After two days there I pushed on to Westfield, MA where Robbie had just moved. It was great seeing Robbie and Amanda again, it’d been over a year since I’d seen them. They bought me some completely delicious northern food and we mostly just hung out, which after being on a bike was perfect. I left late in the day after staying with them and their three Persian cats for two days. The ride that day was hot and I was not in full form considering that I’d had several beers the night before, but it wasn’t a bad ride; I took it easy for the most part. Here’s a picture of their cat, Odin, making what I call the “Full Derp Face”

Odin

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Hartford, CT

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Then a strange thing happened. Two nights ago I got a text message from a guy offering to host me. He gave me an address and rudimentary directions to his house. As I biked into town I had a strange feeling. Something just didn’t seem right about this guy but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Turns out I should listen to my gut. I sent him a message saying I was near and I got back a message saying he’d be there shortly but was stuck in a meeting running late. While I waited I talked to some of the people who lived in the neighborhood. Apparently he didn’t live there and suddenly stopped answering my texts and phone calls. I left and found a quiet spot to camp out for the night.

Normally that would be that, except when I looked back over the messages, it appeared as though there was a hitherto unnoticed mocking element to his messages. And the amount of detail in his messages rules out a miscommunication. I’m not really sure why this guy decided it would be funny to screw with me, but he didn’t count on me being as net savvy as I am. I found his name, age, picture, siblings’ names, parents’ names, old addresses, etc. Which I then sent to him in a text message. Further thoughts on the matter have revealed that what actually irritates me the most is that this trip has been sincerely refreshing my faith in humanity. So many people have been so kind to me, often times with absolutely no expectation of anything in return considering they know I will be leaving town and never returning. That’s pretty amazing and this guy put a damper on that a little bit. That’s not to say something like this wasn’t to be expected, it was; people are people after all. A final thought on the matter before leaving it for good: There’s a small bit of solace in knowing that this kind of shitheadery (eat it spell check! it’s a word now!) doesn’t pay off. He’s going to do something similarly gratuitously mean to the wrong person one day and have to deal with the consequences. I’ll never hear about it, but that’s no matter to me.

 

After camping out a few miles outside of Pittsfield, I rode to Albany, NY to crash for the night with Barry and Russell. Staying there was fantastic; not only was it great to see them but they were exceptionally hospitable. It’s a little refreshing to see two people who’ve been together for so long and still so visibly in love with each other. That and I like their Schnauzers.

Me, Russell and Barry

Albany Museum

Albany Architecture

To leave Albany I headed north and got onto the Erie Canal trail, which is really a collection of bike paths between Albany and Buffalo through the Mohawk Valley area of upstate New York. It’s beautiful here and being on a dedicated bike trail is nice. No matter how used to riding in traffic I get riding where you know there will be no cars is still just mentally easier.

 

A funny thing happened while riding that day. It was July the 4th so every so often I’d pass a park pavilion or water front park area full of people grilling out and having fun. It made me feel a little homesick. While I know I’m going to be relatively restless when I first get back, it will still be nice to see everyone. While riding I crossed paths with two other guys riding, though separately. The first, who rode with me for ten miles chatting about music and life, was a slightly drunk Puerto Rican named Chino. The next was a fellow bike tourist coming he other direction named Tom Wait (“like the singer, but without the s”) who looked a bit like grizzly Adams. He’s a retired ecology professor who’s been riding (and sometimes hiking) since 2009 while writing a book. He had a somewhat interesting approach to touring, he just wanders from place to place, usually following where ever the wind takes him. He mentioned that a few times he’d spent one day going one direction only to have the winds change and he’d head back the way he’d come. After I’d chatted with Tom for about 20 minutes we said our goodbyes and continued on in our respective directions, me west, him east. I found a small clearing to camp as it was well past dusk by this point and had a restful night’s sleep, breaking camp at 5:30 and continuing down the trail.

Canal Trail

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I’m currently in Canajoharie, NY sitting in a lovely riverside pavilion which has rather convenient outlets for charging my electronics. For the next few days I’ll continue along the Erie canal trail. I hope to make it past Utica today, but it is unlikely that I will make it to Syracuse, my next stopping point so I’ll likely be camping out again tonight. As for my couchsurfing host for in Syracuse, lesson learned in Pittsfield, I’ve checked his references and checked to see that he’s had his location verified.

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Random observation: No matter where I go, there are always tons of old people in McDonalds early in the morning. For unknown reasons I find this unsettling. I rarely eat there, but no one minds me using their restrooms and WiFi connection.

Creepy abandoned… I don’t know what you call it. But there are pictures of it. Note the trees growing on top of it.

Abandoned Structure

Abandoned Structure

Before I hit the road again, here’s something not many outside of the cycling community know about but others may find it interesting: Ghost Bikes. I’d heard of these, but have seen an increasing number of them the further north I head. I’ll transcribe the sign on this one below.

Ghost Bike

Ghost Bike Sign

The sign reads:“This ‘Ghost Bike’ marks the site of a car-bike crash that critically injured Alan Fairbanks October 29th, 2006. A spinal cord injury causing his death on November 28, 2006. The first ‘Ghost Bike’ was placed at an accident scene in St. Louis in 2002. Patrick Van Der Tuin, who placed the white bike, said nothing to anyone. Never-the-less the memorial got people talking about the tenuous relationship between cyclists and motor vehicles. And so the anonymous, underground effort, organized by cycling advocates continues just as Patrick intended. The New York Capital Region has lost 9 cyclists to bike-car crashes in the last 10 years; 6 of those in the last three years. Those sites marked by a ‘Ghost Bike’ are a reminder that cyclists have a legal right to use public roadways. Advocate for safety awareness and changes in attitude toward cyclists.”

 

Well, it seems that I didn’t get this posted. I have the entire thing typed up, the photos all formatted, but have not yet actually uploaded them to Flickr.

 

I’m continuing west along the Erie Canal Trail, currently in Whitesboro, NY, outside the west side of Utica headed toward Syracuse. The trail has a few breaks in it, in which road riding is required but the shoulders here are so large it hardly matters. At some points two riders and comfortably (and safely) ride side by side. The trails themselves have been absolutely beautiful.

Erie Canal Bridge

How a Canal Crosses a River

Erie Canal

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Two things of particular note have happened since. First off I ran into three other bicycle tourists yesterday, Ron, Brendan and Erin. They were traveling Providence, RI to Chicago, IL by bike carrying everything they needed to do film shows. They were an interesting bunch, Brenton had turkey feathers glued to his helmet and Erin had the skull of some animal across the handle bars of her bike. We rode together for a few miles and honestly it was nice to have some company for a bit. Because of the weight they were carrying they’re moving a little slower than I am, so it was just into Utica.

Ron, Brendan, Erin and Me

Once I arrived in Utica and met up with Josh my host for the night, forensic computer specialist, rugby player and beer enthusiast. Apparently Saranac Brewery hosts a block party with live music every Thursday and tons of local beer. Josh was a seriously awesome host, he bought me just about more beer than I could drink (no smell amount!) and we had a blast wandering between bars and chatting with people. Utica’s been one of my favorite stops so far, I’ll be coming back for sure and I certainly hope to have the chance to buy Josh a few local Kentucky beers. This morning was little rough but nothing a couple glasses or water and some sleeping in won’t fix.

Saranac concert in Utica

At the bar in Utica

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Before I finish this cup of coffee and head out here are a few shots of some graffiti I’ve come across. Neat stuff!

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I’m alive

So after several extremely hospitable hosts I’m currently in Albany, NY. Thanks Sam, Sam’s mom, Robbie, Amanda, Barry and Russell! You guys have made this trip not only possible, but completely awesome! Larger write up to come later!


Leaving NYC, A Mechanical Failure and Into CT

Today is the 28th of June and I’m in New Britain, CT, halfway to my destination of Tolland, CT to stay with my friend Sam. My stay in Brooklyn was short, but awesome. Sarah hooked me up with a friend of hers living there named Abby. Thanks to Sarah for setting me up with a place to crash and thanks to Abby and her awesome roommates for offering me their couch for the night. Sadly she had to work most of the time I was there, but after a nap I did some exploring on my own. I took the Brooklyn Bridge back across to Manhattan the next day, dodging tourists the whole way, rode straight across Manhattan and headed up the greenway trail that runs the length of the island. Here are a few pictures of NYC, also I should note that because I’ve already used 30% of the space on my flickr account, I’m turning down the quality on my photos significantly. I’ll have to figure out some other way to store the hi res versions online.

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After that I hit the North and South County Trails which extend almost 50mi. out of NYC. You really don’t realize how mind bogglingly massive that city is until you try biking through it. It just goes, and goes and goes, all the while managing to be 5x as dense and crowded as other cities. The ride up the North and South Co. Trails was easy going, but strange. The whole time I felt as though I was having to pedal just slightly too hard. Were my tires low on air? No. Was something dragging against my tires? No. I was going downhill and flat, why was it taking just slightly more effort than normal?

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About 4mi. out from my destination (Carmel, NY), my host for the night, another cycling tourist named Brian, came out to meet me on the trail. He explained that the North and South County Trails were once a rail line and the entire thing was actually on a minute incline, just about a 1% grade. Brian’s actually leaving on a bicycle tour himself in less than a week as of the time of writing this, traveling the Sierra Nevada trail, from the Canadian to Mexican borders with three other guys. It’s funny how two people can be doing the exact same thing, but completely differently. Where as I’m steering myself through every major city I can, Brian’s actually steering himself away from them so as to see more countryside. Anyway, I’m lucky Brian came out to meet me, about a mile further down the road my bike rack broke, the lower left brace snapping off just about the screw.

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Brian was an awesome host, not only did he give me a ride the rest of the way to his house but he drove me around to get the rack welded into place again. Good luck on your trip man!

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After getting the rack fixed I set out, leaving well after noon, for New Britain, CT, 75mi. Away (I left from the welding shop, about a mile away from where my rack had broken). Unfortunately that just didn’t work out. In my haste to make miles as fast I took two costly wrong turns. Going 10mi. Out of your way by car isn’t such a big deal but in the hills of upstate NY and CT, it’s a grievous error. Further more, the trail that Google maps put me on, the Larkin State Park Trail, was extremely rough. One of the embankments I had to climb to get on the trail was so steep I almost couldn’t walk the bike up it. Furthermore there was a section for about a quarter of a mile flooded by a shallow creek which made for treacherous going. Lastly I had three flat tires that day, two rear and one front. At eight o’clock I had less than an hour’s daylight left and 20mi. as the crow flies to go, so when the third flat came, I texted my host to cancel and just spent the night camped out well off the trail.

Camping out this time was completely different from the last time. Despite still being a little nervous, I slept well for the most part. It was a clear night so I left the rain fly off and I spent the night listening to the forest, the wind in the trees and the odd night bird calling out. It’s oddly peaceful being tucked away in the woods, knowing that despite the fact that you can make out the headlights of cars on a road 200 yards away, no one knows you are there. I broke camp at 5AM, headed into the nearest town and found a picnic table to wait out the dawn and plot out my route for the day, 50ish miles to Tolland, CT where I’ll spend two days before heading northwest to Westfield, MA where Robbie lives. I’ve done about 20miles so far today . Time to hit the road again.

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On another note, it’s funny how as I’ve traveled I seem to keep finding other people who tour (i.e. travel long distances by bike). At the time of writing this I was sitting on the benches outside of a Subway when the owner, a guy in his 60s, pulled up and chatted me up about how he had toured several hundred miles along the coast. He’s not the first either. I guess I’ll do it when (if? haha) I return to normal life.


The Macbook Samurai, Munchkin, Kaspa and Smooth Like A High Schooler’s Face

After the hostel I spent two nights with Tom and his Blue Heeler, Arrow, in Silver Spring, a suburb outside of DC. Tom was an awesome host. He’s an Apple developer and getting through a divorce so we talked about life, love and electronics pretty late into the night. He’s also done a fair amount of bicycle touring, most of it in Ireland. “If you can look past the fact that the driver hates bikes, it’s pretty good.” Mostly he’s a mountain biker, but still, it’s cool staying with “bike people.” They get it. His sister had heard I was coming and cooked me an awesome plate of food. Not only that, but Tom cooked some seriously awesome grilled pork. Since he put up with me for two days I took Tom out to see Prometheus which turned out to be pretty damn good.

Tom Termini
Tom's Place
Arrow
Fountain in DC
White House
Admiral Farragut

After that I biked from Silver Spring to Edgewood, about 60 miles which involved going through Baltimore. Have you ever seen the HBO series The Wire? Apparently it’s an accurate representation of Baltimore according to a few of the locals I talked to. “Except everybody is Omar.” Maybe this is just in contrast of going through DC previously, but Baltimore sucked. The city was filthy; there was trash everywhere. Worse still the roads looked like they hadn’t been repaved in the last 50 years. It was like biking across the moon, except there were a lot more cars and it felt like most of them had a vested interest in hitting me. I didn’t stop much and didn’t take many pictures. I was pretty much ready to leave before I even got into the city proper. I don’t plan on coming back.

A few pictures of the area:

Baltimore
Maryland, Bridge over the Highway
Rocks and Such, Maryland

Missy and her roommate Elvin were my hosts in Edgewood. Her sister and sister’s boyfriend, both newly graduated from high school also came by. There was some sincerely awesome food here, Missy cooked a vegetable ratatouille which is a sort of vegetable casserole with a ton of ingredients. I’m totally learning the recipe. Her sister also brought over a tasty pasta and red sauce dish. We also played this crazy card game call Munchkin. It was a little too complex to explain for the blog, but it basically involved a lot backstabbing and silliness. We only got time to play one game (everyone else had to work in the morning) but it was fun. Stupidly I didn’t get any pictures. I need to be better about that.

A shipwreck that won’t sink and the Underground Railroad

I stopped for water today after about 20mi. at a house with two guys outside painting it. After chatting a bit, in which they inquired where I was from and where I was going, one of them said “Hey, come here, here’s something you don’t see every day.” Behind the house was a huge ravine and just through the bushes I could see a rusting hand bridge. Apparently this very ravine had been used by the Underground Railroad back in the 1800s by slaves escaping the south. I couldn’t get a picture of the bridge (it wasn’t safe to get much closer) but here’s a shot of the ravine. Nevermind, no shot of the ravine, they all came out crappy. Deal with it.

Somewhere in DE

Here’s the dam I had to cross. I did the whole thing at a full sprint because it was single lane and letting cars pass wasn’t an option:

Dam it!

Also of note, which I do not have a picture, was the awesome tattoo on the guy’s leg. An awesomely detail skeletal marlin on one side “’cause I really like to fish, any kind really, give me a rod and a reel and I’m happy” and a shipwreck poking through the water “a shipwreck that won’t sink, that’s me and my life.” I liked the concept. I doubt they’ll ever see this, but thanks again for the water guys!

It Comes in Pints?!

I stopped at a German restaurant I just happened across on the road. The beer was dark and absolutely huge, just the way I like it. I ate half a roast chicken too. Warm German potato salad tastes better than it sounds. The restaurant is actually owned by a German family, some of whom didn’t speak English so the other member of the family would translate any of my questions an answers. I understand about 1 in 10 words in German so it was kind of fun trying to guess what they were saying. The bartender, Clifford (in full laderhosen) told me I should check out 37 more miles to go till Wilmington.

I’ve arrive in Newark, DE the site of my host for the night, Dan. He sent me a text and said he was going to grab dinner, would be back at 8 and had left a key out for me. I’m sitting outside of his house still even though I’ve unlocked the door. It feels way too much like I imagine burglary would feel like. It doesn’t matter much, the sun is going down so it’s cooling off a bit.

Okay, Dan came home. I got a shower and we sat and chatted for a bit. He and his roommates are in the beginning phases of setting up a cohousing situation, basically a bunch of people all living together as roommates and sharing their property. It’s sort of like having roommates, except you all own the house and it’s long term. It’s a concept I’ve heard of before and very fascinating, though I don’t think it’s for me. I’m not sure I could find ten other people I could stand living! Dan;s got some interesting ideas; I’m very curious to see how it goes. He also runs more red lights than anyone I’ve ever see; like 4 in one ten minute trip.”They don’t apply to me.” Well, you can’t argue with that.

After we chatted a bit Dan mentioned that he was going to have “kaspa” with some Saudi Arabian friends and asked if I wanted to come along. Sounds interesting! Turns out kaspa is (I think) a Saudi Arabian dish, mostly rice and roast chicken but with a lot of seasonings. The neat thing was we ate it Saudi style. They laid out a big plastic sheet, put down plates of fruit, dates imported from the middle east, chopped vegetables and two gigantic bowls of the kaspa along with individual drinks for everyone. And that’s, literally, it. No plates, no forks, no knives. Everyone eats from the dish communally and with their hands. Eating rice with your hands is tricky business, but they manage to do it somewhat gracefully. They served Arabic coffee and tea after words and we smoked shesha from hooka. Apparently they liked me because they told me I “have a home here anytime.” What a cool bunch of guys!

Dinner with the Saudis

Alright, time to wrap this up. Tomorrow I head into Philadelphia to stay with my friend Brook. I’m not sure how long I’m staying but I only have 40 miles to go tomorrow. Woohoo! Plenty of time to explore!

I stayed in Philly for several days and had a blast. The city’s a ton of fun and Brooklyn knew all the right places to go check out. We saw the Mutter museum which was full of all sorts of crazy medical stuff, weird preserved body parts and other weirdness. I’d say the weirdest was a tie between the 40 lb. colon, the gangerous hand floating in embalming fluid and the soap lady, who’s entire body had started to turn into soap.

Brook and me
Leaving Philly
Philly Mural
Batdoor!
Magic City, Philly
Skull in the Mutter Museum
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Trail into Philly

After Philly I biked to Helmetta, NJ and crashed with a couchsurfing host named Stephanie. Apparently her boyfriend was off couchsurfing himself, a local travelling musician, which is a shame as I think we’d have really gotten along. New Jersey itself was interesting, the place is hard to navigate as the name of the road you are on changes with every township you cross over into. Furthermore there’s little in the way of a system to their roads so it’s very easy to get turned around. I did make it and saw some really awesome scenery once I got north of Trenton (which is a scary, scary place, don’t go there).

Stephanie in Helmetta, NJ
Parts of NJ are nice!

I’m in NYC right now staying with a friend of my girlfriend’s: Abby who was awesome enough to put me up for the night. It’s raining here in the Big Apple today so I’m taking a freaking nap. I’m exhausted. Perhaps I will venture out later tonight.

Crossing the Manhattan Bridge
Manhattan Bridge
Waiting on the Train in New Brunswick
Sam Tag


Huge update coming

… I swear. Just gimmie some time.


I should update this more often…

…but I’m busy with stuff, like shoving food in ma face and pedaling a bike. So yeah, I’ll get to it later. I’m currently leaving Edgewood, MD heading for DE. Lots to update! Hopefully I’ll get to it tonight.

Damn it’s hot!

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Shut up sign, you are a liar. It isn’t even cold.