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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