Thursday, July 31, 2008

I'm moving to Oregon

I'm was watching The Office on my laptop. At 7:21pm I'm lifting the laptop with my right hand and placing it on the armrest of the leather couch I'm sitting on - reclining with my feet up. I paused the show because I can't stop thinking about how I don't know where my spectacles are. My glasses. They're misplaced. I did a hard target search of the house, vehicles, even beside the corn field I was looking at last night around sundown. I quit. What did I do?

I can't be rolling around with no spectacles. Shrug. I'm getting new glasses tomorrow.

I wrote an email to a girl, Carrie, who I've been emailing from Craigslist for a fairly long time now. It explains why I'm moving to Oregon - which I am. I'm going to paste it here because it's better than trying to re-articulate my feelings about the whole thing.
What's next? Relax?? :) Funny you should mention these things. I've decided to move to Oregon, pretty much effective immediately. Most likely leaving on Saturday. I'm tying up loose ends today. My reasons are several fold:

1) I don't feel like I belong here, and I want to see new things. I live in a van... totally mobile, no ties, it's as easy as putting in some gas and stepping on the pedal. I love that I can take advantage that ability.

2) I've been to Oregon, and I felt something like love for it. I almost moved there a couple years ago when i DID have ties to apartments and a relationship. Now? It's sooo easy to split...

3) I'm chasing a dream job. A bicycle company that I love, respect and admire is hiring people. I have shop experience, a frame building class under my belt, and a killer reference. I want to try my hardest to get this job. I need money bad, and I can barely fathom working for anybody in this area. The bicycle jobs are limited to shop mechanic or self employed. This opportunity is big. And it includes medical benefits - and I really think I'm an awesomely prime candidate to be hired. Welding the frames for people's bicycles that will be ridden all over the world.

So I'm nervous and excited, but no matter what, I think I need to be in Oregon for awhile. I'm glad that I'm going to get out there and figure something out. It's beautiful there. (As I remember it).

About the trip: damn, if that wasn't the best bicycle trip. It got so weird and tripped out at times, and I saw so much beautiful stuff. The bizarre return to pseudo-wild was great. New perspective on life, more affinity for simplicity. I ended up getting way too fucked up and spendy though - but it was such a great time. I learned once again how to be alone and enjoy it. And the people I met, I will
never forget.

Now I'm back in Kennett Square typing on the awesome new laptop that my parents bought for me out of the blue. So nice to be on a fast computer with a normal keyboard. I'm spending tons of time on the internet and sitting on a leather couch and feeling comfortable but also like I absolutely don't belong here. My parents are out of town until the 3rd. I realized after two days here that I miss them and I'd prefer it if they were home. This is such a big empty lonely house without them here. So many comforts and frills - but without people it's not good. I don't think I'm going to see my parents before I leave. I almost feel like a squatter in their house. I never want to own anything this big with so much automatic stuff and electrical stuff to break. So much air to either heat or cool. So much furniture. A fortress fighting against the outdoors. I can get used to it, but right now my view of this house is warped silly from sleeping in the woods and in a van. I think I prefer simple. Some day I want some land and a tiny home. Very tiny. Until then, I'm fine with whatever I've got.

I WANT THIS JOB THOUGH. Nervous excitement. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I have two empty 24oz cans of Tecate in my left hand, and an empty glass (formerly containing water) in my right. The third tall Tecate is helping me wash down a shroom and peanut butter sandwich.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Wine tasting

Matt Klopp ran into my friend Jennie at Fennario in West Chester. She works at a wine tasting establishment a couple blocks from there, and told Matt to stop back in later. Matt brought me over there. We tasted some wines and talked to Jennie. There were two very attractive girls in there spending money and tasting all the wines. Jennie told them I just got back from a bicycle trip, and after learning the details, they seemed to think I was awesome. I wondered what they would have thought if they saw me crawling out of the woods on any given one of those mornings. Probably not awesome! They seemed amusingly high maintenance in speech and actions. To be fair, who knows what it takes to "maintain" them - but I picture the supplies and effort being substantial. Not crackers and water. Caviar and soda pop. They bought a fancy velcro wine-cooling ice pack. Can velcro be fancy? It can try.

Monday, July 28, 2008

I don't know

I'm either drinking or asleep. Matt Klopp is down here from NYC. I got some money that he owed me (straight to bills), and he bought some booze. This is not interesting information. We are sitting around my parents house, and they are on vacation until August 3rd. I will be sitting around my parents house for awhile. I have approximately $0, maybe less. I'm eating the food that's here, and weighing my options. There are several options. Kennett Square is not a ripe fruit, and I'm feeling very unsure about whether I want to sink me teeth into anything around here at all.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Home again? Kennett Square

I'm in Kennett Square at my parents house. They're away until August 3rd. I didn't plan it that way - my trip ended early. More accurately, my trip didn't have an ending time but I assumed it would take longer for me to feel like it was completed. Being at $0 was a good time to quit - though I didn't know the extent of my lack of money until I got home. Good thing those bus tickets were covered...? That could have been some hitchhiking and some hungry cycling. For my next bicycle tour, I'm either going to leave with thousands of dollars or I'm going to be way more badass about money. "Badass" here translates to having the balls to implement every free food technique in the book, travel with next to nothing, and spend next to nothing. This is a touring ideal of mine that is almost purely theoretical. Purely theoretical for me - others actually roll this way. I'm a funny little candy-ass who keeps buying muffins and laughing about it. Badass is an ideal that I would like to move toward. I've got to be more thrifty in at least some ways. And brave, clean, and reverent while I'm at it. Lots of ideas - all the time.

I ended up drinking some whiskey that's been rolling around in the van for awhile. With a Coca Cola mixer, of course. I'm not a barbarian.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Pictures From The Tour

I took pictures during my bicycle tour, as I mentioned. Instead of putting them where they belong in the past posts, I'm just going to link to a Picasa slide show if you're interested. 143 pictures. Captions. S'kinda worth it if you were reading the posts.

Slide Show of my 2008 bicycle-related brain-attack.

Are you shrooming?

Apparently yes. Too soon? It could have waited a few days, but I tacked some shrooms onto the end of the trip, just like I pasted some right into the beginning. At 7:21 I was sitting on the floor in Nat's room, pulsing and scattered. My heart is still glowing from the trip, and the mushrooms are providing a separate but exciting auxiliary glow. I'm happy.

I'm home, I'm with my friends, I had my fun.

Being somewhat fresh off the bus, and just planted back in the area, I didn't get to completely piece together my feelings about the adventure. I had a chance to think about it and talk about some of the good parts - and some of the good parts I didn't even share in the posts. My feelings are that the first part of the trip, going up the east coast - (to Bar Harbor, pre-hitchhiking, all bicycle powered, amazing hospitality, learning to calm down and love everything) - was the best. Then, as I said, the trip felt like it was slipping away from me. I can explain this. You know when you're having the best dream ever, but you start to wake up and you realize that it's just a dream? It's so good that you try to go back to sleep to believe it again if just for a few more minutes. I was able to fall asleep again and re-love the trip when I appeared in Montreal. Then as I traveled north, got off the P'tit Train du Nord path, and continued further - it turned into a test of willpower. The trip started to slip away from me again, and when I had those mosquitos humming and the vision of myself in dangerous wilderness, it seemed pointless. My dream was a twisted version of the original, and fuck if I didn't have to get up and go to work anyway. I have $0. I have a few things I can sell, and a little money that I'm owed - but technically $0 at the moment.

I need to do what's next. Job? Something. We'll see. Let me glow for another day; two if I can.

Friday, July 25, 2008


As I said yesterday: at 7:21 I was proofreading and updating my posts. Posting all the shit that I didn't get to post while I was getting drunk and waking up with slugs in my shoes.

I had a good romp, and I'm actually excited to be getting back to Pennsylvania. We'll see how long this feeling lasts. Coming home always feels great, but I know from experience that I end up feeling restless here. Maybe this time is different - but I'd feel a little naive if I truly believed that.

My bus ride from Val d'Or Quebec to Philadelphia took 25 hours including stations and our three hours sitting in customs. The customs guys are dicks. This is not new news, but they really can be some serious dicks. I know that's the point. Scare you into screaming where you're hiding your drugs and weapons. Right? Anyway.

I'm not saying I'm a zen awesome dude - but the bus ride didn't even bother me. I didn't care about time, I fell asleep only slightly. "I am where I am, I'll get where I get." At other points in life I think the ride would have been excruciating for me to bear. This time, not so. And when I got to Philadelphia? Beautiful, loveable city. I'm always in love when I leave and come back. Flying through the city, covered in Val d'Or dirt and a corpsical stink was incredibly uplifting. I high-speed bicycle-danced through the streets. Then I got a shower at Mark and Nat's place.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

It's Over!

It's not quite over - depending on how you look at it. I'm typing this in the bus station in Montreal. The cycling and rolling around are finished. I'll be in Philly again whenever this bus comes and takes me there.

After Tim Horton's I went to the big nice library to see if I could dry my shit out. The library didn't open until 1pm, but there was a large several-story open area with a few adjoining non library related offices. I took great liberties and hung my sleeping bag, air mattress and bivy sack over a railing to dry. I plugged in all my electronics to charge. I sat around taking up a whole lot of space, drying. I had my socks out drying on a chair. After some hours of reading and using the internet when the library opened, my stuff was kinda dry. My sleeping bag still had some dampness, but it was all basically sleepable again.

The rain stopped and the day started looking much better. I scoped out possible sleeping spots for later. I'd contacted a couple people in town from, but I never tend to expect anything with last minute requests like mine.

I tried to drink two beers at a bar before getting some food. I was hungry as hell and hadn't eaten since muffin o'clock in the morning. Somehow 2 beers became 4, then a big coke-dealing jackass of an indian dude bought me another, and I had another after that. Then I ate a cheeseburger and some poutine (cheese & gravy on fries) and decided that I was done with Val d'Or. I rocketed away while the sun was still going down, headed toward Matagami. I managed to apply for a job as a bicycle mechanic on the way out. They didn't have many repairs, but I think if they did I'd be hired. One guy there remembered me from last year.

Toward dark and not-so-many miles from town, I set up camp. I found a spot behind some trees after pulling off onto a dirt road for awhile. I got situated in the bivy sack, and a few minutes later was laying there really freaked out at the sound and presence of one billion mosquitos. They flooded my head-area netting, and I pushed down deeper into the bivy sack. The humming of all those little wings was a little scary. I had a vision of myself tucked deep in my bivy sack, one hundred miles from anyone or anything in either direction, swarmed by even more mosquitos than this, then hearing a bear or some shit and not being able to see enough or move fast enough. An unacceptable situation. There needs to be a more reasonable way to prove how big my dick is. Amongst the mosquitos, I knew the trip was coming to an end. To be fair, I probably just picked a bad spot. A particularly mosquito infested one. I know and don't care. Time to go.

Time to end the trip - and time to escape this horrible droning of tiny wings! I got ready in my mind, I psyched myself into movement. I made a to do list, planning the fastest possible exodus; no time for real packing. I needed to put my beer in my pocket, jump into my shoes, stuff my jacket and rain gear into the bivy, ball it all up and strap it on top of my bags, then roll. In my mind: "beer! shoes! stuff it! strap it! go!" I completed this mission, and it really wasn't as bad as I make it out. I was fine. Not too many bites. Who cares. Still - the trip was done. I know the quitting feeling well, and when that feeling strikes I can't psych myself around it. I walk out of the job, I skip school, I take a bus from Val d'Or to Philly. It all has that same feeling. It's Over! The feeling is good.

I escaped the mosquito situation and flew back to town. I was giving my pedals the business, going fast. No pacing myself now. Back in Val d'Or, I sat on a bench and drank my big beer. Then I heard a band playing in a bar across the street. They were covering Pink Floyd. Boom, I was there. The bar had only micro brews. The band played only covers. I had two pints of beer before getting to the flavor that I was actually trying order. A fine-assed IPA. The previous beer took the night's prize though. It was a dark beer with a strong taste of espresso and chocolate. Best beer ever. I would sit at a bar and drink that stuff forever. Ideally, every other beer would be a Hop Devil. In a perfect world...

... I wouldn't have had so many beers that I fell into some dirt and didn't know where I was when I woke up. I got dirt all over myself. Some really soft, sandy, hilarious dirt that can't just be brushed off. I took in my surroundings and remembered where I was. I climbed up a rock and looked around. I rode to the bus station and got a ticket to ride.

I'm sitting in the bus station in Montreal, my left side still covered in dirt. I haven't changed my clothing or taken a shower in over a week. I don't think I smell that bad, honestly. It's 7:09pm, so you can assume my location and approximate doings at 7:21pm. Proofreading? (7/25: Proofreading the 7/24 post...)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I got up and semi-hauled ass, aware that the end of the P'tit Train du Nord path would be ending today. It was over when I'd gone 50 miles. I stopped for a cheeseburger in a small town, and the girl waiting on me at the counter didn't speak any English, nor did the other employee who I presume was her mother and the owner of this pseudo home-based establishment. This didn't bother anyone at all. There were shy smiles and pointing and everyone had a ball.

Now I'm done with the path, and not particularly happy. I'm in Mt. Laurier where the path ends and I'm supposed to take 117 all the way to Val D'or. I got a Subway sub here last year and it turned my bowels to water. That was an intense few hours of dehydration and misery. Now I have a decision to make. Am I going to hitchhike while not speaking French? Possible - I've done it. Or will I sit around and take a bus at 11:45am tomorrow - landing me right in Matagami at the beginning of the James Bay Road. I'm not sure. I don't know if I feel like riding on the shoulder of a highway for 3 or 4 days. I actually do know: I'm not game. Decisions.

... later ...

Decisions are fucking easy. I think I had this worked out already when I was typing it earlier. I rode to just outside of the main part of Mt. Laurier - (or Mt. Sprawlier, as I saw it). I put out my thumb. $117 is a lot to pay for a bus - especially considering that there is literally one big road headed north here. This is not convoluted hitchhiking. Val D'or? Val D'or! Of course, dude.

Well I thumbed around for about an hour before getting hot and hungry. I got a 40 of some type of berry flavored concoction that slightly zaps your tongue, and a sandwich with no soul. I sat in a nice little park by the water, txt messaging Nielle and wondering what I would do next. Get drunk and/or lazy and stick around the area? Catch a bus tomorrow? I have magical ways of affording such luxuries. Credit. Or, should I try my luck with hitching a ride...

I only bother to stick my thumb out for likely candidates. Not for cars. Pickups, RVs, cars towing a boat, etc. But in a line of vehicles, there is always crossfire. So when I turned around and saw a tanker truck, it gave me pause. Did I summon this beast? It seemed likely. I went to the window and stepped up to talk. He spoke English. When you ask "do you speak English?" - the answer is almost always "a little bit." Sometimes this is true, sometimes the person speaks better English than I do - but it's always "a little bit." This guy spoke pretty well with only a few understandable gaps in vocabulary. After some rooting around for solutions, we got the bicycle hung up on a big hook that holds a hose to the front of the tank. Safe? Good enough for me. I am truly beginning to quit with giving a fuck. In earnest.

Driver was headed to Louvencourt, a good chunk of road in the right direction. After Grand Remous (big rapids?) he got a flat. I thought this might spoil my ride, but no. Driver needed to find a place for a guy to come and change the tire. It would be a couple hours. I didn't have anything scheduled, so I decided to wait. The best part was backing down the shoulder at 0mph for what I think was more than a half an hour, only to find that the pull-off spot was 2km forward - not backward.

The pull-off spot was next to Lac Rolland. I stopped here last year - riding my bicycle the whole way on this fucking road - when I ran out of energy. I barely able to make it up the hill. I sat here - where the tire was to be changed - and ate half a jar of peanut butter and a fruit cup. What I had.

At 7:21 I was looking at a small bee that got it's front end stuck in a crack in a wooden post, and had its back end sticking out moving around. I was trying to get the bee unstuck with a stiff piece of grass, and was a little embarrassed to be so focused on this that Driver walked up and saw what I was doing.

The Driver was a very clean cut gentleman who learned English driving trucks in the US for about 7 years. Very friendly. I wonder what his perception of me was. No socks, dirty, clearly has some money (nice touring gear), frees stuck bees, headed to Nemaska (there's wolves out there). I wonder, but I'm surely just some dude, same as always. I probably feel a good bit crazier than I appear.
Back on the road. I was looking at a wild beautiful sunset and zonking out. Driver said I could lay down if I wanted. It was a sleeper. It reminded me of my van home. A vehicle with a bed. I laid down, and we got to Louvencourt in about an hour. I loaded up my bicycle and headed off into the night with no fucking idea what I was doing. I stopped 30 feet down the road for a 40 of 10.1% LaBatt and some potato chips. Potato chips? Really? Apparently so.

I sat in some woods drinking with the mosquitos, then I decided it was time to continue. HA! That shit didn't last too long. Have you ever been rolling down the highway looking at the side of the road - up a hill, behind a billboard - and thought to yourself: I could sleep there, there, there... Well, you probably can. I got one of those spots and zonked out. Up a hill, behind a tree, behind a sign. Invisible as Harry Potter's cloak. The invisibility cloak.

Fuck this fucking rain, what the fuck? I woke up in rain. I don't know what I did wrong, aside from everything obvious, but specifically: why was my sleeping bag (blanket mode) getting so fucking wet? I woke up in the rain with the flap up (still no pole, fuggit). Did I really sleep through that much rain? I put the flap down (suffocation mode) and actually did sleep a little more before life started to get too ridiculous to lay down any longer. I rose up. My sleepshit-pannier was open, exposing my book to rain (The Unbearable Lightness of Being; READ THIS TODAY.) My left shoe had slugs 'n slugs 'n was soaked. I strapped everything to the tops of my bags and rolled out down the highway. While rolling, I considered the improbability that my left shoe contained multiple slugs, and my right shoe was slug free. I hadn't done a thorough investigation, due to the uncomfortable circumstances. Now I note later - as I sit in Val D'or typing this in a Tim Horton's - that this investigation has yet to occur. It felt like there coulda been a slug. We'll see.

Back to rolling down the highway. Bicycling makes many crap situations more bearable. It wouldn't be my first choice to roll around in cold rain at 8am with all my necessary shit soaked and tied down to my bags - but it was better once I got going. When I was standing around packing up my shit, I looked down to see at least a dozen mosquitos all over my legs. I was cold. Now, riding a bicycle, I was warming up - and mosquitos don't chew into a moving cyclist. (I discovered the extent of this rule in the Everglades at sundown, evading a massive attack on a pink 3 speed Townie.)

I rolled. Not quite 10 miles into the morning festivities, a mini van pulled over in front of me. Mechanical difficulty? I thought not. Confirmed. A ride! Without even using my thumb. The way I see it: I looked so pitiful yet trustworthy that a kind soul gave me a lift. He was an older gentleman who spoke a little bit of English. Judging by his hat, he was headed to work at Burger King. He took me straight to Tim Horton's in the heart of Val D'or. Population: approx 30,000 or something. The biggest thing up around here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Rain on the path

It looked like it was going to rain. It rained. Pretty serious rain. I stayed out of it for a few hours in a pavilion, the only one not speaking French in a group of twenty or so. Cold. Not super fun. I won't harp on it. I'm not sure why I stopped and let myself cool down - I was already soaked. When the rain started to calm down and the crowd dispersed, I put on my rain jacket and continued. I'm not used to the feeling of being an outsider - not knowing the language. Sometimes I get a certain enjoyment out of it - but times like in the pavilion I don't enjoy it.

Continuing. The rain kicked it up a notch and I warmed up as I rode on. I got to a familiar place where I'd stopped to swim last year. I rode into town from the path and got an early 40 ouncer. LaBatt 6.1%... not too gross. I got crouisants. I stopped at a picnic table in town, covered by a roof, safe from the rain. I drank and waited. Then I got another 40 and waited and cooked food. The food was approaching successful. I'm still learning to put it simply. I'm not a very good cook to put it accurately. I cooked pasta and steamed broccoli over the boiling water. That was the smart part. I added a small can of tomato sauce. I didn't know what to do with the garlic, so I busted it open and just stuck it in with the boiling noodles for whatever that was worth. It smelled good anyway. The food was reasonable, and very filling. And cheap.

The rain let up and I wondered why I was so drunk on such a nice afternoon. I sat by the water for awhile, then continued again. The day ended well with me cruising away listening to music on a path that was now paved in this section. I picked a sleeping spot late. I set up right behind a small covered rest area. There was a fast flowing river making noise behind me, and some traffic noise when a truck passed on the highway nearby. Maybe it was the river, or the 40s, or the tiredness adding up, but I slept great. Slightly damp, but that was some very sound sleep.

Monday, July 21, 2008

P'tit Train du Nord - Bicycle path!

Bicycle paths with no traffic which extend for 200km (120mi) are what grabs my heart the most these days. This scenery is postcard beautiful around every turn. I couldn't be happier with my decision to bail on my other route and switch to plan B here. This allows me to ride through what I know to be some of the best scenery around. I was surely getting worried about my other directions, so this is a welcome change in that department as well. I have 200km of the P'tit Train du Nord, and some number of days on highway 117. I basically switched over to the same exact ride that I did alone last June; beginning the day after Nat's bicycle was stolen in Montreal and we parted ways. I didn't know how I'd feel about this - retracing my steps is something I have mixed feelings about, often negative. But aside from rain plus slugs and slugs, Quebec wins.

I woke up early and sat around the kitchen table at the hostel drinking coffee and eating bread, listening to everyone speak French. I sat for a good long time and added nothing. The jelly or marmalade or fruit spread was in a bowl with a spoon and light years more advanced than what I've seen. Delicious and bursting with big chunks of fruit. ie: half of an entire smooshed strawberry. I spread it on enormous fluffy hunks of bread. Dejunier petit, damn straight.

I packed and split with the knowledge that I needed to address my bicycle and find where Route Verte 1 got close to where I was. I went to where I knew I could get air in my tires, and paused to lube my chain as well. I looked at a shitty map of where I needed to be, and cross referenced with a detailed map to bring it back to where I was. I rolled toward the route with a silent, awesome, inconspicuous bicycle.

I remember getting pretty lost last year. I only got slightly lost this time. The route is dead easy to follow. Getting lost for me is like putting on socks. I usually do. The P'tit Train du Norde begins in St-Jerome, which apparently is over 40 miles from Montreal. Most of these miles are on smoothly paved bicycle paths which cross fields, cut through parks, and often aren't even within view of a car road. This is highly recommended riding. The paths have a decent cycle-traffic volume. You're far from alone out there.

The P'tit Train is a mostly gravel path built where abandoned train tracks existed before. This rails to trails conversion is a linear park connecting many of the small communities as you travel north. There are amazing views, reconstructed train stations, and plenty of places to get supplies. I've camped around on it, and I'm pretty sure that's fine. It seems nice and chill up here. Don't have cats suing each other and stealing each other's bacon.

So I got on this path and cruised. At about 45 miles for the day, I decided I wanted to go about 15 more. It was early afternoon and I wanted to travel when the sun went down some more. The sky looked uncertain. Possible rain. Seemed likely. I got a 40 of Wildcat. A screaming, clawing cat denotes a very serious beer indeed. I rode up the path to where a picnic table overlooks a clean reflective river surface headed around a bend to some honest rapids. I drank Wildcat and watched the clouds move in. The leaves of the trees were blowing in the way that assures you that it will rain. The surface of the water performed a similar act. I stuffed all my belongings deep into my panniers, and rolled everything in tight, expecting rain any time now. I smoked. I finished. It rained.

I put on my North Face pullover, and rode to warm up as the rain began. I wrapped my iPod in a bag and cruised through some light but true rain. I was pumped. If I kept cruising steady my body heat would keep me warm in spite of the wetness and the sinking sun. That plan works. I was cruising up very long slow inclines, keeping the juice on. I stopped in a tunnel to photograph graffiti. "Try Mushrooms" among others. Sage advice from an artist. I kept cruising. My shorts are awesome. If the rain blinks, I swear they try to steal second and dry out on the way. I rode out of the rain, or it stopped. It was almost dark now. I was sorta looking for a place to sleep, sorta ready to ride forever and ever. I stopped at the depanneur, grocery, that took me until my second day to pass last year. There were two other bicycle travelers there - a few years younger, carrying packs on their backs. I passed them when they stopped, later down the path. They passed me some time after this. When I caught them again they were fooling around with cheap flashlights and I had to say hi; it was getting weird. One of them at least spoke enough English for a short chat. Well wishes were wished all around. Bicycle travelers have a brotherhood. In my mind, there is a brotherhood. A set of values and understandings that don't need to be spelled out. We like trees and being outside, and efficient rewarding modes of transportation. No need to talk about it, maybe just nod or say hi for a minute. Riding around in the dark was cool. I only had enough moonlight though the clouds to make out the edges of the path. A few minutes up the way I saw flashlights swinging every direction and the sound of bicycle horns honking. A jubilant sound breaking the silence of the night, and three riders bounced by. It was a party in motion. I put batteries in my headlight. I found a place to sleep behind some trees.

Hiding spots ripe for camping are available for a vast majority of this entire trail. My problem was that I waited until after dark, and I hesitated to choose a spot that was either too densely grown in, or was actually a grassy stream or otherwise uncrossable or unsleepable spot. I found my spot. All my shit is slightly damp, but not complainably so. I got a replacement pole for my bivy - a cheap, thin, flexible steel rod from a hardware store. I left it in the bicycle box when I unpacked at the bus station in Montreal. I tried to use a flexible stick that I found near my spot, and that didn't really work. I was in bag-mode, and it didn't really affect my sleep much. It was cool enough through the night that the hood could fall down over the netting and not cause discomfort. This is impossible if it's hot. You suffocate. I got some amount of good sleep. I'm getting better at rolling over and moving and getting comfy-snuggly. That takes practice.

I woke up to all kinds of slugs on my bivy and on my shoes - which I left out. If you're excited about a sneaky-camping bicycle adventure, you need to be ok with slugs, mosquitos, heat, damp sleeping bags, and directional confusion. It's really fuggin cool though.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


I got on the bus and got to Montreal. Going through Burlington VT was a strange feeling. I could have gotten off the bus there and felt comfortable and almost at home. But somehow that would end my trip. When I called Greyhound, I initially asked for a ticket to Val D'or - still many days of cycling to the north. The best they could do is Montreal, and I knew that I would not purchase my ride from Montreal to Val D'or. I intend to begin cycling on one of the best and longest paths I've seen to date.

I exited the bus at 6:45am, exhausted. I put my bicycle together slowly, humming to myself, and was riding through the city at 7am. I was up at the top of Mount Royal within the hour. I tried to sleep on a picnic table bench, but I have not yet mastered this art. I cap out at about an hour of sleep, and couldn't even manage to get that much. I was excited about the drums and sword fighting that I knew would occur later toward the bottom of the mountain. I was happy to be in Montreal. This is a welcome change of scenery and completely not a part of my original plan - but leads me to the same place. I don't know much about Montreal, but I think I'm in love. Again.

Nat txt'd me an address for a $23 hostel. I came down from the mountain and stumbled over the street after some slight goosing around. Shared rooms, always coffee, hot shower, use of kitchen. Importantly: place to stash my gear. After cleaning and getting food, I took my stripped down bicycle straight back to the mountain. One slight detour.

I sat drinking a 40 of 10% alc LaBatt Bleu. That is one forced beer. It is not for taste. It was strangled and beaten into existence. I looked for pot and barely walked 30 yards before I was clutching a big dank bud in my hand. All day I'd been smelling it. At 9am a cyclist was smoking it at the summit of the mountain. I got some rolling papers from a girl and rolled what looked like a nice joint. Tried to smoke it with her, but the bud was too fresh and sticky. Bah - gotta go buy a bowl from the people by the road with their wares spread out on blankets. It was beginning to rain. To drizzle. They blanket folks were packing up. I asked what cost $10 and was given two choices. There was no glass, and I ended up getting a wood and jaw bone based pipe that does not fit my personality in any way whatsoever - but fortunately smokes very well. I asked a guy for a light and ended up smoking with him. He was from London on holiday for a month and using the couchsurfing website to stay in Montreal. Great idea. We smoked a lot, and I still have shit left. $10 of pot. Geez, dude.

I went to the drum circle and it was beyond what I care to attempt describing. Every type of person was there dancing and clapping. I spent a long time dancing and clapping. It was raining still, but there was nowhere else in the world for me at that point.

When I was ready, I left. The city was saturated with police blocking many many roads for an event. I'm not sure what the event was. I raced around on my unloaded bicycle in all directions. I cruised easily up the steepest streets. A wild incline could barely slow me down as other cyclists dismounted and walked. I was like a batter who'd been swinging two bats for a month. I crushed the road. They might need to repave the places where I took off too quickly. I got back to the hostel an hour before quiet time - about 10pm. I expected movement, but everyone in my room was already in bed. No mountain party? Two asleep; one reading. I collected my stoned sweaty self's thoughts and laid down about five minutes later. I concentrated on my breathing and was asleep almost instantly.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Uhhh... Montreal!

It's 7:21pm and I'm drinking a coffee and eating a pistachio muffin. I'm wearing the same clothes as when I left Ravi and Lynn's house - except I changed my boxers once. The elastic died, and I gave them a proper burial in the garbage at an IGA. I think the rain actually did some good to wash out the rest. This is good outdoor clothing. Thin wool/poly blend shirt, awesome shorts previously described. I'm good for another few weeks if I get into some water a few times. I'm enjoying this moment. My feet are propped up on the windowsill overlooking where the buses pull in. I'm in South Station in Boston for the second time on this trip. My bus leaves at 11:45 and gets to Montreal at quarter to 7am.

Yodeling. Rebel yell. As much as I raved about those Google Maps improvements, I had trouble. I have a saying: Don't rave about your sandwich until you've tried eating it. Well the sandwich looked great, but I didn't know where it was sending me. The sweat was pouring in my eyes, and I had a feeling that I'd already seen the best of this big state. Google revived itself with 1-800-GOOG-411. I got connected to Greyhound and confirmed that I could change my scenery today for a reasonable fee. I'd been teetering on the edge of hitching somewhere, but the bus option won me over. I did an about face back into town and got to work.

The bus ticket guy wouldn't sell me a ticket until my bicycle was in a box. He didn't have a box, of course. The bus was leaving in a little over an hour. No reason to panic - it's not like I was going to miss out on free sandwiches or something. I cycled about a mile or so to the bicycle shop across the river and thanked them sincerely for a box. I cursed my way back to the bus station and eyeballed the guy to put down his soup and sell me a ticket. Then I did the absolute shittiest boxing job that I thought I could get away with. I played the game politely - but when he made a comment about the box not closing, I told him "listen... I didn't bring my full set of pro-shop tools."

My water bottle spilled in the box and fucked it all up even worse, and now I'm sitting here eating a muffin, amused at the bar end shifter and pedal poking out of the side of the box, surveying the scenery with me.

Friday, July 18, 2008

To Bangor Maine

I woke up in the woods needing more water and sleep than what I had and what I got. Got breakfast from an attractive, but non quick-coffee-bringing waitress. I was waiting for the free shuttle off this island, and took my panniers off to get my bicycle on the front rack of the bus. I noticed a broken spoke. I wasn't very surprised or upset by this. I took it to the shop, and I swear they had it taken care of in about a half hour. I really wished I was doing the repair myself. I like when I build and fix my own wheels, because I know I'm going to make it mechanically good and not just tweak around until it looks good. I'm not saying that's what happened. I just trust myself with that stuff best. I was more than pleased that they were able to perform on the spot. I know a lot of shops can't perform like that. Bar Harbor Bicycles carries respectable machines and appears to have a very good service department. They seem to be excited about bicycles and breakfasts. I got on the shuttle.

My directions from where the shuttle let me off had me on 1-A to Bangor within ten miles. My directions, as I said, were concocted in 1993. There's more cars now, and the book wasn't exactly screaming the praises of 1-A in the first place. I played along for a couple miles. I went through my directions and saw that I wasn't using any other roads for many many miles. Fuck this! Time for the thumb. I had a ride from a friendly talkative fellow within about 3 minutes. He took me right into town, pointed shit out, and dropped me off right at the library. No need for so much as names, just talking.

Out of the library, and wait a few minutes, and then the rain started. That was the first rain I felt 'caught' in. I knew it had to happen. At 7:21pm I was sitting in a bar, drinking blueberry ale and eating a sammich. I was kinda waiting out the rain. I didn't feel social. I could have probably benefited from putting on my superman social suit, but I just didn't have it. I couldn't even stay in the bar, and in spite of the rain I went out. I sat in an empty doorway for awhile. It wasn't raining hard. Only enough to get me and my shit all wet. I think that's what they call a steady drizzle. I got on my bicycle and rode around randomly looking for a good place to exist. It was dark and rainy, and not the best time for finding a hiding spot. I rode on a beautiful closed path by the river, but that area didn't feel right. I rode around more, and eventually ended up riding straight out of town. I found some true enough woods with a decent spot within a few miles. I was up a hill on a flat spot well above the road. I laid out my sleepshit, and realized that I lost the pole for my bivy sack. I think it now belongs to the Harbor Walk. My sleep was very damp and scattered, but I got it. I had strong dreams and laid around until about 7:30. It rained some, and I put the operation into 'dry suffocation' mode - when the rain let up I put it back into 'bitta rain on my head' mode. It was all pretty damp. The trick about not having the pole: mosquitos get right up in your ear and yes they can get you through the netting. So I use a garment for a pillow with one stray sleeve wrapped around my head, over my ear. That sleeve keeps the netting mostly off my skin. The skeeters gave me only a slight working over. They mostly just harassed.

Did I say that I felt like the trip was slipping away from me? It's not a bad time - I just need to get punched in the face and wake up somewhere else.

I don't like writing about drinking so much, but it's an honest account and I'm writing what I'm thinking with a detailed mental account taking precedence over making it sound like a magazine article. Here it is. I know I'm drinking too much, almost always. Am I trying to control it? Not very hard. I always seem to need some kind of breaking point. This trip seems to be full of just slathering myself in whatever I want. At around 6 o'clock the booze light kicks on. I don't know very much more than that.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bar Harbor repeated.

Me and the young couple from the bench stayed up very late drinking a bottle of rum. We all got up around 8, talked a little, and all went back to sleep until afternoon. I got a ride back to Bar Harbor around 5, and at 7:21pm I was in the middle of pouring another brown bagged whiskey into another big coke. I heard a lot more mandolin. Dan remembered my name, but I needed a reminder for his. At late o'clock, I walked down the Harbor Path and found my place in the woods. This was my rest day, and honestly it felt like kind of a mess. A big mess. A lot of sitting, and while I had a good time, I think I feel like the trip is slipping away from me.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bar Harbor

It's 7:21pm and I'm sitting on a small rock wall in a beautifully manicured hillside park overlooking the water. The view is of small fishing boats, small islands, someone's yacht, a setting sun. I got here a couple hours ago. The park is full of people, the town is full of people. There's a guy playing mandolin. He's a handsome young guy with a beard who looks like he might have fallen asleep in the sun a few times. His voice is great, he's doing a fine job playing old style tunes I've never heard. I'm sitting on this wall with my shoes off and my socks laying beside my shoes which are airing out next to me. I've had the same shirt on for a few days and it has big rings of salt across the front from all my sweat. I'm still wearing awesome shorts. I'm drinking whisky and Coke out of a soda bottle, pulling chunks off of a plain bagel and eating them. I'm having a little personal moment here. One of those moments where you're thinking about how perfect everything is. The mandolin guy starts playing a song with lyrics giving a reason why you can't love each number, starting at one and getting up to nine. At about four, I walk over and give him a buck and stand near by so I can hear better. I get a refill and put my shoes on and sit closer. He starts playing a song about a fuckin' hen that won't lay eggs, and at this point I start to love him. Busting out the song about the fuckin' hen right in the park with old ladies and children, and it didn't sound one bit obscene.

The sun went down and my plan for the night was already set in motion. Phase one was getting drunk in the park and watching the sun go down. Now I was in phase two. Sit in the park as long as possible and maybe ride to the edge of town if I got really tired, or maybe stay up all night and sleep in the park tomorrow. I wasn't planning to ride the next day. Rest day. Tired legs, feeling the muscle-heat on hills. Bar Harbor is a nice place to stop.

I was sitting on that bench in phase two when a young couple sat on the next bench over and asked if I had a line on some marijuana. I told them I wished I did, but no. They said they just got married. I congratulated them and told them I was drunk and I just rode into town on a bicycle a few hours earlier. They asked if I wanted to stay at their cabin. I gave the mandolin guy a fuckin' 20, because I felt too blessed and drunk to keep it to myself.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

To the woods behind the bar in Bucksport

I woke up to Ravi, wearing a fine looking suit, bringing me a hot cup of tea. I slept better than ever. He told me to go back to sleep. This is a very young man who really has his shit together. I ate breakfast with Lynn, who has Tuesdays off. We talked and watched her daughter play and wander. She's as cute and happy a child as anybody could ever want. I folded my laundry and repacked my panniers. I left, waving goodbye. I borrowed a book.

I can't decide on words to describe how refreshing it is to realize that your trust and love for humans is restored. It feels great to be nearly baffled by kindness. I want to take this and spread it out, make a thin layer of kindness and blanket a crowd.

Was yesterday full of fate? Why did I cycle off in a random direction? When I found a Park Tools cycling cap - was that a sign that I was on the right path in spite of my directions? Why did I cycle so far south, and not take a few minutes to realize that I could more quickly and easily connect to my directions considerably further north? Why did I see a cooking show in my Aunt's apartment that taught me how to cut pineapple? It was a beautiful day, full of calm perfect mistakes. Is that fate? I still believe more strongly in coincidence and thoroughly random chance - just for the record. Stronger still is my belief in my own thorough ignorance about all such matters.

Back to this day. I rode easy, stuck to the directions, went just shy of 60 miles, ended up in the woods behind a bar. Spent a lot at the bar, got all fucked up. No regrets. Got up at 9am with my head full of clouds. Now it's 10:30 and I'm typing this shit in Dunkin Donuts. I have my whole life ahead of me, and today my only goal is to roll into Bar Harbor in about 40 miles. Too easy. I'm having a megafuckin great trip.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Extreme hospitality

After the unexpected and welcome hospitality at Nathan's, it felt almost surreal the be sitting in another kitchen eating pineapple while an omlette was being cooked for me. I don't want to to overuse "surreal" - but what is this? It wasn't until the omlette was being prepared that Ravi told he had been expecting me. I'll get to this in a second.

I woke up early today. When I heard Nathan get up, I followed suit. I can break camp near instantly. I was almost ready to walk out the door when Nathan said that just because he had to leave didn't mean that I should feel like I had to go right away. Truly, he was ok with me hanging around. He has a roommate, Bones, a girl with a skateboard who I'd met briefly the night before. I don't like to stay any longer than is absolutely acceptable. I err toward a very quick exit. After Nathan left I paused for a few moments to collect my thoughts and impressions, then I left. The sky had the same uncertain look from the day before, and there was evidence of rain drops on the pavement. I stuffed absolutely everything that I didn't want to get wet in my Ortlieb waterproof panniers. It was very perfect. It was ideal. No straggler items hanging out on top of the bags, as I've been doing. This was some good packing. Rain? Fuggit.

It looks like some of my book's directions to leave Portland have become outdated. I had to wing it a bit, but somehow this proved to be simple and include a safe and marked bicycle route. In the midst of this confusion, I asked directions from two cyclists on the path where it runs beside 295. They didn't know their way around, but they were also trying to head out of Portland going north. They were from Philadelphia. Honest. Dude #2 had City Sports water bottles, so I know it's the truth. They were headed to Bar Harbor. This was day #8 for them. #18 for me. I said they were hauling ass. They confirmed that they'd done a couple centuries. They were pretty spandexy, and had expensive road bicycles. They seemed just a few years older than me. To them, I quite likely looked like some dolt on a shit-bike who doesn't know how to dress for a ride. They might have looked at my handlebars and my clothing and come to the conclusion that I was making all kinds of mistakes. I love life. You know what I mean?

I followed the Ninja Turtles the same way we all thought we should go. No way was I going to lead the circus. We were all back on track in a jiffy, and I was immediately dropped. Left behind. I let them, and I was happy when they were off in the distance and I was back at my own pace. They had a fast uncertain aura that made me nervous. I'm familiar with the fast two-cyclist uncertain touring pace. Too far too fast. Fuggit.

Just when some rain truly started to come down, I zipped past a coffee shop in Brunswick and swung an immediate u-ey. I put in plenty of time reading and such. I wasn't going out of my way to talk to anyone. There were a few people in there, and they were friends. They were talking, and they all seemed like cool decent 20-something dudes. Eventually we ended up talking. My loaded bicycle leaning outside on one of the tables makes an easy icebreaker for anyone who wants to take the first poke. They really were cool. We talked about bicycles and trips, and they had stories and conversation about both. I got addresses, a phone number, and a great book suggestion. It's all in my wallet. Good people everywhere. Cycling on.

I got off route, and knew it, and for some reason didn't care. I just kept hauling because I felt physically good and the road was nice. I went far north and inland, away from my directions. Lakes and streams prevented any easy reconnection. I still didn't care. Just didn't care. When I realized how far astray I'd gone, I still didn't comprehend how difficult it would be to get back. I could have just backtracked for about 15 or 20 miles, but I decided to use my AAA map to connect to the route further north. Yup. This halfway worked, but I still did a lot of shooting from the hip. Still didn't care. I ended up on the most intense hilly sections of roads I've ever seen, still winging it. I ended up backtracking a lot - a compromise trading northward progress for a return to my comfortable and reliable directions by the end of the day. It looked like I was going to do my own century ride by the time this got sorted out. Century is bikespeak for a 100 mile day. I was at 75 and still wanting to get back on the set path. I eventually got to it. At route 1 and 32 in Waldoford.

In his book, Travels With Charley, John Steinbeck tells about how people from Maine don't say much. That has not been my experience. I talked (listened mostly) to a lady outside of the grocery store for at least a half hour. She met Walter Kronkite in his pajamas in a wealthy friend's kitchen. I know all about her family. I know more than you would probably guess. As a policy, I don't cut a conversation short unless I desperately need to be somewhere. I don't think this has ever happened.

At 7:21pm I was in a Hannaford grocery store holding a six of MGD. I'd gone 86 miles and I was planning to camp; I also got a small package of ham, one of cheese, 4 bagels, deli mustard. I got all this packed away and then I rolled on

I asked directions a couple times to make sure I didn't do something stupid. If you ask once, you should confirm with another source down the road. This proved useful, and I want to say necessary. I pedaled and sweated to the top of yet another crazy steep. At the exact prescribed mileage of the next turn, the street sign said something different from my directions. There was a driveway with a guy in it so I sought his expertise. Ravi got an atlas and tried to find the street I was looking for. I asked about local camping, and he directed me to his wife, Lynn. They have a daughter of 14 months who seemed to like me through the screen window. I only spoke to them for a few minutes before I was offered the spare room. I would have assumed that a young couple with a baby daughter wouldn't think of making such an invitation. But Ravi extended the invitation. I politely hesitated, giving him several chances to show any second thoughts whatsoever. He didn't. I accepted. I'd gone 88 miles, and I had an opportunity to shower and sleep in a bed. Another chance to meet more good people. I don't remember saving up this amount of karma.

First they had to get their daughter to bed. Then, while Lynn was getting her to sleep, Ravi began to make me an omlette. Did I like the Spanish style, or the French? Ravi is from London, and speaks with a British accent. His heritage is Indian. He is smart, and didn't hesitate to dip right into the ideas of authors and philosophers, and we had a good conversation that was just shy of being over my head at times. I was tired and had some difficulty articulating my ideas and beliefs. He told me that he didn't want to sound hippyish or weird but he'd been kind of expecting me. He looked at me to gauge a response. I told him I actually was kind of weird and hippyish, and asked him to explain. He'd done a kind thing for a neighbor, and they said he would get a reward. Today he got a windfall pineapple. Earlier, also today, he wondered what he would do for, or offer, to a guest should one arrive. He wasn't surprised when I showed up. I'd already cut the pineapple into slices and was eating it.

Ravi related a story of surprising trust and kindness bestowed on him in Germany. Something that restored his faith in humanity. It was by no means critical - but a gesture far beyond the expected. He wanted to test his trust and faith in people. So do I. We spoke about this. My day was changed, my situation vastly improved. The pineapple was exceptionally juicy.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Random hospitality in Portland

Today got off to a slow start. Like a record playing the wrong speed. Mosquitos were not much of a problem last night while I was having my sunset ritual. However, a couple of them were buzzing just outside the netting of the bivy sack in the morning. No biggie - just makes it a little difficult to drift off again for that extra bit of morning sleep. I got up.

Starting off, I felt sluggish and a little blank. Not unhappy, just blank. It felt like things were getting less wild and more normal. Jack Johnson didn't even seem all that happy when I listened to a new album I haven't heard. I attribute this general blandness to being dirty and tired on a fairly overcast morning. That's all. Such a contrast is not a bad thing - it's life. I was happier rolling down the road than whatever else I might have been doing at the moment. I was; I asked myself. I had a few chuckles in there too - I wasn't frowning. You get it. Let's move on.

I stopped at a state park about an hour or so after starting to roll. My jacket/pillow and my best shirt are what I'll call perma-damp. They've been strapped to the top of my bags, but haven't improved. I'm a little puzzled. No worries, they enter the laundry que. I established myself at a picnic table, read a book, and decided to cook. I left my propane somewhere. I'm stumped. I also left my book - For Whom The Bell Tolls - in Washington Square park in Manhattan. Presumably because I got over excited by a free sandwich. No propane, no cooking - I laid down on a picnic table bench and somehow zonked out for over an hour. The wind was blowing hard, and the tops of the trees were swaying and the leaves were speaking pretty loudly. I wasn't into this too much, and when a big family showed up speaking at a volume to be unnecessarily overheard, I was ready to pack up and keep rolling.

As I rolled out of the dense canopy, I entered a day much brighter than when it had begun. I spent a long time in Ocean Park, Maine. I ate, wrote, found wifi, paid bills, felt good. Talked to my parents, but didn't have very much info to share. I rolled on into the hottest part of the day. The sun was strong and hot, but the air was cool. The wind was blowing - sometimes it helped, sometimes it slowed me down, sometimes it just blew me around. I'm not crazy about it, but I was still interested in moving.

I found awesome shorts. I rode past some balled up cloth with an adidas logo and turned around. Nice shorts! They have thin flowy fabric - baggy, 100% polyester. They're kinda like a bathing suit. Maybe they are one. They've got mesh pockets. If they're this baggy, they can pass for real shorts. I know they'll dry fast and let air circulate, and not slide down since they're so light. They were a little dirty, but not close to being a deal breaker. Cleaner than what I was wearing. I like'em. A lot. Awesome shorts.

I was filling up my water bottles in South Portland at a water fountain in a big open grassy area beside the bridge to Portland proper. A girl was walking with a long skateboard coming off the pedestrian bridge ramp in my direction. She walked close enough and looked at me, so I said HI. There might have been a pause or not, but she stopped. "Are you on a tour?" Good proper wording. "Yup." Now we talked. She told me about her ride to Cape Brenton in Nova Scotia. I told her my deal. We talked about stoves and how we didn't use them very much. She said that she'd invite me to stay at her place except that her roommate might not be too keen on it. Plus it was a brand new place and a brand new living situation. I let her know how I felt about it: just talking to a person for a minute was more than good. She called her friend Nathan who always lets people stay at his house - maybe I could meet him and get a shower. It seemed possible - so she gave me his number. She was Mira. Totally cool girl. Understands riding bicycles around, being dirty and camping in the woods, and wanting to talk to humans. Serendipety. I crossed the bridge. I had the instinct to keep riding - I'd only gone 45 miles - and riding bicycles is easier than calling strangers. But: be more social - it helps your brain, it helps the tour. I called Nathan. He offered a shower and a place to sleep on a big air mattress. He'd be home at 6:30, so I should call back then. I got a recommendation for a good coffee shop.

I put in some time at the coffee shop, then went out again. The sky looked cloudy and uncertain. The wind was blowing strong. I put on a long sleeve North Face pullover and rode over the hill and checked out the promanade by the water. Clouds or whatever - that was a beautiful sight. Portland is big and has some great views and at least one great-ass coffee shop, if not a dozen. I like it here. I called Nathan at 6:30 and met him at his place. We talked about what each other's deals were, and what we'd been up to. Nathan went to France with a bicycle and no plan. He didn't speak French. He traveled and worked and learned French for six months. The only reason he left was because he got cat scratch fever - just like the Ted Nugent song I've never heard of. We talked and shared some stories and thoughts. I'm all set up for the night in a nice clean apartment. I met some cool people. My batteries are recharged, and I mean that in every positive way possible.

I'm clean as hell. I organized all my gear. I cooked my food on his stove. I'm wearing awesome shorts.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Thru Kenebunkport

I woke up like shit. I didn't convince myself to move much until 8 something. Way too late to expect to not be found. I really just didn't care. I was too drunk and bug-attacked to put the one pole into the bivy sack. That's not a first. When you neglect the pole, you really are just sleeping in a Goretex bag. When I finally made myself rise, my body felt creaky, and my mind was a cloud. Riding back onto the directions, my heart was already warm and perfect. I was already laughing - how can it be so good? I'm having a remarkably good time floating north.

I'm sitting in a library. I'm stinking and typing and charging every single device I have. Three devices.

Devices charged. Now I'm sitting on a bench 24 hours later. I'm by the beach in Ocean Park. Yesterday was full of small towns and easy directions. I can still get lost a little bit, but only if I'm really slacking off hard. This book lays out a hell of a good route. It also might be that you just can't go wrong cycling through Maine - except if you get on I-95 or some such tragedy. Kenebunkport is nice.

Kenebunkport is one of those places that I knew existed, but didn't know where, how, or what-the-deal. It's a rich little artsy town in Maine. Six o'clock had come and gone, and I like cute little towns with lots of foot traffic. At 7:21, I'd been seated at an outdoor bar drinking beer from bottles that only God and the bartender will ever know the price of. I also got a side of button mushrooms and a side consisting of a potato that looked like it was sliced up with a cheese plainer and reassembled in a square. I really need some cheaper ways to amuse myself when I get to places like Kenebunkport.

I'm spending money recklessly. Let me tell you about how I only used my stove one time. it was in New Jersey. It's a big stove, and weighs way too much. Gotta do better than that. I said earlier "I plan to cook a lot." I guess I forgot who I was and every detail about how I roll. I meant "I'm gonna blow all my cash on sammiches and beer."

Notably enough, I saw former president Bush's 11 acre oceanside vacation pad. Yikesly nice setup, bro. I cycled past it. I own the earth, but he was rude enough to put up a guard gate to keep me off a nice chunk of my own property. C'est la vie, bro.

Sitting at that fancy expenso-bar watching the sun go down, I was wondering where I'd end up sleeping. Oh - I only got three beers. Restraint. I got more later where I knew the price. Local big IPA and a big New Castle. I drank these sitting on a big rock, eating peanut butter crackers and trail mix, watching the sun go down. This was an absolutely beautiful time. I was cycling toward a campground, hoping to see something freer along the way. It's all woods, I just needed to see the best spot. When I saw an "11 acres for sale" sign nailed to a tree, and I knew that I had it. I pushed back in the woods a considerable distance and knew that at least for now, I had the 11 acres for free. Talk about some beautiful land. This almost makes me ready to buckle down and get my tiny house setup. Sitting on the rock was good enough for the moment. Great enough.

It got cool enough during the night to use a sleeping bag as a blanket. I feel like I should have slept better. I had all the necessary elements, and a good level of comfort - but my bivy sack woods sleeping is still not what it could be. It was ok. I think one needs to adapt to the wilderness bag-sleeping. Great spot though.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Live Free or Die

I started following a different route. Directions from my book about cycling up the Atlantic coast. I can use my GPS if I want to locate a library or a restaurant, but I didn't want it for one other thing, and really didn't need it at all. I stopped at a library in Beverly Farms, a community just north of where Nick lives. I made photocopies of all of the pages of directions up through Bangor Maine. These directions are stupid easy. No worries about the book being 15 years old - it doesn't seem like much has changed up here. Following these directions helped to make my day fantastic. The scenery and weather helped with the rest.

I'm traveling up the coast with one beautiful view after another. I can't get lost. I'm exploring every little downtown. I don't even deserve to be this lucky. Dude, you've got to see this.

I'm taking pictures. I'll post them when I get an easy chance to do so. I'm not in the mood to mess with that, and with a 4 gig card in my camera, I don't really need to. I'll go back and post them in the appropriate places. They're date and time stamped, so no sweat.

I went 60-something miles, and was ready to quit while I was ahead, but didn't see a good sleeping place. I got into New Hampshire. Live free or die, bro. I love that. I stopped at a whale watching tour booth and asked about camping to see what kind of answer I could get. The girl there was just goofing on the internet anyway, so she really tackled the question in a helpful way. I said I could just as well sleep where there were some woods, and this prompted some real help. Three turns away, and only half a mile was the town forest. She thought that would be perfect, and nobody would bother me. It sounded good, so I went and checked it out. She even wrote down the directions for me. Indeed, it was exactly what I was looking for.

Since I'm so smart, I bought liquor and soda earlier in the day. Not enough to kill me though. At 7:21pm I was typing and sipping and sitting on a bench watching two dudes practice lacrosse. Waiting for the sun to go down. As the sun went down, the mosquitos came out in force. This worries me, 'cause where I'm headed, the mosquitoes are supposed to run especially amok in mosquito clouds. I wasn't too bothered at all on last year's trip, but I've been getting pretty effected while hiding/camping this time. I used my mosquito suit. I had to slap some big bloody fellas. The good news is that the bites don't last on me very long, and don't itch for very long after the bite. Having those guys land all over me is still not fun at all.

Too much liquor. I was stumbling around and making calls. I didn't drink for the past two days, and I guess you can call that making up the difference. You could also call it baseball, or simply the facts. I've been carrying the new Dr. Dog album around on my iPod, waiting for the right time to hear it for the first time. All fucked up in a bag in the woods was it. Wow. That is an album. You should hear these guys. I'm happy to know them.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

To Beverly, MA via Boston

Somehow at Dylan's, I managed to sleep until 10. I woke up some, but I did what I would call sleeping until 10. Dylan had to sleep when he got home around 8:30. At 10:03, Emily mentioned that the commuter rail to Boston was leaving at 10:30. And not again until some time in the afternoon. I packed my bags, and semi-hauled ass to the station cutting through traffic like a blunt bicycle-shaped knife. I got on the train with about 2 minutes to spare. I felt great about it. I also felt great taking the commuter rail shortcut, thus taking it really easy on cycling for a day. The previous day was murderous, so I was very happy to make this one extra easy. The train got me to South Station, and I skipped a whole day of pedaling. Time to recover.

The train ride was great. A guy about my age with a single speed (fixed/freewheel flip flop hub?) bicycle boarded and sat next to me. I told him he had a nice setup, and good conversation followed. He was a bicycle courier in Boston for some time, recently quit. We talked about bicycles and trips, and friend's trips, and didn't quit until his stop came up. He told me that a friend of his was currently on a loaded tour (haphazard runaway situation?) with a Ciocc-framed racing bicycle. In answer to How he got panniers on - someone welded some rack mounts. OUCH - we knew. His feet are hitting the panniers (short chainstays: aka: tight clearance). I hope he emails me to follow up this conversation. It's great meeting people and having instant comfortable talk. We'd be friends except for geography, etc. For sure a good guy. Kevin.

Let me backtrack. Someone commented about the great part of a bicycle trip being who you meet. Just because I mutter 'fuck' a whole lot doesn't mean I disagree. On the contrary. I should have told you about T. When I was lost yesterday, I was anxious to meet anyone who could tell me where I was supposed to go. The first guy I saw was a big tattooed guy working on his garden. With a little rake or some shit - pushing dry dirt around - I don't know. He spent time and wrote down what he swore was a much better route from where I was currently. I was inclined to believe him, and indeed his directions were good. Well this man had a few stories. He didn't show it at first, and didn't burst into them. His wife asked if I needed water. I was not in a position to say no, and I usually don't turn down simple hospitality anyway. I rejoice in it, and use my manners. As I said, the sun was melting and murdering me anyway. I gulped a whole bottle of water right away, and stashed the second one that they'd given me. They also gave me two packs of crackers. The guy's wife left to run a necessary errand. I paused for about one second, and he told me that he rode a bicycle across the country many years ago. In addition to that he'd hitchhiked across the country, been locked up for having long hair and only $14 (vagrancy) in Wyoming. He had the aura of a really good dude. He appreciated what I was up to when I told him the whole plan - but he looked back on his experiences with a laugh. Glad he did it, but glad to be where he is now. Driving one of the big red trucks that keep thundering past and blowing the horn at him. I loved hearing about all of this and adding my own strong opinions about the events, and adding my strong opinions about whatever came into my head. I was only there for less than ten minutes, but we understood each other, and were glad to have the chance to. Hands were extended. They call him T. I'm Chris (Harne)

So, fuck yeah with this commuter rail. $7.75. I was spaced out on the rail, thinking about the bigness of my trip. Then Kevin popped up, and I was better than just good. Then I got off the train, rolled out the side exit, and looked up at the buildings, unabashed tourist-style in a city that means a little bit to me. I grinned and I basked in it. Fuck yeah, I'm in Boston at this moment. I waited about five minutes, basking, then called Nick and left a message. I'll definitely tell you who Nick is.

Boston is a curvy maze of streets, and I don't know how cars get anywhere. It's difficult enough when a city is based on a grid. Boston is based on a fucking plate of spaghetti. And I have a knife. A bicycle-shaped knife. I looked up at the big gold-topped building, and ripped into the midst of everything that I saw. When I passed it, I cut around using my mental bird-compass power to circle back. Success. Then I ripped off again trying to get more lost. I was having a go at getting back - a really great time learning - and Nick called. After a brief explanation of which train - T - subway to take, I was on and heading in a direction toward meeting up.

Nick is one of my best old friends from high school. He was the guitarist and songwriter and initial-starter of my first band ever. I learned how to play drums and be in a band with this man. I learned to play drums by playing along to Sunny Day Real Estate and Dinosaur Jr and others blasting into some headphones - but our band - "Special" Guest - was my first band. We were close, but it wasn't very difficult to lose touch. We probably all know about this phenomenon.

I called Nick from Connecticut days ago. He has the same cellphone number. I found it in Contacts, and hit the button for Send. I waited out the few seconds in anticipatory outer space, and he answered. His voice, my voice, were both the same. I am on a mental and physical (bicycle) trip - and it was fucking easy and great to talk for a few minutes.

I got to Nick's girlfriend's house after figuring out how to get there. We sat around a table, and didn't stop talking. I talked a lot. I don't want to be like the bicycle fan who talks incessantly and gives people old bib shorts, but I don't think it was that way. I updated. My mind is exploding of late - in a positive way - and I let some matter of the brain spill out on the table. We all shared time, and got things said. Damn. I was glad. I barely know what happened 45 minutes ago much less some honest-length time, but Nick filled me in that it's been four years since we last talked. He's very much the same in thoughts words and actions. I suspect that it appears (and feels to me) that I am the same man I was as well. We went back to Nick's place in beautiful Beverly MA, and that's where I stayed, on a true-sized air mattress, under the wing of great hospitality.

Let me talk about Google maps. They fixed the one last qualm that I would barely say I had. This is news for bicycle tourists. THIS IS NEWS, GET EXCITED. Until very recently: when you made a starting and ending point, you could click the blue route-line and drag it somewhere to use different roads, or include an intermediate location. This would automatically open a rectangular destination box in the left-hand area, in the middle of your directions. If you clicked and dragged the blue line all over the place, you'd be left with nothing but a laundry list of rectangles that offer no more directional information than "go towards (next rectangle)" HERE IS WHAT IS NEW: Now you can click and drag the shit out of the blue line infinetely, and the left-pane directions will update with directions and distances for each turn of your modified route. SAY OH SHIT. WHAT THIS MEANS: You can make a point A to B and click-drag the hell out of the blue line so the route follows every tiny road and passes every funny thing you seen along the way - then hit print and have the most awesomely accurate bicycle cue sheet ever. Ever; I'm serious. THIS IS NOT SMALL CUE SHEET NEWS. This is the first improvement to mapping code that truly allows cyclists to make a cue sheet with STUPID EASE. The distances are surgically accurate. Try this now.

Me and Nick talked a lot. I used his computer to make some cue sheets. I got the Express overnight book delivery from my Ma. I have high hopes. But: this book - these routes - are 15 years old. Yipes Stripes - hope that's all good. I like the direct and simple looking directions. We'll see. We'll always see. Greyhound has buses poised if I should feel a strong desire to hit fast forward.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

To Dylan's in Worcester MA

I don't want to lie, downplay, or beat around the bush. Today was fucking rough. The sun and humidity murdered me. I could not remain un-lost for one minute. I got incredibly confused with the directions over and over. Every time I stopped to wonder what the hell I was doing, sweat would pour into my eyes. I wanted to be in Worcester MA with enough time to hang out with my friend Dylan before he left for work, so instead of doing the smart thing and hiding in the shade and pouring water on my head - I plugged on like a robotic cyclist. To be completely honest, I don't think I've ever cursed more about routes and bicycling. That means a lot. I was cussing a completely rare amount. The sun turned my brain to soup. I got scorched, and felt disgusting.

Getting lost with such incredible frequency drives me crazy. Part of me thinks that maybe I really am a strange case, and somehow I am weirdly actually the most incompetent direction follower ever to live. I think that this is partially true. I'm not good. I'm real bad. But I think the directions are also more circuitous than I would prefer. I don't actually just think this - I would prefer some kind of more obvious shit going on. I'm looking - I just don't see these fucking street signs. With difficult directions, and a nearly useless GPS, I'm fucked. Plain and simple. I enjoy riding a bicycle hard for hours; I have a blast - but the second I have no idea where I am or where I'm going, the euphoria vanishes and gets replaced with frustration. Strong frustration. Part of this frustration is due to the fact that I feel like getting lost is so avoidable most of the time.

I love the idea of the East Coast Greenway, but I'm not ready for these directions. I can't hang. The spray painted road markings ended in Connecticut. Now it's just too problematic. Distances and directions need to be fixed, and better explained. I want to help - and will - but not while my primary objective is to get to the far north. Not right now. I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I'll put a gift horse on ice. I called home. Mom is overnight-mailing one of my books to Nick's house, where I'm staying on Thursday. It's called "Bicycling the Atlantic Coast." Nick lives in Beverly; the book has directions directly through Beverly MA. I'm worried that my directional stupidity is going to keep me down, but I remain optimistic. The book more or less gives directions from campsite to campsite, and is a slow jaunt up the coast to Bangor Maine. I'm going to need maps and internets to figure out the rest. I have a killer Quebec map, but will need the same for Maine and New Brunswick. We'll see about how that all works out. Oh yeah: fuck this fucking GPS, and fuck fucking getting fucking lost every fucking-ass second. That was mild, but approaching the truth. Moving on.

I got tired and sun-torched, and tapped out at a Wendy's somewhere Worcester-ish, and called Dylan. Dylan is a friend who I met 100 years ago when his band toured through Newark Delaware, and my band played with them. He's a good guy with a similar outlook on things, and is the kind of guy you can call while on a bicycle trip to have a place to stay. That's more evidence that Dylan is a good kind of guy. When I called him and explained my location, he said he could just pick me up - he was already driving around doing errands. Fifteen minutes later, I was outta there - extremely happy to quit for the day. Sun killed me.

Me and Dylan talked about adventuring ideas, and dumpster diving, and what-all we've both been up to. He has a huge cache of Odwalla juices filling his× fridge and freezer. From the dumpster of a distributor. Hundreds and hundreds of dollars in shelf-value. Delicious. His girlfriend Emily is leaving tomorrow to hitchhike with another guy out to a Crimethinc gathering in Wisconsin, or a state that touches it. This information serves to paint a clearer picture of what type of people these are, and why I like them so much. Dylan is saving up for adventure. He has a book called Working Your Way Around the World - and by his own words, he's restless. And still working on music projects. That's more paint, and more details. Hopefully I'm around next time he needs a place to stay in Philly. August.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Ending at Eric's - Providence, RI

This was one hell of a hot day. I made it to Rhode Island. The heat and sun were intense, but I started out strong on the cycle. I feel like I finally got back into good shape, and I was cruising up hill after hill feeling awesome about it. I stopped for an eggplant parmesan sub, and that fucked my groove all up. It slowed me down and made me seek bathrooms. This combined with the heat finally got me pretty worn out.

I made it to Providence. Eric, who works for the East Coast Greenway, called me and offered to host me for the night. Hell yes. I met him at the train station, still feeling mad woozy from subs and sun. We rode to Eric's place along more of the Greenway, while he pointed out more improvements that are in the works. I got a tour. We got to his house, where I met his wife, Mandy, who is obviously good people. They're vegetarian, they have two cats. I know they'd be good friends with some of my other friends. They use 365 brand soap, and have blueberries for their cereal. Eric has seltzer and lime to jazz up a glass of orange juice. There is a basket stacked high with clean folded towels in the bathroom. This gives me the sense that Eric and Mandy have their shit together. They're on a different plateau. Solid respectable setup, fun people to talk to. Ready generous hosts when the time comes. Mandy Googled my name before I got there. Google provides a quick link to this wealth of info, and my condiment packet collection. It's a little off-putting to have first impressions made before I meet someone. I have a ton of feet, and I like to put the best one forward for each situation. Still, I like when people read my blog, and I stand behind my attempted thorough transparency.

I took a shower. Eric took me out for dinner and a couple rounds of Bass. At 7:21pm we were sitting in a Lebanese restaurant/pizzeria. I had tabouli and pita, he had a plate of stuffed grape leaves. We discussed books and bicycles.

I feel like I really got torched by the sun, and I'm exhausted. After three days of bivy sacking around in the woods, I was very ready for the shower. My mind feels dimmed. It occurs to me now that the funny little booze binge in the middle of a strenuous adventure might be a lot to ask of my body. We'll see how this all pans out. Two beers is fine, eight is a crowd.

Monday, July 7, 2008

25 mile lazy-fest

Talk about not going very far. That's what I'm going to do right now: I didn't go very far. I woke up and had that nice breakfast that I already talked about - two eggs, toast and hashbrowns - and set out.

I was a little slow and groggy, but in a great mood. I stopped at a general store in Hampton, CT and asked the man sitting on the porch if he knew where I could find a library. He pointed. The building directly across the street was a library. This guy told me that he and his wife own Rivendell bicycles (the Atlantis) and he asked questions about the low-key awesome setup on my bicycle. We geeked around for a slightly awkward couple minutes. I explained using a 4th hand tool and an old cable to squinch the housing under the grips for the bar end shifters. I love this setup. I was happy someone noticed and could appreciate what it's all about.

I went to the library. They closed at noon and I sat on a rocking chair on the porch for a long time. Eventually I made it back across to the general store and bought a beer. I am fully aware that this makes no sense, but that's what I did. I was looking for a bathroom, and there wasn't one. I felt a little awkward not buying something, and I wasn't thirsty, so I got a pint. I'm like that sometimes. I admit, a lot. I buy shit like that a lot.

I wanted to find more chairs to sit around in, but I wanted a sandwich to eat while I was doing that. Before accomplishing any of this, I needed a bathroom. This was a sparse area, and the closest thing to a toilet I could find was one of those awful pit latrines at a camp site. I didn't want my one beer to get warm, so I sat at the picnic table and drank it and listened to the Pixies. I was already having a champion of a lazy day, and this slowed it down one more notch. I thought it might be great to sit around reading and wandering around on foot until a later hour when a fire might be appropriate. Should I stay and pay $14? Screw it, I don't wanna go anywhere.

I called Nat and asked him to sign into my email and see if he could contact Eric with the East Coast Greenway. I'd been in brief contact with Eric when I asked some random question in January - probably about cue sheets. He saw my Truck House blog, and said it was an awesome idea. He said that if I was following the route, I would have a place to stay in Providence RI.
If I drank more beer and stayed put, I could still easily make it to Providence the following day. Decision made. Nat contacted Eric. I figured if that works out; great.

I rode my bicycle out to get beer and potato salad. I ate potato salad and drank a Harpoon IPA. With my day's work now finished, I leaned up my bicycle and wandered around on some trails. I hauled a huge pine log up to my site, put on my bathing suit, and hopped in a lake. The lake was my shower. It wasn't the cleanest lake I've ever seen, but there was a beach with swimmers - so that's how it rolls. I wanted to feel less greasy, gritty and salty. I accomplished this, and went back to my campsite to read.

When the sun looked like it was going to calm down, I had a beer. I got a 6 of Busch. Big mistake. A bum in Key West told me that Busch is the choice of alcoholic bums who don't stop drinking, but want to prevent themselves from becoming too rowdy. That's not what I need. For cheap, I would prefer the Mickey's can with the UFC fighters. You don't want rowdy bums to get their hands on those cans. I, however, just want an economical choice, with kitsch if possible. This is where arithmetic is employed to calculate the best drunk-per-dollar scenario, comparing alcohol content, volume, and price. Trying even slightly, Busch is eliminated in the early rounds of cooler-window shopping. Rookie mistake.

At 7:21pm, I was scrawling my thoughts in a notebook. I'm not typing all that here. Here's part of it:
"I think I appear to be a reasonable facsimile of who I want to be."
"I'm a tomato. I like myself in sandwiches, but wouldn't advise a reckless hungry bite."
"I won't deny an affinity for cheeseburgers, but I want to convince you that I just know better."
"Life is not a choose your own adventure book with multiple outcomes read straight through."

I literally rode about 25 miles. My fire wasn't anything special. I didn't go nuts about it because I planned to turn in early. Hank - across the campground - seemed to take pity on me. My fire was mostly just smoke around 9pm. My fire was this way by design, but he made me feel bad, so I accepted a huge pile of pickets torn from some demolished fence. Hank also gave me two ham and cheese sandwiches on kaiser rolls, three cokes, and a plate of Doritos. Solo cyclers with tiny tents and weak smoky fires bring out compassion in Hank. I built up a hell of a scorcher to show that I appreciated his goodwill. Nobody ever showed up to take my $14.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Toward Wilimantic CT, the woods.

I need to start taking notes. I'm writing this from my recollection on June 7th. I don't remember much of what happened yesterday. It's all kind of a blur. I went through Hartford, which really lacked the pizazz to knock my socks off. Town slogan - "Hartford: we have a gold building."

I'll cut the mind blowing bicycle experience out, and cut right to 7:21pm. I was sitting in a bar outside of Wilimantic with my first beer, a Stella in a fancy glass. It was a bar located in a niceish restaurant, and it catered to an older crowd to say the very least. There was no gap at the bar, so I occupied one of those tall tables that bars sometimes stash a few feet away. That means the girl who was tending bar had to pour beer, then walk it all over tarnation to get it to me. That's just the way they're set up. Around this point - but moving on to Budweiser in a less fancy glass - I asked the bartender if she knew of any camping. She was a cute girl about my age, and I doubted she was much for camping, but I wanted her answer none the less. She said she knew of a state park, but she didn't think you could camp there. I told her that I could camp there. In answer to her quizzical look, I told her that I had special permission.

The best part of the bar is talking to random people. When a gap opened up, I sat next to someone the same age as my mother, and her husband. We talked for a good long time about the way things are, and what's what. And what I'm up to, and what it's all about. She had a positive attitude, and I'll say whatever I want. So that was great. I think I made a better impression than I was going for. I had a lot of beer, and might be wrong, but I think she said she was happy to have been visited by an angel - that being me. An angel. I'll take that as a compliment. I toasted to her husbands health after having returned from a 7 month stay in hospice.

The bar was closing up after 11, but nobody shooed me out, probably because I tip really well. I helped move all the bar stools to the carpet, and ended up talking about my trip. The bicycle just comes up. If someone asks where I'm from, it leads to an explanation and then a lot of questions. The bartender girl told me about a small white church one mile up the road with tons of property and trees behind it. Perfect.

I slept there. After setting up camp, the next thing I remember is waking up hours later only halfway in the bivy sack and a little chilly. I didn't get up until 8:30 when the church's back yard was getting mowed.

I got breakfast one mile up the road. I'm dirty as hell, and my mohawk is starting to stick up in radically nonsensical fashion just from being dirty. I'm happy. I was having a good ol' time kinda laughing to myself over eggs and homefries. And coffee. I'm not quite ready to not get coffee with eggs and homefries. Homefries.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Back on the road.

It looked like shit outside, and was definitely going to rain, possibly a lot. In spite of this, I knew it was time to move on. Slowly, I did. I packed up my gear and left a bag of stuff behind to get carted back to Pennsylvania the next time my dad goes up to visit his sister. I watched an old western movie on tee vee. I went to the pool to say goodbye to Bethany. I carted my ass outta there slowly.

The new GPS has several things to bitch and whine about. The biggest problem is that you can not navigate to an intersection unless you know what town/city it is located in. Not cool at all. I very rarely know the town or city, and that stuff is rarely on the cue sheets. Really not cool. My other GPS would search a whole state and give a list of matches and distances for each. I took that for granted. Proll'em two: can't see the screen for shit in the sun. Whoops - didn't even consider that. Proglem nummer 3: battery life sux. Solutions?! Sell this bastard after the trip. It's still nice to have street level info, even if all's not perfect.

When I was moving again, I started having a great ride. My mood was soaring, and I felt strong. My knee is barely bothering me, and I can ride for a long time without feeling like I'm putting out very much effort. Good. Hopefully I can just keep cruising along and enjoying it. I want to juice this trip for every little valuable moment.

Rain started falling, and by the time I was ready to tap out, I found a pavilion in a park. By the time it became a real soaker, I was sitting under a roof. With mosquitos. A shit lotta mosquitos. I have a mosqito netting suit with full head coverage and elastic drawstrings on the waist and hands. I've never needed to use it - even in northern Quebec last year, the area known for mosquitos, the reason I bought this suit. I put it on for the first time. Those bastards were still buzzing in my ears and I felt like they were getting me right through my clothes. Damn! I need some deet paste to smear on my body. I don't like chemicals on my skin. At all. I barely trust soap, honestly. But enough is enough. The rain took a break and I bailed.

Not far from this, I got beer and packed it into my bags. Not far from this I found a place to pull over and look down at a big river. Not long after this, I sat on a rock and drank through a 6'er of PBR and watched the light disappear from the sky while swatting and swiping at mosquitos. Less mosquitos than before. It wasn't comfortable, but I was able to act like a man about it. I laid out the bivy sack on sloping ground with rocks, and had a really shitty sleep. I didn't really care - it didn't bother me. But for the record, the sleep was not good. If you can't zonk out pretty good after bicycling and drinking a six pack - that's probably not so good. I eventually managed to sleep pretty hard and get some wacky realistic dreams. I got up later than perfectly safe out of pure apathy.

I'm hoping to get in contact with known people in Worcester and Boston Massachusetts. I'll be talking about that more then. And apparently right now.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Hanging out in CT, yo.

This day got off to a slow start to say the least. I decided yesterday, and had a good idea of it the day before, that this was going to be a rest day. I saw television almost ceaselessly. Game shows, Yankees vs. Red Sox, cooking, whatever else. Bethany stopped by to drop off a book that she'd told me about: The Unbearable Lightness of Being. She's trustable with books - I'm barely started, but I think this one is going to be a winner. I watched more TV.

Bethany stopped by again, just before my aunt Gerry went to sleep (around 7pm). We watched some TV, and finally I just asked if we couldn't please just go anywhere at all. She drove me all over the area. A somewhat aimless tour while we talked. It's kinda crazy to have a cousin that I didn't even know, and have so much to talk about. We ended up at her dad's house - where she's living now. Her dad, Jerry, was a cousin by marriage - now divorced from my aunt Gerry's daughter. He used to ride me around on the back of his motorcycle. I have vague memories from when I was small and my family stayed somewhat in contact with this piece of the puzzle. Same era: a dog named Bear scared the shit out of me, and made me think I didn't love dogs for many years to come.

So I went to this house and talked to people I haven't seen in a long time or ever. There were some fireworks, and a good spread of food. I talked to the neighbor at length. More accurately, he talked to me. He likes bicycles. He owns thousands of dollars worth of high tech. He told me about going to the Tour de France fifteen times, jumping out of a helicopter to snowboard, how his wife is going to trail run 31 miles. He's very active in both actions and speech. I don't think he got any sense of what I'm all about. At all. He did however give me a grocery bag stuffed with bicycle clothing. I am very happy with the gloves, but I'm not sure when I'll be wearing this man's castaway bib shorts or sleeveless jerseys. But Saeco gloves? That's cool. Everyone knows he's a talker, and after awhile I was literally extracted from the conversation. I got some food. I had to politely decline his offer to let me borrow a bicycle for my trip more than once. Somehow I don't want to continue on either a full suspension mountain bicycle or a fifteen pound time trial bicycle. Oh yeah: and my bicycle is fucking awesome, and I built it up, and it has major bonus points for sentimental value. City Bike is cheap as hell with a nasty overbuilt frame - and even more importantly it has provisions for racks and fenders, and can carry a serious load without making me wince. Cheers to that.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

To Aunt Gerry's, Meriden CT

I zonked out at 9:30 last night, and fell into an intense heavy sleep. I was up and out and riding along by 7am. I'm definitely starting out with a sore knee in the mornings, but it seems to get better as the day goes on. It can be a little rough on hills. I'm still trying to keep the pace stupid easy most of the time. I don't want to burn out.

Today's cue sheet included a 10+ mile stretch on a paved multi-use path. That includes any use that's not motorized. The Farmington Canal Heritage Trail. Very highly recommended. This and the following stretch of roads constitute the best riding on this trip so far. No shirt, helmet strapped to my panniers, iPod turned up, no need for directions. It was a perfect day. The very best part was listening to the new M.I.A. album. The track about how all she wants to do is take my money. The gunshots and ka-chings are beautiful. This song was playing in the coffee shop in Brooklyn. I kinda recognized it, so I asked, and yeah - it turns out I remembered it from Danielle's car. Better yet: it's actually on my iPod. Ka-ching!

I want to explain exactly how thoroughly enjoyable this type of bicycle riding is. This type of scenario is what makes me so excited about the idea of a completed ECGW with no traffic or confusion. I was happy to the point of laughter. This is my maximum happiness. Satisfaction builds up until it boils over, and that happens in the form of spontaneous laughter. I look up at a clear sky and shake my head. How can it be so good? This is God and drugs.

From Southington CT, I broke from the directions to get to my Aunt Gerry's in Meriden. This manuver required calling home so my mom and dad could coordinate efforts at trying to use Google maps to find roads that wouldn't get me killed. This took effort on everyone's part. I arrived without too much difficulty. It was only about 12 miles off the route. I will note that the steep pitch of the hills along this section was awesome. Hills make me cuss and growl, but I usually secretly love it. It's halfway a secret even from myself, if that makes sense. I think of the translated French cycling phrase "taste for the effort" which I read in a Paris Breast Paris account in Bicycle Quarterly - the geekiest and possibly best magazine ever. This phrase screams accuracy. I had a taste for the effort - but that doesn't mean I was riding along in an impressive fashion. I spun up a long steep hill in my lowest gear - spinning somewhat quickly to maintain an approximate walking pace. Fair is fair - at this point I had to lean far forward to keep the front wheel from tipping up. That's a real slope. Then I arrived.

It was afternoon, the sun had recently switched over to a down-moving position. I rode right through the hottest part of the day. I was all toasty and ready to sit. My aunt Gerry is my father's elder by fifteen years. That means that she was born in 1930, give or take a minute. In a way, she raised my father, who by her account was adored by everybody. She's aging now, in pain, on OXYs. She likes to share the most random stories possible. This is a rare opportunity to share time together that is dominated by nothing else - except for constant television. The TV fades from background to foreground with mind twisting waves of my concentration. I'm not adapted to this - I'm buzzing between judge shows, game shows, and wildly random anecdotes. It's great. I found out that my dad was a pistol when he was growing up. At a certain point, Gerry mentioned that Bethany - my cousin - might be working at the pool across the street. This makes me realize that my nuclear family has lost touch with the branches on my dad's side of the family tree. I, personally, specifically have. I have not seen Bethany since she was something like a toddler. Close enough - I don't think we've ever spoken. I couldn't pass this up. I've realized over the past years that it's up to me to make more effort to know my bigger family.

I walked across the street not even knowing what Bethany looks like. Gerry called ahead with a cryptic message letting her know someone was coming over. Bethany looks like her mom. She's 18, and she just graduated high school. This is great because I can relate so well to such a rich transitional time of life. Better yet, Bethany is genuinely cool. We caught up with all kinds of shit. Of course she likes Steinbeck and goes to shows and supports local music. I was absolutely delighted that we were on the same page about so much - superficial, philosophical, otherwise. We got along. After closing the pool, she drove me around to find a GPS. I had fun.

GPS, dude. Why should it be so hard to find a winner? I wanted something with preloaded street maps, moderate battery life, weatherproof. Hell if those attributes exist in a reasonable package. We shopped hard: Target, Best Buy, Circuit City. I started feeling bad about all the running around, but it was definitely cool. I compromised. I got a very small Tomtom - (mostly for carz) - with marginal battery life. I bought the 2-yr replacement plan in case it gets fucked up. I might be too moral or honest, but I considered fucking it up on purpose when I'm done with it and selling the brand new replacement on eBay. Doubt it - but there's options for those who are a little crooked. Bethany invited me to a party for the 4th. I accepted immediately, with no pause. I got back to Aunt Gerry's around 9:30. She was well asleep. What to do? Bar across the street.

The bar was a very unimpressive scene. I was gonna get a couple or few drinks. What a joke. I got drunkish and tired of the tired-ass songs. The jukebox was a limited classic rock graveyard. ie: Journey. Alabama. I slid in some money and bought Dark Side of the Moon in it's entirety. The bar scene didn't change at all, but this went far to take the edge off and make things a little funnier for me.

I was standing outside for some reason I can't remember, and Mary walked up. Mary is Bethany's friend who I met at the pool and didn't mention yet. She showed up at oneish, looking for me. She found me: the bar. I probably mentioned it like I knew I'd be ending up there. We walked for awhile, and to me it seemed more than clear that at least a kiss was scheduled. We talked and sat around, and it was very nice. I got accused of making out with girls in every town I ride a bicycle to. (Jokingly?) That would be quite the fucking magic trick for me. I'm still not completely sure what happened. I'm happy. I want to keep stringing along these wonderful surreal moments.