Monday, August 31, 2015

Days 25 thru 29: Broken Arrow OK to Amarillo TX (400 miles)

Hello again!

Quite a few miles in the past five days, averaging around 80 per ride.

In the last post I described the problem of long stretches of country without potential hosts, with two  solutions. The first was attempting to leap from host to host, no matter the distance. The second was to... not do that. I ultimately opted for the latter.

Day 25 was a 130-mile ride from Broken Arrow to OKC. I left early in the morning and didn't reach my host Kara until after the sun had set. That's probably the limit right there given the load and my level of fitness, and the exhaustion was not something I wanted to deal with several nights in a row.

So I backed off and hoped for the best in terms of putting a roof over my head each night. In Hydro OK,  the cashier at a gas station put me up with her friend Jamie. In Elk City OK, the church and a local coffee shop pitched in to buy me a motel room. In McLean TX, the owner of a church put me up. My point: there are members in every community who are kind, generous, and willing to help a traveler. I don't need to worry about shelter out here, and it just took a few days for me to get over that mental barrier. So solitude wasn't really what I ended up needing, only the chance to focus more on communication with the people I met. Relative to the beginning of the trip, I'm more social and talkative than ever with locals, and it pays off. For example, in Elk City I wandered over to a Mexican restaurant for dinner, and my mediocre Spanish with the owner earned me a free meal!

Speaking of Spanish - racial demographics are changing dramatically on the route. Beginning in Oklahoma I started seeing many more hispanic people, and that proportion has grown since. Language skills will come in handy in this part of the country.

Hot! Hot hot hot. By mid-afternoon everyday the Sun pounds down on me unapologetically. I'm trying to outsmart it by getting up at 5 a.m and leaving as early as possible. This allows for an hour or so of riding before that hot orb peeks over the horizon. This has its pros and cons. I get to watch the sunrise and stay cooler longer, but this morning I mistakenly merged onto I-40 in the dark and was subsequently reminded of my mistake by many loud truck horns. Probably safer to start the ride when the sun is up, and just deal with the heat.

Typing from the Amarillo Public Library; I have yet to meet my host for the night. However I know she is currently on strike from her job - should be interesting!

Looks like this computer has restrictions on uploading photos. I'll include some the next time I post from phone.

Albuquerque by the end of the week.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Day 24: Joplin MO to Broken Arrow OK (125 mi)

Ignore the mileage, I only biked about a fourth of it.

First two hours were pleasant enough. I went west into Kansas for about 10 miles, then south to the Oklahoma border. A few miles into the state I got another flat. Changed tubes, flat. Patched original tube, flat. Patched spare tube, flat. It was like days 2 and 3 all over again. The punctures were all against the rim too; I needed a shop to put on new rim liner. Fortunately according to Google, the nearest shop was a couple miles down the road. I walked the bike - it's surprisingly heavier when I'm pushing and not riding it.

Turns out the shop is a sporting goods store and has no bike equipment. My immediate plan was to hitch-hike all the way back to Joplin with the wheel, get it fixed, and hitch-hike again to Oklahoma. The clerk at the sporting goods store immediately extinguished that idea; it's strictly illegal to hitch a ride in OK, and I could face jail time for attempting it. Out of options, I gave my host Mike a call. He took three hours out of his day to come get me and the bike and bring us both to Broken Arrow. He's retired, but still.

Mike took me to a shop in BA so I could fix tire issue. Hopefully it works... bike shops are pretty spread out the rest of the ride.

Tomorrow is a similarly-long distance to OKC, and it will likely be my last host for a while. During that time, I may actually stop blogging. There's a certain component of solitude in the adventure I'm seeking, and staying connected everyday in social media may not be the best for that. Access to a computer and/or WiFi will be patchy anyway.

I know the last few posts have lacked photos. I'll make a note to take some.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Day 23: Springfield to Joplin MO (75 mi)

Another nice ride, with hills here and there. I'm still technically in the northern Ozarks, but my guess is that the terrain will flatten out in Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle. I got a flat three miles outside of Springfield, but I hopped off, changed tubes, and was on my way in 5 minutes.

Hosts are getting to be few and far between as I progress west, and they're concentrated in a few major cities. That presents me with a dilemma: either increase the mileage dramatically in an effort to reach a host every night I can, or take it slow and steady, camping often. I may sample both strategies and choose one for the rest of the trip.

Tonight however I have the pleasure of staying with Shaun and Christy in Joplin. He works at the post office and a nice restaurant/bar in town, and she at a bank. Shaun treated me to dinner at the restaurant during his shift, and Christy drove me around afterward to see some sites around town. The town was hit by a pretty violent tornado last year.

Tomorrow is going to be the longest ride yet, all the way to a suburb of Tulsa OK. There are plenty of Warm Showers and CS hosts around, but I will actually be staying with my sister's friend's mom's family? I don't exactly remember, but it's awesome to have some connections.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Day 22: Springfield MO

Ended up taking my own advice and stayed an extra day with Doug and Rae. In the morning I took my bike to the shop to borrow a quality pump and use their stand to clean off dirt from the past week. Then to a library to spend a few hours downloading new podcasts, audiobooks, and most importantly, planning for the next few nights. 

This afternoon I sat in a coffee shop and read a book. Pretty soon the book turned into the back of my eyelids, and I awoke to a couple of Missouri State students asking if I was ok. We chatted over coffee for a little. 

Pretty flat riding for the next week into the Heartland. The mileage will probably go up after tomorrow. 

A Note on Food

It took a while to work out the kinks, but my diet is pretty much set for the trip.

If I'm at a host's house, I eat whatever they feed me for breakfast. This is typically eggs, bagels, toast, yogurt, fruit, normal breakfast food. If not, I'll use my camping stove to cook instant oatmeal.

Breakfast #2 usually comes at 10 am after the first couple hours of riding. This entails 2 pb and honey sandwiches, dried fruit, and some milk or juice from a grocery store or a gas station.

Noon: 10 min break for clif bar or lara bar. I love lara bars...

Lunch is around 3. Usually this is some baked beans with bread and more dried fruit, but sometimes I go to a fast food joint. No, the food isn't particularly good for you, but it's calorie-rich and places like McDonald's have free WiFi so I can check the route and write posts like this.

Through experience and conversations with other cyclists, I can confirm that it honestly doesn't matter a whole lot what you eat on the road, as long as it's not something like potato chips for days. Everything eventually goes in the burner. I think of Dora the Explorer's backpack, the one that gobbles up all the items Dora didn't choose. 

yumyumyumyum. ¡Delicioso!

After lunch I keep my blood saturated with clif bars and gatorade until I arrive at my destination.

Dinner with a host is when I get the best-quality food. This is when I can fill up on whole grains and vegetables. Either way, I've been taking a multivitamin every morning just in case I get... scurvy or something.

Note about fast food: No Taco Bell, no exceptions. It will screw you over later with a bumpy ride on the porcelain bus.

Day 21: St. Robert to Springfield MO (90 mi)

I started relatively late (9 am) to avoid the rain, but the clouds cleared and gave way to a beautiful ride through the northern Ozarks. Gentle climbs, sweeping views made for one of the best days yet. The last 20 or so miles were really flat, aiding my slow fatigue. I arrived around 7 pm in Springfield with a half hour to spare before the sun set.

My hosts tonight are Doug and Rae. They're both lawyers, avid cyclists, and have three rescue dogs. Doug's an amazing cook.

Chicken, polenta, roasted veggies, salad, and prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe... an absolute feast after a long day's ride.

The two have completed many tours in Europe and the U.S., and gave me some great info about what to expect during the upcoming weeks of riding. Apparently in New Mexico it is free for cyclists to camp in any state park.

The truth is that I have yet to find a host within 100 miles west of here; I may stay an extra night in Springfield to rest up, clean the bike, and scour the web for potential hosts and/or camping spots. I will give up a beautiful day to ride, but I bet that staying will be more beneficial.

Gone are the numbered county grids of the midwest. Now I mostly find double-letter state roads, though I have yet to study a map to see if they're arranged in any particular pattern. That would make 676 possible roads using this system, but I have a feeling that the state chose to skip roads like NO and EW. Just a hunch.

I made them unplug their microwave before entering the gas station. If you're exposed too long, the government uses the wavelengths to send secret messages to your brain.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Day 20: Sullivan to St. Robert MO (80 mi)

On a map, the distance between these two cities is only 70 miles. More on that in a bit.

Really nice day to start off. Most of the miles were done and behind me by noon. I even stopped in Fanning to see the world's largest rocking chair.

Not allowed to climb on it, bummer!

Route 66 used to be the main highway running from Chicago to California. When Interstate 44 was put in, the path was pretty much the exact same. Now 66 is used by local traffic, passing through each town and city center as it weaves through the country.

I am on the south outer road, and the two center roads comprise I-44

Given how parallel the two paths are, you'd think it's insanely easy to navigate. But 66 twists and turns and sometimes leaves 44 entirely to go into town and connect with other roads. So yes, back to my other point - I ended up going 5 miles off the the route and had to backtrack. And then the thunderstorms hit. And then I got lost on a dirt trail. And then I flew off the bike into a swamp. So what started as a pleasant day turned real nasty, real quick. At some point I had to trek with first my bags through 100 yards of dense brush before going back to carry the bike.  

But! I found the road, ate some jerky, swigged some Gatorade, and kept pedaling. I reached my host Lisa before the sun set. She's a chemical officer in the Army, and took me on a short tour of Fort Leonard Wood, which is right near town.

Springfield tomorrow

Friday, August 21, 2015

Day 19: St. Louis to Sullivan MO (80 mi)

Safe to say I can do 75+ each day now, no sweat. Actually a lot of sweat. But the stamina is there finally; I can do the rides and still have energy to walk around, meet people, and find my place to stay.

Also safe to say it was time to leave St. Louis. That city is all over the news right now, and I don't feel like getting caught up in riots. All good experiences while I was there however!

The urban sprawl is amazing coming out of the city. I spent at least the first 2 hours of the ride weaving in and out of strip malls in an effort to find countryside. Very stressful riding as I tried but failed to avoid rush hour. 

Once I escaped the hair salons, car dealerships, and crummy-looking restaurants, I met Virgil. He's a 68-year old thyroid cancer survivor who eats and drinks from a tube, and he was in the middle of a 60 mile ride. Never met anyone so committed to fitness at that age. He used to be an ultramarathoner and has completed three bike trips across America, including a race. Virgil lead me through some back roads and dropped me off about halfway to my destination - I'm grateful for the company.

Today was almost a repeat of day 2. I rode into Sullivan knowing I had no host, but immediately tried the fire dept. No response to buzzer... familiar feelings of panic, immediately qualmed by knowing I could always stealth camp in a park I saw a few miles back. 

Quick chain of events:
1) Man pulls up to fire station, introduces himself to me as Mike. Mike is a volunteer firefighter and a paramedic. I explain my situation.
2)Mike calls fire Capt. Mark. 
3) Capt. Mark calls Fire Chief 
4)Fire Chief calls local minister
5)local minister calls me, tells me to go to police station.
6) I follow Mike to police station.
7) bewildered, I fill out paperwork at the police station. Then the clerk hands me a meal voucher and a 1-night motel voucher, all paid through the church. 

I cried a little and felt embarrassed in front of Mike and the clerk. 

Mmmmmmm $10 to Cracker Barrel. I was mentally prepared for a dinner date with Chef Boyardee. 

The motel is a sketchy Super 8 across interstate 44. The first thing I noticed walking into my room was an old bath that was presumably left stagnant from the last occupant. I wasn't that grossed out - heck, it was probably cleaner than me. It did beg the question though, who takes a bath at a Super 8?

But hey, beggars can't be choosers. I'm filled with joy from the generosity of this town.

Ozarks! I'll post a picture of the new terrain tomorrow.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Day 18: St. Louis MO

First day not getting on the bike at all - it's sitting in the youth hostel right now. I slept for 11 hours, a sign that maybe a rest day was needed.

Speaking of the hostel - it's great! The normal price for travelers is $25 per night, but is discounted to $15 for cyclists. Apparently a lot come through during the summer. The hostel was pretty empty last night in the men's dormitory aside from me and Lars. He's a graduate student in Germany, and will finish his master's thesis in political science after a semester here in STL.

hostel kitty

There is good public transportation in the city, and a day-long pass is cheap. However the hostel is close enough to downtown that I opted for walking, especially on such a nice day.

The public library here is great. I think I'll spend an hour or so there this afternoon doing some route-planning and host-finding.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Day 17: Gillespie IL to St. Louis MO (50 mi)

Crossed the Mississippi today!

The only problem with big cities like this is that I have to keep my wits about me, or at least much more so than rural communities where the chance of getting a bike stolen or mugged is near-zero. 

The other issue can be loneliness. Crazy, right? Here I am in a city of 300k, yet I feel small because everyone is going about their day at their own rhythm. That's why going to a Cardinals game was at the top of my agenda; I knew people there would be getting off work and having a good time. I approached a group sitting near me, entered into awkward conversation, and they offered me beer they snuck in.
To Mom: I didn't accept the alcohol
To anyone else: I accepted the alcohol

The guy on the left, Andrew, is getting married in 2 days.

Cardinals won!

Day 16: Decatur to Raymond IL (55 mi)

Raymond wasn't supposed to be my final destination, but I arrived there just as some heavy clouds moved in and started dumping absolute buckets of rain. My host offered to pick me and the bike up. I accepted, knowing I am not a purist enough to insist on pedaling another 15 miles through a t-storm for the sake of legitimacy. Had that been the pointof the trip, I would have started at the Atlantic coast anyway, not 200+ miles inland. I waited in a cafe and ordered some food - a nice farmer picked up my bill!

Ken and Becky have a small pork farm in Gilespie. Their two sons are grown and have moved out; now they host many cyclists riding through the area with generous food and accommodations. I usually shy away from talking about the economy or politics (I am ill-versed in both subjects) with any of my hosts, for an irrational fear of sparking hot debate and being tossed out. Ken however had some good insight about the agrarian-based economy in the Midwest: farming practices, GMOs, etc. 

This was the first intersection I ever saw with no signs whatsoever. No stop, no yield. It's probably implied to just creep up and peek around. 

Every farming town around here is very cute. Each has its own small water tower, post office, a couple of businesses, a diner or cafe, and maybe an auto shop. Appended to each town are these: grain silos alongside the railroad. Big ugly towers in contrast with the scenery, but iconic nonetheless.

Here I climbed one and took a bad panorama

I initially felt lost riding through fields with no towns in site, but I caught on to the county road system after leaving Cleveland.

All the roads are numbered in normal increments of 100, and more uncommonly by 50 or even 25 if the fields are divided significantly amongst multiple farmers. It's typically good to stay on the even 100s - they're most often paved. Each country "block" is roughly a mile. Roads labeled N or S run east/west, and vice versa. It's tricky and counterintuitive because a road running east/west is a certain distance north or south of a zero point in the county - the whole thing is just a scaled-down system of lat/long coordinates.

Where are the towns within a county? I have no clue. But usually when I am near, one of the numbered county routes switches to a named road, and I know I am headed in the right direction and roughly 3-5 miles away.

Oh, and all the roads reset once you leave one county and enter another. Yes it's just a bunch of numbers, but they're kind of fun and I literally have DAYS to think about them.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Day 15: Catlin to Decatur IL (80 mi)

Got caught in a little rain storm about 60 miles in, but aside from that a real pleasant morning and afternoon! Thinking about taking one or two off days when I reach St. Louis. It would be a good opportunity to explore a city I otherwise may never visit, and maybe go to a Cardinals game. There's also a youth hostel in the city, and I am in dire need of conversation with kids my age. St. Louis is, by the way, the 1/3 mark for the trip. But hey, who's keeping track...

Tonight's host in Decatur is Phil. He treated me to a dinner out - some great BBQ at a local and independently-operated chain. It's very cool to observe the phasing in and out of different gas stations, fast food joints, etc.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Day 14: Lafayette IN to Catlin IL (65 mi)

A good ride, but a hot day. Thankfully I started carrying a 3rd water bottle.

After breakfast Malcolm donated a half hour of his time helping to clean the bike of yesterday's mud. He also adjusted the B-tension on the rear derailleur, an issue with which I have no experience. Ten minutes after hopping on and pedaling away, I noticed smoother shifting overall. My guess is that a similar cleaning and set of adjustments at a bike shop would have been at least 40 bucks (5 days of food), so I'm very grateful to Malcolm.

This was much of the scenery during the ride. Gentle hills, long stretches of green - very relaxing. 

My hosts tonight are Jamie and Angie from the small town of Catlin, IL. Food and conversation is all I can really ask for after a day of cycling, and these two are great at both. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Day 13: Denver to Lafayette IN (80 mi)

Today was off-the-map.
Not as in I'm biking to places unknown (I am), it's just that until now I followed a route from one of the dozen cycling maps I carry. Today was not one of those days. Today I trusted Google Maps.
This is where Google Maps put me.

Don't get me wrong, using Google Maps or even Apple's Map app can be incredibly useful, especially in navigating urban areas. 
It cannot, however, always be trusted with routing 80+ miles of rural Indiana, particularly with the bike function.
Maps is smart, but it's a computer program nonetheless. My guess is that the car function uses algorithms that find the shortest route time-wise, usually along highways. The walk function has the constraint of no highways or major roads, also preferential to walkways. The bike function is wild. It assumes you can get anywhere you'd otherwise walk (see above photo), and allows for most highways (just not some interstates). 
Needless to say, I left the woods with a good layer of mud on both myself and the bike.
Today was also the first day that I left my previous host without a real plan for the night. I had already contacted a couple potential hosts in Lafayette, so I figured by the time I reached town, one or both would respond with a "yes".

Instead I got one "sorry man, we're in Mexico right now" and one "bummer dude! Girlfriend's mom is sick so we have to leave town!"

So it was back to the drawing board in downtown Lafayette at 7 pm with a storm approaching. Think think think! 

I posted up near the fire station so that if no last-minute hosts were available, I could ask for some floor space and avoid the rain. Thankfully a Purdue graduate student was available on short-notice.

Malcolm studied computer engineering at the university, and now has a job working with cyberforensics there. He also used to work in a bike shop, and offered to help take apart and clean off the bike components caked with mud from my woods adventure.

Day 12: Monroeville to Denver IN (80 mi)

Originally planned to do my first century ride today from Monroeville to Royal Center, where I knew there was a host. However when I reached the small town of Denver, a passerby must have noticed my exhausted face, because he offered up a room in his house for the night. Already having adopted the "take whatever is offered" attitude, I of course accepted.

Randy and his wife Irene live in a nice forested area just outside of town. Their daughter, her fiance, and Grandma joined us for dinner. I unfortunately forgot all three names by the time I wrote this post, but the grandmother is a very entertaining former-hippie who uses the word "orgasmic" very liberally, like to describe dinner.

Terrain is still pretty flat, with the exception of an Indiana state park about 3/4 of the way through the ride. I was pretty tired and debated with myself whether to stop and observe, but the park really was beautiful.

That massive pillar containing some sort of service room - it reminds me vaguely of the depictions of Azkaban from HP books.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Day 11: Defiance OH to Monroeville IN (45 mi)

I expected to be in Monroeville by early afternoon, but forgot headwinds exist.

Speaking of wind, a lot of counties around here utilize wind power for electricity. Here's a video of some I found, plus my own little generator.

Monroeville looks pretty unassuming as a town of barely over 1000 in rural Indiana, but it is a huge hub for touring cyclists along the Northern Tier route. The main reason for this is a giant community center near the middle of town, where cyclists can shower, do laundry, and spend the night. The building is locked and only two people have the key: Warren and Rich? Who are these guys?

They were both unavailable, so the mayor came and unlocked it for me!

Day 10: Fremont to Defiance OH (80 mi)

This was the first ride with virtually no hills. Some small inclines here and there, and of course the occasional mound of gravel on which trains travel. 
Some parts of the ride are getting dull (that's how I have the time to think of rhymes and alliterations.) I'm talking dozens of miles between towns with nothing but corn and wheat. That said, I'm considering listening to music or audiobooks while I bike. One earbud, on the right side so I can still hear upcoming traffic. 
Ken is hosting me tonight in Defiance. He's an avid cyclist and owns... I think 7 bikes total. Absolutely great guy - he treated me to dinner at a Mexican restaurant in town! I scarfed down a massive burrito in record time, and the subsequent food coma almost knocked me out before I had time to write this.

Tomorrow is a short ride relative to the past couple days, but there's supposed to be a cyclists-only shelter in town with showers and laundry.

An old decrepit grain elevator. Not monstrously tall but I saw it from 5 miles up the road - that's how flat the terrain is.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Day 9: Cleveland Heights to Fremont OH (90 mi)

Longest day yet. I need to eat/drink more often on the bike. I felt like I almost bonked around mile 70 before pulling over and pounding 3 granola bars + bottle of Gatorade. Eh, I'll learn with experience...
Fremont is a small city surrounded by miles of farmland. Quite a drastic change to be in downtown Cleveland at 9 am and then a place so rural 10 hours later. I pored over my maps for around 20 minutes tonight and noticed I won't see a population >1000 for about a week. Time to settle in to the Midwest...

My host tonight is Brett, along with his daughter Hannah and girlfriend Maria. Very cool people - I was given food, a shower, my own room, and even a trip to the grocery store to buy the next few days' rations. Brett is a UPS driver  and Maria works in health administration. Funny to realize the first thing I've asked most hosts is what they do for a living... perhaps that's part of American culture? Either way, I'd like to connect with these would-be strangers on topics that aren't so surface-level, even if I only know them for one day.
Maybe: "If you could go anywhere, where and why?" or "Hey, what's you favorite color? Are you sure?" "Are you double sure?"

This was the only touring cyclist I met on te road today. I don't remember his name, but he's from Germany and started in San Francisco to raise awareness for... a disease that I also forgot. The only thing that really stuck with me were those glasses and sunhat...

Monday, August 10, 2015

Day 8: Pepper Pike to Cleveland Heights OH (10 mi)

It seems silly to log a distance that is almost negligible in the grand scheme of the trip, but hey - a ride is a ride.
After eating lunch with my great-great aunt Betty (she's 92 and still cracks roughly ten jokes every minute), I decided to spend the afternoon exploring downtown Cleveland. 
It was $5 for an all-day RTA pass, and I intended to use it fully: I saw Progressive Field (Indians), FirstEnergy Stadium (Browns), a massive science center, and  about half of the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame. The last was cut short due to my being escorted out; there was an hour till close when I arrived and absolutely no way was I paying 4 days worth of food for 60 minutes in a glass pyramid. 

Tomorrow I either stay in Cleveland or bike a short distance west to Vermilion. It depends on whether my last host, an English teacher from 11th grade, contacts me with his address. That's you, Mr. Miller.

It didn't take long to notice the intense divide in racial demographic here in Cleveland. The city remains one of the top five most-segregated in the U.S. What's more, one of the bus drivers told me that while the city itself is majority-black, the metro area is more than 75% white. No cash for the inner-city schools either, a real tragedy. Everyone's friendly though, even the drunk guy on the train home! 
He has to get some better pickup lines for women, something with more substance than "Ayy girl, you got a man? Wussss.... Wuss your name? A nickname? Come on... I'm Ricky!"

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Day 7: Geneva to Pepper Pike OH (40 mi)

Short but hilly ride from Geneva to this very pleasant, forested suburb of Cleveland. My hosts tonight, Sari and family, are friends of family friends. Very gracious of them to host me w/no prior acquaintance.

I don't want to seem overconfident too soon, but the riding itself is getting easier by the day. Still worn out after each ride, however recovery time is quicker and I don't wake up with my legs feeling like Jell-O.

Tomorrow is a short, 10 mi ride to a different suburb where my great aunt lives. Good food, good company, and good R&R here in Cleveland!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Day 6: Erie PA to Geneva OH (45 mi)

2nd Geneva of the trip. A relatively short ride, but I wasn't about to pass on another day with a biking companion. Plus, Florent had already contacted and secured a host here in town.

I'll be slowing down into Cleveland, where I'll spend the next three nights hopping around, resting up, and maybe seeing some familiar faces. 

Florent and I part ways tomorrow, as he has a different set of hosts in Cleveland, and will continue on a more northern route after. We also ride at separate paces; he has mapped out a set of hosts 50 miles from each other, whereas after Cleveland I plan on upping the mileage to 75+ daily. We both appreciate each other's company, especially because our trips are solo. 
I need to do some laundry, right now. right now.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Day 5: Fredonia NY to Erie PA (60 mi)

So nice to bike with someone else, especially powered by buckwheat n' flax pancakes from Kim. Food at her house was the best I've had since starting the trip.
I lost Florent in downtown Erie, but when we finally regrouped it was easy pedaling to an RV campground just west of the city, one with a great view of the lake.
We slipped our tents between 2 RV spots, and their occupants invited us to sit and eat around their fire.
Flo had his first s'more and I saw his mind explode. 

Ohio tomorrow!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Day 4: Lockport to Fredonia NY (70 mi)

Long day, and I got pretty bad sunburns on my arms. No flat tires though! The map I am using had me going through Canada for 20 miles around Niagara Falls, but I don't have a passport... so I scribbled down some Google Maps directions that commanded a more direct route. Google Maps being indiscriminant and unbiased in all senses aside from "traffic-patternist", I found myself in some not-so-nice parts of Buffalo before getting on route 20 all the way to Fredonia.

My host tonight is Kim. She lives with her husband and daughter just outside of Fredonia. Awesome place: solar panels, hand built house, four goats, the works. 

I also met a friend here, Florent. He's a medical student in France who is taking a year off to bike around the whole U.S. We've agreed to bike together for the next few days, probably until Cleveland. I'm really glad; biking alone isn't so fun after a while.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Day 3: Spencerport to Lockport NY (50 mi)

Had another 2 flats within an hour of leaving Spencerport, so I knew something was up. I stopped in Holley and visited a bike shop, where the awesome owner Chris put on a rim strip and a new touring tire for my rear wheel. He also showed me how to patch tubes like a pro. At that point with a strong headwind and 2+ hours lost to the tire fiasco, I knew Buffalo wasn't a viable option - I settled for Lockport, where a WarmShowers host named Nancy put me up for the night.

Nancy's pretty interesting. When I first stepped in her door, she asked that I take my sweaty socks off and instead put on a pair of hideous lavender slipper-socks that she provided. Then we toured the house while she explained general rules. I use "general" hesitantly because she described, in detail, how to moisten the four little suction cups on the shower curtain such that theyy stick to the shower wall more effectively. 

No water on Nancy's bathroom floor, that's for sure. No, ma'am. 

Tomorrow I'll pedal to Fredonia, assuming I have no more tire issues. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Day 2: Geneva to Spencerport NY (53 mi)

Ended up trying my luck and biked right past Rochester - straight into a thunderstorm. I got 4 flats total and one of the spares had a bent nozzle; I walked the last 5 miles to Spencerport. Having nowhere to stay I walked to the fire station, but for some reason no one answered the buzzer. The sun was setting and I was feeling pretty hopeless, but then a man walking his dog offered me his living room floor.

Zeke lives alone in a quaint but comfy home a few houses down from the fire station. Aside from adding to his impressive collection of cowboy hats, he works on radar positioning systems for underground use. I do not know what that entails. Oh, and he used to be a pilot and now flies drones as a hobby.

I lied - Zeke doesn't live alone. He lives with his dog Micky Macleod. Here is Micky Macleod begging for a piece of chicken in my lap

Monday, August 3, 2015

Day 1: Ithaca to Geneva, NY (50 mi)

What a day! After some last-minute goodbyes in Ithaca, I started up state route 96 into Trumansburg, west into Ovid, then up Seneca Lake until I hit Geneva. My host Jacqueline was kind enough to let me crash in her home even though she is away and has a house sitter. I wrote this entry from the library here in Geneva. Safe, well-lit public spaces like this may serve me well during the trip. Next stop Rochester!