Monday, September 13, 2010

A Chicken Crossing the Road who did Not Reach the Other Side

A pattern of witnessing for my trip has been stopping by varying types of roadkill and either making a note of it in my journal, or photographing it. For you, my dear readers, I have not written a catalog of them nor posted most of the photos. It's really sad to see the great variety of animals flattened and killed by vehicles: songbirds, frogs, snakes; raccoons, porcupines and groundhogs; fawns, adult deer, and red foxes.

Well! The NY Times has an article, "Using chart Roadkill"

It really angers me that not only do we pave, cover with concrete, or cut down huge swathes of forests, but we kill so many animals when they try to cross our roads. And one of the saddest specimens I found on California's Roadkill site was this black bear:

Where I found this report at, the observer noted that they saw the bear killed.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Day 14

Saturday, August 7th: PA Line -> Geneva-on-the-lake, OH
Dist: 81.43
Ride Time 6:48
Avg Speed 11.9
Max Speed 30.6
Trip 677

I camped overnight between the rows in a vineyard. There are miles and miles of them here along the Lake Erie shore! It was a decent camping spot, a little wet and soggy; seeing the dead dried weeds between the grape vine rows made me think about what type of herbicide had been used on them.

[photo of tent and in-row]

[shadow of riding atop "Tower of Stuff"]

As I was taking down my tent a woman was walking her golden retriever along the road, they were both startled to see me stand up in the middle of the vineyard!

Muse while listening to Planet Money podcast: We have chosen a system that our employers provide social benefits - health insurance, retirement contributions and pensions - rather than our government. Then, at times like these during recession, rather than increase government services - which are not principally where folks receive help - we attempt to bolster citizen confidence by "stimulating" and providing capital to those private corporations. Corporations with the principal objective of making a pile of money even larger. Why are we surprised when they swindle the government and, at large, us?

In Erie, PA I pass by a park with a festival setting up. A pedestrian accosts me from the sidewalk - it turns out he is from the Erie Runners Club - and walks me over to their booth where they offer me fruit, licorice, bagels. I chat with them for about 15 minutes and upon parting they gift me a small 375mL bottle of wine, they encourage me to return later for the blues music fest after I've visited the bike shop.

I get my properly fitting Mt. Borah jersey & second pair of bicycling shorts at Competitive Gear. It's only 1pm and I have a thirst to ride more miles today so I keep on west, instead of returning back to the park.

The miles keep rolling up, the shoreline is beautiful:

[Erie photo]

[sunset with tree]

When I reached Geneva-on-the-Lake I was reminded of what a true tourist town is. Main street was PACKED, pedestrians, odours of fried food, the requisite block of Harley motorcycles with leather-clad riders - it was like taking the MN State Fair and spreading it along one road, cordoned by 10 motels on either end. Oh, and the water slide and shoot-the-whatever-to-win-a-big-stuffed-bear game too!

Today is the longest day thus far on the trip, 83 miles! [As I write this my friends Brett & Jenny recently wrote about a 107 mile day, maybe once I reach the flatter lands of Dakotas or Montana I can do that! However, now knowing that I have about 75 pounds of gear on the bike we'll see if that happens.]

Geneva State Park says their campground is full, so I am relegated to stealth camping off a service road. Unfortunately I'm near a small pond so I quickly dump my gear, swatting aside mosquitoes. Back into town with an unloaded bike, so much fun to sprint from 5-20 MPH alongside all the cars moving along at a creeping pace on Main St! This is why I first got into bicycling, not to be a pack mule!

After going by so many racous bars or fried food joints I settle on a hotel restaurant, a fabulous meal with crab cake and BBQ pork mini-hamburgers [sliders, but that name conjures an image of White Castle repulsivity to me]. Seared ahi tuna with fabulous roasted vegetables - how I miss thee, vegetables! The campground being full edged me towards a sour mood so spending my campsite money on dinner seems like a good choice.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Day 13

Friday, August 6th: Stow, NY -> PA State Line
Dist: 29.20
Ride Time: 2:38h
Avg Speed: 11.0
Max Speed 51.9
Trip 595

Since I paid $27.50 for this lousy campsite, I decide to make the best of it and hang around until afternoon. I have a cooked breakfast for what feels like the first time in a week, and also fry up some tortillas to gnosh on that I've been carrying for too long.

I catch up my journal and every half hour get up to move my wallet, stack of wet paper money, and my cell phone to continue to keep them in the sun as it marches across the grass.

The laundy area was a 10 minute walk from my campsite so instead of walking back and forth 4 times, I hang out there while washing & drying. They had the oddest laundy "library" - two puzzles, a few children's story books, and a book about anorexia/bulimia-nervosa. How is that laundry-room reading material? But that's what I did end up reading and sighing about, since it was written as a psychology book in the mid 80s and in my perspective spent a lot of focus on symptoms and hardly any time discussing possible crises the teenagers were experiencing.

I even take a nap around 2pm, taking some instruction from an older fella I passed walking back reclined in his lawn chair, mouth agape.

I don't start riding until 4pm (!!) but I remind myself the journey IS my destination on this trip, and that I ought to do what I want to. For starting so late I do make a respectable 30 miles before I stop for the night, and cross into Pennslyvania. Goodbye New York! Good riddance to your eastern hills!

No photos today.

Map of where I went each day!

Please, may I draw your attention to the right sidebar where there is a link to a GoogleMap of where I spent each night?

I will probably update that when I get computer access, even if I don't have my trip journal with writing about each day caught up - you can get a sneak peak of what areas I'll be writing about next!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Day 12

Thursday, August 5th: Little Valley, NY -> Stow, NY on Lake Chautauqua
Dist: 46.35
Ride Time: 4:32h
Avg Speed: 10.1
Max Speed: 84.8 [1] (Yay!!)
Trip: 566

[1] I stopped at the Jamestown Cycle Shop, at which they helped me do some work on my bike, so they had it lifted up in a bicycle stand turning the rear wheels at maximum most difficult gearing - what speeds are possible when the limitations of Mass, road Friction or Weather/Wind are removed!

Heavy rain overnight, my crappy "waterproof" pannier covers are turning out to be not especially waterproof - the small outside pocket where I store my wallet and cell phone wasn't able to shed the water and keep it out, but did wonderfully at holding a small puddle of water inside it! Argh!

The milk I bought in Wellsville has curdled overnight, but I stubbornly eat it with the granola: to eat granola with water, or to eat it with clabbered milk? That is the question.

I really like this Railroad Crossing warning sign:

Between Randolph and Kennedy, along State or County Route 394 there are many trees uprooted or snapped off, the trunks splintered and sheared, a dairy barn with sheets of tin roofing peeled back like the lids on a row of canned anchovies. I pass two municipal road crews clearing trees, and I learn that about two weeks ago 3 funnel clouds touched down in the area, one of which was on the ground for several miles more or less following the river bottom that parallels the road.

Apparently it's hard to convey what a forest looks like when half the trees are twisted apart, but this is the best I was able to capture:

I encounter a quarter-gobbling payphone in Jamestown when I try to call the bike shop where I ordered parts to. Twice in a row I dial "6" for the first of the 7 digit phone number, each time "Unable to complete call as dialed" before I can hit a second button and "Clink!" away go my quarters. The third time I try area code first, "7-1-6-6" -"Clink!" and once again unable to complete. Grr! I keep riding for another mile or two and find another pay phone that doesn't partake in highway banditry.

The two mechanics at Jamestown Cycle shop, Mike and Justin, were fabulous. I walked in with my bike and within 5 minutes they were working on it, switching my 12x25 cassette for a 11x28, replacing my smallest 30-tooth chainring with a 26-tooth, cut a new chain for me, and they checked the tension of the spokes on my rear wheel.

Back on my way I go up a steep, probably 10% grade hill into the center of Jamestown and I am able to pedal along merrily at a cadence of 75 [revolutions per minute], going 6 MPH! Yay! 3 more teeth on the rear cassette and losing 4 on the front chainring makes such a significant difference!

I goof up which road I leave Jamestown on so I end up taking the southern route around Lake Chautauqua, when the State Park I had hoped to camp on is on the northern side. Oh well. At a hill overlooking the massive interstate bridge which arcs above and across the lake I finally remember to eat some lunch - at 4pm!

I pass by a private campground located right off of the road I'm following, I decide that I'd be tempting fate to ignore a campground when one is placed right along my route and decide to stop for the night - waiting so long before eating much for lunch has also left me feeling not so energized over each mile I've ridden since Jamestown. Another experience of campground-extortion when I am charged $27.50 for a picnic table, 20'x20' of grass, and access to flush toilets and a shower. Riding to my campsite it's evident that this campground does mostly seasonal rentals to folks with RVs and mobile homes, many of home have built them up as their "second home on the lake" with wooden porches and other semi-permanent accouterments.

Have orzo [pasta the size of large rice grains], cheese and summer sausage for dinner. Over 15 minutes, the sky starts to darken, wind starts to gust, and then it starts to downpour rain - I scamper around to get put away all the things that I've spread out over the picnic table. I feel greatful for all the rain over the past three days for the fields & forests.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Day 11

Wednesday, August 4th: Wellsville, NY -> Little Valley, NY
Dist: 65.99
Ride Time: 5:49h
Avg Speed: 11.3
Max Speed: 31.5
Trip 519

Was packing up my tent around 10am and a fellow was on a tractor in a nearby field, mowing. I waved in his direction when he was making his turns; as I was packing up my bicycle on the edge of the road a fellow pulled up in a pickup truck and we talked for a few minutes. He started off by saying, "Eh, it donn' matter I see your leaving." He said they, a business on the other side of the woods at which I was camped, had had incidences of vandalism or theft before and that's what they were concerned about.[In all the weeks since, this has thus far been the only time someone has questioned me about where I chose to stealth camp.]

Passing through Wellsville town one last time, I stopped to make some phone calls ordering another pair of Craft cycling shorts, calling Eastern Mountain Sports back in Massachusetts to arrange to return their VERY poorly designed and stitched cycling shorts. Two different bicycle shops along my way I have had items shipped to and they've been great and accomodating about it!

An "under-the-stars" roller rink in rural NY. (Notice the two characters with roller skates on at right.)

Is this NY or the Boundary Waters in Northern MN?

Around mile 60 in Salamanca I have a "Chinese Finger Trap" experience where I can't seem to get out of town:

-> ride to center of town to get on State Park Ave
<- ride back out of town when a local advises me that State Park Ave is very steep. Reach the recomendded road at the edge of town and realize that the State Park I want to camp on is on the other side of a tall, 500 foot bluff.
-> ride back into and through the center of town, along N SR [State Route] 353 I discover that a bridge has been completely removed to be repaired, and I am redirected on detour back through the center of town to the east. Along this route I encounter about 3/4 mile of cobble-stoned residential street! In excellent condition, I didn't see a single brick missing!
<- backtrack that same distance again once I reach a bridge that is open
-> rejoin on N 353 to be on my merry way!

There was a gaggle of folks standing outside of a bar looking at motorcycles on Main St, I think they must have seen me ride by 3 times - I wonder what they thought?

For all those computer gamer friends, I saw this priceless gem near Oleana. Regrettedly, I did not stop to partake of the Quality and Quality: [For parents and the non-text message Generation, QQ can represent a person with wide eyes, tears dripping out of each corner as the "tail" of the Q - it is typically reserved for instances where the user/typist feels a individual is unnecessarily whiney.]

I make camp for the night in a somewhat soggy field a little before Little Valley, with a dinner of Granola and milk that I had bought in Wellsville.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Day 10

Tuesday, August 3rd: Nowhere again! More rest!

Back into Wellsville town, I spend much of the day hanging out in the library again. Read a 300 page novel from Orson Scott Card's "Empire" series - it's delightful to spend some time reading so much again - very reminescent of the family summer vacations I grew up with where my brother and I would grouchily emerge from the couch of the van, putting aside our books, once we had  reached our destination.

In the evening there is a National Breastfeeding Week family event on the lawn, little people hulla-hooping and running about, when an adult brings out a box of sidewalk chalk the excitement really begins. There is a two-person band playing that I find to be one of the most frustrating types of muscial sets: they spend 3-4 minutes re-tuning their guitar and bass between EVERY song, thereby lengthening their 45 minutes of actual music into a two hour set? Grrr.

I sit on the library steps during all of this and eat a bag of pre-washed salad greens by the fistful, squirting little dabs of dressing onto the clumps of spinach. I forgot my cook-bag back at the tent - whoops! While sitting there I witnessed a sad example of busy-body parenting:

Mother sitting on bottom stair, 2 year-old daughter exploring around, climbing-crawling up three steps higher than her mother:

"Caitlyn, No!
Get down here right now!"

Child looks at mother, perplexed. Caitlyn beings to climb stairs again, holding onto the railing.

"Caitlyn, don't you DARE! Get down here this instant!"

Caitlyn hops down off the dangerous, 12 inch tall precipice.

Mother to other adults nearby: "I ain't havin' her crack her head open 'n takin' her to Jones where they dunno nuthin'."


The Bleu Cheese dressing I had tonight on my fistfuls of salad was: Soybean Oil, Water, Cheese [!!], Corn Syrup, Xanthan Gum, Flavorings. Looking around at this Nat'l Breastfeeding Week children's festival I see folks and families of all different sizes, with the median definitely falling towards the large side of the spectrum. Our culture really has lost any valuation-perspective of what nourishing food is.

Wheat, soybean oil, corn, dairy, meats. The "five flavours" of Americana - hell, the dairy and meat are just digested corn & soy. I see this all the more vividly that I am traveling and out of my comfortable sphere of knowing where in town I can find Whole, Nourishing foods.

I ride back out to my tent site beyond the lake, tonight passing by their is a migratory flock of geese who are sharing the waters with me, muttering and honking throughout the night. As I am hiding away my bike a Great Blue Heron unfolds itself from the marshy shore and flies off. When I unzip the rain fly over the tent door a big toad hops out!

What I look up at each night while I sleep (or while it rains outside and I become idly bored!)

Self portraits are good once you've exhausted photos of the tent.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Day 9

Monday, August 2nd: Wellsville, NY -> Wellsville, NY

Rest day!

Sleep in until 9:30am, reveling in my excellent hiding spot where nobody can spot me. Have lemon-lime cookies as I pack up to go into town, which becomes my breakfast - eww? Listened to Radio Lab podcast stories this morning - reheard the "Limits" episode featuring a woman completing her first full length triathalon and crawling across the finish line at the end of the running portion; the story about Yuri the Slovenian who won the "Ride Across America" ["Ride Into the Depths of Hell?] four years, where they bike from west to east as fast as they can, usually it takes 10-12 days and most of the riders average 1 to 2 hours of sleep a night for those two weeks.

Bike the 4 miles into Wellsville - the front wheel shimmies back and forth so much when there isn't 20 pounds of weight on it! The public library here is simply beautiful - there is a table inside with wide ceiling-height doors that open onto a stone patio, I sit in an easy chair with breezes gusting across the pages as I read. Grab some issues of Organic Gardening and Mother Earth News magazines - one of the memorable articles I read by Michael Pollan had a quote similar to:

"I'm not sure if Organic can feed the whole world, but even 1/2 would be a huge improvement."

The idea that synthetic nitrogen is necessary to feed the world "now that the population is so large" irks me.

Is everyone pooping?

There. Your nitrogen.

On the computer figure out the bicycle parts I will get ordered into Jamestown, NY. Read an Orson Scott Card short novel set in the time period of Ender and Bean's early days at Battle School, but following a new protoganist, Zeke, raised in a fundamentalist Christian community but still selected for the school. [I don't expect that to make sense to many of you - a worthy author in my opinion, one of my favorites.]

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Day 8

Day 8
Sunday, August 15th: Corning NY -> Wellsville NY
Dist 65.82
Ride Time: 6:16h
Avg Speed: 10.6
Max Speed: 32.8
Trip 439

Up, packed and ready to ride away from the high school "campground" by 8:20am - it's Sunday and I'm feeling isolated over the past few days, not many significant conversations with folks. I passed a Congregational Church last night that has a 9:30am service this morning, but I opt to start riding rather than wait around town for that.

Reach the town of Bath around 20 miles, stop for water and keep goin'. At 40 miles, at North Hornell, I stop for pancakes and a sticky bun at a bustling family dinner. They have newspapers so I get to read the local obituaries while I eat! And I also get a close up look at the chaos and mismanagement of the more than dozen employees, sitting at the bar on a stool. At least 6 servers, a woman supervising them, and then two fellas who appear to be managers who mostly walk around aimlessly and tell servers to bus down a table. Duh!

It starts to rain near Andover at around mile 55, I call a nearby Campground but the woman who answers says they have been closed for 2 years. Keep looking for a decent spot to camp, I'm missing those cozy stands of pines I saw earlier at mile 45! I found a roadside pulloff area near a lake, toss my bike panniers down a steep 5 foot bank - not ideal but it'll have to do. The wet grasses I walk through support a healthy population of slugs, snails, and the occasional nettle.

The next morning: spot my tent!

Photos, or: Why the [[]]?!

The current library I'm at didn't allow me to upload photos, hence Days 4-7 don't have any photos and just have placeholder brackets. Coming soon I hope!