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October 14th, 2009

impending ___,

Tomorrow — late tonight, really — I return to bike & brew.  I’ve been away for the entire western portion to date — left the gals in la crosse & bussed it up to minneapolis a day early (or rather, less-late), where I visited briefly w/ friends before flying (via, naturally, georgia) back to Kalamazoo.  Where I lounged, happily but oh-so-very-lengthfully, for near two weeks.  It’s good to be back.  Or rather, it’s good to be on a train, approaching an airport, which’ll get me back in not all that many more hours.  Though when I take the time to add, I see there’re more than twelve to go — the arrival is not as immediate as I imagine or pretend.  Still, it’s good to be on a train.  I like trains.  And it’s been nearly two months.

I’m inclined to complain, but lengthy transport isn’t such a bad thing, on balance.  Both ends of my vacation-from-vacation have been day long affairs, but they’ve been smooth & uneventful  (I say, less than an hour into the second), and they provide a sort of transition between modes of living.

I spent most of my time in kalamazoo sick.  My second evening in town, I overindulged (friends were hosting a stranger’s bachelor’s party — it was hard not to overindulge) and a day later, I was rather ill.  This faded, but my health oscillated throughout the full trip, and then, two days before leaving, I decided it was a good idea to get around four hours of sleep before driving down to indiana to pick my father up from the train station, rebooting the hibernating sick.  But I’m not worried, or not overly — it seems to be receding, and structurally, suddenly cleared health makes sense.  Lengthy transport bookends miserable sickness, which bookends my stay in kalamazoo.  Life generally conforms to some sort of geometrically satisfying pattern, yeah?

… And a few hours after writing those last paragraphs, I’m a little bit less optimistic — I don’t feel bad, exactly, but after deep introspection, I realized have absolutely no desire to sit in the airport ‘hockeytown cafe’ and drink labatt’s.  I don’t even have any desire to sit in said cafe and drink a bloody mary, and I know (from walking past several times, considering the possibility) that they serve their bloody marys in the correct, midwestern style — in a pint glass, w/ copious greenery.  If I don’t have the energy for a 5:30 drink, that means one of two things — I either got up later than noon, or my sickness has more legs than it feels like.  And I got up at 9am, after sleeping 10 hours and hitting snooze for one hour more.  But even with diminished optimism, there’s still positivity-a-plenty.  I still have two sudafed tablets, the better to deal w/ a spongy head and seesawing air pressure.  And nothing cures everyday aches like a little time in the saddle.  Michigan: g’bye.  SLC: hello.

I would hug, but well, you know,
a.

September 20th, 2009

On a train, leaving Toronto behind.

Mostly, I think I like Toronto. The streetcars are quite a bit nicer than buses, but they do add an element of danger to riding bicycles which isn’t entirely nice. On the other hand, people do ride bicycles, and they ride in a sensible way. For one thing, when folks stop at lights, they line up rather than making a mass of jostling folks competing for the front, as folk do in new york. And cars are at least as aware of you as they are elsewhere. Pretty decent, on that front.

The town isn’t as otherworldly clean as I’ve heard claimed, but that isn’t a bad thing. It’s not a dirty city by any measure. If New York had alleys, I don’t think it would be noticeably dirtier. It doesn’t, and it is. I guess what I’m saying then, is — the place is cleaner, which I like, but I don’t think the fundamental ’sensibility’ of the city is really much more hostile towards filth & trash than any other urban north american area. Which is an actively good thing — I’m pretty sure that real civility is based in part on a tolerance for grime and rudeness and incivility. Honest graciousness relies on comfort in the midst of rudeness. That sort of thing.

The commuter rail has served us well, outside Toronto and Boston. I think I’ll miss it when we approach Minneapolis.

I need another jersey. I’ve looked a few places, but no luck so far. My requirements are simple — small, race cut, full zip, three proper pockets. You know — a jersey. For some reason bike stores do not seem to sell these things. I find plenty of 3/4 zip jerseys with two pockets that’d fit a 220lb man, but nothing for me. So if you know of a place along our route where there’s a better than 50% chance that I can meet this need, do lemme know.

One thing I neglected to mention, earlier, when it was a relevant thing to mention — somewhere a bit north of NYC, Carvel brand ice cream vanishes, and hood appears. My NJ friends may disagree, and they’re fully within their rights, but Hood beats Carvel as solidly as a rock busts up scissors. There’s just no argument, not in my book. And Tim Hortons beats any fast food joint we have in the states by a mile. The pleasure of eating food off actual dishes! It’s a real pleasure, that’n. More than worth the cost of a 1.02:1 exchange rate. I’m the only one who thinks their coffee is better than (of all things) dunkin’ donuts, but I believe this strongly. If I get another sausage on biscuit sandwich before we leave this country, I’ll be a happy camper.

and so: yr happy camper,
a.

September 16th, 2009

Dragonflies and Garter Snakes

– again, much delay between composition and delivery –

It’s been just a day since I wrote the last text which is up here, but somehow it seems like quite a few more. Still in Canada; last night, we stayed in the Mohawk Bay RV park, after advice from a strip-mall faux-irish bar; tonight, we’re camped out behind the marina in Port Hope. Fishermen are set in place up and down the wharf; I only hope that nobody calls the police on us. Moving elsewhere would be true and real pain. But at the moment nobody seems bothered; I’m at a picnic table typing this in the dark, next to a couple who asked after my ‘petri dish’ (collapsing camping cup), and the rest of our party are in their tents reading, and all is well with the world. Tomorrow, to Toronto, via commuter rail (really the best way to navigate the 10-15 miles outside a major city), and to internet. Only three or four days without, but it’s hurting a touch.

I’m not sure the cause, but morale has been low these last two days. Yesterday much more than today — yesterday was rather touchy and skittish, to be honest. Today seems more beat, though. Nobody really wants to ride. I kinda do want to ride, which makes me feel a tad guilty, seeing the others. Very short day tomorrow, though, and then a full day off in Toronto; I have a feeling that’ll bolster things back up again. All good and necessary.

The fauna on the road shoulders has changed pretty dramatically, these last ten days. Back in new hampshire and vermont, we had a good many dragonflies sunning themselves (or slowly passing away) on the hot asphalt, very slowly heaving up and down. This gave way (at two in the afternoon!) to crickets, from vermont through upstate NY and at a few points into Canada. And for the last four or five days, we’ve had small vertebrate road-kill. Mice, mostly, or maybe voles, or other sorts of smaller rodents … and then a few small snakes. Dogs and cats are far sadder, of course, and raccoons and the like are also common, but somehow the teeny flattened rodents are uniquely touching. I’ve seen at least five, probably more, these last few days … before that, I’ve never noticed one..

The woman from the petri-dish-querying couple just came over, and offered me the ends of their pizza. It’s pitch black out here, and the pizza is delicious. Onions and bacon and probably something else; the laptop light is not enough to see it by. A nice complement to tonight’s meal, which was on its own probably the best of the trip — couscous mixed with canned chili and avocado, preceded by a ‘cheese plate’ — sharp cheddar and grapes and spicy capicola and salted almonds and yogurt covered cranberries. Damn fancy for camp food, and truly delicious. We may have showered in the sink, but lake ontario is three feet away and sounds like the ocean, and we ate as well as anyone in new york. Life is awfully tolerable.

And I should maybe now brush the teeth, onions and all. Yr humble one two and three,
a.

September 15th, 2009

Day 10 and 11 – Our Pretend Day Off – Middlebury to Burlington and back to New York

Middlebury to Burlington  – miles ridden 42 miles

Burlington to Lake Placid – miles ridden 44 miles

I know you guys miss us, and we have a lot of updates to do, so we’ll start from the beginning (or where we left off).  When we left Middlebury (at a very late 11am or so) we did what was supposed to be our “short trip to Burlington” and a “half day off”.  Ha!  As it turns out, we did about VERY HILLY 42 to miles (including our trip into the strip mall section of South Burlington for a trip to EMS – man to we love EMS!).   Now, to be clear, we LOVE Vermont, but it was one day that we really wish we could have just sat around:)

We did have a great stop at Cookie Love, a roadside ice cream spot that specialized in your choice of cookie crumbles on your soft serve (I got the “addicted to love”, anders got the “puppy love”).  It was a funny moment, I was sure that I was only one DYING for ice cream, but the place happen to be at a turn (and we are getting in a good habit of waiting for each other at turns so that we don’t get lost) and wouldn’t you know it, EVERYONE was up for ice cream.  Now we know we have another thing in common:)

That night, after we showered at Tracy’s cousin Scott’s adorable house (where my passport had arrived via fedex – thanks dad!) we went out on the town!  since it was 9/9/09, Magic Hat was having a big party in the center of town.  What was funny was, Scott’s house was 2 block away from the actual brewery, but I guess we figured the party was good enough, so we went to the Vermont Pub and Brewery for a dinner we we’re more than in need of (we had the ice cream for lunch… and that’s about it.  We are getting about the whole fueling thing though).  We had some great pub fare and the most beautiful flight of beer I’ve seen – little sherry glasses on a wooden slat!

We sat around that night, joking about all the craziness we’d went through so far, and for the first time I think we all realized we really have become quite a team.  Tracy said it would take 2 weeks before our muscles would get used to riding every day, but I think that was about the same timing for us to get used to each other as well:)

We went to bed about 10pm that night, exhausted but feeling good.  Got up early and had a fabulous bagel sandwich before hopping on the bike path in Burlington down to the ferry terminal.  We may start late when we don’t have a plan, but when there’s a ferry to catch, we get out the door 20 minutes early.  The ferry was a beautiful 1 hour ride over to upstate new york.  I was surprised how much Burlington reminded me of Seattle, with the Lake Champlain waterfront at the edge of the city and the Adirondacks beyond.

On the other side of the ferry, we prepared ourselves for some real hills (we had made it through Vermont but we were sure there was more to come).  Turns out the Adirondacks we nothing for our hill legs.  We flew through the first 20 miles and had a nice lunch.  Then, right before we finished our soft serve (yes… more ice cream!) we heard a “pop – hisssssssss”.  Our first official mechanical.  i got a spontaneous flat.  After I had a tough time of changing the tube, Anders figured that the tubes I’d got at my local bike shop we’re the wrong size!  Ugggg…  so we changed it, but I’m just waiting for it to happen again.

Luckily, after lunch the relative flatness (or are we just better at hills?) continued and we made it into Lake Placid at a very reasonable 5:30pm.  Caroline’s friend Heather had a connection at a lodge right on the lake, so Caroline and I got another swim in.  sweet! and then we went of for mexican.

new name for the trip: brew (coffee) and bike and brew and mexican tour.

 

Click here to see more images from our ride to Burlington, VT

Click here to see more images from our ride to Burlington, VT

 

Click here to see more images from the Vermont Pub & Brewery

Click here to see more images from the Vermont Pub & Brewery

 

Click here to see more photos from the

Click here to see more photos from the

 

Click here to see more photos of our ride from Burlington, VT to Lake Placid, NY

Click here to see more photos of our ride from Burlington, VT to Lake Placid, NY

September 15th, 2009

Wild Turkeys

– way backdated, this –

The first thing to say is — there are many people to thank, and I’m very consciously not on thanking duty. So thank you all, very very much, and there should be text detailing how immensely you’ve helped us out appearing sometime very soon. If not, huge apologies, and you oughta yell.

We camped at a numbered and paid for campsite last night, surrounded by gigantic camping RV type vehicles … two weeks in, and the first time that we’ve paid for accommodations. Thirty bucks C, which may be thirty bucks or may be twenty-four — nobody really has any idea, and we have little internet connectivity, so at the time of this writing it’s unknown. At posting things’ll be different, but the text will stay.

I wanted beer after stopping last night as much as I ever have; we decided to walk first thing after getting set up to the convenience store down the road. The store was closed, and everybody else wanted showers and not to ride much more, so I emptied a pannier and left the rest of my weight at the campsite and headed out looking for beer. Which you apparently cannot purchase, after six pm, but I did put on another 25-30km or so (the units are not pretentious, as we’re in Canada) and talked to a bunch of canadians — mostly slightly overweight 16 year old boys w/ bad acne who astonishingly didn’t quite seem to understand how one acquired take out beer. Nice lads, of course — it just seemed like the same fellow was at every restaurant/convenience store I stopped at. Of course, the only places that would actually be able to help were LCBO spots, and they all close up at noon, or somesuch. Perhaps the teabagging nutters are right — if ’socialism’ means we can no longer purchase a six pack at the grocery (nevermind executions for our elders), maybe we should rethink this whole health care ‘reform’ thing.

While searching for beer, I almost ran over a flock of wild turkeys. Well, only one turkey came close to my wheel, but they hung out at the side of the road, staring at me as I approached … and then dove in front just as I started to pass. Fistful of brake and some great big thanks that I was riding without weight. It felt good to ride without all the crap on the back — it took ten minutes to reacquaint myself w/ riding out of the saddle, but after that, it felt like riding a bicycle again. I enjoy riding with all the gear, but it feels very different from what I think of as riding a bike. A little strange, but there it is.

And talking of bicycle riding (because what else is there to talk of?) — the girls are all getting much stronger. Which is pleasing for selfish reasons, of course, but also really satisfying to see. Warms the tummy, somehow.

So no beer, last night, first time of the trip. I had most of a pint of extremely vile cognac in my close bag (undeclared at the border, along w/ my pocket knife … gotta rebel somehow) and I took a gag-making sip of it before sleep, which would have been the only booze for the day, but then, a few hours after falling into the deepest, most content possible sleep, I hear (from riding partners a tent over) that a raccoon has been trying to get into my food bag. Which of course you would do, as a raccoon, and there’s no excuse for not better securing that stuff … just before I’d fallen asleep, I’d given thanks for it not being bear country, allowing us to be completely worry free, food-security-wise. Blinking dim. But back to the cognac — after repacking the food, and securing it under the rain fly, the yammering of the french folks one site over wouldn’t let me back asleep. The campgrounds really were rather funny — you really would think that canadians would be smarter than stay in places like that, but it seems they’re just as dim as us. Right over the border, sure, but the vast majority of the license plates read Ontario. So after a half hour of listening to that distinctly nasal canadian french, I went back at the cognac. Sweet self-medication. And it helped, I believe, w/ sleeping into the morning the next day — we woke up to rain — for the first time on the trip — and slept in an hour extra before taking off, letting it patter away. Truly not awful.

yr faithful something-or-other,
a.

September 10th, 2009

The Drama You Been Craving

Sitting aboard a ferry right now, below deck, on the way to Port Kent; if tonight’s lodging has internet, this’ll go up soonish; if not, you’ll read it when you read it, but your today will not be today. We’ve started to settle into a rhythm, which is nice, but it also means that the days blur together a bit. The beginning of the trip was a bit like adolescence — ultra-heightened … not emotions, exactly, but something similar to emotions … super aware at all times that the routine was not a normal routine, and Every Moment Is Interesting. With all the good and bad that an adolescent outlook provides. Now it’s more everyday. Sort of a shame.

Yesterday was a pseudo-off day, which meant we left Middlebury a bit after 11, and once we arrived in Burlington, either (a) went and saw District 9 (Caroline’s smart, smart, smart move) or (b) hung around outside strip malls in parking lots while Sara and Tracy browsed sporting goods. Which I guess implies option (c), but that one was for other people. I’m not bitter or resentful, mind you — I just wanted to watch some South African Alien Genocide. Or whatever the film was about — I wouldn’t know! I haven’t seen it.

Which brings us to today’s theme — things have settled into pace, and we get along rather well, really. Everything is running smoothly, and I’m pretty sure that kindness and fellow feeling abounds. But there have been a few bits of prickliness, and mostly submerged antagonism (see: adolescent attitudes, two P back) … and if this were any other sort of blog, I could write about it, in DEPTH, and there’d be some real entertainment for our public. A reality show where the morman-nee-baptist gets along easily w/ the ex-street-walking-transvestite-dancer isn’t much of a reality show. There must be misunderstandings, and there must be bruised feelings. And there have been, if only small’n’s. I acted a delightfully whiney shit for a half hour in the cambridge brewing house (or whatever the place was called) when it was announced that we’d be getting up at 6 the next morning … there were mitigating factors, but I was a truly pissy shit. And others weren’t thrilled, but did an ok job of not making it an issue. So that’s an example of mild crumminess, which I can set out publicly, as I was the villain … it’s only a shame that I can’t type out more.

But: smoother sailing now, and really, we’re all quite happy, etc & etc.

NH had good street signs, but VT may have even better ones. They preface no outlet, residential streets w/ ‘pvt’, which produced this gem — ‘PVT GOBBLER RD.’ Most hilarious thing my 8 year old self has seen in a couple days. They also use very realistic silhouettes to indicate potential obstacles — cow, horse, horse w/ human, tractor — only the human in the horse w/ human is stylized, a stick figure w/ a perfectly circular head, atop a horse that has each hair detailed. Iconic universal stick figures stuck in a real world. Sort of wonderful.

Also, the classiest license plates that we’ve seen. There’s probably another state out there that still uses white text on a flat color, but I can’t think of it. They do a couple things right up here. I’ll be sad to leave the covered bridges. The landscape merged smoothly from prep schools (exeter, andover, etc) to covered bridges, and then hilly farmland which would be wisconsin only with (cute little baby) mountains in the distance. Mountains — wee or no — improve a landscape.

keep on keeping,
a.

September 2nd, 2009

Delayed entry, the first

If you care about any events of import, or would like to see some (very, very deserved) shout outs, please read the previous post. This is some very random minutia, with minute meaning what it means.

A pretty fantastic day, August 31st. I’ve had trouble remembering that it’s a monday — getting up and heading down to dumbo to leave, it seemed it must be a sunday; how else could I be riding a bicycle in brooklyn at 9.00 AM? It also turns out that people actually work in dumbo; I’d never been in the area on a weekday, and could never quite make sense of it, before. On the weekend (or actually, I guess I have been by there on weekdays late in the evening a couple times) it feels like a sort of evacuated soho. Actual humans, walking and driving and here & there riding bicycles, made me feel much more positively towards those few blocks than I had before.

I’m writing this in the parking lot behind the blue point brewery. In a few minutes I’ll head to bed and try out the sleeping bag&pad in the most artificial/sterile environment I can think of outside of my apartment: well tended asphalt (and they have beautiful asphalt here — I’m not just saying that, it really is quite lovely) is near optimal surface to pitch a tent. Nary a root or a stone. Bud light (or perhaps lite? I didn’t ask our way too helpful hosts about the spelling, and I now realize that I don’t actually know how to spell the real product), the brewery cat, has finally warmed up to us; while I drank beer and read and occasionally watched him, he spent fifteen minutes sniffing at the corner of Sara’s tent as she read w/in it. A strange animal. And a very likable one. Sr Li[ght|te] has some character.

We haven’t put too much a dent in the mass of beer that bluepoint left with us, but I did just finish off a growler of their (very tasty) summer ale by filling up my secondary water bottle with it. By tomorrow it’ll be flat, which is how I like it, on the bike — honestly boozy riding is of course an immensely bad idea, but a water-bottle-beer is a wonderful way to get some much needed on-the-bike-calories, over the course of a few hours in the afternoon.

And now to bed, to the gentle roar of the bluepoint condension unit. It’s really very comforting, and I ain’t [sic] lie.

yrs,
a.

bud_light

Bud Light, guarding the tent.  Thanks, Blue Point.