April 20, 2011

Since we last spoke

Exactly one year ago, 4:15 pm, April 20th 2010, I turned in my last final exam and finished my college “career”. The 365.25 days since then have been the best 365.25 days in my life.

Some things I learned this year:

  • When you do fun and exciting things you meet fun and exciting people, which there are a lot of. 
  • There is no such thing as luck, but being open to any opportunity that crosses your path, combined with walking down the right paths, makes you feel like paying the lotto.
  • Pushing your body to do difficult things makes you stronger both mentally and physically, and gives you a deeper understanding of your body and what it can do.

Since my last blogamajig a lot has happened. I apologize for not sharing my experiences as much as I had planned. Here is a quick summary of some of the major things I've done since my crash, which seems like years ago.

From S. Carolina I pedaled down to northern Florida, couch surfing at some cool places along the way. I then spent a lot of time working on farms. First was Green Flamingo Organics, where I spent two weeks doing such things as slaughtering chickens, picking vegetables, skinning gators, and eating ramen. Then I spent a week on a cute little herb farm called Maggie's Herb Farm, and from there I met up with a friend from Green Flamingo and biked down to the tip of Florida together to work at Bee Heaven Farm. I spent a month there in a real bed (in a barn) with all the amenities and unlimited food from BJ's. While I was there I spoke a lot of spanish, and kind of felt like an illegal immigrant. I also got to explore the Everglades, which is a place I promise to return to.

After that I biked down to Key West, which was quite beautiful, and looks sweet on my map. I met my family there during “the holidays” and got to catch up with them and live in some serious luxury for the first time in a while. Luxury is overrated and overpriced, (but always appreciated *I refuse to use an emoticon*). From there I back tracked, good thing the wind didn't change directions also. I stopped at Bee Heaven Farm again for New Years, where I taught my 50 year old Guatemalan friend how to play beer pong. I woke up the next morning feeling a step down from so-so, took a large handful of nuts and biked 87 miles to Boca Raton for the next leg of the trip.



In Boca I met up with my friend JJ “The Hunger” Frasca, and together we biked to New Orleans. It was a huge adjustment, biking with a second person, but it made it like a whole new trip. We had some great times and met some great people, and pushed ourselves to extremes. We slept in a tent in freezing temperatures, biked nearly every day for two weeks, and ate more than three normal people combined. Each. Epic is the best word I can think of.
 

We rolled into New Orleans together in mid January, then JJ was forced to return to the lulls of academia, and I got settled into a new city. I stayed in the spacious laundry room of my good friend Petra, and got to know her awesome group of friends. New Orleans really is an amazing city, and Mardi Gras is worth losing your job for. Go, see it, live it, it's worth it. Maybe I'll expand on all the coolness of Mardi Gras and NOLA in general later, but based on my current rate of blogamajigs I doubt it, and you could probably read some awesome descriptions of it a million different places.

After a couple of weeks of partying and all that, I began to get involved and employed with Bayou Rebirth, and Common Ground Relief. My job is to lead groups of volunteers in educational plantings of native wetland grass and tree species, among other things. I've been loving working outside all the time, and getting out in some really cool places. Yesterday I drove down to the very tip of the Mississippi river, took a hour long speedboat ride down into the delta, then transferred to a fan boat to get to where river water and gulf water are separated by only a few hundred feet of sand. Here sediment accumulation is actually happening and we are helping it by planting Spartina altinaflora grass plugs into gulfsaver bags.

About a month ago I moved into the Common Ground Relief volunteer house in the lower 9th ward where I'm living and working with other long term volunteers working to rebuild people's homes which were lost during Katrina. Every day I'm not working with the wetlands I'm hanging drywall, or laying tiles or something like that.

I plan on staying here for another month and then I fly from New Orleans to Rome, where I'll start a new part of my trip. Although at this point, and actually for quite some time now, I don't feel like I'm on a trip, away from “real life”. This is my life, and yeah, its awesome. Join me.

October 23, 2010

Scarface

One week ago today I crashed my bike.  Before you read any further know that I am totally and completely fine. Other that a couple of small Al Caponesq scars there is no lasting damage.  

Here’s the long version of what happened:  I left Myrtle Beach Friday at noon and was biking really fast and enjoying myself, despite the fact that the road I was biking on (rt 17) was a pretty shitty.  The reason I was biking on this bike-unfriendly road, rather than the route my new Adventure Cycling maps recommended, was because I had decided to go to Myrtle Beach to couch surf, and from there I was planning on going straight to Charleston to see Phish, and this was the only way to connect those dots.   Side note:  couch surfing was awesome. I stayed with two beautiful girls my age, who had two of their beautiful girl friends staying in the apartment too.  All of them were going to the Phish show, and I had a blast hanging out with them for two nights.  Check out the website they run together about the jam band scene and social consciousness and whatnot www.sparkleberrylane.com. 

So anyway, after about 20 miles the road left all commercial and residential buildings behind and became a non stop highway.  It had a line of grooved pavement (the bumps that wake you up if you fall asleep and drift off the road) over the white shoulder line and then about two feet of pavement before the grass.  Not a lot, but enough.  I had to cross over the grooved pavement now and then, and every time I did the whole rig shook like a mechanical bull.  This road wasn’t the first time I had to deal with these evil grooves, so I knew what to expect.  The grooves are spaced in an even fraction of my wheelbase, which means that the whole bike jumps up and down in sync.  Also, the radius of the arcs of each groove are almost exactly the same as my lovely 27” wheels, which makes them really slam into each groove and jump out with a lot of force.  So, aware of the evil grooves to my left, I just tracked a really solid straight line (something that I’ve gotten quite good at) and got into a good zone (mentally and physically).

As I was entering Georgetown S.C., where I would be able to get off of rt 17 and take some better roads to Charleston, I had to cross a bridge over a big river.  It was a fairly long bridge, with a high arch to it, but not a suspension or truss bridge or anything like that.  It was a really beautiful view, and as I granny geared my way up the first half I really took it in.   The pavement on the bridge was concrete, and there were no evil grooves, although there were lots of metal debris and evil teeth (the joints that prevent a bridge from cracking when it freezes are nasty wheel traps if you have skinny tires).  Coming down the second half of the bridge I went kinda fast, nothing crazy though, no more than 23mpg according to my bike computer.  I stayed within my allotted two feet of shoulder because there was fairly heavy traffic, but as the concrete pavement ended, and the evil grooves returned I noticed there was a large bush and some debris blocking my precious two feet, and a metal guardrail blocking my escape to the right.  I didn’t have time too look behind me to check if there was a car in the right lane, but the traffic was heavy enough to just assume that there was, so I was forced into the grooves.  I thought I would be able to just coast through them like I had done many times before, but something about my speed, and the fact that I was carving a turn made that impossible.  I remember hitting the grooves and knowing immediately that I was going to crash. 

After that, I don’t remember much.  However, based on my CSI like forensic investigation of all of my cuts, road rash, and damage to my bike I’ve come to the conclusion that as I was turning back into the safe part of the shoulder my front wheel got airborne for an instant and turned to the right to become perpendicular to the ground.  When my front wheel caught the pavement it tacoed and my bike fell over to the left and I fell to my right (probably with a lot of forward momentum too).  My bike received some scrapes to the left brake lever, my rack got a bit bent, and the front wheel was totaled (although I kept the hub) but other than that it was fine.  The big man little man is a beast.  Meanwhile, I gracefully braced my fall by catching the steel guardrail with my face.  I received a deep cut next to my ear, just below my temple, and another one on my chin as well as a good amount of road rash on my face, shoulder, arm, back, and leg.  The blow to the noggin left me completely unconscious, which honestly was probably a good thing since I don’t remember being in any pain at all.   The highway patrol found me out cold in a pool of blood.  I know this because the officer called me a few days later to tell me.  I slowly regained consciousness on the ambulance and was very confused, I didn’t know where I was, and I couldn’t answer any questions about where I had come from or how long I had been biking.  I still didn’t feel all that much pain though, and I enjoyed slowly remembering all the details of my bike trip, and sharing them with the EMTs.  It was like remembering a dream.   In fact, I remember telling the EMTs some pretty funny stories, but my bleeding face probably took away from my witty, off the cuff humor. 

Once I got to the hospital I was fully conscious, but still pretty dazed.  I felt like I was on drugs, and perhaps I was, I don’t know.  I had no idea how badly hurt I was, I could feel pain but it was more like a vague “everything hurts” kind of pain.  I was strapped down to a stretcher with my head immobilized, stuck in the up position, forced to stare at the florescent lights zip by as I was rushed somewhere.  It reminded me of a scene from a movie, and in my dazed state I made sure to note the trippyness of the experience.  I got a bunch of CAT scans and X-rays and was then sent to a specialist ear nose and throat doc.  The CAT scans suggested that my cut had penetrated my ear canal, but luckily it didn’t.  Instead my ear canal was only slightly torn from the stretching that happened when my face took the blow.  The other lucky thing was that the deep cut just barely missed my facial nerve, which, if severed, would have caused my whole face to become paralyzed.  Instead of that I just have some tingly feelings and numbness above my ear, and that is rapidly improving.  So yeah, I got really lucky.

As my wounds were being cleaned and my cuts were being stitched my parents were notified.  I got to talk to them soon after to quell their panic, but they were still freaking out.  My dad booked a flight immediately, and met me at the hospital around 1am.   It would've been really hard to do anything if he hadn’t flown down to meet me.  I could barely move my head, I had no means of transportation, and nowhere to go.  My bike was “towed” (I use the word “towed” because I was charged a $160 towing fee) to a local redneck car shop, and I had nothing but my torn spandex, phone, and wallet with me.  Trying to recall the chain of events with my dad, again, felt like remembering a dream.  In fact it took a while to convince myself that certain snippets of memory were not a dream, and it was only because of logic that I accepted the memories as true events that happened.  The earliest snippet still feels like a dream, if not a dream within a dream.  I remember the mosquitoes were swarming like crazy around me, and as I was woken up and put into the ambulance all the mosquitos followed me into the ambulance, continuing to feast.  I remember trying to make small talk with the EMT by saying “these mosquitoes are insane”.   For a while I didn’t notice all the bites, probably masked by the road rash, and I truly believed that memory was from a dream I had a few nights earlier while camped out in an equally heavily populated mosquito city.  It wasn’t until I noticed the mosaic of bug bites all over my body that logic forced me to accept that memory as fact. 

My dad and I checked into a hotel and after dealing with getting my bike back and bringing it to a bike shop, we actually had a pretty good time in Georgetown.  We got to see a historic wooden boat show / town fair, and I got some really good meals.  Since I could barely open my mouth I was really able to savor each tiny miniscule bite.   It also felt … interesting… looking so messed up while interacting with society.  After a good father son weekend my dad went home and checked me into a cheap, but surprisingly clean motel, where I have achieved my full snorlax / dulfus potential by watching rediculus amounts of TV and lying in bed all day.  Yesterday I saw the ear nose and throat doc again to have my stiches removed and my ear checked out.  I’ve completely regained the hearing in my right ear after all the blood clots were removed.  Good as new.  The stiffness in my back, neck and jaw are much better now, and today I emerged from my snorlax den and jogged / walked 15 miles to get my bike from the bike shop and rode back to the hotel in Georgetown, along rt 17 the whole way.  I stopped to examine the crash site on my way there, but after about 30 seconds the mosquitos got too insane and I just kept running, it didn’t look like anything happened anyway.  On my way back the fact that this trip is inherently and unavoidably dangerous sunk in.  I definitely don’t want to crash again, but other than avoiding roads like, this its hard for me to come up with a concrete lesson that I can learn from this crash.  As I biked over the bridge again I looked over my shoulder and safely merged into the car lane then back into the shoulder at the first gap in the grooves, like I would have done the first time if I had carefully examined the area from a few hundred feet away giving me enough time to make the merge.  Tomorrow I’ll be packing up all my stuff and on Sunday I’m hitting the road again.  I certainly have a slightly elevated level of fear, but I’m still looking forward to biking again, and I think after a good day on the road I’ll be feeling back to normal.

October 21, 2010

Pee Paw's Scramblies

From the beginning of the trip I thought it would be cool to find a band of hippies living off the land and join them, a la Easy Rider.   Wwoofing at Old Oak Homestead fulfilled that desire.  I “wwoofed” (see www.wwoof.org) at Old Oak for three weeks, giving me plenty of time to get to know the other people at the homestead, and some people from another homestead, as well as getting a good feel for the nearby town.   Old Oak was a fairly small property, with one house, a barn, and two small huts, trailer, 10 chickens, a vegetable garden, greenhouse, and an awesome dog named Buster.  When I arrived I was greeted by the other wwoofers, Matt and Meg (and Buster).  They showed me around and got me situated in the loft in the barn, which I shared with Matt.  Meg lived in the old trailer which was abandoned by a bunch of hunters who stayed here for a few weeks a few years ago.  It still had wheels, but it wasn’t going anywhere.  After a cold outdoor shower, and an equally cold beer, I got to meet Barb, Kenny and Joe. 


Barb (Barbra Trent: Academy Award winning documentarian) owned the place, and was more or less our “boss”.  She was more than a little bit crazy, but we all loved her.  I’d say she was in her mid 60s, and she was still living in the mid (19)60s.  The first thing that struck me about Barb was her sleep schedule:  Awake by noon, in bed by 3am, perfect for life on a farm.  She would often come mozey over to our outdoor kitchen/living room/patio with a martini in hand at midnight when we were getting ready to go to bed and start talking about our plans for tomorrow, or sometimes just wanting a snack.  She was certainly knowledgeable about organic gardening though, and she treated all the crops, and even the pests, with great respect, like she had personal relationships with every plant.  Actually she did, she told me all about them.   Barb also partied more than anyone I knew at college (except for freshmen year), and she could put all the tam-tams dancers to shame with her groovetastic shakes jiggles and twirls.  The other wwoofers seemed to get a bit annoyed with her nonsensical requests and never-ending presence, but I thought it was just hilarious.

Kenny was the other permanent resident at Old Oak.  He lived in a small hut which he was still building while I was there.  Kenny was a master of wood:  Lumberjack, carpenter, fire tender, and collector.  Kenny respected wood in all its forms, and despite being in the business of felling trees, he would often refuse to cut a tree down if he felt it wasn’t right.  Hanging out with Kenny I learned how to split wood, and use a chain saw, and had a lot of fun doing it.   Kenny kept all of his tools in perfect condition, and truly believed that if you show your tools love, they will show you love right back.  One of the best days there was when Kenny and I biked into town for the Carrboro music festival.  To tell the story properly you first need to know what Carrboro is like:  Hippie Heaven.   Everything was local, organic, fair trade, and vegan, and everyone in town seemed to somehow have enough cash to support all these crazy businesses.  Imagine if everyone in Vermont won the lotto and started speaking with a southern drawl, that’s what Carrboro was.  Also, everyone seemed to have awesome bikes like this one http://yubaride.com/utility-bicycles-models.html.   The Carrboro music festival was a pretty big deal, and although it started raining mid day and all the outdoor venues were shut down, there was still a bunch of music going on.  Kenny and I went to pretty much every venue, and at least three times Kenny accidentally walked back stage with the band, I guess he just looked so much like a musician that nobody questioned him.   We saw some shitty bands, and some decent ones, but my favorite was a sick ska band (whose name I forget) who played at a really cool venue named Cats Cradle.  After a long day of drinking, rocking out, etc., I was ready to try to find a car to throw our bikes into, but Kenny had his heart set on biking back, so we did. 7 miles back to the homestead in the pouring rain at midnight along dark, misty country roads with only my tail light.  It was awesome.


The other wwoofers, Matt and Meg were my age, and we got along well.  They were both really chill, and fun to hang out with.  Matt was really smart, and knew a lot about pretty much everything, especially organic gardening and bees.  He was living a debt free life by not going to college, not owning a car, not paying rent and not paying for food, and he was really making it work.  Meg was a really nice person, and really funny too.  A lot of our humor was like the blue color comedy tour, only in a sarcastic hipster kind of way… if that makes any sense.  Meg also worked at a hippie grocery store in town, and every time she got back from work she would bring all sorts of amazing treats home, diverted from the trash (actually Weaver Street Market composted its expired food).  We ate really well, mostly because of Meg.  We ate Scramblies for every meal, just like Pee-Paw used to make.  Scramblies consisted of whatever vegetables and greens we harvested from the garden scrambled together with rice and beans from Costco, and sometimes served with fancy bread from Weaver Street.  Our best scramblies was when Meg brought home a pound of fresh alfredo sauce and homemade pasta which we mixed with sweat potatoes, okra, tomatoes, jalapeƱos, string beans, and some other stuff.   We imagined opening up a food truck in Carrboro which sold nothing but the daily Pee Paw’s Scramblies, and the fact is, it probably would have been successful.  The only thing about eating at Old Oak was that I ate more than Matt and Meg combined, which got kinda awkward at times, but I simply explained to them that I will never let food go to waste, and therefore, out of precaution, I will just simply eat all the food before it has a chance to go bad.


The small community surrounding Old Oak was very inclusive.  Everybody knew everybody, and everybody was pretty cool.  Joe was a guitar teacher who lived down the road and left his dog buddy with us every day.  Nearly every night when Joe got back from work to pick up buddy he would come by with a 6 pack and a pipe to share.  He carried around a ukulele and used it to play name the tune / stump the band all the time.  He also sang songs with an Elmer Fudd voice extremely well.  Very close to us was another farm which I had applied to wwoof at, called Picards Mountain.  It was owned by a multi millionaire who designed an environmentalist's mecca.  It was a really cool place, and we got together with the wwoofers there to cook pizzas in their earth oven and hang out a few times.  The two people I got to know best there was Rachel and Daniel.  Daniel was a dreadlocked vegan, who drove a purple Caravan, fresh out of highschool and learning how to live completely off the land.  He and Rachel both knew pretty much every wild plant and if it was edible or usefull or not.  The three of us had a great walk in the rain one day identifying herbs and such.  Daniel was the only wwoofer I met who actually had a solid life plan: Go to California and grow weed, make weed butter, and use the weed butter to operate a gourmet catering company for rich potheads.  Everyone else, including me, had no idea what they wanted to do with their life.  In fact, none of the other wwoofers at Old Oak and Picards Mountain knew what they wanted to do after wwoofing.  Rachel was a really cool down to earth person, and she ended up biking with me for two days after I left.

Moral of the story is wwoofing is great, and I plan on doing more of it.  I basically spent about $30 for the entire 3 weeks, and that was entirely on beer.  I met a lot of cool people, got some experience working in an organic garden, and did a lot of chilling out.  I already made some contacts with some farms in Florida.

September 14, 2010

One Month on the Road

One month ago today I was saying goodbye to my friends in montreal, and awkwardly riding my behemoth of a rig down to the American border.  Now, over 1300 miles later (about  2100 km for you losers our there) I find myself in Richmond Virginia.  I now command my rig, collectively named "Big man, Little Man" from the song "The Rumor" by The Band, with power and grace.  I can ride it with no hands for short periods, and I can stand up to climb whenever needed.   Even parking the rig, initially a huge pain, has become easy.

So what have I been doing since Boston?  Not updating my blog, thats what.  A complete list of where I was every day, as well as a brief description of where I stayed and what I did can be found on my google map, which can be accessed from the "Map and Stats" page.  So instead of repeating myself here, I will just write up some highlights and thoughts from the trip.

First, Cape Cod was a worthwhile detour.  It was nice scenery, but what made it especially nice was biking on the Rail Trail, and the Canal Bike Path.  Spending all that time on the bike paths made me think how awesome the world would be if there were bike paths like this everywhere.  Not just for touring cyclists like me, but for local commuters, and the economy.  Let me explain that last bit: Obama has preposed fixing our roads, bridges and runways as a way to get Americans back to work.  Why not put a bigger emphasis on converting old railways to bike and pedestrian paths?  Like the other projects, rail to trail programs will give people jobs, but unlike the other projects building bike paths will have long lasting economic benefits in addition to the short term employment.  People will use the bike paths for transportation, and commuting, but also for recreation and exercise.  This will bring "local tourists" to the path from surrounding areas, and give excellent opportunities for entrepreneurs to start bike rental businesses, and snack shacks.  Plus, having a good place to run and bike will likely cause people to be more healthy, putting less strain on hospitals and government programs.  Enough ranting, bike paths are great.



After Cape Cod, I made my way to New Haven CT.  On my way I spent a night with a wonderful person in Narragansett RI.  I met Carla Norton via Couchsurfing.org.  After reading her profile page I knew we would get along just fine, and we did.   We spend hours talking about nearly everything, and drinking wine on the beach.  It turns out Carla is planning a very similar trip, and hopefully once she starts we'll be able to join forces at some point.

After a 100 mile day in blistering heat I made it to New Haven, where I spent a few days with my good friend Mark Schwab.  Highlights include some of the best pizza i've ever had, the coolest Sushi restaurant I've ever been to, and pranking a freshmen Econ class by tossing a frisbee in the lecture hall (our prank made the paper!)

Then, another crazily hot long bike ride to NYC.  Once there I got to stay in my uncle's apartment on the upper east side and hang out with my cousin.  Side note:  My cousin Scott is a ridiculous and hilarious person.  He recently published a book of memoirs which are equally ridiculous and hilarious, you should all buy it:  The Idi-Odyssey.  I really got to live it up for a while, I spent a week in New Haven and New York combined, and only biked one day.  After a day of eating pizza for every meal,  I biked to brooklyn to see a My Friend Other show, and hang out with the 518 crowd.  Biking in the city, with my naked bike, was a blast.  So much more extreme than biking in Montreal, and when I don't have the Little Man in tow I can really zip around. The next day I drove up to my other uncle's lake house with my cousin for what turned into an impromptu family reunion.  My parents showed up, and the next day I drove back to NYC with them.  I got to eat some good food, and even see a broadway show with my parents and my sister.  I started forgetting that I was even on a bike trip.



After NYC I got to bike down the Jersey Shore, which was really nice.  I knew it wasn't going to be like the TV show, but I was surprised at how completely opposite it actually was.   The entire way down was great scenery, and when I went inland a bit i got to go through some state forests that were really nice.  I didn't know there was a such thing as "rural New Jersey" but there is, and its awesome.  Great roads and bike paths the whole way.   The only place where the shore was over developed was Wildwood, but it was so extravagant that it was a really cool to bike through.  The boardwalk at Wildwood was like Disney Land on the beach, but more American, and actually, believe it or not, more rides (according to the official New Jersey tourism website).  At one point, they told everyone to stop what they were doing and blasted the National Anthem on the loudspeakers.  The entire boardwalk stood with their hand on their heart for the whole song, it was pretty cool.  There was also a "Motorcycles and Tattoos" Convention going on, so that added to the scene.

I took a ferry from Cape May, New Jersey to Lewes, Delaware.  I really like taking ferries because they're usually really cheap if you're not in a car, and its fun to be on a big boat and relax.  Getting off in Delaware felt really great for some reason.  Perhaps it was the new scenery (rich rural suburbs on large open fields), or perhaps it was the fact that I was in a state which was entirely new to me (despite the fact that I lived there for a year when i was about 4 years old), but either way, I just felt euphoric.  Plus there were some nice bike paths through some woods to the coast.  With a good tailwind I made it to Maryland very quickly, and once I did the scenery changed dramatically.  Ocean City is what I thought the Jersey shore would look like.  It was interesting to bike through though.  Eventually I made it to Assateague Island State Park, where I slept under the stars with the sounds of the ocean and wild horses in the background.  I saw both the sunset and the sunrise, it was real purdy.





The loneliness sort of sunk in at Assateague and Janis Island State park, where I was in a beautiful spot surrounded by groups of friends sharing beer and food, and I had nobody to share the experience with.  Being in a group, or even with just one other person, would completely change the trip, and I'm not sure if it would be better or worse, but it would be nice to try out for a while.  I would certainly feel better about sneaking into campsites like I did at both of those places.

I'm now in the south.  Something about the accent makes everyone seem extremely nice.  I just registered with "wwoofing.org" which is an organization which gives people a chance to volunteer on organic farms in exchange for room and board.  I think it will be a good way to meet people and get some time off the bike.  So now i'm going to look for some farms to volunteer on and plan out my route accordingly.

August 24, 2010

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

For the first few days, across northern Vermont and New Hampshire, the scenery was farms, pastures, and mountains.  Really nice biking, and really nice people. 

I've learned that river folk are good folk.  Two nights in a row, in East Charleston VT and Errol NH I stayed with river guides / kayak and canoe rentals.  Both nights I was able to hang out with the owner or employees and both nights I had an excellent time.  With Chris, the owner of Clyde River Recreation, he fed me pasta and meatballs and we talked about the thrill of adventures, and the beauty of northern Vermont.  Because there are no big manufacturing jobs, a tourist attraction, such as a river adventure, brings money to the community, and at the same time shows off the natural beauty of the area, giving support for conservation. 

After crossing some serious hills near Dixville Notch State Park, I pulled into Errol NH, a town of about 300 people.  That night I stayed at Northern Waters Outfitters, at the edge of town.  These guys had a slightly larger operation, and operated white water kayaking, rafting, and tours of wildlife preserves by boat.  Their Campsite was only $10 per person, which was about 2-3 times cheaper then every RV/Campsite place I've stopped, and I got to hang out by the fire with Doug, a 60-something year old guy, with an impressive beard, long gray hair, and about 5 teeth.  He has been living in beautiful places and working odd jobs at outdoor/adventure places his whole life, and was one of the happiest people I've met.  He's been with Northern Waters Outfitters for a while, and just lives in his tent and on the river.  In the winter he grooms x-country Ski trails, and gets the first tracks.  He told me stories of epic powder days in Utah, when he lived there, and an albino trout which he fed worms one summer in northern Quebec.  We talked about music, the outdoors, and small town life for hours. 

Once I crossed into Maine, heading south east on Rt 26, the scenery changed a bit.  Grafton Notch State Park was beautiful, but I was in such a good biking zone that i just powered right through it to Bethel ME.  30 miles before 11am.  Bethel was a really nice mountain town with a really cool BBQ restaurant which sold craft beers, and local wines, and RAW MILK!   However it was all downhill from there, and not in the good, literal, way, I mean it got shitty.  From Bethel to Portland was all towns which had been overrun with chain stores, and auto-dealerships, and dirty industries.  And after 80 miles of pushing through it I camped out in a nice grassy spot in Poland ME (Home of America's first golf course, and the source for Poland Springs Water). 

From Portland all the way to Boston was beach town, followed by beautiful coastal road, to the next beach town.  Really pretty, but not a lot of places to camp out, and not a lot of really cheap food stops, like in the rural places I passed before.

Now, in Boston, my body is nearly fully recovered, after a couple of nights of getting some great food with some great people.  Napalese food with Noah, and Adam.  Shabu food with Noah, Jake and Steff.  And amazing Italian food with all of Noah's friends and roomates.

I think I've officially "seen" Boston now, and I can't wait to start biking again once the weather clears up.

Good times.

August 23, 2010

It has begun...

I'm sitting here in Boston Mass, my legs slightly sore, my butt slightly raw, but overall feeling great.  Let me first apologize for the lack of blog posts.  Not having a computer makes posting hard, and the couple of times I stopped at libraries my limited time had to be used to check routes.  I have however been updating my map every time I touch a computer, and if you click the link to the google map you can even see a brief description of each of the places i've stayed so far (by clicking the green icons).


Every day has been great so far, but I'll start this blog by describing the beginning of the trip.


After a couple of extremely hectic days in montreal, packing, and doing all of the many things I had to do before leaving Canadiaville,  I emptied my apartment and loaded my bike up for the first time and headed up to Mount Royal for a picnic and goodbye party.  I have to say, the first few times I rode with the loaded trailer I got pretty nervous.  I've gotten much more comfortable now, but those first few times I rode were pretty hairy.  Standing up was out of the question, and even taking one hand off to shift gears was nerve racking (aerobars were useless until about 50 miles of getting used to the bike).  



The sendoff picnic was very nice.  It was great getting to say goodbye to everyone, and hear all the support everyone was giving me.  I very much appreciate everyone who came, but as you can imagine I was itching to get on the road (I had been for over a week).  When we did finally leave it was in a brigade of 10 or so bikes bullying our way through the Montreal Traffic.  As I slowly left Montreal, skyscrapers in the background, the brigade thinned and thinned until the hearty goodbye to Marc Trussler left just me and my dad.  The change in vibes, coupled with the crossing over the locks really signified the start of the trip.

With just me and my dad, and about 50 miles to go I was able to really "get in the zone" and start getting used to riding with the loaded bike.



A quick note about my bike:
1983 Schwinn Voyager.  Bullet proof steel.  35lbs unloaded.  This bike has soul.  It was given to me for free by my good friend, and excellent cyclist Danny Goodwin (read his blog for a great insight into the world of riding bikes really really fast).  The bike was given to him by a zen buddhist who had ridden the bike cross country and requested that the bike stay as one and continue its life carrying heavy loads.  It has.  I love it.  I've been riding it every day for the past 6 years or so, in all weather conditions and its still solid as a tank.    It does not have a name yet...

Anyway, the first day was a beautiful ride through rural quebec, and the fact that my dad was breaking the wind for me made it even better.  At the end of the day,  I got to have a good goodbye to my family.  I give my parents a lot of credit for their keeping-it-together-ness.  I know it's not easy for them to not know where I'll be sleeping each night, and to not be able to get in contact with me all the time, but despite that, they are completely supportive of my trip, and for that I am very grateful.

I had discussed when my trip would "sink in" (when I would finally realize that the trip has actually started) with a bunch of different people.  I can easily pinpoint the exact time and place now:  On the third day, after a swim in Lake Memphremagog I pulled into a price chopper to buy groceries for the first time (PB&J, tuna-peas-mac-'n-cheese, pasta, etc.) and as I was picking out my staple foods the fact that i'm in this for the long run really "sank in".

The trip has started, and I like it.

July 21, 2010

I have a blog?

What do I plan on doing with this blog?  Well in this section of the site, "blog", I plan on periodically posting stories and videos as well as general thoughts from my trip.  In the "Maps and Stats" section I plan on updating my location and proposed route.  The stats will be the easiest thing to update, and will most likely be the must up to date representation of where I am, for anyone curious about my location and safety.  

I never was much of a journal keeper, although I have tried.  I'm also not one to talk about my "feelings" much, so I really don't know how this thing will turn out.   I just bought a fancy new camera, and built a tripod mount onto my aerobars, so i'll probably be posting a lot of pictures and videos.  Since the trip hasn't started yet, I don't really ahve much to say right now, except that I'm both excited and nervous (go figure) about starting my trip.  The biggest uncertainty is who, if anyone, i'll be spending my time with.  


I can't wait for the first few nights when my legs will feel like rubber and my butt will be black-and-blue.  Until then I'll just be enjoying my last few days in Montreal, and making as much money as I can doing moves.


I promise subsequent blog posts will be far more interesting.