Month: June 2015

New York, New York

After almost 2000 km I treated myself with a week off. Most of it I spent in New York City. Walking the urban jungle, resting in parks and above all tasting the difference. I will not stretch this one out. Here are some photos and this post will be a photo-post.

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Encounter With The Police

Beautiful sunny day greats me in an old Airstreamer behind a restaurant Mana Dew in Middleton, NY. Today’s plan consists of a morning coffee after the breakfast and just under 60km of cycling to Poughkeepsie where I will have a short break before heading to New York City. Considering the fact that I do not like cycling into (and especially out of) big cities, I have decided that for a first time visit to NYC I will take the train. But all this is still ahead of me. First I had to enjoy this beautiful sunny day.

Just outside of the town the hills have begun and since I’m fully loaded it went slowly and also left and right. Beside the main climb there were several smaller just behind it. And on one of these smaller ones I notice in my rear view mirror a jeep that was going veeeery slowly behind me and just sort of half way of the road. It seemed odd but then again I thought to myself that it might just be that the driver wants to take a side path and he’s waiting for me to that I with my lightning speed go past that point.

And then a sceen from a movie has started. The lights went on an the siren too. I have momentarly froze and realized the jeep behind me is the police and they are pulling me over. So I stopped. The way you see it in the movies in which the main focus is not running away from the police. Standing half way up the hill I turn aound and a policeman comes out of the car. We quickly understand eachother that I might be wiser and safer for all if I pull over on the first side road. Couple of minutes later I do so.

Standing on the side road, police (sheriffs) jeep behind and to sheriff’s deputies come out. One with and the other without sunglasses. We greet each other (»How are you doing?« »Fine, thank you sir. Adn you?«). ID and who am I and what am I doing here. I reply politely as I can. Soon the one with the sunglasses assures me that I’m in no kind of trouble. They just received a call that a strange cyclist is zig-zaging on the road. Concerned citizens (probably not as concerned about my safety as theirs. There is a good explanation about why the drivers pay so much attention to the cyclist in Canada that I heard: »Probably it’s just too much of a hasle if you run over one). Naturally I zig-zag. What other way can I get my humble 70kg and 50kr plus oof fully loaded Lou up the hill? And when it’s flat or going downhill I zig-zag to avoid all the holes and the bumps on the road (still less of those here than in Canada).

This unscheduled rest lasts for about half an hour. While the one without sunglasses is in the jeep checking if they can let me go I talk with the one with the sunglasses. »We are just checking that you are not wanted for smuggling guns or drugs!« he tells me.

Since I have nothing like such with me I generously suggest that they can check my baggage. »But it will take us a while!« I add. Sunglasses smiles at me and sais: »Exactlly!« I do get a feeling that nobody is in the mood for browsing through my bags. And then he adds: »Well if you are smuggling drugs then congratulations for making it pass by me!«.

It turns out that I’m not wanted by anyone and that I can go. They both wish me good luck and tell me to take care. After what I have seen on TV, read on the internet and heard from others, my first experience with the American police was all but typical. And by that I mean in a very good way.

Hope that all the potential future encounters with the police will be as positive as this one.

About How I Milked a Cow

Since I was playing a mechanic yesterday morning and have changed a chain on Lou, today I had to wait for a bicycle shop that was recommended to me opens. Apparently I’m not such an expert as I had imagined myself to be. When changing the chain, I have left one link too much on the new chain I was putting on. This meant that every time I had really pushed the pedals very strong, the chain had skipped. Still have evidence of that around my right ankle.

Well, the bicycle shop confirmed my suspicions regarding the chain and they shortened it for a link. Still better for them to do it than me.

On route out of Burlington, VT I have stopped at several banks trying to change my remaining Canadian dollars. It was a mission impossible. At every bank apart from one requested that I would have an account opened with them. And the one that did not require an account, asked for 20 USD service fee. No thank you, I’ll keep my Canadian dollars for a little longer.

All the errands meant that I started to properly hit the road around noon. And yesterday’s tail wind (yes, this also exists on a bicycle) turned around on me today. So I will have to put a serious effort into covering a distance worth mentioning. The next location where I will have a host is in any case two days cycling away.

Since I’m not really in the mood for cycling, I turn on the music. The Queens have a surprising way of forcing a person to turn the pedals. Especially Bicycle Race.

Somehow I managed to make my way through the day when around 17h heavy clouds started to gather. It has also chilled down considerably. Since I had covered a considerable distance today, I decided to try and pitch my tent before it starts to rain. And so I came to a farm where a farmer was out on his tractor. I said to myself, let’s go and ask for permission to pitch my tent on his property. Half way up the drive way I noticed what he was actually doing. He had to put one cow to sleep just before my arrival. How I manage to get the timing right?! But since I have been already half way up the driveway I just continued. As I have stopped and started to explain who I am and why have I stopped here, the farmer’s wife, Liz has arrived. So I have explained to both that I’m just looking for a place to pitch my tent for a night before it starts to rain. After a short conversation it was decided. I’m staying here and will sleep in the house.

It turned out that I have stopped at a family dairy farm. Well family size by the local standards. They have 200 cows of which a 100 is milked twice a day, every day. This takes them about 2-3 hours in the morning and in the evening. Not to mention all other stuff that goes around here (feeding, cleaning, maintenance,…). This way they produce around 2.500 tons of milk every day (they do not measure it in litres as we do back home). Like mentioned, family size. But it’s true they do not have outside workers employed. It’s all been taken care by the family.

Obviously all this data was provided to me during a guided tour that was given to me by Liz. And part of this tour included a visit to the place where the cows get milked. And the tour would not be first-class if they would not show and enable me to milk a cow. Sure, the milking itself is done by a machine but before they connect the machine, they have to verify that the milk is clean and everything goes smoothly. And this is done manually or better said for one cow I have done it for the first time in my life.

The day was concluded with a huge dinner and yes, it did rain during the night.

 

Thanks to Liz, Bill, Rachael, Eva and Merek. Unfortunately I did not manage to meet Wesley, but I’m sure I would enjoy his company as well.

A day that started rainy and ended sunny

I woke up in a tent on a grassy edge of a parking lot behind the town hall. The construction workers that are repairing the street in town have already went to work (I know this because of all the beeping of the machinery driving in reverse). As I’m sort of short with water I have to give up on my morning coffee with my breakfast. But it does not matter since I will surely find a café where I will be able to spend the last of Canadian dollars. Today it will be decided if I will be allowed into the US or not. This question has been bothering me since my arrival at the Boston airport where the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officer has frightened me saying that it is possible that since I’m unemployed and living off my savings, these savings might not be sufficient to let me into the US for a longer period of time.

So I have packed up my camp, ate my breakfast and loaded up Lou. As I was just about to finish, it started to rain. Wonderful, just what I needed as a morale booster. But the weather is something that we cannot control. So I set off in search of my morning coffee. A café that I have somehow missed yesterday evening is actually just 50m away.

I enter, take a seat and a man brings me a menu for breakfast. “I’ll have just some coffee!” I say and I get it. We start a conversation about who I am, where I come from and what am I doing here. Answering these question, the man says “Wait, I’ll bring you something for the trip!” About 10 minutes later a he comes back with a full plate of food. A breakfast, typical North American with eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast. Pleasantly surprised a dig in even if I’m not that hungry. But you never know on a bicycle what’s in store for you and besides I burn so many calories. Since it continues to rain outside I stay at the café for about 3 hours and when it looks like there might be a break between downpours I start to set off. Just before I leave the owner and the cook additionally boost my morale by saying that the border check might be stricter than usual since a few days ago two convicts have escaped from a prison about 50km from the borer and they are still looking for them. Well isn’t that just great.

So I set off in a drizzle and head for another encounter with American border officials. The border is only about 5 km away and I have no idea when they passed by. Canadian side is only a ramp that gets lifted as I approach but then a sign “All vehicles must stop in 200 feet!” Definitely approaching the American side. I stop at the stop sign and wait for green light. This stop I use to remove all the unnecessary equipment on me (helmet, cycling gloves) and wipe off my glasses. From the border post a woman in uniform comes out and kindly asks “Have you been waiting long?” “No, not at all!” I reply and cycle towards here. Fairly quickly we realize I’m a bit of a special case so she tells me to park my bicycle and step inside. There are more CBP officers there. Another woman takes over my case and the interrogation begins and a more official and intimidating way. Where are you from, what’s your name, how old are you, where are you going, how much money you have, do I know anyone in US,… This goes on for a while before she starts to check my data in the computer. At that moment another officer starts a conversation in a more friendly tone. But I do notice that he is actually indirectly asking me the same things as the woman before him did. So they are checking if my answers were something I have learned by heart or are they really the facts since I can repeat them through a conversation. Fine by me.

The woman turn back towards me and say that everything is OK and that I will be allowed to enter. But I should pay attention not to overstay my visa. “But how long can I stay?” “6 months from the day you have entered the country in Boston.” “How come? The officer in Boston said he gives me 3 days. In addition to that he also writes it down in my passport next to the stamp.” “Well it has been entered into the system that you have 6 months and I cannot change this.” There is nothing left for me but to agree with here and happily go out to take my bicycle. Immediately I notice that they have checked my bags as well since not all is the way I have left it. But that fine. I firmly attached what needs to be reattached and with a Smile on my face I cycle on. Apparently all the worries and insecurities of the past month were completely unnecessary.

About 3 km (OK, I’m in US now, so 2 miles) further down the road the sun emerges from behind the clouds. And it follows me until the evening which I send with my couchsurfing host John and his lovely family.

Welcome to the US!

Cycling into city

Last post regarding Canada. Currently I’m in the USA, but more on this topic in my next post.

This time around a bit about cycling into cities in Canada. I have visited 3 bigger cities in Canada, Halifax, Quebec City and Montreal. Same order of appearance when it comes to size.

Halifax will only be briefly mentioned since it was already mentioned in my first post from the road and since I was there under the pressure of the lost luggage and in anticipation of the first spins of the pedals. Actually I did not cycle into the city. So much about Halifax

Quebec City is one of the oldest in North America and if we are to believe the description in Lonely Planet it is the only fortified city north of Mexico City. It was fought over by the French and the English up until the mid 18th century. And this history forms today’s character of the city. Old city centre is still surrounded by city walls and the narrow streets are packed with tourists that find this type of a city foreign. And there lots of tourists.

Coming into the city I took a ferry from the neighbouring Levis and in search of a city map I headed towards tourist information centre. In advance I have memorized a rough, according to the map the easiest way. Well, once I wrote down the name of the street to take it should have been clear to me that this is not going to be easy. You do not need to speak French to realize that a street called “Cote de la Montaigne” has to do something with an uphill. And yes, it does. So Simon dismounted from Lou and pushed all of his more than 50kg uphill.

Finding a way into the city is always easier than finding your way out and managing to end up on the road that you want. But somehow I managed to do that as well. Next big city was Montreal. Through warm showers I found a host that kindly accepted my request. But I needed to come there. From Quebec to Montreal there is more than 250 km so I have spent a night in Trois-Rivieres. And in the morning headed into what turned out to be 149 km long stage. To keep me company I hade fairly strong head wind most of the time and a grey, heavy sky above me. And as a “reward” I got a downpour. The more I tried to reach Montreal before nightfall, the more it was becoming obvious that this is not going to happen. Wind has slowed me down for at least 2 hours and the rain did not help to boost my morale. But there was some sun in the evening. But I still did not manage to reach my goal of the day. I finally arrived at 21:30 and Jean-Francois, my host for the next few days, met me on the street. The deal was that I stay at his place for 3 nights, crashing on the living room floor which for me personally is just fine. But sometimes after the struggles of the day in the evening Life greets you with an unexpected reward. Jean-Francois told me that he had to leave the city on business and that yes, I can stay at his place. The whole apartment just for me. And yes, there is cold beer in the fridge. I have finished off the evening with a cold one and a cigarette on a balcony overlooking a park.

Struggles of the day were behind me and far away. Life is beautiful.

Contributions

Some of you might have noticed that there is a new option on the right side of this blog (for those who have not, it might be good time to see your optometrist) called “Contributions”. Why so? Well, let’s make a short explanation.

At the moment I’m in Montreal, Canada and after more than three weeks in Canada I’m realising that it is an expensive country. Here are some examples. Half a kilo of bread (OK, toast) costs 2-2,5 EUR. If I decide to have a yoghurt for breakfast, half a kilo of it costs between 2,5 and 3 EUR. And since I’m a cyclist, I eat a lot, so I have to “spice-up” the yoghurt with some cereals. They cost about 3 EUR for 400g. I have switched to milk instead of yoghurt (half a litre costs 1,5 EUR). Since I like coffee which also warms me up on a cold, rainy day, I stop in a fast food restaurant from time to time. The brew they serve there costs between 1 and 2 EUR. If the day is hot, it can happen that I crave for a cold drink (2,5 EUR). On exceptional occasions I might opt for a beer which you can get in a shop for 2,5 EUR. If you go into a pub, then Happy hours price is 3,5 EUR and 6 EUR at not so Happy hours.

Accommodations are a different story. I have stayed at official campsites twice so far (and hopefully this no. will not dramatically increase). Once it was 20 EUR and the second time 23 EUR (where there was an additional 0,7 EUR for a shower – as a matter of principle I did not take it). The stupid part of it all is that a dorm bed in a hostel costs about the same. With the addition that you do not have to set up the roof over your head. Lately I’m opting for warm showers and couchsurfing. Less expensive and as a bonus you get to meet the locals which is always fun.

Looking at it all, it is not hard to spend 35 EUR a day without too much of commodities. At the moment I’m managing to spend under 25 EUR/day and I sincerely hope that the further down south I go, the further down this number will go as well.

When I was explaining this to my friend Brane, he said that these kind of prices will only be an extra motivation for me to set up the contribution option. I had this in mind from when I went on this trip, it’s just that I haven’t really make it a reality. And why contributions? Well, I know there are some of you who read this blog. And, without too much modesty, I can imagine that you like my writting. That you want this adventure of mine to continue so that I can offer you more stories from the road and with them enable you to partake on this adventure. Maybe you would only like that I go for a cold one once in a while. Well all this is connected with my financial abilities and enabling the contributions will increase my financial abilities and at the same time offer you to share this aspect of the adventure as well 🙂

As a reward for making it through this text, I would just like to let you know that I have added some new photos.

Thousand

First thousand done!

I_can_change_focus_on_my_Camera
Thousand

Thousand
Yes, I can change focus on my camera

Sitting in a pub in Quebec City and reflecting on the first thousand.

Biere_a_Quebec
Biere a Quebec

A lot has happened on this first thousand. Already on the first day it became obvious that is going to be different than the first time. Previously I was really lucky with the weather. It’s not that this time around I’m not lucky, just not as lucky as the first time.

I had rain and head wind, sun and tail wind. It was cold (well relatively for May/June) and warm (no, hot it was not, not yet). I have camped in the company of bloodsuckers and without them. Camping was done in rain and in sun. Legs were excited about pedalling but also tired and heavy. Mentally I was high and also not so excited.

But I have a feeling that the legs got accustomed (lacking real hills but all in due time) and my ass is not complaining.

Anyhow, considering all, things are going according to the plan. Unexpectedly and in the right direction!