Month: July 2015

Just one more day on the road

Not so long ago a friend of mine, Brane wrote me an e-mail that encouraged me to write a post on not so “romantic” aspects of travelling. I will not be all philosophical about it, I’ll just describe a day when I did not feel exactly olympic.
I woke up around 2am with a feeling like someone is calling my name. It felt like dreaming (which it actually was) but nevertheless I have opened my eyes. All around me were lightnings and thunders. It hasn’t started to rain yet. I went out of my tent to tighten the guylines to make the surface of the tent nicely tense and ready for what it seemed as inevitable downpour. Before returning in the tent I had a cigarette and hoped that the storm somehow bypasses me.
First rain drops came when I was already inside my tent. And then – nothing. In spite all odds the storm did bypass me.
Next time I woke up it was 6am in outside just started to rain. Not too much, but enough for me not to be able to go outside normally and perform my morning routine of taking down the camp. It rained in intervals and so I have managed somehow to make myself breakfast and just after 9am set off to the nearest town.
The day was murky and the clouds were laying low when I stopped in front of a McDonalds where for a 1 USD you can get just black and hot enough liquid to call it coffee. I took my computer with me into the restaurant. To check where I am and how to get to my tonight’s host. But mostly afraid what is in store for me when I open it up. Yesterday it fell on the floor and until today I did not dare to take a look.
First impressions were fine and full of hope, I’ve opened it up. One look at the broken screen shattered all my hopes. Nope, cannot even switch it on.
Angry with myself for letting it fall on the floor in the first place I just stare at the mosaic of broken glass on the screen and shortly felt sorry for myself. But the reality of the situation was that what has happened has happened and before I reach the city in the evening I will not have any means of knowing what my options in terms of repairing it are.
Not really excited by the way how the day has been progressing so far I sat on Lou and cycle out of the town. Flat terrain and cloudy weather are just perfect for cycling. No tiresome climbs or exhausting heat and direct sun without any shade. But I just cannot push it. The peddals are turning slowly and a headache is starting to develop. I’m getting sick. Absolutelly marevlous – I managed to catch something. You do not necessarily have to go to Zimbabwe to ingest something your body does not agree with.
City and evening with the promise of rest are soo far away.
After half an hour I stop for a break. I take something against the headache just sitting and sinking into self-pitying. I struggle with myself to find the motivation to continue. If the events of today knock me over, then I can just forget about continuing my journey.
I eat some peanut butter sandwiches and start to burp. The next 20 minutes I just burped constantly and in doing so I start to feel better.
By the time I mount Lou I already feel better. Energy level starts to rise and the peddals are easier to turn. It seems the whole situation is not as bad as my brains were showing it to me.
By half past three I manage to cycle 60km, have a longer brake during which I manage to dry the tent still wet from the morning rain, I avoid a downpour but not a small piece of wire that punctures my tube.
There is a fence and a tree on a nearby sideroad. Fence to lean my bicycle on and tree for shade. If the puncture had to occur then it did on a good location.
Not overly excited but still accepting the situation as it is. In about half an hour I replace the tube and wash my hands at a nearby gardening store. I also fill up a bottle of water and push on.
I make my way into the city by about 6 and in wait of my host to come and pick me up I do treat myself with an iced coffee.

Just one more day on the road!

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Back amongst people

One of the reasons why it took me so long to write the post previously is the fact that I tried to conserve the battery on my notebook. When you sleep in the tent the wall normally does not have sockets to plug in your charger. So I try to conserve the battery so that I have it available for checking my mails, to communicate with the world and to arrange my accommodations when necessary.
In in an attempt for the story not to repeat itself, I have decided to write this post on paper and just retype it when I get to electricity. This time around however it got complicated in a different way since I have managed to drop my notebook on the floor. The result was a broken screen and a nonfunctioning power button. So I had to leave it at a repair shop in hope the magician there will be able to somehow make it work. At least that I will be able to power it on and off. Broken screen I can somehow deal with. In the mean time I using the computer of my warm showers host Zach (which is evident in the Slovenian version of the text since it is missing our special characters).
But all this is a completely different story, one that I might get back to some other time. What is following now is the post I wrote on paper.
After the three nights on the C&O Canal I had decided to leave the trail behind and get back on the road, into civilization and amongst people. The main reason was the fact that the trail was very muddy due to the everyday rain and thunderstorms. Not only that riding a muddy trail leaves you covered in mud from head to toe, but riding in mud is also much harder and slower. So I have switched from trail to road and immediately hit a climb or better said a series of them. Some were so steep that I had to get off of my bicycle three times and just push it along. Descend was equally interesting. The length and the gradient combined made my brake pads barely useful at the ned and the rims were very hot. That means – a break for the equipment to cool off. And then to the first town where I wanted to do some shopping (food and tobacco). Well this did not work out as planned. The town, judging by the map not to small, was in reality only a few houses and a post office. In search of a coffee and food the nice lady at the post office directed me towards VFW. So I went there thinking that this is just another chain of grocery stores. Well, it is not! It is war veterans club. And to my luck this one was open to nonmembers as well so I was able to get in.
My desire for coffee transformed itself in to ordering the cheapest cold beer. 2USD for 0,33l Budweiser. Shocked at the price (the cheapest beer here in the US I have had so far) I have expressed my desire for food in form of ordering a cheeseburger and fries (5USD). And I was making my way through my lunch, the clubs quartermaster came. After some standard questions (who, from and to where and how) on his side and some standard replies on my side led to the man buying me 2 more beers.
Lunch break just got a lot longer but still not long enough to prevent me from doing some more kilometers today. So I’ve pushed on!
Across the Potomac River into West Virginia where I was greeted by rain whichh I managed to shelter it out on a gas station. Since it did not show as if I could get an affordable option to spend the night in this town (i.e. pitching my tent), I went on in hope I manage to set up my tent before the next rain comes in.
West Virginia is mountainous (reminds me of Gornejska region back home, just the mountains here are much lower) so climbs and descends are a common thing. At the end of one such descend there was a farm to my right. From the barn by the road I hear some human voices, so I’ve pulled over. A young couple Jenna and Shane was there so I ask them if it would be OK with them if I pitch my tent on their property. Without much hesitation they’ve agreed and point me towards the river where they have an actual camping ground for trailers. They ask me if I need anything else and I ask for some water. In reply they say they will bring it to me later.
Location for the tent is perfect and what is even better, I set it up under a small pavilion next to one trailer. This way I’ll have additional roof over my head and the tent will be dry in the morning. So as the few T-shirts and under ware I had washed the previous evening which the rain managed to soak all night long.
Jenna and Shane arrive a little later with water and a bag of food for the road (sandwiches, snacks and fruits). A nice thank you is in order since I do not have anything else to offer. Once they are gone I head towards the river to wash myself (no swimming thou). This is followed by the evening ritual of coffee, cigarette and diner.
Sleeping under a roof is nice as well!

Adjusting to Solitude

It is only proper to admit at the beginning that I do feel guilty for not posting anything for a while. But I’m afraid that we will both have to adjust to this same as I will have to adjust to solitude.

Up until Washington DC I haven’t really felt the solitude. All the time there was something going on around me, departure from home was still fresh, lots of times I had accommodation arranged via warmshowers or couchsurfing and also the path that I was taking was more or less known (at least roughly with several marker points).

On my last day in Washington DC I was walking in downtown and felt that loneliness is starting to creep in. This is not that difficult in this city, especially if you are in downtown. All around you are these huge, monumental buildings of all the imaginable federal institutions designed in a way that they have lots of offices with people inside them doing their very important job. But the streets are empty. They feel oversized for the few employees that are outside and lots of tourists that wander the city. The streets seem empty and soulless. There are no little shops or stores, no city bustle. And I was alone in this situation.

Apart from that, the next day I planned to go on a trail that leads by an abandoned river canal (C&O Canal). Path that was initially meant as a towpath for the work animals to tow the boats along the canal is today a trail dedicated to hikers and cyclists. No cars and it rarely winds into small towns, among people. Mostly wooded trail that goes along the Potomac River all the way to Cumberland for about 300km. Mostly solitary 300km where in the evening you pitch your tent in a remote spot and in the morning you do not wake up in someone’s home.

But for a traveller on a bicycle his tent is his home and solitude is something he/she adjust to. Sometimes during the day you let your mind wander and you begin to imagine how in the evening you will stop, find a place to camp, boil some water and make yourself some instant coffee with a cigarette that goes along and then have a delicious past diner before tucking into your sleeping bag to call it a day (if the mosquitoes do not tamper with your plan).

Yes, also solitude has its bright sides.

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Sometimes it was muddy

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Sometimes I needed WC

Signs

It has been several years since I had realized that there are so many places in this world that I would like to visit. Shortly afterwards came a realization that I will never be able to visit them all.

One of the main ingredients of travelling is making decisions. Where to stop for a break, food, sleep, whom and when to ask for an advice and direction, which route to take,… In this regard traveling on a bicycle is not much different. There might be situations that you do not encounter when backpacking (e.g. which road is less busy and hence safer) and you have to make a decision but then again there are situations you are not faced with (e.g. which public transportation to take).

As it happened at the end of my “vacation” in NYC I was faced with a dilemma which route should I take after the reunion with Lou in Poughkeepsie. Across the Hudson and slowly towards west and then south somehow towards Washington DC? Or an alternative that I came across the day before last of my vacation. This one would lead me straight south. To NYC, take a ferry to New Jersey’s Atlantic shore and approach DC from the east. Both options had their pros and cons. Western route goes through less populated areas (hence less traffic and more nature), but it would take me in and out of DC on the same route. Besides the southern route promised cycling on Manhattan (and an opportunity to say that I had cycled NYC), different ways in and out of DC, but at the same time would go through more built-up areas of Jersey shore.

Since I could not make up my mind, I started to look for Signs that would help me make the decision. Signs are always around us and they show as the way just sometimes we tend to not see them. These Signs might come in a form of a bus that comes by and it makes it easier to make up our mind where to go or they might come up in a form of a people that we meet and they help us with an advice or there is a book that catches our eye and allow our Dreams to take flight, …

What helped me make up my mind where the host or potential hosts on both routes. Before setting off I have sent requests for accommodation to both directions and said to myself that the right one will be the one from which I will receive the first positive reply.

To this day I still haven’t received any reply from the western route even thou I have sent my requests there the day prior to the ones sent to the southern route. From the southern route I have received five positive replies to five requests I have sent. Since I only had three days planned for the route I actually had to kindly decline two of them.

Decision was made and I had hit the road!  Thank you Jai and Alfredo for helping me fomulate the idea, Dick & Diana, Brain & Fran and Carol & Mark for helping me make the decision.

The Signs are always there we just have to keep our eyes open!

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Oh, and just to make it official, Lou and me on Manhattan!

On current socially political affairs and cow tipping in Mississippi

My vacation in New York City coincided with the Supreme Court’s ruling on legalization of homosexual marriages in federal level in US. This ruling was passed on Friday, 26th June. Since on the road I do not follow current World affairs and different web news portals rarely see me as their guest, this news could easily pass by unnoticed. But as it turned out, I did notice this news. This way I was not left in the dark wondering what it is all about when on Saturday evening I met Jai and Alfredo (thanks Maja for linking us up). They hosted me over the weekend on Sunday we went out for breakfast and after that I accepted their invitation to join them to see Pride parade. It was happening that Sunday and since I was in the City I thought to myself why not. I have never seen one (not even the one in Ljubljana). So we went.

Party on the streets, lots of people, music and dance. Full of positive energy. You see all kinds of people from eccentrics to older couples off all colours and races. The whole Rainbow.

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I was not ideally positioned to take photos, hence there are only a few.

Jai and Alfredo were not the only gay couple that hosted me in these days. On Monday I was heading back to Poughkeepsie to be reunited with Lou. I left it there with my couchsurfing host Val. And Val and his husband Eric were also in the City over the weekend. So they gave me a lift back to Poughkeepsie where in the evening they invited me to the local micro-brewery for a dinner. Good food, excellent beer and a superb company. Amongst many topics discussed over the evening I also told the story on how I got to milk the cow. And since we have also talked about the route I plan to take across the US, Eric as a joke mentioned that I might have a different experience that involves cows in Mississippi. Apparently there is a form of entertainment they call cow tipping. It supposed to go like this. At night when the cows are sleeping standing on the pasture, you sneak up to them and at the last moment charge them. You hit them on their side and with the mastery of the proper technique and some luck you manage to tip them over. After that you must run away as fast as you can since when the cows realize what has happened, they tend to charge you. Great fun on the countryside. Of course there are certain recommendations and techniques how you can successfully pull this off. I got the recommendations on this but I suppose the alcohol “helped” me for forget all of it. Probably I will have to get some local advice in Mississippi.