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pedal plenty

notes on a north american cycle trip in 2008

Archive for the 'culture' Category

Most easterly

It’s done. I am finished. I have visited Quoddy Point. Taken the obligatory pics of me and Haggis at the opposite side from this side.

And at The End, what is that like? It’s a little peculiar. All that cycling. All that distance. It doesn’t seem like it was me that did it. How could I have done that? Cycled more than 4000 miles across a huge continent. How did I sit on that saddle for hours and hours for days and days? I dunno. You just do it. Just like you just do going to work. Eventually you don’t notice you are doing it. It’s certainly made easier by traveling through a friendly and fun country like Ummerica (I promise that’s the last time it gets called Ummerica). It helps that a kind-of-Engerish is spoken here. And it helps to have the internet so I can keep in touch with everyone, write this silly nonsense and navigate by way of Google maps (how did people travel before Google Maps).

So, what next? Well, I can see Canada from here. I think I’ll go to Canada.

gilleasterly.jpg

Posted by me on August 4th, 2008

Quiet!

The recognised stereotype of an Umerican in Europe is fourfold:

  1. looking scared / nervous coz it’s not Umerica
  2. wearing inappropriate attire. Badly cut trousers and/or shocking coloured golf trousers. White tennis shoes. Ladies of a certain age wearing shorts. Skip caps.
  3. asking in fine detail about every ingredient on every option on the menu and then on selection asking that the entire dish is changed
  4. shouting

So far on my trip,

number 1 doesn’t count coz I am in Umerica. Umericans aren’t afraid of Umerica coz it’s not foreign to them. In fact they are very very proud of their country but that’s a whole other story.

Number 2 is true, particularly … eh … all of them. I blame Walmart. There are other fashion disasters that never make it to Europe like the wearing of cowboy boots and stetsons. Not a good look.

Number 3. I quite like that you can have your food altered just how you like it. e.g. you can have gummi bears, sprinkles and M&Ms on your ice cream. Of course I’d never ask for a menu item to be grossly altered in Europe coz I am scared of the chef and his big knives.

Number 4. All that shouting / talking very, VERY loudly that Umericans do in Europe … well I haven’t witnessed it here. I have been in very quiet states. The people are soft spoken, no raised voices, no shouting. That is … until today.

OH JEEZ HONEY LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THAT PLAT E OF PASTA.

SWEETIE. SIT DOWN. SWEETIE?

MOMMIE I WANT …….

The one common thing …. I recognised their accents as coming from New York city. So, in Europe we’re probably surrounded by very, very quiet Umericans and those ones causing noise pollutions should be sent home are from NYC.

hudsonriver.jpg

Posted by me on July 25th, 2008

Remsen

I am in The Swing Inn (no sniggering at the back please) in Remsen. The Swing Inn is a little motel. I like my room, I like it very much. It’s small and cozy. It has a wooden floor which reminds me of home. It has wood paneling which isn’t like home. It has air-con which is essential in this humidity and heat. It has satellite which means BBC Umerica delivering Newsnight and endless episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Everyone (well not everyone but lots of people) are called Jones here. This is because Remsen has many people descended from the Welsh and the Welsh community is still very strong. Ellie who runs the motel directs me to The Soda Fountain which although new is in the style of a 50s …eh … Soda Fountain. I have a vanilla soda and fish and chips. Lots of people are having fancy shakes and ice cream floats. The waitresses are all dressed in a 1950s stylee. Buddy Holly is on the jukebox and if you so desire you can get Elvis’s favourite fried sandwich of peanut butter and bananas (I warn you though, it killed him). After my fine dinner I go to the store and see a New York Times. I get quite excited. I haven’t seen a New York Times in my whole trip. Then I remember I am in New York so of course The New York Times is here. I buy a copy. The NYT is a good newspaper coz it actually has international news in it and I read it avidly to learn that nothing has changed in the world since my departure on this trip on 17 May. It’s all the same old, same old.

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Posted by me on July 22nd, 2008

Read my lips….

Come inside gal and get yourself a coffee, said Curtis. Clearly I had that vacant, drained look that comes over cyclists who’ve been on the road for 4 hours without break.

Oh you don’t want to go down Route 104, you wanna take the North Ridge road.

How far to Oswego?

Oh just 24 miles. I raise my eyebrows. I have been here before with the miscalculation of distances. I think Oswego is at least 40 miles away. But I take the North Ridge road as recommended by Curtis and it’s a great road but it is 40 miles to Oswego.

I pop into the Tourist Info hut in Oswego to complain about the nasty short steep hills. The lady says, You’ll have noticed that hills are all in the same direction. It coz of the glaciers. It’s called … eh …

Ground moraine.

It’s on the tip of my tongue. What’s its name? Eh …

It’s Ground Moraine.

I know this.

Oi. It’s GROUND MORAINE. I paid v close attention to glaciation in Geography class and I worked out pretty quickly that I was cycling through a glacial area. Read my lips .. Ground moraine.

My motel in Scriba is run by Polynesians. It’s very nice and half the price of the hotels in Oswego. I treat myself to a Belgian owned Bud for rehydration purposes of course.

nuclearapples.jpg

Posted by me on July 21st, 2008

Contre la montre

I have a very, very important appointment today at 2pm. I must zoom. I decide to go on the traffic free Erie Canal so I can go quickly and arrive for my appointment on time. The canal route is very nice, a wide path of packed gravel with the occasional jogger, cyclist, dog walker, yacht passing me. I hear rumble. I look back. On no! That will teach me to be blasé and not watch The Weather Channel in the morning. There is a big blackness behind me and sunglass removal doesn’t make it go away or be any less black. I do a calculation:

thunder and lightning storm
+ proximity to water

+ metal bicycle
+ being tallest thing around for miles
+ no helmet on
= certain death due to lightning strike

I fret, I go faster. The lightning flashes … I count … one … two … BANG … oh no. The Grim Reaper approaches. But here is Medina. The lockmaster at Medina directs me to a local cafe and I sit out the storm for an hour. But now I might be late for my very important appointment. I zoom even faster flying past other cyclists dust blowing up from my rear wheel. I pass a a little boy walking his dachshund, the vortex created by the speeding Haggis sweeps them in to the canal. Do I stop. I do not. I must make my appointment.

I arrive at my destination just in time, covered in dust, sweat, sunscreen and dachshund fur. I have come to meet Stephen and Denise, the Voyager Management team at Rochester University Library. We have very important business. We have pies to eat!

Stephen and Denise got in touch with me two days ago tempting me to come to visit Rochester with the promise of pie. I contemplated this for about two seconds, checked Google maps and thought Pie? Canada? Pie? Canada? Well here I am, still in Umerica eating pie at Rochester University. Oh we had peach pie and chocolate cream pie. So very yummy. I got a tour of the Library including the tower, met with librarians and the Dean and .. eh … ate more pie. I even took pie away for me for my tea tonight. Stephen,Denise, thanks so much for making my day.

Dear Boss: surely this hard working systems librarian warrants a Business Leave day for being so fastidious in her attendance to pie eating work.

Posted by me on July 20th, 2008

Bedlam?

Today I cycled with Nancy and Vernon from Oregon. I met them a couple of days ago and cycled with them for a bit. Nancy has the coolest bike. It’s a recumbent. Riding a recumbent means never ever getting saddle sores. Never ever having to wear those ridiculous padded shorts. And never ever falling off and sprawling in the dirt. It seems a very civilized sort of bicycle compared to an upright. And the speed that the bike goes going downhill. Oh my. I couldn’t keep up. Nancy and Vernon are cycling across the country mostly for the hell of it but if you inquire a little more it’s to celebrate their up and coming 50th wedding anniversary. You do the sums. Let me tell you, it’s hard work keeping up with them. I only hope that I am still doing such crazy amazing things when I reach their age. Nancy / Vernon: I am heading out along the Erie Canal at your recommendation. Thanks for lunch and Happy Anniversary when it comes around.

While zooming along we met Jeff from Fort Collins. He likes beer and knows all about the New Belgium Brewery. Jeff is cycling around baseball stadiums and going to watch games. Then another guy joined up with us. Five cyclists all together. What’s the collective noun for a group of long distance cyclists? Hmm … a Bedlam?

So I left Nancy and Vernon in Ripley and headed to Dunkirk, via Barcelona and  A very strange route.

lotsofcyclists.jpg

Posted by me on July 18th, 2008

Thou shall hev a fishy …

Dance ti they daddy, Sing ti they mammy
Dance ti they daddy, Ti they mammy sing
Thou shall hev a fishy on a little dishy
Thou shalt hev a mackerel when thi boat comes in

State Highway 113 – the road is smooth, the road is quiet, the wind is behind me, I am fueled by melon and OJ. It’s not too hot yet altho’ a little humid. My road turns on to a main road where I run in to roadworks that make the highway narrow but I will turn off again in half a mile. But for that half mile I have to cycle very fast so cars don’t get delayed behind me. I am out of breath from my racing. You’d think I’d be fit by now. Well I am but not aerobically fit. I can cycle for hours and hours and hours as long as I don’t have to accelerate rapidly. I’m sure Scott will attend to my aerobicness, or lack thereof, when I return for my first post-trip spin session (expect stomach contents on the floor of the spin salon while Fraulein Direktor sits atop her bicycle looking smug coz she has trained all summer).

Pardon me, I was off on a tangent. I arrive in Milan. Not Italy but Milan, Ohio. A pretty little town where Thomas Edison was born but even better than that I get my first cappuccino since WandA. 19 days sans cappuccino is way too long. So, I am now heading to the Lake. Lake Erie. I am excited about seeing the water. I haven’t seen a significant area of water since the Pacific two months ago. Of course I have seen the Mississippi, the Lakes at the Teton Park, the Missouri, my bath water, the flooding around the Mississippi and Missouri (which made for some biggish, temporary lakes) but nothing the size of Lake Erie. And there it is. HUGE!

I cycle on the cycle route on Lake Road and wonder why the houses aren’t more swank. The houses are nice and traditional and quite modest with the exception of the occasional I have more money than taste Disney-esque turreted castle affair. In the UK properties on a lake would be much sought after and all very designer. All very glass and Scandi-Swedish wood.

So I am in Lakewood. There is a posh seafood restaurant up the road. But I have nothing even vaguely appropriate to wear. I doubt they’d let me in even if I work my clean cycling shorts. So it’s Sakura instead. Sushi. Ya! I haven’t eaten a fish since WandA. Far too long without my omega-3. I have a Manhattan – not the drink but a shrimp tempura roll with baked lobster on top and the usually unagi, dragon roll, mackerel, toro and of course, Sapporo. I go back to my motel $75 lighter but very happy and am in bed by 8pm. Tomorrow the negotiation of downtown Cleveland awaits.

Posted by me on July 15th, 2008

Traumatised

I am traumatised. Or if you prefer. I am traumatized.

So traumatis(z)ed that I may need counseling. Why? Well on Highway 24 today there was a higher than normal number of roadkill. There’s always quite a lot of road kill but today I was having difficulty avoiding the bits of fur, limbs, guts, heads, paws, ribs, ears. It was almost as if all the wild beasts had decided on a mass suicide pact and thrown themselves in to the road. As Highway 24 is quite busy with trucks due to truck drivers being stingy bastards descended from the Scots and driving this route to avoid a nearby toll road, I had to concentrate hard to stay on the shoulder of the road all the time. This means I can’t swerve to avoid the dead things. I had to run over some dead things. Bits stuck to Haggis. It was horrific. It was zombie-ish. It made Haggis smell very bad.

I know that some children read this diary. Kids: Would you like photos of the dead things put on these pages? I’d be happy to oblige. Your parents probably wouldn’t approve but that’s reason enough to do it. Eh? Lemme know and I’ll take some snaps of the roadside blood bath.

Oh … Ohio. I am in Ohio. Another state. It’s nice here. It looks like England with lots of trees and nice fields and Dutch barns, which you don’t get in England but in Holland. The corn has come back again though. I thought it had gone. But at least it’s now corn on the left, road in the middle, some trees and wheat on the right.

jiggslunchspot.jpg

Posted by me on July 13th, 2008

Sprint finish

I feel refreshed after my rest day (i.e. a day in bed eating donuts, salsa and tortilla chips and watching lots of TV) and am ready to get going at 0730 after a huge feed at breakfast. I step outside and immediately turn around and come back inside. It’s hot and sticky out there. Yeuch. I hate it when it’s humid. There is a bit of a breeze though which should help, so me and Haggis wheel out.Great. The breeze is a favourable sidewind. I prod my t-shirt. It’s soaked already. Yeuch. And my shorts. Double-yeuch. Stingy sweat pours in my eyes. I drink as much water as I can but you know how I hate to drink water now. It’s all very disgusting. I stop for lunch in a cool (i.e. air conditioned not muggy) restaurant in Wabash.

Post lunch I only have 20 miles or so to go to Huntington. I am zooming along fuelled by my Reuben. Reuben is my favourite sandwich. It has hot corned beef, pickles, cheese, sauerkraut on toasted rye bread. I, of course, enhance it by adding tomatoes. But I digress. I further entertain myself by trying to make up a poem for the diary. Oh, and look, the corn has gone. I look over my shoulder to see if I can see the very last cornfield.

But what is that? That big black cloud!

Ah you won’t catch me out like you did last time. I know that cloud just looks bad coz I have my sunglasses on.

I slip my glasses down. The cloud is very dark, almost black.

Oh no. A storm.

I have 10 miles to go. I start to sprint. Well, sprint as fast as I can carrying all this stuff (i.e. speed up to 15 mph). It starts to rain. Well, that’s OK. I am already wet from all this humidity. It starts to rain very very hard. I can hardly see the road. It’s nice and cool. It rains very, very, very hard. I fret it might start hailing soon. BASKETBALL SIZED HAIL.

  • The rain stops.
  • I arrive at my Super 8.
  • But look at that dark sky, look at that whispy white cloud.
  • A tornado-ish cloud.
  • I run inside.
  • A huge lightning storm.
  • A tornado watch.
  • A close shave.

super8storm.jpg

Posted by me on July 12th, 2008

A great day

What a fine day. Not too hot. Not too humid. Not too far. Not too windy. And nice, quiet, flat roads. With corn obv! And then to top the day I meet up with Isak and her hubby David. Oh they take me for pasta. Delicious pasta. Delicious tiramisu. We talk for hours about the weather, the government, baseball and culture. It’s such fun to be with friends and have good food and wine. We watch fireworks. Thanks Isak. Thanks David. Thanks for coming all that way and making my day.

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Posted by me on July 8th, 2008