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One Ordinary DayI just touched my own milestone. I dipped my toe in the Atlantic for the first time since 1990. That signifies that I have now cycled around the World, excluding ocean crossings. Before that moment I could only say that I was trying to cycle around the world. Now I'm a different man. Yet, of course, I'm the same. It doesn't really make that much difference. And I was well prepared for a lack of fireworks and epiphanical trumpet fanfares, or drum rolls or rounds of applause. And needless to say, there were none. The only sounds were the hum of Boston behind me, a few seagulls, some yells from some coast guards doing dive-rescue training in a couple of boats, and a grunting, guttural cry of nothing in particular to mark the unmomentous moment. But it's inside me now. It's mine. Noone can take it away. Actually over the last couple of weeks or so, I'd had a number of bike breakages that had me wondering if I was actually going to make it; my frame broke; I had a big rear-tyre blow out, fortunately only resulting in making me jump in my motel room as I nodded off to sleep; and the day before the last, my chain broke. But the chain break only served to stop me going up a very steep hill, that was a wrong turning anyway! And meant that I met some great folks who lived just by there, and who, as well as giving me garage space to fix my wounded mount, invited me to stop over the night in a comfortable bed too. There really are some great Americans, eh! New York: I made it there. (Now I can make it anywhere.....?) Allow Cookies
Let them eat cookies. Yes, let them eat cookies But mostly only one crumb at a time Struggling to find them in filth and grime. Add to that, there's the interest they have to pay. You may as well go the whole way, and say, Let them fly to the Moon. And while they're at it, why not Mars? That way they wouldn't be back too soon To our world of cookies and cars. Fingers to the bone Nose to the grindstone Shoulder to the wheel There's satisfaction to feel Vacation in the sun When work is done Spurred on through the friction By riveting fiction Which leads them to believe They deserve to get lucky And one day receive A whole, big, fat box of cookies. PS. Heaven forbid there should be a one cookie limit; No more. No less. Excess is the true sign of success. This is heaven. Be happy to be in it. Be happy in it. SSSSSSEPARATION
Soaked and soggy from an incessant, chilling downpour, I trundled through the town of Newhaven. Stopping at lights, I looked to my right, and behind the plate glass of one of the largest Starbucks I've ever seen, I surveyed scenes of coziness, warmth, camaraderie and perhaps exclusion, as tables of business people or Yale students sipped their espressos. Some glanced outside at me and nudged their companions, who then also surreptitiously slid their eyes in my direction. Ssssssssssss. The rain and the glass separated us. I turned left. [Joke I heard: How many Yale Students does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: One. The Yale Student holds onto the bulb and the whole world revolves around him!] At a Dunkin Donuts on the outskirts of Newhaven, I stopped to ask directions, to stoke up on mini donuts and coffee, and to drip. I exchanged a few pleasantries with some of the regular retirees and down-and-outs also sitting out the rain. December rain. Generally no-one would recommend cycle-touring in Connecticut at this time of year. Please include me in generally, sometimes. Later in the same messy day, I reached a place called Derby. Darkness was descending. Since my aging tent is about as waterproof as a tea-bag, this particular day I was going to avoid camping if I could. But I was being spat out of the other side of Derby having searched and enquired, and I had determined that Derby was devoid of cheap motels. One of the last things on the road, before it stretched off into the blackness into a steep-sided gorge of a wide river, was an auto repair shop. A small, pink neon sign declared it to be open, though there was hardly any other indication of activity. In a simple office, the owner was on the telephone, behind a computer. I knocked and squelched in. When he hung up, I introduced myself and explained my need to find lodging for the night. He called the Police. And an officer actually came round in a vehicle. but I didn't get arrested again [I say again, partly for fun, and partly because there was a time in China......but that's a different story.] The police officer phoned the Homeless Shelter, and after some dialogue, let me speak to them. I was wondering how I was going to avoid staying there, now that I felt beholden to the Police Officer and Mr. Auto Repair. I imagined that I would have difficulty looking after my gear and bike. I found myself distrusting a group of people, or some members of that "group", without having met them. Sorry, Derby Homeless. And Mr. Auto Repair was pretty scathing of the denizens of that particular area, saying, and I quote, that it was "full of niggers". That made me feel more guilty at my preconceptions, and I also wondered how to respond to his bigotry. I was lost for words. More guilt. Would it have helped to have got incensed? The Homeless Shelter turned out to be full, so the need for a decision on my staying , or even getting taken there by the officer who offered, conveniently disappeared. Mr. Auto Repair was then on the phone to a wedding reception venue a few miles up the road, where they also had rooms, and he had persuaded them to let me have an $89 room for $50. I decided to head on up there, but I was beginning to think that I might attempt to camp somewhere after all, as $50 was still a bit steep for me. I thanked Officer Helpful, who drove away into a night of crime-fighting, and then Mr. Auto Repair, before leaving myself. The narrow, unlit road was a bit dicey, with no shoulder, but the silver space blanket covering my massive, rear load, flapping, and my red CatEye light, flashing, kept the traffic at safe passing distance. And Villa Bianca was not so far away. On my way in, I struck up a conversation with a man I thought was a guest. There wasn't much to the conversation, but he showed me to the office and said I should stay there free of charge. That would be nice, I thought, and started consulting the receptionist as to the chances of being able to stay for somewhat less than $50. She said that it was OK, and that the man had said I could stay for free, and not to worry further! The man showed me to my room and I was thinking then that he was a member of staff, and I was a bit worried that this kindness might cost be expensive for him, but then I learned that he was one of the owners. Much appreciated, Mr. Villa Bianca, Tony. That was perhaps the most difficult I've ever had it, trying to find accommodation. But it all worked out very well indeed. Around the large room and bathroom, there were plenty of places to hang out my wet-through gear after wringing it out, and the warm air blown from the heater made it all comfortably dry by early morning. The rain had turned to snow and the snow had quit quickly, with the sky practically empty after the deluge. Outer space had drawn off the warmth from the land, and a mercilessly cold, brittle day shyly presented itself. To fortify myself against such a hostile day, requires a number of measures. Coffee, muffins and haughty conversation from Peggy, the other joint-owner of VB, covered most of the necessities. Petting the friendly one of Peggy's large hounds, helped also. And then neoprene booties over cycling shoes and woolly socks; waterproof- [I wish mine still was!], hooded-jacket and mitts, over fleece top and mittens and baseball cap, with ear and neck protection flap, about wrapped me up. Although it was below freezing, I still didn't need any leggings over my cycling shorts. Once turning the gears, my legs would be my temperature regulators, and there would be no chilling sweat buildup with them exposed.
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
SHOW OF FORCE
If mood is indicated by the colours people wear, then the waves in the crowds of predominantly black and dark, are not very promising for a lively outlook. It's appropriate, though coincidental I'm sure, for a city in mourning. A city in mourning for ever. A city that will always weep. A notice in the window of the small fire station adjacent the space where the World Trade Center towers were planted, complains, however, that there are already plans afoot to forget some of the heroes. On the memorial that will remind us of those who perished in 9-11, the firefighters who gave their lives will not be named separately. I guess they didn't do it to become heroes, but if we are going to confer that honour upon anyone, I think it should be on those who put other people's safety in front of their own. I tend to agree with the firefighters' position on that. I know it's their job, but when it comes to the ultimate sacrifice, it probably isn't money that is going to drive them. I saw some policemen reveling in their star status on the edge of the crowds viewing THE Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza. I photographed a number of other people having their photos taken with the boys in uniform. SHOW UP FOR A SHOW DOWN
I finally got to play on Broadway. Play with the traffic, that is. It was another messy, wet day, and I didn't have the nerve to expose my camera to such nasty elements, even for spangly Times Square. Somewhere along the strip, my handlebar bag frame shattered when I rode over a pothole. It had been with me for many years, and this was a sad moment, as well as being yet another irritating thing to fix. But someone had said that the lights would be on for me on Broadway, the day I ride there, so I decided to go with that illusion, and not let niggly little things spoil the triumph. Even though most of the lights seemed to be red! And all the stopping caused me to chill down. However, I really wanted to be stopped for as long and often as possible, so that I could lift my eyes upwards to the splendour. On another, dry, day, I lifted my eyes up to some lights, and what I saw was the National Debt Clock. It showed an astronomical figure, rising astronomically. When you look down on the wealth of concrete, glass and steel, from the top of the Empire State Building, (along with other folk in multinational hoards, despite the low temperature); from the prow of the Flatiron Building to the wharves fingering the Hudson River, or when your view is swallowed up in the Canyons of Wall Street, it begs the observation; someone has to pay for all this. But maybe they aren't doing! Or the people that are paying, are paying with their lives, and the exchange rate is way too low. AWE & SHOCK
I grinned when I pedalled across the Brooklyn Bridge and glanced to my right and saw the Statue of Liberty; tiny in the grey distance. I had wanted to see it for so long. Even far off, it was significant. Satisfying. Ironically it is closed off to visitors now, and the closest I got was a couple of pass-bys on the bulky, but free, Staten Island Ferry. Shadowed by a menacing gunboat. Liberty held her torch high as the mercury sank to a since-1883 low. A nice, round 1degF. What with the wind whipping between the buildings, it got positively cryogenic. Or negatively. You know it's cold when your nose-hairs freeze. My trusty, 13 years-on-the-road Pentax camera also froze, at the top of the Empire State. A snowfall quietened the streets. A little. And made the pavements (sidewalks) treacherous. But there was more danger than I realised. (As usual!) The local news reported that, close to where Ivan lived (no they didn't say exactly that), a woman was walking her two dogs. The dogs, at one point, became angry and snarly, and started attacking each other. So she tried to separate them. When she touched them to do this, she was killed by an electric shock! They were on the metal cover of some kind of junction box, in which the wires' insulation had corroded due to salt and ice-melt, making the cover live. Most people would have walked over it, but she touched her dogs standing directly on it, and Zap!! A police officer going to her aid, was also electrocuted, but survived. the dog owner was the only fatality. I would imagine that the chances of that are microscopically tiny. But are they??? It makes me think of the metal cleats in the soles of my cycling shoes. Hmmmm..... But the closest I think that I came to death was when "spinning". No, nothing to do with selling myself, or a story line. Spinning on a stationary bicycle!! Sterling's friend, Rob, of PilePro [shameless plug, because if any of you are shopping for piles, I'd be utterly surprised] took me along to this newly fashionable fitness class, where a slavemaster urges a group of subjects to crank the machines whilst lunging up, down, forwards, backwards, and side to side, to a hip-hop beat. A month of using the subway (in the safest manner) had left me well out of shape, and this nearly killed me. Literally and embarrassingly. But my chief excuse is that I really need fresh air running into my lungs and over my skin. Even if it is fresh, polluted air. But the workout helped me get ready to leave the dog-shocking city. Ian, to whom be praise, in Calgary also helped, by sending me a replacement bar-bag, when Cannon**** wouldn't. I won't miss:-
* being short changed by the subway ticket-machine, and then asked to pay for a phone call to attempt to rectify the matter.
* Hookah Bars (because I never went in one) which sound fruitier than they are, but are just one of the few bars left where it is possible to smoke; for cultural reasons.
* the steaming manhole covers; I can take them or leave them. I will miss:-
* China Town food (especially Congee on a cold night), Bagels, and a particular establishment's late night pizza pie.
* The sound of Bleecker Street; just the way it's said.
* Small bars and clubs where you can go and watch the likes of Sean Lennon perform like he's tuning up, for only $6. watched by his mum. I wonder if she paid.
* the fire-escapes and hang-down ladders on the tenement building frontages. Essential NY. I'll want to forget:-
* the brain freeze, literally, that caused me to open my camera back before the film rewind, on Brooklyn Bridge. I'll want to remember:-
* the sane people with soul life, who would talk on the subway, and there are plenty. WARNING
But I still had the gauntlet of Newark to ride. On my way out of NY, a man I asked for directions, said, "There is no law enforcement here! The head judge is the lawyer for the mob. This is mob country. This is where the Sopranos (Mafiosi TV drama) is about! Don't be on the road after dark. But don't stop at the first motel you'll come to along here! As you can tell, I made it. And some of the way to Washington DC, I rode like a giant, rolling, glazed dessert. I thought my eyeballs were going to freeze out. To DC, where China's top secret Qing Hao Su (the greatest cure for malaria) grows along the River Potomac. NOT FUNNY: BSE has just been found in USA. And they've traced the source to, guess where? Yes, Canada! FUNNY: WARNINGS IN INSTRUCTIONS FOR BINOCULARS;
"Objects in binoculars may be further away than they appear."
"Not for human consumption."
"Running with scissors is dangerous. Do not run with scissors while using binoculars."
Stay Great, Y'aaaall! and go safely.
Thanks to David&Hilary Stookey, Newport RI. Dec2003
* Photo 01 Leaving Another Home.
PS Thanks to:
KeithHarmonSnow; true proponent for peace (which will win) and
someone else who remembers a story of a Zairean thief who bit a Canadian
cyclist, had to run with goats attached to him, and then was executed
for his crimes.
http://www.stopexcision.net/ Marilyn&Riley, Pentagon Pedallers. The Iron Tortoise knows how safe bicycling is. [No statistics available for Intercontinental Bicycle People]
http://www.zzapp.org/rileygea/ Billy&Rosalie, your caravan was luxury. I still don't quite get NASCAR. though. Ducka; Your energy rocks! GrayDog, Diamond, Sally and Cat-with-too-many-names-to-remember, you do too. Roger&DebbiBettoni; A long way from here to the sweetest water you can imagine, in Western Australia, amongst the Karri trees and Kangaroos. I don't know how this escaped being on WorldCycle a long time ago. Anyone who has a life without staying at least once at Karri Valley Chalets is seriously missing out.
http://www.karrivalley.com.au/ DeanRipa; The one and only SnakeMan. That's an amazing Serpentarium you've got. And Michelle, thanks for sending me there. http://www.bushmastersonline.com/ BIG Sterling;
http://www.sterlingyoungman.com/ & http://www.3dgap.com/ PileRob and PileRichard; Profiles and Piles. You might laugh, but this is serious. World Monuments Fund; Fighting hard to preserve our World's heritage; Great Wall of China, Angkor Wat....you name it. And if their work succeeds, you'll be able to keep on naming it. Thanks for a great French dinner in NY.
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