Archive for June, 2007

It’s All About Movement And Movement Is Everything-Not Talk

June 30, 2007

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Seawall Campground

June 21, ’77

It’s been raining, almost constantly. This campsite has been home for three wet days, and, after tonight, three wet nights. At least the rain-fly that I engineered worked some. I will never go on a camping trip without a rainproof tent again. Sitting in the rain hasn’t been all that bad, though. I have had plenty of firewood, and I have been reading a good book, Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance. This low-key existence has replenished my energy. Waiting for the weather to break, I have been eating hot rice, gravy, and eggs, plus I haven’t had the anxiety of wondering if it was going to rain. I have also had some interesting conversations with other campers. I have even become very adept at building and keeping a rain-fire going. Best of all, this campsite only cost me one dollar a night, and because the grocery store is walking distance away–two miles–I have been able to feed my senses the whole time, even if those senses have remained wet the whole time. All and all, I have enjoyed this place, but now it was time to think about leaving. It was still cloudy, but the rain had stopped. The weekend campers had all cleared out and I was on my way to take one of those infamous grocery store showers for twenty-five cents or fifty, depending on the dirt. If this was the break in the weather that I had been waiting for, I wanted to be ready to leave early in the morning.

Arcadia

The Parody

The watchful parkman’s eyes

brings an afternoon of beauty

to a weighted evening surrender.

The Promise

Past anxieties,

and the quiet

mountain solitude

inspires a summit sanctuary.

The Product

Dancing night visions

overflow in starry wonder,

while the distant ocean surf

foretells my return to the sea,

and my black boundaried gaze

awaits the morning sun song;

for this days end

by a cool wind caressed.

Here’s a few words on why so few words. I’m not sure why! Maybe I’m more content then on other trips. I’ve experienced all these hardships before. The difficulties are not less difficult because of this, nor are the “highs” less high, it’s just that I don’t feel the need to question these events like I used to. I’m pretty in tune with what’s happening to me, so I don’t feel the need to talk about it. I have never been able to communicate my feelings and understanding very well, anyway. To be sure, I am still a student, but my search has de-emphasized content in favor of direction. I believe the key is in “understanding movement.” It’s all movement, and movement is everything. When I return to Mt. Pleasant, maybe I will continue to analyze my past experience, or maybe I will be content to just be, or maybe I will go off in a completely different direction! I really don’t have an answer. I need to finish this journey first. Those things tend to take care of themselves, anyway.


Roads Without Cars, Lakes Without Cottages, Beautiful Ocean Inlets Without People

Nova Scotia

June 22

It rained this morning. I was depressed, but that ended with the rain. The clouds rolled away, and the sun came out. Hold on, the mosquitoes are really hungry.

There, that’s much better. I had to put up my tent. I pity the animals out there. The mosquitoes are in a feeding frenzy heat. Now where was I; oh, yeah—when I finally left the campground it was a nice 72 degrees (soon to become 80) and the sun was shining. I was so glad to be riding my bicycle; it felt like I was sailing down the highway.

I took the cutoff up to Mt. Cadillac, a 1500-foot high mountain. On the way there, I ran into Donna and Peggy. They were riding bicycles, too. Donna was having problems with her derailleur, so I helped her out as much as I could (not much). After that, the three of us rode together to the summit. The view was super. On the east and south were the ocean, islands, and inlets. On the north and west were lakes and forest. The girls and I enjoyed the view and the sun. We ate our lunch together. Peggy even offered me her place to crash for the evening.

I thought that was a great idea, but like most good things it didn’t come cheap. The girls couldn’t add me to their small car, which already had to carry the girl’s bikes, so I had to bike back to their place. It was down the mountain and back over the twenty hills I had already traversed. I had to bike all the way back to the little town of Southwest. Upon arrival, I was greeted warmly, though. At first, I thought it was because I was carrying a six-pack of beer, but I soon found out that Peggy didn’t drink. Poor me, I had to drink it all.

I was up at 4 a.m. I had to bike twenty miles to get to where I had planned to catch the ferry for Nova Scotia. It was pouring rain outside. Peggy offered to drive me into Bar Harbor if I would only let her get some sleep. I agreed. Nothing could have dampened my sprits that morning, not even the rain!

All day long I felt like I was pushing my luck. It was fog and rain the whole ferry ride over to Nova Scotia, but when I arrived, the sun slipped out of the clouds. It felt great, and on top of that, I had achieved my goal, which was to bicycle the entire Atlantic coastline.

In Yarmouth, where the ferry docked, I found an old sea captain’s city. I half expected to see bandanaed pirates brandishing swords, or swashbuckling seafarers with shouldered duffle bags. If I would have had the time to belly up to one of the bars, I probably wouldn’t have been disappointed; instead, I had to prepare for rain. From Yarmouth I could go east, up the Arcadian side of the island, or west, and bike along the Bay of Fundy, either way I had to expect rain. I chose to stay on the Atlantic side. Nova Scotia had five distinct ethnic regions. I hoped I would get to see most of them.

I figured finding a place to camp wouldn’t be too hard since Nova Scotia wasn’t all that populated, and it was rich with forests. Leaving Yarmouth, I encountered roads without cars, lakes without cottages, and, next to the ocean, beautiful inlets without people. Finding a campsite was easy. Getting my rain fly in place was not. I planned to do whatever it took to keep my spirits up. With the exception of that night on Walden Pond, this trip had not produced any climaxes. Keeping my disposition from going sour had been a struggle. I had to concentrate on the good stuff to make it all worthwhile.

On my way over to Yarmouth, I became quite pleased with myself. I was reading Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance, and I felt like I was actually learning something important. Prisig’s description of quality was complicated, but I found myself anticipating the progression of his thought before I actually encountered it. Knowing what the book’s author was saying before he said it usually meant that I understood what was being said. That was a good feeling; an especially good feeling because it didn’t happen very often. I felt vindicated in those rare moments. It meant that my thoughts were not mere mutterings of other people’s thoughts.

In the Zen book, I found Phaedrus’s ideas, the protagonist of the book, matching up well with what I took to be Heidegger’s understanding of “care.” Phaedrus seemed to be identifying “caring” with what Heidegger’s “caring Dasein” was all about. Prisig’s “quality” also matched up with Lao Tsu’s “Tao.” He made that comparison himself when he said, “care, quality, and Tao were interchangeable terms.” I will have to give that idea more thought. It’s a pretty exciting idea, though. Maybe when I get back to Mt. Pleasant I will have more time to investigate it. Right now, I’m not fully convinced.

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Staring Into The Same Stars As Thoreau Did Filled Me With Awe

June 23, 2007


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Walden Pond

June 15, ’77

Richard and I did Boston. We stumbled upon a youth center where we both got a shower. We washed our clothes at a laundrymat and then, in late afternoon, we left town. Thoreau’s Walden Pond was next up for us. By the time we had reached there, the park had closed. The entrance was in a secluded area, and since nobody was around, we decided to go inside anyway. After some difficulty, we got our bikes past the locked gates.

The sun had already set when we walked our bikes along the pond. We stretched our sleeping bags out under a stand of pine trees that covered a hill overlooking the pond. We were off the main path, but still had a good view of the water. Actually, we were half way up a large hill overlooking the whole area. The highway was out of sight, and just over the hill on the other side of the pond from where we rolled out our sleeping bags. It was peaceful. We decided against the tents because we were lying on a pretty steep incline.

It had been cloudy all day, but the sky cleared just as we arrived at Walden. Laying on our sleeping bags, we hoped it would stay that way. We stayed awake into the evening, and when our conversation drifted into silence, under the scattering of stars that could barely be seen through the black outline of the scented pine trees above, I could feel myself getting emotional. Thoreau’s book, Walden, had been an inspiration for me. The book had made me feel good about my life, and looking up into the same stars that Thoreau must have stared into, filled me with an even more intense feeling of goodness.

Thoreau was something of a role model for me. He took a critical look at what it meant to be successful—success being measured by wealth, material goods, and status—and found it wanting. He then went to his cabin and bean field to live a life of simplicity. By rejecting the conventional notions of success, Thoreau legitimated universal life-affirming values while keeping the ideal of individualism fully intact and alive. He strove for economic self-sufficiency, and a “higher truth.” By immersing himself in the wellsprings of nature, he put himself in direct contact with the regenerative power of nature, and in turn, was filled with a sense of the renewal that made possible the development of a higher and richer knowledge. After a year at Walden Pond, Thoreau discovered a “new sense of himself and the world,” and, in the process, he left behind a kind of diary–Walden. In fact, I remember how envious I became when I read how he learned to cherish the “present condition of things” in the same way that two lovers might cherish their embrace of each other. I should be so lucky!

In the morning, a cloudy mist greeted us. The fog bank covered half of Walden Pond. After a moment’s silence, I turned to Richard and asked how his night had gone. “Not so good,” he replied, “too many mosquitoes. It was sweaty in my sleeping bag.” “Yeah,” I responded, “the mosquitoes were bad, but, all in all, I had a pretty good evening.” We hiked down the hill and managed to get our bikes back to the highway without being discovered. Then it was up the New Hampshire coastline, under clouds at first, but late in the morning the sun broke through making it a beautiful bicycle ride.

At the end of the day, we found a nice secluded area to camp. But before we camped, we went for some beer. Sitting high up on a rocky incline, overlooking the beautiful ocean surf, we drank our beers and ate our store bought roast beef sandwiches. We had every intention of making it back to our pre-selected campsite, but those intentions, I guess, just weren’t good enough because we crashed in the vacant lot just behind where we were sitting.

Before we started traveling together, I used to bike long and doodle little. Richard’s agenda was just the opposite. He doodled long and bicycled in-between doodles. We both understood the situation and therefore it was easy to agree on a new procedure. We made a gentleman’s agreement to go our separate ways. Yesterday was such a good day for both of us that it made it easy to leave on the best of terms. I was the first to say good-bye to Richard who, when I was ready to leave, was still reading his morning newspaper. Not far down the highway from where we camped the road forked, so I took the scenic route. (It wasn’t very scenic, though.) The weather was holding, and Maine was beautiful—a great state to bike.

As it turned out, the time I spent bicycling the scenic route was about the same amount of time that Richard spent doodling in Portland. Just outside of Portland, we ran into each other on the highway. We camped just outside of Brunswick, in the woods, in the rain. In the morning I packed up in a swarm of mosquitoes, chiggers, and eight to ten leeches that I guess were enjoying the feel of my nylon tent. Richard and I agreed to meet again in Bar Harbor. We planned a joint tour of Arcadia National Park. (I wonder if I will ever compromise enough to abandon my solitary nature? A little compromise, I know, would be healthy).

The Harder It Rained The Louder I Sang

Arcadia National Park, Maine

June 17

I’m sitting on top of a 580-foot mountain overlooking some spectacular scenery in Arcadia National Park— forest, coastline, and ocean—all beautiful. Richard and I haven’t hooked up yet. He’ll probably arrive tomorrow. After the weather cleared, I biked 80 or 90 miles, and camped last night at Moose State Park. It was situated on one of the many inlets that peppered the Maine coastline. I made myself scarce around sundown, so as not to attract attention to myself. As I was leaving the area, I met some hitchhikers who were also planning to camp illegally in the park. We talked for a while. The younger one had never hitchhiked long distance before. He exuded the same enthusiasm and excitement for the road that I used to have. Talking with him brought back some fond memories. It’s true; I’m getting older. That night I slept without a tent, under a star filled sky, a beautiful sky. In the morning I biked into Bar Harbor.

Bar Harbor sat at the entrance of Arcadia National Park. It was a neat little town. It had a lot of inviting shops—for tourists. I checked out the price of taking a ferry over to Nova Scotia. For $18.50 I could cut 320 miles off my trip, relax, and enjoy an eight-hour ferry ride. But, if I took the ferry, I would miss some nice scenery. The bike trip would cost me a good $10. or $12., so I really wouldn’t save much money. I decided to take the ferry. I also calculated that I had about 1000 miles of bicycling left. My $120. probably wouldn’t be enough to get me home. Somewhere along the way I would have to send for more money.

After leaving Bar Harbor, I bicycled a beautiful ocean highway. The forests were thick, so finding a place to camp wasn’t easy, but I found a reasonable spot in the pines. There was too much daylight to set up my tent (I was getting tired of playing hide and seek with the authorities), so I hid my gear in the trees and went for a walk. I was close to a hiking trailhead, so I followed it. The climb wasn’t bad, and from the top the view of the harbor was fantastic. In an instant, I realized that there was nothing preventing me from camping up there.

I hoofed it down the mountain and got my bike. After pushing it back up the mountain, I was able to catch the last of the twilight as it followed the sun beneath the horizon. The lights of Bar Harbor were off to my left, and in front of me the lights from the inbound Nova Scotia ferry drifted slowly across the harbor. When the ferry docked, its lights became brilliant. Those were not the only brilliant lights that came out that night. The sky was in full regalia. Looking up into those stars, I felt right at home. I had to leave home to get home and that was what made it all worthwhile! The mountain was obliging in another way also. I was able to get a good picture of the morning sunrise –just before the clouds rolled in bringing with them the promise of more rain.

June 19

The misty, gray, weather had turned to rain. I was not going to let a little wetness get me down, though. I started singing, and the harder it rained, the louder I sang. Luckily it didn’t break loose until mid-afternoon, just as I reached the Seawall campground. I spent the next two hours putting up my tent. This time, however, I put it up underneath the tarp that I bought just after I left Richard. I didn’t know if my idea would work, but I had to try something. The pouring rain made my engineering project difficult, but around 6 p.m. everything came together. I even got a fire started and had a can of hot Beef-a-roni for dinner. After dinner I walked down to the camp store in order to phone home. I needed to find out if Richard was somewhere in the park. I figured we could hook back up with help from our parents. I received sad news. Richard’s younger brother Steve had been killed in a car accident and they had been trying to contact him, but that was a couple days ago. More than likely, he was already on his way home. I felt bad for Richard as I mentally prepared to carry on.

Raindrop Eyebrows, Water Trough Tongue, And My Sticky Earthen Tent

June 16, 2007
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Provincetown, Cape Code

June 7, ‘77

Rhode Island was pretty nice. At first, the roads were bad, but they got better. The nicest part was where all the bridges came together by the bay. I had to hitch across the Jamestown Bridge. I wanted to stay and explore the history around me, but unfortunately, I was on a schedule. Tomorrow I’m supposed to meet a friend at the tip of Cape Cod. I got to know Richard at CMU. Before he became a college student, however, back in Houghton Lake, he was the little kid brother of a friend of my best friend, Mike. It was nice that we were able to hook up and become friends once he reached college age. Richard was under time constraints, so instead of doing the whole trip together we planned to meet in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and from there we would ride north together.

When I peddled into Dartmouth I was wondering where I was going to camp. I stumbled across an old vacated Howard Johnson’s restaurant and although it was a little early to stop, I took that as a signal to call it a day. Walking through the deserted building, I decided to use the lunch counter for my bed (after I cleaned off the inch of dust). Because I didn’t have to worry about rain, I could leave my bike fully packed, and that made it easy to get an early start in the morning. I still had more than a hundred miles to go before I reached Provincetown.

There was time to kill before I called it a night, so I went over to the near-by gas station and became friends with the attendant. Before the night was over I had played a game of basketball with one of the locals (in the schoolyard across from the gas station) and watched Rhoda on TV with the gas station attendant. It was a good night! Sunup found me back on the highway. It was cloudy with a little rain—okay for biking, but that was about all.

I arrived in Provincetown just as the sun was setting. On the map, Provincetown was small, so Richard and I had not planed a meeting place. We both thought it would be easy to find one another. Walking my bicycle down Main Street, however, I began to have second thoughts about that decision. It was already late, and the weather forecast was not good—wet and windy, so I took an $8. a night, ($6. thereafter) room at the Codder Boarding House. Once I got settled in, I went back to looking for Richard.

I passed some street musicians playing guitars by a city fountain. The dog, also part of the group (I think), was doing the singing. Just off to the side of that hilarious scene sat Richard, or should I say reclined Richard—his raingear for a pillow, and his lanky body stretched out on a bench. He had book stuck in his bearded face—what a sight! Leaning on the back of the bench was his ten-year-old K-mart clunker of a bike. But, hey, it got him here, all the way from Michigan.

Our reunion went super—pizza, beer, and, of course, sharing the stories of our respective trips. Outside the pub, the rain had finally decided to fall, but inside it was warm and cozy. Provincetown was definitely a good place to meet. Main Street was only large enough for one automobile at a time. We were told that the seaside shops and boutiques, on particularly stormy days, become the town’s seawall. Even so, the rising surf, on particularly bad days, managed to make some of the streets impassable. In addition to the tourists, the town’s other contingent–the free spirited artist community, filled the quaint shops, restaurants, and bars. Provincetown was also home to a large gay population. A visit to P- town should be on everybody’s “list of places to go.”

Baking Bread In A 1720 Bread Oven Fireplace

Kingston, Massachusetts

June 9

The night after we met we went to the cinema to see Sylvester Stalone’s movie, Rocky. It was a good flick. When we left P-town it became apparent that, when it came to bicycling at least, Richard and I had different agendas. We had to make an effort to coordinate our daily schedules—food, biking-time, etc. We only made forty miles the first day. I think things will come together in a couple of days.

June 11

Two nights ago we set up camp outside of Kingston, Mass. We were still forty miles from Boston. At 2 a.m. the rain started. At 3 a.m. I moved into Richard’s tent. The following morning I paid homage to all waterproof tents. It was still raining in the morning when we walked into town for coffee and doughnuts. We underestimated the distance. It was a two-mile walk. Wet and miserable, we stumbled into the coffee shop. We had brought books with us because we weren’t planning on going anywhere. Neither one of us was into bad weather biking. After an hour of sipping coffee, the waitress told us about the library down the street. When we arrived, it was closed. We had a three-hour wait before it opened, so back to the coffee shop we went. After we had told the waitress the “whole story” about why we had returned, the guy drinking coffee at the counter told us we could hang out in the house that he was remodeling.

The house was originally built in 1720. Comrade Richard, the guy who let us stay in the house, told us to make ourselves at home. Inside, the place was pretty much gutted, but it had a roof and best of all, it had a fireplace. Actually it had eight rooms and seven fireplaces. The floor was rough wood and there were only a couple 5-gallon cans to sit on, but once we got the fire going, it was “home sweet home.” After showing us the place, comrade Richard said we could spend the night if we wanted to, and then he left. With that good news we hoofed it back to where we had left our tents and bikes (hidden well off the highway behind an abandoned house). Unfortunately, Richard had left his bike lock key back at comrade Richard’s house. While Richard broke camp, I rode my bike back to get the key. The six-mile excursion (two walking, four on bicycle) was in the wettest rain and windiest wind I had ever done time in. It would have been a lot worse, however, if there wasn’t a warm fireplace at the end of the line.

I met Richard walking toward me upon my return. When we finally did get back to the house, we restarted the fire and got out of our wet clothes. Sitting by the fire, I even think we laughed as we reflected on the hardships we had just encountered (the day before Richard’s axle broke in Plymouth, and, by the way, we saw Plymouth Rock—not all that spectacular.) That night we ate hamburgers cooked over an open fire, and washed them down with cold beer—a real treat. In the morning, it was hot coffee, toasted hamburger buns, and pretzels. Comrade Richard also stopped by to see how things were going. It was still raining, so he gave us permission to stay another night. That made us extremely happy. We had our castle for another day and night. We spent the day relaxing. Oh, by the way, yesterday I started smoking cigarettes again.

Happy

Sunshine holiday,

summertime, fancy-free,

open up, let it be,

we are free.


Comfortable

Crackling fire,

popping sparks,

black charred wood,

warm happiness.


Question

Sometimes I wonder

And then it passes.


Bicycling In Massachusetts

Morning rain:

brown pine needles,

wet nylon,

raindrop eyebrows,

water trough tongue,

and my sticky,

earthen tent.

Afternoon rain:

chilled to the bone,

cloud burst streets,

open anxiety,

faith,

and spun water

bicycle tires.

Evening rain:

night shroud victim,

stiff and rigid,

cold, damp, cold,

drowned fantasies,

yet, time forgotten.

June 12

Richard and I straightened up the castle before leaving. The castle had aged. It was never more splendid than when we first encountered it two days ago. Just before leaving we put the bread that we had bought at the store into the top of the 1720 fireplace—a bread oven built right into the fireplace. It turned out scrumptious. What a treat!

When you’re not traveling, expenses pile up. I guess that’s the price of a good time. I had $400. when I started and now there’s only $180. in my pocket. The good news was that the rain had stopped and the weather was clearing. I’m looking forward to a nice, long, bicycle ride today. Maine and Nova Scotia, here we come!

Burning Eyes, Choking Fumes, Incredibly Deafening Noise, Intense Fear, And Madness

June 9, 2007
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Fried Chicken at Don’s House And Ti Sticks At Jays Mother’s House

New Jersey

Early June ‘77

The weather hasn’t been good. The last time I saw the sun was back in Virginia. Last night it rained. Ocean City, Maryland was kind of nice. It was a tourist city, but somehow I liked it. Maybe it was the wooden boardwalk along the beach, or maybe it was the huge beach with the roving bands of people crowded everywhere. Whatever it was, I liked it. All in all, though, it wasn’t as good as that night I spent on the beach in Delaware. I camped right on the ocean. At least there, the sun came out long enough for the setting sunlight to wash over the vacant ocean beach—very pretty. There was quite a bit of wind, but being the only person on the beach made for a very peaceful evening. It was just the sea, the sand, and the two beers I had earlier bought for that occasion, a Coors and an Olympia. Together, the three of us soaked up the scenery as the fading light brought out the stars.

Yesterday, I took the ferry over to New Jersey—immediate civilization. The towns were close together, and I’m still getting use to being around all the people. There was one benefit, however, I didn’t have to look very far for a bar. When I needed a break, there was always one handy. I even found one that served draft beers for a quarter (instead of dollar beers)–nice. Last night I camped off the highway along a power line. It was good because I got to eat my bologna sandwich and cold beans in peace, way away from all the hub bub of civilization.

Today I’m going to end up close to New York City. Tomorrow I plan on riding through the city. It’s drizzling out right now. Time to pack up. The flowers are blooming. It smells good.

The morning found me trucking down the highway in light rain. On one occasion it did rain hard, but I was safe inside a dairy queen. The New Jersey highways were in rotten shape, I mean impossible in some places. The potholes and separations made biking extremely unpleasant. I even had to get off and walk my bike in a couple of places. I’ve been told that the roads will get better, but if one thing has remained constant throughout this trip, it has been the “bad information” I get from the average Joe on the street.

For four days I had been wearing the same shirt, so it was time for a change. When, in a little New Jersey town, I passed a rummage sale, I went shopping. I had a problem choosing the right shirt from all the ten-cent shirts that were in front of me. I didn’t have a problem getting rid of the shirt that I was wearing, though. It got trashed, and since I liked the new shirts better than the only other clean shirt that I had, I bought new shirts and donated my clean shirt to the sale. As it turned out that was a good move because Don liked the tank top that I contributed to the sale. He and his wife, MaryAnn, invited me over their place for a shower and a hot meal. They were originally from Michigan, and after some delicious fried chicken, a shower and clean clothes, I said good-by to that very friendly couple.

As I continued on toward N.Y.C., the trucks (lots of trucks), busses, and cars did not make for very pleasant biking—a bit of hell, actually. I camped thirty miles out of N.Y.C. I figured it would take another whole day to get through the city. It was pretty early when I camped and as it turned out, I did not hide myself very well. Fortunately, it was a friendly hippie kid who found me and instead of kicking me off the property (his parent’s property), he invited me up to his house, a big old house surrounded by woods. Once inside, I was greeted by two more of his longhaired friends who were sitting at the kitchen table smoking Ti sticks. I was invited to join them, so I did.

It was a strange situation to be in. Jay, the kid who found me, was living in the house with his 15 year-old girlfriend. He was only 17. As we were smoking dope his mother came into the room and got a beer from the refrigerator. I wasn’t introduced. I had become just “one of the boys,” I guess. The four of us (the girl didn’t smoke) proceeded to get really stoned while Jay’s mother and father were watching TV in the other room. All and all, it was an interesting afternoon.

Oh, I forgot to mention that yesterday, while I was biking through Cape May, N.J., a photographer jumped out at me. He was walking along the sidewalk, as I was peddling down the street. He asked me if I would let him take my picture. He also wanted to know if I would set for a short interview. His newspaper office was right around the corner, so I agreed. The short interview turned into a long interview, and after a few more pictures I was on my way again. I’m not used to being so popular. It was a strange feeling. He said the story would run in a couple of days. I should have had him send one of the papers to my parent’s place, but I guess I wasn’t thinking very quickly at the time.

Biking Heavy Traffic

June 6, ‘77

New York City was 25 miles away. I was in morning rush hour traffic. Bicycling was a nightmare, only I wasn’t dreaming. It was impossible to continue, so I pulled into a parking lot to wait out the congested traffic. There was this guy changing his flat tire in the parking lot and after I told him I was bicycling cross country, he told me that I was going to be beaten bloody and robbed before I got out of N.Y.C. That put me in a good mood! Actually, I thought the guy might have been thinking about doing the dirty deed himself, so I walked my bicycle over to the other side of the lot and sat down to read my book.

9:30 a.m. found me back on the highway, confronted by an array of bridges that would not allow bikes to cross. I tried hitchhiking, but found it impossible, also stupid. There was no place to stand, let alone to get picked up. One route remained open to me. It was the route that everybody told me would be absolute suicide for a pedal bike.

Burning eyes, choking fumes, deafening, incredibly deafening noise, and intense fear; that was the madness that I threw myself into. I expected it to be bad, but not that bad. I survived, but I don’t know how. For three solid hours I became a mass of concentrated energy. “I gotta get out of here; I gotta get out of here;” were the words that loudly echoed in my head. I stared straight ahead at the pavement in front of me and pedaled as fast as my legs could carry me. I finally collapsed somewhere north of Jersey City, my adrenaline depleted, and my face totally blackened from the soot trailing from behind the semi’s—the same semi’s competing for my survival space.

After an hour of rest, water, and a peanut butter sandwich, I was back on the highway, pedaling up the west side of the Hudson River. I could barely believe that I had survived. The farther north I went, the better it got. Unfortunately, while biking up the beautiful Hudson River Valley, I had a flat tire. I fixed it only to have a blow out a short time later. I had to hitchhike twenty miles into Nyack, N.Y. where I bought a new tire and tube. After fixing the tire and getting back on the highway I came upon a lake complete with swans, ducks, and geese. It was a “no camping lake,” but I was getting pretty good at watching out for the people who watched out for me, so under the cover of darkness I set up my tent, and collapsed on my sleeping bag. I was a very, very, tired body.

In the morning, I went back to pedaling up the Hudson, and after crossing over Bear Mountain Bridge, I found myself in the woodsy rolling hills of Connecticut. There were no long highways to get me across the state. I had to piece together my route using a patchwork of about twenty roads. Actually, it turned out to be a nice way to go. There were a lot of hills, and the ride was peaceful, quiet, and beautiful, even though I was traveling along country roads that were not your typical country roads; $100,000 homes were everywhere. I guess it was the kind of country where “Mom’s apple pie” was the absolute best.

I met Frank yesterday. We were both being ferried across a river, and we were both on bicycles. He was into speed biking. He would take frequent twenty-mile bicycle trips and try to go faster each time. We traveled the next thirty miles together. In fact, I camped that night in the backyard of one of those $100,000 houses—his parent’s place. That’s where I met his brother, Jeff. He worked at a bike shop, and he gave me a biking cap and a biking t-shirt. He also lubricated my chain and running gear. The whole family was really nice. I had two hot meals and a shower–meeting people like that made all the “bad stuff” worthwhile!

North Carolina Reflections

June 2, 2007
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Little Steve Asked What’s A Custodian

Carolyn’s House, Beaufort

May 26, ‘77

Morning came and with it more rain, not torrential, but consistent. I decided not to ride in it; instead I found a spot under an overhang and stuck my thumb out. Around 4 p.m. I was about to give up and go back to Mikes to rent a room for another night, when Carolyn approached me. “This is the second time I have passed you by today,” she said, “You look like you could use a hot meal.” She didn’t live far away, so I followed her on my bike.

After I arrived at her nice middleclass house, Carolyn introduced me to her husband, John, a psychologist, her son, Steve, and her teenage daughter, Lenore. Carolyn was a music teacher. She was in the kitchen making spaghetti when she told Lenore to take me in the other room and play something on the piano for me. Lenore was a little embarrassed, but she did what she was told. We went into the drawing room where I sat down, and listened to her play a beautiful piece of music. A friend of the family composed it, and as far as I was concerned it had the flavor—almost to perfection– of the countryside I had just bicycled through. Lenore giggled when I told her that because, as she informed me, the piece was entitled “North Carolina Reflections.” After Steve had his turn at the piano, we were all called to dinner.

I was fortunate to run into the family. When Carolyn asked me to dinner, I had already made up my mind to stay at Mike’s Hotel, and it would have been easy for me to excuse myself, but uncharacteristically, I agreed to go with her. I remained “centered” the whole time I was at the Mead’s house. I did not let myself fall victim to expectations, familiar or otherwise. I did not become anxious. I did not feel out of place. At dinner, John asked me what I did for a living and I told him I was a custodian at a university. Steve spoke up and said, “What’s a custodian?” I told him a custodian was just another name for the janitor who cleans the floors at his school. Everyone at the table except Steve felt the embarrassment. It wasn’t a big deal to me. I just let it go. I didn’t even feel the need to talk about my university studies.

When I left to go back to Mike’s Hotel, I felt high. I was pleased with myself for not getting caught up in the judgment and evaluation game. In fact, it was especially gratifying because at the dinner table there was a lot of classic “name dropping.” However, I wasn’t sure if they were vying for status for themselves, or for North Carolina. When I settled back in old #7 (my room), with a beer and a bag of potato chips, I still felt high. That night, there was another good movie on TV.

Steak, Ribs, Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, Corn, Potatoes, Grits—All For Me

Ben’s House, Somewhere In Maryland

May 29, ‘77

Things weren’t quite so gloomy today. Once I left Beaufort, the weather cleared a bit (over 5 inches of rain in two days), and the highway became bicycle heaven. Cedar Island was nice. The ferry over to Ocracoke was especially nice, probably two hours over to the outer banks. Ocracoke was sand, ocean, and people, that’s all—very nice! I met some good people on the boat and again that night in the park. After everybody had crashed, looking at the moon, and listening to the sea’s lullaby, I thought to myself what a great day I’d just had.

The next day I boarded a ferry to Hatteras, a much more commercialized island. The ride lasted about an hour. The outer banks were beautiful. I met a lot of quick acquaintances, all nice people. I’m really glad the outer banks happened. Maybe now my tolerance level for ill tidings won’t be so low. Ocean swimming, sunshine, biking, and lots of nice people have a way of reinforcing everything that’s good in life. In fact, what else is there! To be continued…

Well here I am again, writing in my journal twenty-four hours after being interrupted by the two girls who had also stopped at the Dairy Queen for a respite from the afternoon sun. The girls asked if I needed a lift and I accepted. I put my journal in my bicycle bag, the bicycle in the back of their pick-up, and we were off to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. It was already late, and without that thirty-mile ride I wouldn’t have made it to the bridge. The bridge was mammoth. It connected South Virginia’s coastline with the peninsula reaching down from Maryland. The bridge was sixteen miles long with two of those miles tunneling under the Chesapeake Bay. I stood for two hours hitchhiking before Greg picked me up (no pedestrians or bicycles were allowed on the bridge). I was offered a beer and shared a joint with him. As we crossed the bridge we listened to good music on his stereo. It was a nice ride, indeed!

As it turned out, Greg was vacationing with friends and he suggested I spend the evening at their campsite. I accepted. After a ten-minute ride, we pulled into a Virginia camping park, and I met Gary and Ray. That evening I enjoyed good company, beer, and smoke dope. I was the first to call it a night, though. In the morning, the fellows wanted me to stay on. It was Memorial Day weekend and they said it wouldn’t be safe biking anyway. At first I thought that was a good idea, but after a
couple hours of drinking, smoking, and girl watching (most weren’t even weaned yet), I decided biking was an even better idea. I thanked the lads and headed for the open road. I knew I had one full day of biking ahead of me before the vacationers started migrating north from
Virginia Beach.

Biking started out good, but soon the clouds rolled in, the winds picked up, and the temperature dropped. By late afternoon, I was straining at 80% output to make 20% distance, so I pulled into a schoolyard. Tired, cold, and exhausted, I went behind the main building and set up my tent in-between two outbuildings. That got me out of the wind. I also felt safe there. After eating a bologna sandwich, somewhere in Maryland, under cloudy, cold skies, I began to feel a little bit better. It hadn’t started to rain yet, but I was sure it would. I was close enough to the parked school busses, so that if it rained hard, I could probably find shelter there, provided the doors were unlocked. My hope of finding a campsite where I could lay over for a day in order to miss the holiday traffic was pretty much dashed. I was not in the best of moods when I heard voices outside my tent.

Eric and Ben had come to investigate. Both boys appeared to be just under ten years old. They were eager to hear my story. Ben must have been especially impressed because he returned after 6 p.m. and invited me over to his parent’s bar-b-q dinner. I wasn’t hungry, though. When the boys left, I opened a can of cold spaghetti and ate the whole thing, and that was on top of the sandwich I had earlier, but I didn’t have the heart to turn the kid down.

It was a large black family gathering. After I introduced myself to Ben’s father, his mother handed me a plate heaped full of hot food. There was steak, ribs, hamburgers, hot dogs, corn, potatoes, and grits. (She left the grits off the plate. She probably figured the white northern boy wasn’t ready for the grits and she was probably right.) There I was, in front of all that delicious hot food with my stomach full of spaghetti. I did manage to eat the ribs, (but silently I hated myself for not being hungry). I could only manage a bite or two of everything else.

That was the most southern hospitality I had ever experienced and it was very much appreciated. When I went back to my tent I was very uncomfortable. Fortunately, I didn’t have to lie down right away because I had become a celebrity among the kids in the neighborhood. Ben’s friends all came over to see the tent-guy on the bicycle. That gave my stomach a little more time to digest before I hit my sleeping bag. Thanks Ben!