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

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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!

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2 Responses to “Burning Eyes, Choking Fumes, Incredibly Deafening Noise, Intense Fear, And Madness”

  1. Beverly Says:

    You have done it once again, captivated me with your description of your travels. The way you write, I feel as if I am right there with you. As I was reading, I was struck with how similar people are, no matter where you are or even when you are there. And that is the basic goodness that exists in the heart of mankind. It is evident in your travels, that your path crossed that of many good, kind and decent people. Though it is now thirty years later, I believe that the same basic goodness is still alive in many more hearts than we realize. It may be buried under layers to protect itself, but I believe it is there, none the less. It is very easy for the evil in a few people to over-shadow the vast goodness in so many people. I am reminded of a poem, written by that most famous author, “unknown”, entitled “Charity” and it goes like this: “There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it ill behooves any of us to find fault with the rest of us”. Thanks again Dave, for sharing your grand adventure from yesteryear.

  2. dave Says:

    Thanks again for the kind words Beverly. Based on my bicycle trip experiences, yes, people can be very kind. Riding a bicycle is something everyone can relate to with fond childhood memories. Also, it is easy to appreciate the biker because, with every mile, he or she has earned the privilege to meet so many people. On the other hand, the people in the trucks and automobiles, the one’s late for work or whatever, see the biker in an entirely different light. I have a few of those stories too. What you are reading now is my Atlantic bicycle trip. I have a Pacific (northwest) bike trip and a Canadian Maritime bike trip yet to report on. As I get farther down the road, so to speak, more philosophy and religious ideas will be included in my blog. The philosophy and religious ideas motivated my long distance biking in the first place—an emersion in movement, quiet time, wind, rain, sun, chirping birds—all of nature’s gifts—have been, for me, a very religious experience.

    “I am reminded of a poem, written by that most famous author, “unknown”, entitled “Charity” and it goes like this: “There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it ill behooves any of us to find fault with the rest of us”. Thanks again Beverly for sharing that valuable lesson.

    Take care,
    dave

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