Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fellow Young Adventurers, etc.

This last week has been rather full, to the extent that it's hard to believe that only one week ago I was in Toledo writing my last entry, and that the week before that I was in Battle Creek. It feels like a month ago...

I left Toledo Sunday afternoon, with only 28 miles to the house I was going to stay at - a WarmShowers contact, of course. Heading out of town, the securing system for my rear panniers proved ineffective, and I ended up using almost all my zip ties to secure my load so I could just make it where I was going. By the way, riding a bike through a city that has 1/3 the population it did 50 years ago, on a Sunday afternoon, results in very little traffic to contend with.

Eventually I made it to the house of Gordon Hille, a teacher, who is preparing for a bike trip across Europe next year, and maybe more. We talked a little bit on topics such as theology, sociology, and psychology, 'till his daughter and her boy friend arrived.

Adam and Madelyn, 24, just completed a canoe trip of the Mississippi about a month ago. Something like 2500 miles, in 70 days. I'd actually thought of doing something like this myself, so it was interesting talking to someone who had. Comparing our trips was also fascinating. We both started out with no prior experience, and very little training. I think ultimately, however, the river is a greatly larger challenge, as in a way it's fighting with a living organism, where riding is simply pushing against a still and lifeless road.. After many glasses of wine, cigarettes, and bagels, (I consuming only the last), we finally headed to bed around 5. I think that's the longest conversation I've ever had..

Heading east on Monday, I learned that the "North Coast Inland Trail" is sometimes a bike route, and sometimes more of a horse trail. Not that I saw any horses, but the fine gravel was definitely less suited for bicycle travel.. I did see more hoof prints than bike tracks for a while, though. 
I thought it time to take an updated picture of my bike, as it looks on the typical riding day. I keep my rain covers out and on the ready, and now keep my sweat shirt up front (instead of behind, as in the beginning).
That night I slept behind a church, which I'd arrived at after dark, due to my late start. Unexpectedly, there was something going on both when I got there, and when I left. However, I found a shed out back, behind which I could sleep completely undisturbed, and undetected. 

My next stop was in Cleveland. I'd originally planned to head a little south of town, but after sending out half a dozen requests, finally decided "Hey, people live in Cleveland. Certainly I could survive riding through.. hundreds of people do every year.." So, I made contact with a bike shop owner in downtown Cleveland, who I ended up staying with. While at the shop, I got a little maintenance taken care of. Alex, a cross country cyclist himself (self supported), had the bearing of a dignified and intelligent craftsman.. unfortunately, I had a much superior description, but in the ensuing week, it was forgotten. 
Alex giving my bike some TLC.
Cleveland is the largest city I've been in, as it took me probably 50 miles from the time I entered the suburban area, till I was back into the country. In this time I went from richer, almost exclusively white towns, to poorer almost exclusively black towns. As always, I didn't feel threatened by anyone. At Taco Bell, the manager and another employee (though honestly I don't know who was who.. maybe they were both managers? or transitioning?) saw my bike, and found it hard to believe.. 
Downtown Cleveland.
Before this week I'd only heard the "dialect" known as "Ebonics" in movies and such, so finding myself surrounded by those who spoke only in this version of my mother tongue was certainly a new experience.. At AutoZone, where I stopped for bungee straps and zip-ties, I had to ask the lady at the checkout to repeat herself, and still only understood half of what she said.. I always thought I was good at deciphering accents.. I guess I got enough, though, as my money was accepted, and I left with what I came to purchase. And the amounts seemed right..
I think this church was in East Cleveland, but I could be wrong. 
By now I was behind schedule. I'd made contact with a guy out of town, but he said he had things going on and wasn't available. Later, though, he called, saying he knew the difference between sleeping in a bed and sleeping on the ground, so I could stay there the night, he'd just be busy. Then, after telling him where I was, he offered to pick me up in the box truck he was bringing home (with a Ferrari kit car body someone gave him), since there was no way I was going to make it on my own. 
This town is over 200 years old. Not ancient, but nearly so, by western standards...
Tim is a motorcycle traveler primarily, though does ride his bike frequently, but once quit his job and left his house and hitchhiked around the us for 6 months.
Reminding me of another Stateline Road, thousands of miles away...
A bean field, of some sort.

A gravel road Google Maps put me onto. I probably had between 15 and 20 miles of gravel to deal with.. Fortunately it was mostly packed well, so I was able to make good time. I almost tipped over on loose gravel once, however..
My next stop was Erie. I made contact with a young lady, who this summer rode across the US solo, with perhaps less training and preparation than myself, but she said she wasn't able to host anyone at present. However, she knew of a church I might be able to camp at. Mentioning that I was 20 changed things, however, and soon I was told I could stay there, arriving a couple hours before first anticipating. 
That should do it..
In Ohio I'd pretty much run out of things to take pictures of. Everything looked the same as it had for the last several weeks. However, scenery began to shift as I entered Pennsylvania, and then New York. 
A fresh fruit/vegetable stand outside of North East, PE where I was given grapes, plumbs, an apple, a peach, and a couple nectarines.
One thing I noticed, just inside New York - while the architecture is old, and beautiful, while the landscape is attractive, there seemed to be more obvious signs of poverty here than in most of small town America I've been through. Things like tattoos and piercings, more hollow faces and sad eyes, the way people were dressed.. Not just that I saw poor people here and there, but that the Amish were about the most dignified people in town! Even the fact that "No Alcohol to Minors" signs were much more visible than other places I've been could be seen as an indicator. It seemed so.. incongruent. I guess it's because of the grape/grape juice industry in the area, bringing in lots of low skilled workers, and also because of near proximity to the economically depressed lakes region. 
I was told that barns were built octagonally in order to keep the devils out of the corners. 
Lake Erie
This happens to be part of the Concord grape belt. Vineyards from 40-100 acres all over the place. Apparently harvest is 2 weeks out. 
Some old church, with quite a steeple system. Too bad I couldn't have gotten the whole building in the shot..
A war memorial in the middle of a Cemetery - Portland, NY. 
They say this used to be a fine dining establishment, called "The Castle". Nowadays some call it the "rock pile"..
I'd made contact ahead with Mr. and Mrs. Wahl, who gave me a place to stay over the weekend in Brocton, New York. This house has apparently been in the family for a couple generations at least. The Wahl's have grandchildren my age.

At dinner on Friday, the conversation turned to comparisons of culture - Mr. Wahl talked about how amazed he was, on a visit to South Dakota, by how well everyone knew their neighbors, even 25 miles away, and how friendly they were to him, a complete stranger. He said that other than the neighbors he has working relationships with, he hardly knows more than their names.. 

Yeah, I guess I'm in a different culture alright..
Out my window
I made a huge tactical error today.. I failed to "strike while the iron was hot" and write while my ideas were fresh, and so my train of thought got derailed. So, the last part of this entry is running towards the stale side, and there's so much I've left out. Or, at least, I'm sure there is, because I have a couple days barely covered, only I don't even know what to say about them.

I'm tired. I've got a long day ahead of me tomorrow..
Fall is coming..
This week has been quite remarkable as far as how many interesting people I've been able to meet. I only ended up having to camp once. Meanwhile, I also set a distance record, at 258 miles, plus another 20 I didn't ride. As I'm headed towards upstate New York, it looks like both the amount of people, and the distances I'll be able to make, will begin to drop..