New York City Isn’t Clowning Around!

November 2009

Preparing for New York City was exciting: What an adventure and what will we do there?

Getting to New York was simple: Pack two oversized rolling luggage bags and get on the train.

John had left Charleston in the middle of October 2009 to make his way to New York City. He found a cozy spot in Hoboken, NJ on a friends couch to sleep at night and by day he scoured the city for jobs and Brooklyn for a home. I would be out in the yard on The Farm in Virginia when I’d get a call from him: “I’m in Brooklyn on Bergen Street and it looks pretty nice. Google it!” I would dial up the internet, yes….dial up!…..and spend hours trying to upload Google Earth images and look for apartments on that street. After 5 or so days of his tireless searching and my stressful computer navigating, I was ready to give up. But John had found work as a street promoter and I had heard back from a jeweler in Brooklyn that I may be able to intern with. Things were…..coming along….

I had no idea what to pack. Though I had just spent 3 months on a bike with little to my name, packing two suitcases for Fall in New York was tough. What’s the weather like? I need a suit to go to interviews in. How many shoes do I pack? Well, I sure did pack a lot. And with one or two care packages from Mom and Dad we were able to make it to Christmas on just that!

At the train station in Fredericksburg, VA I met an older lady who was heading to New York. She ended up sitting with me the whole way up and she kept me sane. I think it was harder to say goodbye to my parents that day than any other day. Mostly because I had no job. No idea what to do. And mostly-No where to live.

I met John outside of Penn Station. It was my second time to New York. I didn’t recognize him because he had lost so much weight. All of that house hunting and pinching pennies on food will change a man! But boy was I glad to see him. I took a deep breath and we headed to Hoboken. Hoboken is adorable and we looked at a few places there to rent. But we both thought the commute would be costly and time consuming. After one Craigslist scam and a million phone calls, we finally saw a month-to-month sublet in Queens that we really liked. That was quite a relief! Luckily, when you only bring 2 suitcases to live out of, it isn’t hard to move. Sunnyside, Queens: Beautiful, quaint, boring. I began my internship of beading and cutting wire and quietly sitting at a desk in a small room with 4 other women I didn’t know or identify with. We worked for Aesa. A very popular jewelry company run by Randi Mates. Everyone was so nice and she paid for my bus ticket, an occasional  lunch and lots of coffee. I was also working with John doing promotions. He was working 2 shifts a day at 4 hours a piece making $20 an hour!!!! Great gig, right! Maybe if you you’re not dressed in an Elephant suit! But he didn’t mind. He could listen to his Podcasts and his identity was completely hidden. 

My job however, was not so very fortunate. I got the $20 an hour, the 4 hour shifts, the paid travel as well. The downside……

I was not as lucky. With my head sticking out of a “medicine” box, flyers in one hand, and an oversized spoon in the other; I would have to say “Free Your Nose!” Over. And over. And over. It was cold. It was hilarious. But we did it together. We were sent all over the cities. We were paid the same even if we got lost or slipped into a Starbucks to stay warm during snow storms. It paid the bills and it led to another gig: Handing out Clown Noses for Big Apple Circus. That job was a whole lot of fun. Instead of throwing flyers at tourists….we handed out clown noses. And who doesn’t want a clown nose! (lots of people actually)

By January we had found a new place to live: Williamsburg(Brooklyn). We had two new roomies: Camille John had known for 8 years through Theatre 99 and Austin was a friend of hers from Chicago. The 4 of us had a 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, back yard, parking spot, and a basement storage area all for the price of what we paid for the studio apartment in Sunnyside, Queens. Amazing.

As for jobs….they just kept coming. I was working for pay at Aesa. I began working for Bullfrog Creatives as a production jeweler. I was an assistant teacher at The 92nd Street Y for a teen jewelry class on Saturdays. I was handing out clown noses whenever I could. John was promoting and going through UCB(Upright Citizens Brigade). He began working on a boat as a waiter. And he was picking up some catering shifts. At one point I was working 8 jobs! By April I had gotten part-time work at Eastern Mountain Sports. Back to doing the outdoor gear selling! I never thought I would be doing it again but it was consistent work. They had a schedule which I was salivating for at the time.  Every day seemed to be a combination of texts from the two ladies I worked for vying for my time to work for them but both struggling artists dealing with their own ups and downs. I was plugging the jobs into my day like puzzle pieces. Though they didn’t match up, they created a picture.

It’s exhausting being at someone’s beck and call. And to be in their studio all day wishing they were your tools and wishing it was your jewelry line you were slaving over. My hands would ache. My eyes would be tired. But it was such an inspiration to watch those women push through deadlines and obstacles. They made it work because it was their passion. It was in their every move and thought.

It’s tough to stand on a street corner and hand out clown noses to angry hurried New Yorkers. But it’s so much fun to learn how to navigate a city. It’s nice to have a kid with their hands outstretched reaching for that clown nose. The one that they can’t keep on because their nose is too small.

The summer of 2010 coming along solidified the fact that we had made it over the hump. We did it. We were employed, paying rent, and still dating! John was still pursuing his Banana Monologues Show. He was getting up early with me to write for hours before working his various jobs.

Fast forwarding a bit……MS Bike ride in September, Christmas on The Farm, Disney World in January, Launching my jewelry in February, March brought John to Annapolis,MD to begin work on a Comedy Festival for July, April was a trip home to Virginia for some much needed time with the family, and May has brought Full Time Employment and insurance…John made it into a New York Comedy Festival and I have my very own jewelry studio.

We’ve got weddings to attend, bills to pay, and a lawn to mow. We’ve got opportunities coming and choices to make. I know this blog began as a means of documenting my cross country bicycle trip in 2009 but I suppose it is morphing into something new now….The writer in me has been rumbling for months and I’ve suppressed the feeling to share my words with the world because it seems so selfish and indulgent. Well, screw it.

Working at Eastern Mountain Sports gives me a chance to talk about my trip and the commuting I do by bike these days. I hope to also share that information here. Let it be an inspiration for you to ride off in an direction you choose. I was brought to New York. Where are you going?

5 Boro Bike Tour 2010

George Washington Bridge

Rickshaw Rider

I wake up to the most beautiful views in the world: My Own Land. Well, technically, it’s my parents land but it’s ours. It’s Fall and all of the Hickory trees are turning gold. The splashes of color are something I have missed seeing while living in Charleston. Fall in Virginia is better than any other season. Too bad I haven’t been enjoying it enough. Instead I have been glued to the tv or computer most of the day only to retire to bed early because I’m tired….but I didn’t do anything…how can this be? This is how the past few days have been. However, today I woke up rested. From the very minute of waking up I saw this day as being a good one.
My folks were on their way to a wedding and as they passed through Tappahannock, the closest town-also where I went to high school, they spotted a man in the cemetary picnic area with a tent and a Rickshaw. For anyone who is unfamiliar with these: A rickshaw is a bike with a seat behind the rider to carry passengers. It’s usually just one gear and 3 wheels. It’s a trike. You see them a lot in Charleston and some in NYC. They are a great alternative to taking a taxi. Nothing beats man power. My folks chatted with the guy, Sean, and called me to tell me to get my butt into town to meet him. I called him first to see if he wanted a truck ride back here to stay the night but like all good touring cyclists he refused and said he would rather rely on what he has and his tent. Nevertheless, I couldn’t come empty handed. Not after all of the kind things people did for me this summer. I scooped up the last of the rasberries of the season, the last tomato, 2 hard boiled eggs, and a handful of mums(flowers). Hopefully the goodies would be of use and brighten what had turned into a windy and gray day.
Sean and I talked for about 2 hours. He showed me his sweet ride, his pantry and supplies, and introduced me to Cooper, probably the coolest dog I’ve ever met. I won’t go in to too much detail because there is much to read about his adventures on his blog :
rickshawusa.blogspot.com
Check out his story and why he’s riding. He’s one of those genuine souls. He’s trying something that most people would think is impossible. To him, it’s his life for the next year and it’s very possible.

When we set out to do things that seem out of the ordinary we sometimes forget how easy they really are to do because we get so caught up in worry. There is less worry in getting up every morning to ride your bike than there is in going to work every day. There’s a freedom that comes with adventures that make those out of the ordinary things so very possible. His adventure not only reminds me of my ride this past summer but it stirs up all of the ideas that I’ve been hiding away in the back of my mind. There are so many things that I don’t do because I get caught up in the worry. What if what I do doesn’t pan out? What if I go broke? Who cares? At least I would have done something. And that is more important than taking the safe road. Those two hours have given me back some of the energy that I have been missing this past week. Though I will probably still take a nap tomorrow, the day will be packed with enjoying where I am RIGHT NOW and laying the foundation for what is to come(finding a place to live and a job). Tomorrow I will make jewelry. I will paint the trim for the kitchen. I will not watch tv. I will breathe in the Fall air.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today, Sean. I enjoyed hearing about your travels. To sum up the Emerson quote that you read: Our goal in life is not to be happy but it is to be of help to others and to make our mark on the world. Today you helped me get out of a rut. Thanks for that, job well done🙂

More Ralph Waldo Emerson:
All our progress is an unfolding, like a vegetable bud. You have first an instinct, then an opinion, then a knowledge as the plant has root, bud, and fruit. Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear.

Time

It’s almost October. The beginning of the month is taunting me like a ball on the end of a string being dangled in front of a kitten. Sure, I’d love to reach out and grab it. On the other hand, I’d like to sit and watch it wave in front of me…I will not play your time games…
Time doesn’t exist on the bike. You get up at a reasonable hour and you hit the road before the heat is hitting you. You wander down the small back roads trying to absorb all that you pass. You push those pedals harder when there’s a Walmart in site or an endless stretch of barren land. You don’t know what day it is. You don’t know what time it is. These things that seem to dominate and keep your real life in a choke hold are hardly thought of while you ride. This is one reason why I will never take a vacation that revolves around scheduled activities. Throw in one or two spur of the moment time-based events but man do NOT tell me that I must be here for one adventure or another. Vacations have been marketed so heavily on this adventure or that. How about viewing the whole thing as the adventure and those mini-adventures are the highlights. They won’t be that though if you are late, or forgot your flippers, or your wallet. I guess I’m thinking more or those all inclusive vacations like cruises…

My mom and I went on an 11 day cruise about 4 years ago and it was a lot of fun. But it wasn’t just fun because of the islands we saw or the massive ship we explored daily. It was fun because we had a credit card and could pay for those $8 lattes and $12 mixed drinks with the a swipe. It was fun because we didn’t miss getting back to the boat before it left dock. (I did almost miss it once but jumped aboard as they were pulling in the ramp) It was fun because we only missed one meal-they are scheduled and if you are late, you don’t eat. You’ve now paid for a meal you cannot enjoy. Sounds like a blast! I desperately wanted to stay on every island for at least a day. I think the longest we were on one was from about 7am to 4pm. How sad. It takes 1 hour just to get a taxi somewhere. They were all magnificent places and we did really fun things like scuba dive, take and island tour(we got very drunk), sit on sandy white beaches, kayak along the green banks in crisp blue waters. It was amazing. I never want to do it again! I don’t remember the names of the islands and we went to about 8. I was exhausted from the go-go-go. You’re on a boat! All it can do is GO! There was one day, it was Christmas day, where the boat didn’t even port. It just went in circles.

So enough ranting. The point is that vacations should be an escape from the normal restrictions in life. They should be an opportunity for a person to let loose, take a deep breathe, and be free. Take off your watch, turn off the phone, forget about Facebook and email. Peal yourself away from all of the things that us humans have created to “make your life easy.” Challenge yourself to just relax. For most people these days it is a challenge.

I want you out there, whoever is still reading this, to challenge yourself to sit still for one hour. It’s nearly impossible. Our minds just want to tell our bodies to go! But our minds created time and our bodies don’t always agree with the concept. It’s not good to push the body or the mind to never step back and relax. I try doing yoga to force myself to “get centered” and “be one with myself.” Are you kidding? I’m thinking about not farting in front of the 30 other people in a hot hot hot room filled with highly flexible folks that make me ashamed that I can’t pretzel as they do. I’m trying not to fall over while I’m “calmly” standing on one foot, legs wrapped around each other, arms twisted, head up, breathing in unison. How is this relaxing? I suppose if I were better at it my mind would be free to wander in other directions. What is it that calms you? Do that for one hour just to see if you can. I bet for some of you it’s knitting or gardening. Cooking? Cleaning? Running? It’s funny that all of the calming or de-stressing actions I can think of are just that, actions. We’re supposed to be sitting still. I guess it is a little unreasonable to think that anyone would want to do that…Right? But not because it’s weird but because we would look back on that one peaceful hour with distain. I can hear you now telling yourself how you could have gotten 5 other things done in that one hour. Now your entire day is thrown off because you took such a foolish break. But was it time wasted?

I’m battling time every day. I have no job. I have jewelry supplies begging to be played with. I have dishes to be done and laundry and a resume to fix up and an apartment to find and grants to look for. I have so much to do and so MUCH time to do it that it isn’t getting done. Instead I am awake at 3 am going over this list of things to tackle the next day. I’m so awake that I go ahead and get up for 2 hours to fiddle around and read a cookbook instead of getting much needed rest. It’s been hard to adjust back to a world of deadlines, expectations from others, money issues, places to be…But I bet that had I jumped right back into a job, I wouldn’t feel the same about life. I would be back into a routine of some kind where every free moment is cherished. Where I have time to miss the boyfriend and ache to be home on the couch. Instead I try to think of all the possible things I could do and then don’t do any!

It’s not that I haven’t done anything. I do accomplish things, just very slowly. Today was productive and so was the weekend actually. I may be on the up swing. The date of departure from Charleston is approaching. The weight of change is beginning to sit heavy on my shoulders.

Oscar sits lonely outside. He’s not happy with how often he is used. When he does go for a spin it’s usually to a coffee shop and then home again. I miss relying on him to carry me down the road. Guess I’ll have to start relying on myself.
Pacific Sand

Portland

The Day After the Last Day

The day after the completion of our TransAm we began the next adventure: Getting home. Bonnie was prepared to take Kaitlyn back to Eugene and then on to a small town in the country until her flight a day later. She was not prepared to take myself and Eleanor anywhere! We had expected to be without a ride to Portland, where my flight would leave from one week later. We had plenty of time to ride there or hitch-hike or rent a car. Luckily, Bonnie was kind enough to offer a ride. We found a bike shop and bought a rack for $75. We could surely sell it in Portland while there and make most of our money back. The 3 hour ride into the country was a rough one! We hadn’t been for a long ride in a car for over a month. Everything flew by so quickly. I’d eaten too much for lunch. I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep. The rack on the car hung low, only about 6 inches from the ground at one point. It was enough to scare the shit out of me and turn my stomach to knots. I hadn’t gone all that way just to have my bike damaged while riding on a bike rack. To make matters worse, the rack slipped down and we had to check it regularly. I was so sickened by it all that by the time we arrived at our destination I couldn’t eat. The place we stayed that night and the night after was Bonnie’s boyfriends family’s land. It was a couple hundred acres of wooded land with the most wonderful creek running through it. There was a main cabin and house against the creek bank. You could practically step out of the door and into the water. The water was cool and still and deep where you jump in. A short swim upstream got you into small rapids. I swam up to crawl over rocks and explore the waters. There were snails and little creatures that fascinated me! They build their own shells by piling mud on themselves and collecting small pebbles to coat the mud. They just look like rocky soil. They were everywhere!
Kaitlyn’s flight was the next morning -6 am. Instead of going to bed at 9 and then getting up at 3am, we opted for an all-nighter. We headed into Portland to find a movie and an all-night diner. Harry Potter didn’t interest me or Eleanor and with our bikes hanging on the outside of the car, we were content not going in to a theatre. The first idea was to sleep but we weren’t tired enough to sleep huddled in the HOT car. So instead we drank. There was a small bar with outdoor seating. Wine barrels stacked high, fancy drinks flowing, girls dressed up. We sat smelly in our 80 day old outfits and ordered beers and fries-a beautiful meal. Cheers to completing the journey!

On the Train to Portland

We were dumped at the airport with Kaitlyn. By then her bike had been shipped and all that was left was her trailer to carry aboard. We all said our good-byes and Bonnie was gone. Kaitlyn was gone. Eleanor and I loaded up our bikes with our gear, for the last time. I stacked the bike rack in it’s box on top of my back rack. It was quite a sight! Bungeed and awkwardly situated, I hoped it would survive the trip into town. The Portland airport is 40 minutes away from Portland by train. Lucky for us, the train stop was located inside the airport! The train started running at 5 so we had made it in plenty of time to catch the first ride into the city before the sun came up.
Back when we all began planning our trips, long before we knew each other, we had all had chats with the ones closest to us to discuss our ideas of going across the country via bike. With every person we told we collected more an more contacts: emails, phone numbers, towns to see, roads to travel, etc. The suggestions rolled in. I was told to go see a couple on Vancouver Island who I’d never met. They weren’t even on my route but for that persons’ reasons, it was a “must-see” place. So far I’d seen old work buddies in Damascus, The Cookie Lady in Virginia, a restaurant in Kansas, Adam in Boulder, a rep in Longmont, Kaitlyn’s friend in Denver, the girls’ buddy while in Idaho, Kim, Kaitlyns friend in Eugene…..and now it was time to visit Kiera- Eleanors relative she hadn’t seen since she was fresh out of diapers. Trips like these tend to pull all contacts out of the woodwork. We’d tried to find many people/friends/strangers to stay with while in Portland because a stay of more than 2 days may be unwelcome. At that point it was Kiera to the rescue. We had directions to her place-just down the street from the train stop-would that be a fair assessment of distance? Turned out to be! Around 6 am we hauled all of our gear up the apartment stairs where it could rest for a couple of days. Kiera turned out to be more than kind in every way. She took us to the grocery store, to bike shops and out to dinner. After just a day she even told us we could stay until my flight which was 4 more days away! We spent those days sampling the local beers, exploring busy streets, and checking out the eye candy: tatoos. I’ve never seen so many inked folks in my life. The entire trip I’d been dreaming about getting a tatoo but after 5 days of staring at everyone else’s tats I was content with my virgin skin. Maybe I don’t need anything permanent…yet.
Delicious! Though there was much to do in Portland, we were easily content with walking-not riding, with sampling beers-no more than 3 in a day, with lounging at the pool-not doing laps at 5 am. My body was just fine with as little strenuous activity as possible. However, by the last day as I watched Eleanor pedal away towards the coast all by herself, I had an overwhelming itch to ride, run, climb-anything to exhaust my well rested body. Because you get used to the grind, you don’t even realize how much you really do push yourself every day. Take that away from yourself and it’s like taking cigarettes away from an addict. It became normal to be on the road and now it’s all gone. How could we resist bike shirts?
Eleanor left that day only to return the next. She later told me that her parents offered to help get her home. Funny thing is that they waited until she’d landed on the coast again to offer. Maybe next year we’ll do the coast….anyone else in?
My last day in Portland finally brought on some of the emotions that I had expected to feel my last days on the bike. Reality was sinking in. I made it. I did the miles. I pushed myself. I had a blast. I made great friends and met only nice people, pure of spirit. My heart raced on and off throughout the day. I was more than happy to head home. I was excited to see the family, the farm, the crops and trees, the familiarities that we all take for granted. I was happy to think of the next chapter: back to Charleston and then on to New York City by October.
I was curious…how would jumping back into “the real world” affect me?

Good bye West coast. I will miss you.

The Ocean


On Saturday, Aug. 3, I biked alone into Eugene, Oregon. The ladies wanted to get to town for the markets and post office. I, on the other hand, wanted to meander through the moss covered trees along the river for the 50 miles we would travel that day. I had nowhere to be at ay particular time. It was a little lonely to pack up my tent and bags by myself. However, I love the silence. I love not hearing the unspoken words of the girls wishing me to pack faster. Sometimes it’s what you don’t hear from people that can be the hardest to deal with. I wish they would say aloud to hurry my ass up. But not today. No words of any kind.
I wind through the trees. They tower over me. The moss is dark green and thick. It covers every branch as a sleeve and drapes itself over rocks and roofs on houses. The beauty of this stretch of road is unbelievable. The air smells fresh and cool. I’m by the river all day and I actually have time to stop and write in my journal, something I wish I’d taken the time to do the whole way. Thinking back on it now, I was rarely in the right frame of mind during the day to write…oh well…
Free, Fun, FabulousBlackberries covered the roadside. I stopped for over 30 minutes to fill my belly and a water bottle with the delicious berries. I got into Eugene around 11, still very early for having already ridden 50 miles. The market was still going strong. It’s amazing how flat land can help you fly! They have huge Saturday markets that remind me of Charleston. I can’t wait to return there to purchase some local foods. Going into a walmart or to a market is like tourture for us ladies. What people would normally buy without thought we have to think hard and long about. Can we fit it on the bike? Do we want to carry that weight? Will it last in the heat? Will we eat it all? Smaller mom and pop stores limit our choices and make life much easier when we’re making these decisions.
I met up with the girls and Kim, a friend of Kaitlyns, for lunch, then it was an afternoon of relaxing until our next meal-tai for dinner. Tomorrow would be our last day on the trail. Our last miles ridden together. I should have been beside myself with emotions. I was simply tired and full. I didn’t have many feelings about it.

We headed out around 8 on the bikepath that followed a creek through Eugene. These bike paths are such a treat when we come across them. It wasn’t long before we were about 5 miles outside of the city and I saw an older man pushing his very nice racing-style bike. He was dressed in blue jeans and a button up collared shirt. This isn’t the normal attire of a sunday morning cyclist this far out of town. I thought that something must be wrong. I offered to help him if I could. He said he had a flat and 8 miles to push his bike. Wow. I learned that he rides every week about 30 miles at a time. But he never brings any tools!!!! Brave. Stupid. So I patched his tube for him and helped to get him back on the bike. Note to all riders: Do not leave the house without your tire iron, spare tube, and a pump or CO2. You can get a flat at any time!
Off we went again. The mountains we saw in the distance were tricky. Our map didn’t indicate that we would have any hills today so how were we getting past those? Instead of climbing another pass we wound our way along the base of the mountains. We had about 80 miles to go that day, our last, and the miles didn’t seem to fly by as we’d imagined they would. We thought our own adrenaline would push us faster and carry us quickly to the coast where a parade had formed in our honor. Music would play and church bells would ring. The mayor would come to the beach to present us with our medals and our eyes would fill with tears as we said goodbye to our journey. Isn’t that what happens when you finish the TransAmerica ride?
Instead, Eleanor lead us for about 7 miles through harsh head winds. Then I lead for the remaining 10 or so miles into Florence. It was painful. My knees were aching but I wanted so badly to just finish. It was a relief to see the sign for Florence. We’d been hot all day biking in the sun but for the last couple of miles the temperature had dropped dramatically. I had my longsleeves on again and was wishing I was wrapped up tight in my sleeping bag. Once we technically finished by entering Florence, it was still another 5 miles to the ocean. Bonnie, another of Kaitlyns friends, surprised us by coming all the way to Florence to take pictures and celebrate with us. She was in Oregon anyway but was supposed to meet Kaitlyn in Eugene the next day. Instead, she saved her the ride back and came all the way to the coast! Good friend.
She helped pick up the pizza and keg of beer so we could bike the last miles together to the water. It’s surprisingly hard to find the ocean. Access is limited to parks and private land so we found the nearest park. We rode over gravel to get to the waters edge. Now I was excited. The mayor wasn’t there, he must be busy, the parade hadn’t come by, they must be stuck in traffic. No music played. No balloons. What we did have was great satisfaction. We had just completed a 79 day long journey across America hauling everything essential to live on our bicycles. My odometer read 4,025 miles exactly. I tore off my shirt, threw my shoes to the side and ran full speed into the water. I kept going and going. Running and running. When will it get deep? Oh hell, belly flop! It was a sandbar for as far as I could see but who cares! It’s the OCEAN!

Pouring the Pacific Ocean on the front tire

The freezing cold water kept me moving right back to shore. I don’t think I’ve been in water that cold. The girls quickly followed into the salty Pacific and the we quickly rode back to the park to eat and set up for our last night. The pizza and beer were the best. It was the best nights sleep. It was the best camp fire. It was just the best!

Countdown:3 days…

This trip has given way to hours upon hours of thinking. I have envisioned and planned out the entire next 3 months of my life down to the last detail. I picture my new apartment and how it will be laid out. I know what I’ll be doing every weekend. I have all my goals written out. I know how much money I need. I know what my bike rides will be like and what conversations I’ll have. Of course none of what I have seen playing before my eyes as a movie on the big screen will actually come true. But hey, it was something to do to pass the time. The key now is not to be disappointed by reality and what it will have in store for me.
As for the trip, I had no expectations. I didn’t even try to picture what the next hour would be like. How could I? There were never predictable times. I liked it but I’m happy to return, at least for a little while, to a more structured environment. This trip has taught me that I don’t have to go on 3 month camping/biking extravaganzas to escape and enjoy the world. It’s the weekend trips with the people I love that will make the difference. I wasn’t taking the time to do that before. I thought lounging around on a Saturday was a good day off. Really? Ugh, I am ashamed. Sure, I would love to have lazy days. But my regular days will be so fulfilling that I will feel the need to slow down. I won’t come home and take a nap. I’ll go bike. I’ll bake or cook. I’ll work on my art. Do. Do. Do.
This has been such a long awaited trip and such a lofty goal that finishing in 3 days is really blowing my mind. I would love to scream! Do a little kung foo in the parking lot. I am so excited that despite feeling terribly sore and tired, I would love to just keep riding through the night and finish tomorrow. But I will settle down. That will subside when I see my sleeping bag.
It’s one of those times where I just want to say “ha, ha, in your face you non-believers.” These were folks that had expected me to fail or not go “fast enough” -whatever that means. Trips like this seem to act as filters. The people who matter are reading this now. They’re happy that I’ve done this and accomplished my goal. They want nothing but the best. So thanks to all you who are supportive. It’s not going unnoticed. I feel it every day. And yes, Mrs. Ball, I am going to write a book. I’m not exactly sure how to go about it but I’m going to give it a whirl.

Pedro

I don’t think that it’s possible to eat too much ice cream. I had the biggest milkshake ever yesterday. Delicious. While sipping the strawberry treat I sat next to Pedro. He was going into 8th grade and doesn’t like school. He seems like he’d be a good student since he has the patience to sit on a street corner all day selling cherries. He said it was a slow day. Normally he would sell a whole box and make over $40. Today he’s at $20. I told him he should be happy about that because I had already spent that much on milkshakes and peanut butter for the day. As the lady who had bought cherries from him 10 minutes before walked by again he cleverly asked if now her husband would like some cherries. He was trying so hard. Once they passed without the purchase of another 5 lb bag Pedro said, “They give you diahrrea.” Oh Pedro!
Across from us is a black bear in a cage. He’s been raised in captivity. Henry is his name. When I got to our “campsite” I was surprised by how many people were there. 2 car camper tents, many women coming in and out of them. 2 new people on their bikes riding east. Will, who I met long ago in Kentucky, Adam and Chris who were in the Adventure Cycling group but left them over a week ago, and myself with the girls. A reunion at the end. A very nice way to round out the trip and a tough day.
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Today may have been rough but it came with many gems. We came upon a tree filled with shoes, something my mom had told me to look for. It has been there since her trip. Eleanor and I went to the John Day Fossil Beds where we met a gentleman who has ridden from Alaska to Florida. It changed his whole lifestyle. He now lives a simple life and he’s damn proud of it! Layers upon layers of rocks stood tall and stoic around our pathway. There was more beauty than my eyes could absorb. Though I did have much time to take it in at my stellar pace of 8 mph. With 25+ miles of windy terrain, too little water, and temperatures over 100, I’m just glad I saw my surroundings and not the pavement as I crash onto it, passing out.
As an artist it’s hard to go very long without making something. It could be as simple as a well made dinner or as complex as a beautiful ceramic bowl. Either way, I must make something. For the most part I have been satisfied by repairing tires and navigating through the country to satisfy these needs. It’s the evenings when the urge emerges. I try to lay in the grass and rest, I try to read at the picnic table, I go on a walk to see if my legs still function vertically. Nothing can keep the urges at bay. I thought about bringing along some jewelry supplies and tools to piddle around with on this trip. I am so glad I opted out of that one! A friend of mine told me she and her boyfriend went on this trip on a tandem bike with one whole pannier devoted to CD’s (back when that’s all we had.) She brought along her sketch pad and charcoal and pencils to sketch. Hard to keep artists from making something! By the way, she’s a jeweler.
So at this particular spot I had a golden opportunity to play. Beside the town park there was a small stream. It was no wider than 6 feet and had a man-made stacked rock damn creating a pool of water, enough to bathe in. The girls jumped right in to rid their skin of the days’ buildup. Salt be gone! Suntan lotion be gone! I had the same intentions but was content with merely splashing myself a time or two. The water was so cold. I am so impressed by folks that don’t mind getting in cold water. No matter how hot the day may be, I’m not getting in! I digress. The rock wall was my muse. I took to it like a magnet. For over an hour I played by stacking rocks-playing with their shapes and colors. It was a blast!P7220985P7220983P7220974

I thought I would get a good nights sleep without the tent and under the pavilion. With the noise of the roudy ladies and buzzing of mosquitos I decided to pitch my tent after all and carry it clear across the park to where I could hear the stream rushing by instead. Ah, better.

Wind Runner in Pain

I am Wind Runner. Some time during this trip it was necessary to change my name. No one really knows who you are or why the hell you are riding that “thing” across the country so why not just become someone else along the way?! Some of us put our “game faces” on before working out or public speaking. This prepping is needed to rev our engines for the task at hand. For me, I become Wind Runner. My first time being Wind Runner was to escape a series of storms through one of the many states…Wyoming I suppose. I’ve needed to become her to get over a couple of passes, get through some rough days, and to battle against more wind. Eleanor will sometimes come up behind me and say,”Wind Runner, what is the outlook?” I will respond with, “Fair my friend,” if I think the weather will hold out. Just hearing myself called that is enough to rev the engine a bit and kick up the rpms a solid 1 mile an hour or so. You think that doesn’t sound like much but you would be surprised what a difference 1mph can make.
So yesterday I wished I was Toyota Tacoma. I would have been going 55 mph watching the Oregon hills fly by with not a care in the world. Sadly, I was far from Toyota Tacoma. I wasn’t even Wind Runner.
We woke at 5 am as usual. Packing was easy because we had done a good job of securing everything to our bikes before bed because otherwise it would have blown away. I’d done some serious stretching on the picnic table in hopes that it would calm me before what should have been a peaceful nights rest. We were beside a lake with mountains around us, stars out, no fly on the tent with the weather so dry, and some fairly heavy winds that would surely lull us to sleep. Hot. Muggy. My sleeping bag was my pillow. Wind in my ears…very little sleep.
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The morning ride was peaceful. We meandered our way through the Idaho/Oregon roads crossing into the Pacific time zone (finally). I liked ridiing in the back today. I looked all around and zig zagged across the road. There was no hurry. I stopped to eat some blackberries and to eye the apricots whos aroma had been leading me down the road for miles. They weren’t quite ripe yet though. Boo. We stopped at the only store before Richland (30 miles away and designated as our lunch stop). The lady at the counter was less than helpful. May we fill our water bottles? No, no water here. But she insisted that they were “biker friendly here.” I wanted to push her buttons so badly by asking in what way they were friendly but I resisted. She did have a lovely porter-jon and chairs to sit in. We downed a box of cereal and the milk that was left over. It was enough to power us through the next series of slow going hills. It was also enough to aggrivate my stomach. Up came the milk. It wasn’t projectile vomit. It was more of a gurgling overflow of dairy. Ugh. Too much detail? Probably. But it didn’t stop me from biking. I just rinsed and repeated.
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Richland was a cute town. We would have only 44 miles to go to get to Bakers City and it was only 12:30 so we took our sweet time. A Veggie Burger and a big ice cream cone were enough to get me rolling again. Did I just have dairy again? Shit. I had already vowed to not have milk or cereal the rest of the trip but somehow ice cream consumption cannot, will not, be stopped. Off we go.
Off we go! …why aren’t we going? Oh, we are…just not very fast. The lady at the store said we’d have a steady climb most of the way and the last 10 miles would be worse into Bakers City. It is certain now that the woman has never been to Bakers City. Anyone, ANYONE, can tell that her description is the farthest thing from the truth.
Head winds, side winds, swirling winds, blasting winds, winds. The heat was bad enough, 100+, but the wind was enough to nearly kill us. I was nervous to ride too close to the girls for fear that I would go down and they would follow or that I would run in to one of them after being whipped all over the road. I have a hate/hate relationship with wind anyway. I’ve never enjoyed it. Even breezy weather can irritate me. If we were going to have wind the least it could do for us is decide on one direction to come from. Then we could at least prepare. By mile 60, for the day, (we had to go 84) I was ready to give up. So many thoughts crossed my mind. Thumb a ride. No, not this close to the end. Camp under that bush. There might be snakes. Walk your bike, it might be faster. That may be harder. By then I was literally unable to push down on the pedals. All I did was let them circle with the weight of my legs. I gave a small tug up every once in a while to keep the momentum going. I ate a pop tart in hopes that it would energize. NO. The girls plugged along together ahead of me, miles ahead by the time the sun was setting. I just couldn’t go any faster than 4 miles an hour. My ass was hurting, my thighs itched and burned from the mystery rash that’s been 2 days in the making. Sun poisoning or heat rash…hopefully one of the two. Both hands were going numb and I felt shocks up my arms when I shifted my weight on them. I’ll just pick a spot, hope for cell service and hope the girls don’t come looking for me. No. Keep going. Only 7 miles left. I came around a bend as the sun disappeared and the clock read 8:15. I saw a town below. That couldn’t be Bakers City! The map and that lady said the last few miles would be all up hill. Huh? P7190903Zip zip I flew down the hill. The temperature change from warm to refreshingly cool made my legs work again. Whoa, hello 15 miles an hour. How I’ve missed you! As I crested the last small hill into the city I saw Eleanor coming back towards me. She was coming to find me. Luckily she hadn’t backtracked any more than 1/2 a mile. We hit up the grocery store and debated sleeping arrangements. Hotel or behind the church? Easy. Hotel. I’ve never been so happy to arrive in a town. And of course, I bought cereal in the store. So much for not having any for the rest of the trip. I did avoid milk. I got the kind of cereal that’s best when eaten dry!

Trash Monster

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Everyone likes a good deal. Maybe you are the person that cuts out all the coupons out of the local paper. Maybe you are the person who orders one meal and always splits it with someone else. Do you sign up for that free gym membership every time you walk by the ticket jar? Do you drive all over town to find the cheapest gas around? There is a common bond between bikers: we find the deals! I don’t know how it happens or why. Do the folks take pity on us? Are they just that nice? We’ll never know.
Yesterday was tough. The group dynamics of 3 girls being together for 2 months doing the same activity over and over can be tolling on us all. It finally came to a head the night before and luckily we were able to break the tension of weeks of miscommunicating. Ah. A big sigh of relief. We may not always get along but dammit we’ve come this far, we haven’t far to go, and we WILL have a good time for our last 2 weeks. With that decided, we head out of our (free) campsite and wind our way along the Snake River…up hill…
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Though we were all feeling good about our chat the night before and were all happy to be going through such beautiful terrain, we needed something more to spice up our morning. I looked longingly at the roadside for some “flare” or “flair.” (however you spell it) I had a flag I had picked up weeks ago flying from the back of my bike and Kaitlyn has had her B.O.B. flag waving since the start. But where is Eleanors flare? She needed something jazzy to spruce up Merl a bit. I’d been looking for weeks but hadn’t been able to find anything that would do. But with Idaho’s trash problem, I was sure to get lucky today. The roads had been so clean for so long that it seemed overly offensive to see can after can of Keystone and Natural Light pass by. Not only to Idahoans drink and drive but they litter like crazy!
P7160859That’s when I spotted a needle in a haystack. It was bright pink and plastic…how could this piece of trash not be a treasure?! I pul over, watching the girls go out of site around the next bend. It’s a blow up tube! One of those floaty things you put kids up to maybe 10 into to float in the pool. Yes! THis is what we need. Though I hesitated briefly, I had no choice but to put my mouth to the nozzle and begin to blow. Yuck, but worth it. I blew it up as fast as possible and tried not to pass out. I threw it over my head and let it rest around my waist as I hurried down the road after the girls. I went as fast as my little legs could go for 3 miles. I was drenched by the time I came up on Eleanor. I had a plan to sneak up on them both because I didn’t want them to look back and ruin the surprise. “On your left.” I said as I passed by Eleanor. She broke out into laughter. Mission accomplished. By the time I got to Kaitlyn she was pulling over to rest. I pulled up beside her and waited for the laugh. Yes! 2 for 2. I handed over the tube to Eleanor and we went on our merry way. With looks from almost every passer-by be trudged through the brutal 54 miles to New Meadows. P7160860Along the way we could hardly keep our eyes on the road. There was so much to look at in the ditch. A birdie from a badmitten set. A small plastic shovel. Black rimmed glasses without lenses but with croakies attached. A nickel. Free apricot samples. A visor. We collected it all. Funny that all this time we’ve been sending everything we can back home but we have no problem adding these items to our ride.

Our treasure!

Our treasure!

We were beat! We stopped into the coffee shop for a water refill and the man behind the counter told me that I looked the worst of the 3 and that I should rest a while. I laughed but it was true. I was not doing so well. I felt more like going to sleep on the table than biking on. Eleanor and I decide to split a coffee drink. When Kaitlyn comes and sits down it’s about the time he comes over to deliver the drink. He’s got an extra mug of drink. He’d made too much. Score! Free stuff. I went to purchase a pastry from him and because I pulled out a credit card he refused to charge it and paid for it himself. Okay. Free stuff. After deciding to stay in the town we go to the park to set up camp. A couple struck up a conversation with Eleanor and before they left they handed over a box of granola bars. Score! Free stuff.

New Meadows

New Meadows


It was a bad night of sleeping in a well lit park with townsfolk drunkenly passing by the park and engines revving non-stop. We fuel up and pack up in the morning and head on. Awesome riding, a few hills, but nothing we can’t easily get over by now. I’m drenched again. It’s so hot now. I’ve cut the sleeves off of my shirt and cover my body in sunlotion. It’s 106 today says the man behind me. I’ve now awakened the monster. It’s only 1/2 way through the day and already Eleanor has picked up a folding camp chair and Kaitlyn has a bright blue bucket. Us bikers like it free. How can we resist collecting these great finds! We can’t. We dont. For now. Soon the pile will grow too large. Until then, our eyes will continue to scan the ground.
Sunset in the park looking out of the tent

Sunset in the park looking out of the tent

I added another category. Please check it out.
Peggy 1976 Transam