Returning to the berth at Rusty Rex garage, La Tortuga shows 42'120 mi on the odometer, that's 40'000 mi exactly from where it started in May 2014. The oil leak from the crankcase is as worse as ever and I limped in with a completely flat tire, happy to be at the home of broken bikes for a while. The decision to continue travel by bicycle next stems from a desire to slow things down even more and immerse myself in the experience further. Now to repair the antique bicycle and hope these legs will carry me down the road.
The sunny weather drew me southward and closer to "home" in Virginia. Quickly, the scenery became more familiar and the roads remembered from faster times. It was bittersweet knowing the journey was coming near to a close...sort of. I reveled in the beauty of the forest and the beaucolic farmlands of PA turning yellow with the oncoming fall. It's a beautiful landscape this time of year and the mountains of PA are never far to cool your feet in a stream. While taking riding brakes along the road, I reserved a site online in the Michaux State Forest for free, then saved the pDF confrimation. A legal site and the freedom to cool on a wood fire is a nice change from stealth camping. Nestled in the forest beside the glowing embers, I stare at the Milky Way and constellations above more familiar in the desolate places of my travel. To end the trip is unjust to my dreams and so it continues. I know that this will be my last night camping with the Ruckus for a while as VA I only a day away. I savor the feeling of having my trusty companion and significant piece of equipment nearby with the potential of travel and triumph (depending on the size of the hill). Soon will come the bicycle journey southward and the fall colors in a whole new light.
After a memorable stay with my cousins in New Jersey, I headed out into the comfortable morning air westward toward the Delaware Water Gap. The roads were twisty and hilly approaching the gap and I eventually found my way across the river and on to the ridge running River Rd in PA. By mid afternoon it was time to camp so I turned up Silver Lake Rd toward the Delaware State Forest. The series of waterfalls beside the road are well worth a visit and the hike did wonders to stretch out my legs. My buddy Skippii had reserved a free site here overnight and I gladly opted to join him at the old CCC camp. Made a fire and cooked out waiting for him to show later at night.
During the winters of 1777 and 1779, George Washington and the Continental Army encamped outside Morristown, NJ. The brutally cold winter struck with a vengeance, famously known as the "winter of our discontent". Unprepared troops from the various state brigades shivered and froze to death in the harshness of New Jersey, inadequately clothed and often wearing nothing at all but rags and tattered makeshift garb. Support and replacement equipment came too late for many as the suffering in canvas tents and makeshift cabins was cruel and inhumane. Their sacrafices and the fight stood against the British later in the spring and summer contributed to the victories and course of American history.
Walking down the Patriot's Path on a rainy summer day, I'm conscious of the footsteps below me, the history of this ground, the trees and the earth. A visit in winter with the smell of woodsmoke and snow hanging on branches would surely drive home the reality of this winter camp and the rigors of life as an 18th century foot soldier. My feet ache just thinking about it.
It was an enjoyable visit along the Hudson River in Dobb's Ferry with my friend Meg. The weather was fabulous as I departed in the morning riding north through the river towns of Irvington and Tarrytown where a mixture of old money mansions and new commuting suburbanites combine to form the fabric of the community. Turning onto the freeway, I pinned the throttle for the 3 mile crossing of the Tappan Zee bridge. Buses, semi's and families in mini vans sped past or rode my tail until they could safely pass. Floating cranes, tug boats and scaffolding dotted the river to the north where crews were busy assembling the replacement bridge span as the existing structure is on it's last legs. Despite my apprehension, I was not caught on camera or pulled over by one of New York's boys in blue. Making it to the west side of the river was an accomplishment and I was happy to continue my day with a lower level of stress. I've got a gopro video of the bridge crossing but can't seem to get it to download.
After crossing into Mass. with a new set of variator weights and a better idea of what was going on inside my belt case, I found my way to Hwy 2, the Mohawk Trail, that crosses the state through the Northen portion and hits some interesting geography on the way. The road leads through beautiful valleys and along old rivers that carry the sediments of the mountains to the sea. Those mountains are where I'm heading, on up to the Berkshires and into the Green Mountains of Vermont for a beautiful evening of camping in the rain. There's nothing quite like the sound of a raging storm overhead when you are dry and snug in a down sleeping bag. Nothing like it ;)
While visiting Nicole and Jason in southeast New Hampshire, they suggested I stop in for a free brewery tour at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in Merrimack, NH. Located in the scenic New England countryside, the sprawling campus also houses the famous Clydesdales but unfortauntely that facility wasn't open on Wednesday. The tour was an informative lesson in large scale brewing and even offered a few free samples of the latest brews from InBev. The Johnny Appleseed Cider sure had a nice kick and did a good job of taking the heat away from the humid morning. Our tour group of 3 was almost a joke since the facility is designed for tours of 20+, yet I got to know the couple from upstate NY as we worked our way through the facility. The cavernous room housing the control facility and brewing equipment is around 100F in the summer as stainless steel kettles produce the wort which will eventually become Bud Heavy. In contratst, the cool fermenting rooms and process is controlled at 50F and comes as quite a refreshing shock as the air tight door seals behind me. Here the addition of beechwood chips continues to add fermentable surface area for the yeast. Surprinsingly, it took some prying for the tour guide to admit that the product produced in the end is indeed beer but is nearly undrinkable as a thick concentrate. This is then combined with water and added carbonation then bottled and pasteurized into the Budweiser American's have come to love. At least I know how it is made now but it certainly isn't my beer of choice.
I could feel some hesitation when approaching steep hills and was having a more difficult time than normal surmounting steep sections from a stop. Knowing something was amiss in the transmission case, I just waited for things to get worse...and worse they became. Somewhere in southern NH, the bike finally wouldn't engage from a stop. It was quickly clear that the variator plate wasn't closing completely due to the roller weight having disintegrated and jammed inside the variator itself. There was some damage but the variator was usable and should get me back to VA. I didn't even think twice about the issue or the fix, just another common mechanical speed bump in the journey of my lifetime.
I was invited to the Emery Family Bonfire this past weekend in Whitefield, ME and had a blast! Thanks for the tasty grilled food, inferno and delicious chocolate cake. Following a delicious breakfast the following morning, I loaded up and rode southeast toward the coast. The mercury was already in the mid 80s and it wasn't even 11AM yet. I could feel the difference that leaving the cooler air of the Atlantic made and was not liking it. A sign of things to come. I stuck as close as possible to the coast and worked my way south, stopping in many nature parks, preserves and trail networks along the way to make coffee, read a book or explore the trails. This morning I crossed into NH and am now down along the Merrimack River south of the mill towns of Concord and Manchester. This has the real feel of being in the northeast. This sector of land steeped in history and the industrial buildings of the United States.
After scanning the terrain on my map, I noticed a large patch of mountains only a day's ride from the coast. I flock to mountains like a moth to the flame and couldn't resist the pull of cool lakes, babbling streams and the smell of warm pine in the sunshine. Camping near Rangely, Kingfield and Flagstaff, there are many gems for the outdoor enthusiast. My camera always captures the passion of the area and the mountains are my first love.
Sticking close to the coast, I traveled southwest on Hwy 1 and some other peninsular roads through fishing communities, blueberry fields advertising for rakers and yard sales in perpetual advertisement. This area is known as "Down East" and between the accent of locals, smell of fresh seafood stands and the sound of loons across the brackish rivers, I sure liked being down east. Deer Isle and the town of Stonington is a great destination for the real Maine experience of a small seaport, active fishery and historic bed and breakfasts. The most relaxing place visited in Maine thus far was the Holbrook Island Sanctuary, a wildlife preserve south of Castine along Ponobscot Bay. Fern lined hiking trail climb amid birch and pine forests to a hilltop summit where through a break in the foliage I spy the twin masts of a clipper headed out to sea.
Quoddy Head is the easternmost point of land in the United States jutting out from the coast of Maine just across from the International boundary with New Brunswick. I passed through Deer Island to Campbello enjoying the ferry ride and seeing the tidal whirlpool in action. Crossing the bridge into Lubec, ME I had mixed feelings about leaving Canada but also enthusiastic to be back in the states.
In May 2014 I quit my job to ride a Honda Ruckus over 55'000 mi and counting. Wild camping most nights and cooking most of my own meals, I keep the costs low and the landscape changing.