Song of the day: Michael Jackon’s Thriller
When I was a kid, I loved to play outside among the two rows of tall pine trees separating our yard from the neighbors’. My sister and I would make believe we were pioneers, settling the land, building our house, feeding “hay” to the “horse” (throwing fallen, tan pine needles into a Queen Anne’s lace bush). I loved the feeling of roughing it, preparing our abode for the harsh winters to come, concerning ourselves with our imaginary problems of yesteryear. One of the things I remember most was making carefully composed mud pies. I was reminded of this feeling as I assembled my first breakfast whilst sitting on the dewy morning ground in Hugenot, NY. (An aside, I’d been in three states in the previous day: NJ, PA, and NY… tristate trifecta). I mixed a powdered form of peanut butter with plain water, perfecting the ratio until the creaminess approximated the real thing, and spooned it onto a slightly stale roll that I’d saved from a previous day’s lunch. Somewhat satisfying, but I wanted to be nourished enough to face more climbs. And so a second breakfast was in store!
But first, to load up the panniers, clean up, and get rolling. Part of my routine on my last tour was to bag my shoes and stick them under the end of the tent each night so they’d be dry and protected for the next morning. Not having an extra bag yet, I sufficed to just put the shoes under the tent the previous evening, and so the following day I took the extra precaution of dropping my shoes on their heels to shake out any spiders or grass that might’ve gotten in them. Instead, a ping-pong sized gray, speckled blob plopped out from somewhere in the toe bed and into the heel! “AAAIEEEEEAAAAahahahaha,” my squeal morphed into a shriek of laughter as I recognized the shape as a belly-up frog who slowly blinked one eye at me. Yuck! The poor thing was half-dead, I surmised from having spent the night inside my bike shoes whose condition summoned the Vincent Price narration: “The foulest stench is in the air/The funk of forty thousand years…”
Luckily, it hopped away to live out its last days enjoying fresh air via its three respiratory surfaces.
I pedaled around bends and up a few formidable hills that caused me to dump out some of the extra water that I’d secured in order to avoid yesterday’s temporary drought. I was sure that four bottles would hold us for the few miles to the next town where I planned to stop in for second breakfast. As I lurched onwards at no more than 3 miles per hour, I tried to fuss with the portable radio to see if there was any music that could help motivate me onward, or even a weather report, as I’d heard rumors of potential t-storms and the clouds were rolling in. But all I heard was static fuzz. Luckily, my phone had enough battery to put some internet radio on for a while, and I put it on shuffle mode and hit play. “Dun du-dun DUUN dun, dun du-dun DUUUUN dun” blared Flight of the Valkyries, the perfect tune to rev me up into full beast mode! Sometimes I think my Pandora account’s algorithm is so good it’s nearly psychic, and this was one of those times.
Upon reaching Otisville, I ordered a massive egg, cheese, and bacon sandwich on a bagel with a side of unbuttered toast (to be saved for a PBJ lunch) and a choclate milk, all for five bucks. Sweet. We sat at a picnic table otside of the deli and Tunes ate all my bacon while an older woman with a heavy Russian accent told me that I looked like I was running away from home, and that she thought my trip reminded me of a movie she saw “where a woman goes on hike and throws shoe off mountain.” “Wild?” I offered, having once or twice been compared to the book (and later movie) about Cheryl Strayed’s journey on the Appalachian Trail. “No, no, some blond woman, she take drugs and lots of boyfriends.” Well, okay then. “It’s kind of like that,” I smile, “except with a little dog and different life choices.”
Before I made it out of the small town, a man with white hair and thick glasses in an equally white truck pulled over to ask me about my trip. “Must be nice to be traveling with your best friend. Why haven’t I heard about you on the news or seen you on TV yet?” He told me that he was on his way to a federal correctional center to pick up some dogs that were being trained to become service dogs by inmates who volunteered to participate in that program. I mentioned my fundraiser for Gearing Up (shameless plug: please give at http://www.gofundme.com/touringtunes2015) and that I appreciated great programs that help people get back on their feet again, we concluded our chat and went on our way.
Before noon, the heat was increasing and I pulled over for a water and Tunes break and checked my progress. Not too bad, when you zoom out, considering it’s only Day 3 and I felt the first knee twinges despite a prevenative brace. In two and a half days, I’d taken a windy, all local-roads and backroads trip on a bicycle that would take just over two hours in a car via the highways.
There were some beautiful views ahead as I cycled on towards New Paltz, a town I’d been to before with friends to do some hiking a few times. It was fun to have been able to ride there with Petunia, and we took a few photos in the chill, hippie-vibe, artsy town.
I got a message from my Uncle Mike that said my cousin Marc who lives in Poughkeepsie wasn’t far from me, and that he’d be willing to let me crash there, have a shower, and go out to dinner. “Is that enough incentive?” Well I surely couldn’t turn that down.
To get there, I crossed the world’s longest pedestrian bridge, which felt absolutely accurate. A few rain drops had started to fall, so I thought the timing was perfect and I felt like the 55 miles I’d cycled was good for he day. But it was a pleasant and welcomed light rain, and I slowly rolled over the bridge, taking in the sights and of course the photo ops.
The pedestrian bridge was followed by a nice jaunt on a really well-maintained rail trail towards Vassar where Marc works, and as the rain came a little harder, I stopped under a small bridge to add Petunia’s rainfly to her rig, as she was not amused by the drizzle, and covered the rear panniers (borrowed a set of Arkels that are not waterproof). Another cyclist on a lithe road bike passed me and smiled at my setup, saying “Mars or Bust!” which was pretty funny because I really do look a bit alien with my antannae rear-view mirror off of my bugged-out orange rim sunglasses on this strange machine with Toto on board. We chatted for a few minutes, discussing touring and the lifestyle choices one makes if one wants to adventure like this. He had hiked the AT, and began quoting the Bryson classic A Walk in the Woods to my amusement. It was a pleasant encounter to share with someone who “gets it” about the bike touring bit.
Marc greeted me warmly as if no time had passed between our almost-annual Christmas get togethers, and hoisted my hefty rig up a few stairs and safely onto his front porch. I had a luxurious shower, put some non-padded, non-bicycling shorts on, and we went to dinner at a favorite local spot of his just off campus. He spoke highly of the bruschetta and spinach salad with chicken (I opted for salmon just because), and so we had a marvelous meal and caught up. Thanks, Marc! This was followed by a tour of the campus and some Vassar history, and he hooked me up with some ice and supplies for my touchy knee, and even helped me get a load of laundry done.
Exhaustion sets in early when your day starts with the sun at 5ish and you pedal a bunch of hours during the daylight, so, Tunes…. now is the time for you and I to cuddle close together….