(Casimir) Pulaski Day

I patronized the little market for breakfast as a token of my gratitude for their free camping for cyclists service, fed Tunes some meat and cheese on top of her dog food, and we quiescently cruised about 20 unpeopled miles along various creeks and parts of the Salmon River. In Osceola, its “world famous hotel” was a ghost-town relic, desolate, except for its banner announcing its upcoming “world famous turtle races.” I didn’t get my own photo, but an image search turned up this pic from snowmobilingusa.com that sums it up (minus the people and the snow).

About 25 miles later and around 1-2 PM, we arrived in the center of Pulaski and called our hosts Kit and Lou to make sure it was okay we were arriving so early. Kit warmly welcomed me over for lunch, and she offered some fresh and local veggies, some cut tropical fruit, and she had great news– they were going kayaking and had managed to borrow a third kayak for me! We piled into the car and made a short trip Lake Ontario, where we put in and had a fun paddle for a couple of hours. Kit, a super down-to-earth high school science teacher, triathalon warrior, and outdoor adventure enthusiast, was a lot of fun to get to know as we hugged the shore of the lake and gabbed about our adventures and other cyclists she’d taken in over the last few years of participation in Warm Showers. Petunia curled up on my lap, sometimes resting her head comfortably on the cockpit rim, and once standing up at full alert to warn a red buoy that it was much too close and scary.

When we returned to shore and rode back to their neatly and lovingly-landscaped home, I put some quinoia and rice on the stovetop and Kit picked the last of the asparagus right out of her garden, and we grilled it up along with some broccoli and chicken. Our tasty meal was enjoyed right outside on their cute front porch, and we watched a few of her Amish neighbors ride past the house by via horse and buggy.  Following dinner was a thorough garden tour, accompanied by their two dogs Porter and Benson. Landscaper Lou identified the nursery-rejected and almost thrownaway greenery he’d rescued and tenderly nursed back to health, including an ornamental pear tree, some evergreens, shrubbery, an exotic assortment of lime and hunter green hostas. They seemed especially delighted by one ten-foot-tall bewildered looking Charlie Brown Christmas tree, conspicuously occupying prime real eastate on their front lawn and bearing a few lopsided branches that appeared to have been practically plugged in to its lanky bole. “It gives the neighbors something to make fun of us for,” Kit said with amusement.

Below: Kit, Lou, Benson, and Porter.

We slept soundly in their spare bedroom, and were treated to a hearty breakfast the next morning. Anita wouldn’t be arriving in Rochester until Monday evening, so Petunia and I had another day and a half to get to the city. With only 115 miles, this meant that we had another vacation-paced-pedaling day. Along our route, we met a new friend and fellow cyclist Albert, and chatted about our trip on the quiet backroads which allowed for double-file riding. Albert stopped to rescue a small painted turtle from the road, and then rode in solidarity with us all the way to Fulton, where I was generously treated to lunch on a lovely outdoor patio alongside the Oswego River. We met a man named Brian whose two daughters thought Petunia was nifty, and his family wished us well on or journey.

A few miles later in Hannibal, we parted ways with Al, but not before he gifted Gearing Up with a munificent donation. I’m getting quite close to my goal, and it would be an amazing honor if we met it and even exceeded it. Once again, I’ll refer you to my safe donation page, and I’d like to thank everyone who has so thoughtfully and graciously given to this organization which helps women in transition from abuse, addiction, and/or incarceration by providing them with the skills, equipment, and guidance to safely ride a bicycle for exercise, transportation, and personal growth.  If you feel more comfortable donating cash or by check rather than online, please contact me so we can organize this (email touringtunes at gmail dot com).

Sunday night, we were close to Sodus Point, and so with darkness quickly arriving and with nothing in view but miles of vinyards and apple, cherry, and pear orchards, we found a quiet spot to rest for the evening and tucked in among our planted surroundings. We leave no trace, do no harm, and pack and go with the sun. As I went walking I saw a sign there, and on the sign it said “no trespassing” / But on the other side it didn’t say nothing, that side was made for you and me.


Songs of the day: Casimir Pulaski Day by Sufjan Stevens

…and This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie. Bonus version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bphP7Hh_gxU  features the images and voices of Woody and Arlo Guthrie, Holly Near, Pete Seeger, Ronnie Gilbert, Judy Collins, Joan Baez, Hoyt Axton, and others.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I Walk to the Sound of My Own Drum/ It Goes, They Go, We Go (Hey Yeah Yeah Yeah)

Before I left Old Forge, my host Nancy sent me off with some arnica-based muscle healing gel and a healthy granola bar before she sprang away to her yoga class. She noted that the winter classes she’d taken in Florida were less strenuous than the sessions offered at the brand new and eco-friendly arts center in her northern summer hometown- “I’ve taken three classes and it’s like they’re trying to kill me,” but she was optimistically health-conscious and persevered. 

I was happy to see Pastor Lawrence and his adorable flaxen-haired dog in the church where my bike was stashed, and he and the church secretary Mary gave me plenty of time to re-pack my panniers and get ready for the next leg of my ride. Before departing, Tom arrived to give me a warm send-off, following by car to the brink of town, shouting through his open passenger window, “I’ll race you!”  For a moment, I think I want to stop and go back to hike Bald Mountain, but the possibly stormy weather suggests that this is better left for another visit to the Adirondacks. There were so many great trails, lakes, ponds, and biking paths, that I could spend a whole season there. I’ll be back some day, I promise myself. 

Leaving Old Forge was an easy, mostly downhill spin, and the heady 25-30 mph rolls were so sublime that I missed a backroads turn that would’ve taken me off of the busy main route. But once again, this turned out to be another instance of kismet, as the road I wasn’t supposed to be on was actually being traveled by my host Terry, who was on his way back from making donations to some of the local non-profits benefited by his church. When I saw him driving past me, waving and smiling, it was a nice boost of assurance that I was exactly where I needed to be. 

My accidental detour also afforded me an unplanned 7- mile stretch of railtrail, which was just what Tunes needed to get her exercise. I made long, slow strokes alongside her, following her speed, and focused my radio onto NPR’s Fresh Air. There was a very interesting interview with queer Black lit writer Jacqueline Woodson, Young People’s Poet Laureate in association with the Poetry Foundation, and she read her poetry and excerpts from her book Brown Girl Dreaming. We slowed for a few ducks along the way, and the highlight of the day was that there was no bright sunshine, no blue sky. My dog was smiling and bouncing along, my knees felt warm and fluid, I was not in any pain, and although it was unremarkable in any way, the day was beautiful and happy, we were at peace, and made a few people smile along the way.

A couple of hours away in the town of Boonville, I stopped in front of the library to try and call my health insurance company about a weird bill they’d sent me before I left. I’ve been carrying these papers for almost a month and after half an hour of getting nowhere with the endless automated prompts and lack of human representatives, I give up and have a P.B.J instead. A nice older woman with a miniature daschund came over to say hello, and a little boy named Lucas smiled bashfully, asked me a few questions and learned that Washington state is “really far” away. A few people point out that the traveling version of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall was on display in the town, so I go over to see it, though I’ve seen the permanent version in our nation’s capital. Between the gray drizzle, the solemn roll call of honor echoed out from under a big white-topped tent, and the sight of over 58,200 names of people whose lives were cut short by war, the atmospheric grief is heavy. An ancient looking man shares his story with a much younger man in head to toe camouflage, and they shake hands, the younger man saying in a deep, low, drill-sergeant-like voice, “I thank you for your service.”

We leave Boonville behind quietly and full of wordless thoughts, and suddenly the sun comes out and I re-discover that I am simply here, grateful, and having the time of my life. I look around to my left and murmur, “yeah!” as I take in the scene, a big field full of cows and yellow wildflowers and a rolling hilly horizon. My cadence is easy and even, a farmer in dusty overalls tips his hat to me, and I see the most unusual color barn in a vibrant robin’s egg blue, and with increasing volume I whoop, “yeah!”  It seeps in deeply. I am in the moment, I am present on the surface of this planet, filled with the joy of just taking in the daylight, and this is Good, I have nowhere to be but here, and nothing to do but this very thing, whatever this is. I don’t know how I got to be so lucky, but I get to live and be alive and see heaven everyday on two wheels. 

I have only cruised about 30 miles, but Tunes looks pretty sleepy, and I feel like I could use a little post-Adirondack snooze myself. The Hilltop Market in West Leyden has listed itself on my map as a free place to camp, so although I’m in full view of all the market patrons, the kerosene station and two unsightly dumpsters, I set camp on a grassy patch out of the way and have a sunny late-afternoon rest. 


Meanwhile, I have I talked to my boss, Anita, and we realize I’m going to coincidentally be in the Rochester area while she’s there on business with a few clients. I need to get a couple of reports done as a part of my agreement to be a “mobile evaluator” for at least a few days over the summer, and so the short days work out perfectly for my timing to meet up with her and work for a couple of days. I arrange to stay with a WS host the next night, and call it an early to bed evening. Just another day in paradise…. 

Mummy…. it’s bedtime.  


Song of the day: The Walker, by Fitz and the Tantrums

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The people I’ve met / are the wonders of my world

Since Ticonderoga, I’d noticed a high-pitched squeak-whining that seemed to be coming from the front end of the bike, so I wanted to get it to one of the bike shops noted on my maps, at least 30 miles away. I did a basic safety inspection and ruled out trouble with the brakes, the panniers, or the fenders I made sure that they weren’t rubbing against anything. All seemed to be working fine, but the irritating sound was like a flock of seagulls (and I ra-an-aaan, I ran so far a-waa-a-aay). But I advanced on in hopes of beating the thunderstorms that were predicted to move in later. 


Tunes helped me keep an eye out for the deer, which seemed to hang close to the road and were unperturbed by my wheel squeal.  Lunch was another granola bar, a half-past banana, and some trail mix. We stopped by a small town’s baseball field and Petunia ran (she ran so far away), running the bases, zooming through the outfield, and carrying her dental chew stick way out into home run territory. She was totally zonked after all of that exercise.

In the town of Inlet, the Pedals & Petals flower, bike, and wintergear shop was open, and a few people came over to talk to me about my trip and my pup. One of the bike mechanics came out and heard my impression of the distressed bicycle noise, and started the usual troubleshooting. Soon a second mechanic came out and then it was a bike-fixing party. They started by strategically adding grease at the hubs, then noticed my brake triggers should be tighter. But to do that right, the rear wheel, which apparently had a slight bend, needed to be trued up for a few minutes. Next the shifter was adjusted just a hair, and while they were there, they tightened up my cranks, which turned out to be really loose after riding a total distance of…. well, hey! my bike meter read 997 miles! Woohoo! While the work was being completed in short order, the mechanic with wavy shoulder-length hair gave me a free chia seed and coconut energy bar, and told me that they were rated as one of the top 300 bike shops in the country. I did not ask what the total denominator was in terms of of bicycle shops in the U.S., but they helped me out for free, and the noise went away, so they certainly get five stars in my book. 




That sweet feeling when your odometer runs out of digit places!  


The rest of my day was like a Very Hungry Caterpillar book of fortunate events in which each page turned revealed an even better treat to enjoy my way through an onto the next. The bike shop dudes had advised me to take one particular turn in the Adirondack resort town Old Forge to ensure that I saw the water and the restaurant areas. When I got there, I happened to meet an affable grandpa-joke-making man named Tom, who was first to share in my happy news that I’d just done my first solo-thousand-mile-ride. He pointed me to the grocery store, where I picked up a giant hunk of watermelon and celebratorily chowed down. While wolfing down my summery treat in the parking lot, I overheard a couple of local soccer-mom types talking about their recent black bear sightings. “I was in the car and the mama bear was just right there with her cubs. I went to drive around them and she stood up on her hind legs! Right in the middle of broad daylight. She was totally not scared off by a moving vehicle.” Soon after, good old Tom pulled up in his car and wanted to talk and offer some more info about the area. He had a small leather portfolio of photographs that seemed to have been taken with a point and shoot film camera in the 90s, including some shots of the small house he’d built himself in the woods nearby. Most of the pictures were of big bears, sometimes three or four together, that had come close to his porch or were on his property. “Have you given any thought to where you’re going to sleep tonight?” I was planning on camping somewhere farther away from the town, but all this bear talk led me to conclude that it might be best to try and find something less rustic than usual. 

Tom told me where the library was and I bid him adieu again. I was about to go in and hop on a computer to start investigating camping or indoor options when guess who appeared but Tom again. He was all about being as helpful as possible, and suggested the church next door might be able to give me advice on safe harbor for the night. A couple of women were inside, bustling around the kitchen, preparing for a volunteer thank-you evening of desserts and appreciation. Without hesitation they offered us refreshments and surmised that I could probably just sleep in their furnished basement, although I’d have to check with the pastor first. Not only did Pastor Lawrence welcome me and Tunes to stay there, but the group invited me to join the celebration and eat my weight in a colorful variety of sugary confections. I got to hear about their Mission Boutique, a donation based thrift shop that they started some years ago after a local family’s home burned down and the community rallied to help them get their basic needs covered. Due to its successful ability to raise money for about ten different local social service programs, they were in the process of expanding their building and efforts. It was so nice to share time with people who were so invested in helping others, and the pleasant atmosphere felt safe and light. Several people made donations to the Gearing Up fundraiser, and I was deeply touched and grateful for the warmth and the genuine goodnaturedness in the room. Lawrence even shared that he was also a cyclist and had just completed the Black Fly Challenge ride and we exchanged bug bite stories. 

From left to right: Lawrence, Mary, Tom holding Tunes, and Terry.


After wolfing down a heavy plate of performance enhancing desserts, I was approached by a couple of people who offered me a shower and a bed for the evening, and retired couple Nancy and Terry said they’d love to have Tunes meet their little pug Toby, and so I took them up on their offer. Their friend Deb gave me a lift to their beautiful family home on Rondaxe Lake, where Terry treated us to a magical performance of Taps on his baritone bugle. The 24 notes echoed across the lake so clearly that it sounded like another horn was responding from the opposite shore. 

The songs of loons and the heavy rain falling on the tin roof above the knotted pine walls lulled me to sleep, and I rested soundly without even one bear related dream. 

Song of the day: Adele – Hometown Glory

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

For Tomorrow May Rain, So I’ll Follow the Sun 

It was meant to be that I didn’t push on up past Ticonderoga that rainy late afternoon, because the following day was postcard perfect weather which meant zero-humidity, a gentle breeze, and fantastic views of the Adirondack mountains behind me and ahead of me. I had a cup of free in-room coffee, cleaned the grit and lumps that were stuck to my cogs and chain after the rain, re-greased, and was out by….. noon. I was taking my time outdoors and not in any hurry! I felt so rested and optimistic, that the hill that seemed onerous the day before was a now a playground, and I kept stopping safely  on the far edge of the shoulder to look back in wonder.  


Once I got past the peak, the route was rife with pleasant rolling hills and an endless number of rivers, lakes, and ponds. I stopped at one to take a photo in Schroon, and a pickup truck with a couple of Vietnam Veteran bumper stickers pulled over and the gray-goateed driver in cool shades and a military hat offered, “want me to get one of you and your pup together?”  Dave parked, snapped a few shots with his finger in front of my phone camera’s lens, then kindly re-shot some pics. 

   He asked where I was going. “Seattle… Washington?”  he exclaimed before inquiring as to whether I was doing this for a cause. He began pulling money out of his wallet as I was telling him about Gearing Up (reminder– if you’re enjoying this blog, please consider giving a gift here: http://www.gofundme.com/touringtunes2015), to generously offer a donation. He asked if I needed food or water, and I thanked him for all of his kindnesses, as I’d enjoyed our fun little encounter and chat. “God bless you!” he said, and so I replied, “and you too!”  He walked back to his truck, quipping over his shoulder, “and if he doesn’t, it’s my own fault!” I waved as he drove off and shouted “Thanks again! Take it easy.” And in an almost Lebowski way, he replied, “I’ll take it any way I can get it!” and drove off into the hills.

There was virtually no other traffic, and I stopped to enjoy roadside waterfalls, huge blue lakes walled in with emerald mountains, and basked in the inimitable smell of Adirondack pine.

We stopped for a little lunch of PB&J, and apple, and a granola bar, and rode gleefully until a very tiny place called Newcomb, where the one store in town had burned down. We went to the emergency medical services cabin and tapped on the door. An older man came out and let us refill bottles, and he even had a couple of dog treats for Tunes! He told us that there was a restaurant in town but it would probably be closed by then, and that our best bet for another comfort station would be about a dozen miles away in Long Lake. So we hustled on until 6ish, and luckily, the one gas station/store in town was pretty well stocked, and had cheeseburgers for a buck and a half! I split one and an ice cream cone with Tunes, and asked the cashier where I might be able to access the water if I wanted to take a dip (not clarifying that by “take a dip” I meant “have a bath”). He told me of a couple of places with easy water access, mentioning that one was more secluded than the other. Bingo. The water was a bit cold after a couple of days of rain, but still very refreshing after a warm day of sweaty riding. Petunia sat on a nearby dock and watched, not caring to take a leisurely swim.

  There wasn’t anyone around and it was pretty secluded, so I set camp in the woods not far from there, in an absolutely gorgeous spot with a view of the lake, which became a luminous amethyst as it reflected the watercolor-painted, storybook sunset. And then, in a moment of unfettered grace, the low, musical wail of a loon echoed across the lake as soon as my head hit the inflatable pillow and I nestled my pup in the tent. It was almost so perfect, I might have felt guilty for enjoying it all to myself, but sleep had overtaken me just moments after hearing the lake bird’s song.

Song of the day: I’ll Follow the Sun, by the Beatles.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Old Hotel Rag

Last year while riding down the coast of California, my fellow tourist Sasha introduced me to the writing of Moroccan medieval traveller Ibn Battuta, and my dad recently sent me one of Battuta’s famous quotes that often gets circulated as a motivational text on a beautiful photo background: “Traveling–it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a story teller.” Although I’ve certainly told my tales at length on my blog, I’ve also become a conduit for people who see me and Tunes and feel compelled to share their own stories with me. 

Huddled under the awning of a gas station’s mini mart on Monday morning, I was zipping on my raingear as the bad weather moved in. Morning motorists came by in waves, some cooing over Tunes, and others regarding me with amusement, and several stopped to tell me about their own travels. Les was a local business owner who ran the Vermont Wedding Barn, complete with alpacas, and he told me about a harrowing experience he had riding down a mountain in state, in which he nearly slammed into the back of a dump truck. “I’d caught up to it, flying down Burlington [maybe ?] mountain, and I was just two feet from it and couldn’t brake any more. I started thinking I was going to bail off the bike and jump and reach for the back of the truck to hold on. How are your brakes?”  Shortly after, an older guy with a defensive lineman build came over to share his stories of touring through France in his heyday with some friends. “But, of course, I had to carry the tent and the fry pan, the real heavy stuff. Give it to Lurch, he’ll carry it, they said.”

We decided to hang out a while and have a late breakfast/early lunch under the overhang of the Shoreham library. Even though it was closed on Tuesdays, they had a few picnic tables and I caught up on some reading, writing, work, and Petunia was fed and we played in the big field with her squeaky toy for a while. The rain slowed, and before we were finally ready to move forward, we stopped in nextdoor to the cottage-sized town office building. The woman at the front desk very kindly allowed me to use the restroom, fill my water bottles, and she even offered chocolatey treats from her candy dish. She asked if I was following the Adventure Cycling route, and I knew this woman knew bike touring! She told me her former boss had done a long north-south cross country tour, and that sometimes he’d called the office, demoralized in a tent somewhere in the rain eating the only thing he could find–beef jerkey– and sought comfort from his colleagues. But the town clerk employee must have been an animal lover, because she understood that Petunia was my all-weather companion and confidante.

We took the two dollar ferry across to Ticonderoga, NY, and halfway across the river, the rain started pouring down even harder. 

I covered Tunes in her rainfly and we rode past famous Fort Ticonderoga, uninclined to stop for a soggy touristy visit, but did take the obligatory state sign pic. 

By the time I got to the heart of the city, I was thoroughly drenched and feeling a bit stiff, and Tunes was the picture of water-logged weariness. We stopped into a fast food spot, pulling in just behind another cyclist and her closely-following VW bug sag wagon. Wendy was riding around Lake Champlain over a few days, staying with friends, and her husband Tom was following with gear, a dry sweater, and support. We went inside and had a nice lunch together. I felt badly that Tunes was outside still, so I got her a burger to buoy her spirits. Wendy and Tom were both very intelligent professionals with many similar interests, and we talked organic farming, forensic psychology, non-profit evaluations, NPR, and of course, about bike touring. It was nice to share some time with them, and I wished Wendy good luck on her trip, and best wishes to them both, before they took off again.

It was already getting well on into the afternoon, and I looked out across the way to see what looked like an unending ascent into the low, smoky clouds that were covering the Adirondack peaks. Yuck. I looked at Tunes, slumped down in her mobile home, full of burger and still displeased.


I took out my cell phone and looked up what the cheapest motel in town was. A woman answered the phone casually, and unfussily gave me a rate that was less than half of what all the other chain places were quoting. I looked at the mountain, the map, the clock, feeling like I should push on– it’s just rain, right? I could do it. But I tuned in to my gut feeling, and it said, you could do it, but you don’t have to if you’d rather do something else. We pedaled to the big house-looking motel, checked in without incident, and once Petunia hopped on the bed and I jumped in the shower, happily sudsing up with the provided thin-mint waferesque bar soap, I knew that this goldenrod shaggy carpet roomstay was totally worth it!

Once clean and settled in, I was surprised to see that the sun had come out. And I mean, it really brought it hard– squint inducing, humidity producing, late afternoon sunshine. I stripped the panniers off the Trek and decided to take advantage of the rest of the day in town. This was no longer adventure cycling– this was vacation bicycling! 

The first order of business was to get my long, unweildy mop of hair under control, so I stuck my raggedy-coiffed head into several salon doorways to ask if they had availability and non-glamourous rates. Without luck on my first two stops, my third try was a success, and hairstylist Karen even let me wheel dog-on-a-bike into her shop. She itantly ID’d me as someone “not from small town Ti!,” and when she heard about my adventure, she said in all seriousness that I was brave, and so did her aunt who came in a few minutes later. I don’t feel brave exactly, just…. lucky. Really, really lucky. Karen caught me up on the ongoing manhunt for the two murders who had recently escaped from prison just over an hour away from their home. She told me she’s seen a few state cop cars in town today, which was unusual, and that the news was showing a massive search effort underway just outside of the prison where the guys broke free. “Just be careful where you sleep at night!” she cautioned me. I doubt that I’m going to get bike-jacked by two dudes who don’t want to show their faces in public again, and I have a better chance of getting hit by lightning, or even a car, than the odds of running into them as I roll through NY. With my appropriately short, sassy, and manageable cut completed, I bid spunky Karen goodbye, but not before pleading to snap just one picture of her in her shop, despite her protestations.

While the sun shone, we hit the local bike path for a quick spin so Tunes could do some free range running!


The baby La Chute river was pretty and easy to walk down to, so I read a little sign about it,  stuck my feet in and sat quietly for a little bit listening to the water flow forcefully over the rocks, with Tunes by my side. 



Back through town, we rode around and were tempted by the savory smells emanating from a roadway chock full of BBQ joints, upscale American fare restaurants with their dark and heavy façades, but ultimately ended up at a grocery store to have an affordable and still fun DIY feast. The room mad a microwave and a mini fridge, so we got a can of soup, a bagged salad mix, a soft nectarine, and a chocolate milk. Bam! A fiesta! I must’ve been really hungry, because I capped it all off with two big chocolate peanut butter cups AND a half of a coconut-chocolate treat. I did a load of laundry, with much gratitude to the hotel owner, who looked like Paula Deen but with the mannerisms of Dorothy of the Golden Girls, as she comped me some detergent that I needed badly.

By the time I’d unpacked and did laundry, cleaned up gear and self, and started listening to a funky short story read by Wil Weaton, I was barely awake enough to turn out the lights. But I managed, and slept in until a ridiculous 7:45 the next morning! I guess I needed the rest. Feeling fresh and ready, I began the prep to charge up rt 74. Piece of cake! More stories on that tomorrow…

 I’m often asked, “don’t you get lonely doing all this riding by yourself?” But between Petunia, technology, and the hundreds of people I’ve met just in the last month, with whom I spend sometimes just a few enjoyable moments hearing and sharing stories, I can’t say I feel lonely at all.

Song of the Day: The Old Hotel Rag by David Grier.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments