And on the 7th day, she rested again (sort of)

I got to spend the day with my mom, dad, grandma, and brother. It was a great day spent in CT yesterday. 

Dad and Tunes at the lake at sunset.   

 Downy tufts of pollen swirled through the air like I was in a snow globe, and it collects on the streets. 


Petunia and Felix say hello in the yard. They’re not as close as Tunes is to my mom’s other cat, Millie. 


Mom hanging out with Felix. It’s her day off as well, and we went out to a lovely lunch- salmon burgers and veggie paninis. Mmm. The owners let me put a postcard on their cork board ceiling. 


Took gram to listen to some music in the social room at her assisted living place. She knows all the words to so many of the songs!      

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Home is whenever I’m with you 

My delightful WarmShowers host Devon left very early to begin her three-day shift at the hospital, and it wasn’t until I heard her car start outside that I woke up– sadly, too late to say a proper goodbye. The previous evening, she’d offered me a bunch of organic kale that she didn’t want, playfully ribbing me with the vegetable in hand, “if I find that there’s any kale left in that refrigerator in the morning…”

So I packed up my things and took her up on her offer to fix myself breakfast. I lightly sautéed the greens with the pecans and cranberries I’d picked up the day before. There were two cartons of farm-fresh local eggs with shells that ranged from a soft pastel green to a tawny traditional hue, and since they’d been offered to me, I fried two eggs in a splendidly loved cast iron pan, and hard-boiled one for the road. I boiled water for some herbal tea that I’d thoughtlessly packed, given that I never brought the little stove along with me afterall. It was a nutritious start to the day that left me feeling ready to conquer the coming climbs, of course only after washing the dishes and tidying the kitchen, and leaving a thank-you note on one of the prepared postcards with Petunia’s picture on it. 


Starting late at 9 AM, I began the day heading generally east through Litchfield County, pushing hard against the humidity that had already begun to set in and cling to me for the day. Up, up through Canaan, East Canaan, and Haystack Mountain State Park, coaching myself with a variety of little mantras. From the movie Cool Runnings, I borrowed and modified, “Feel de riddim, feel de rhyme, get on up, it’s bicycle time.” From last year’s TransAm ride, I chanted, “you’re a beast, you’re a beast!”. When the 9% grades came, I started bargaining with myself: “If you can just make it 40 yards to that shady spot, you can stop and have a quick sip, and catch your breath.” More than once I would surprise myself by reaching that shady spot and continuing on. “Well, we made it this far, and I can see the top, and I just don’t feel like unclipping my shoes right now.” 

I stopped for water and possibly a bite at a cafe in Norfolk where a woman was hanging a sign in the window, but before I dismounted my rig, she brusquely told me, “I’m not open yet.”  “Oh. Would I be able to just fill a water bottle, please?”   “No. I can’t. Not open yet.”  Ah, there’s that New England charm I have so missed.  Just around the corner, the majestic Norfolk Library was open. With architecture resembling something between an old Italian church and an historic Yale University building and intimate in size, I wasn’t sure I should go inside, as I was sweaty, somewhat odiferous, and intensely neon in my hi-viz vest and bright yellow sun sleeves. I put my pride aside and went in for much needed hydration. It was the most beautiful library I’d ever been in, with high vaulted dark wood ceilings, stained glass rose windows, a grand piano in a bright open room, high-backed leather chairs, and a loft-like second story balcony of neatly arranged, old-smelling books. I spent some time taking pictures and browsing the stacks, lusting after inviting spines and glossy covers, wishing I could curl up and read there forever, before finally leaving its opulent ambience for my humble odyssey.   

But finally, a sweet downhill cruise that began with one of my favorite starting blocks: a yellow traffic sign advising trucks of the approaching downhill grade. I flew down it and started looking for my next turn. It was only supposed to be a half mile away, but then I was at .75 miles, then the net turn wasn’t the right street name…. oh, dear. I missed the turn. And it was at the top of this hill. Navigation fail! Later in the day, my dad would laugh and remind me, “there are no wrong turns. You’re just out for a ride. No schedule, no timeframe, nowhere in particular to be.” And he was right, of course, and it all worked out. And the endorphins from laughing at my little mistake helped me pump back up to the top and get back on the correct route. 

The conditions of some of the back roads left much to be desired– the recent hard winter meant that the municipal monies had all been spent on plowing and ruining the road surfaces, and there was nothing left to spend on patch jobs or better. At one point a couple of hours in, it was so bad that I hopped off and pushed around the craters rather than risking a flat. The pit stop gave me a moment to crack the hardboiled egg on my shifter and feed Tunes the yolk, which is her favorite part, and happily for me my least favorite. We’re a good team that way.

The scent of late-blooming lilacs wafted through the air as I entered the town of Riverton, population ~200. I stopped at a deli and general store in town and ordered a veggie burger. Petunia had a stretch in the greenery and I checked my maps again, sizing up the afternoon’s ride. Not much farther to Hartford County in central CT, which is near my hometown. I decide I can go off route and haul the remaining 30 miles to get back home to surprise my mom and brother in Bloomfield. An employee (or the owner?) of the general store came out and she offered Petunia a dog biscuit, which Tunes shyly accepted. “You rode all that way alone? You Should be very proud of yourself.” Her motherly gesture makes my day lighter somehow.

A quiet and pleasant ride beside a branch of the Farmington River was a nice flat stretch, and I saw fishermen in their waders doing doubletakes as we whiz by. Suddenly, a monster of a hill came into view that I recognized as part of the route I took last year to get to Ski Sundown in New Hartford. Riding with my brother in the car, I’d said, “Wouldn’t this be fun to go flying down in a sled?”, and now here I was, huffing up it, watching a range of reactions from pity to alarm to schadenfreude from drivers passing in the opposite direction. But I made it, with two little berath-catching stops, and was rewarded with a stop at the scenic Barkhamstead Reservoir. 


Leaving the reservoir, I took a left and began another climb, and soon the threatened thunderstorm and showers came to fruition. I was somehow still going uphill and hadn’t found my turn, so I begrudgingly accepted that I had missed the route twice in one day. I checked in by phone with my navigation team (shoutout to Uncle Mike, my number one fan), and he confirmed directions and I turned around, but at least I got to go downhill a bit. I was about 12 miles away from my mother’s house, and excited for the prospect of being able to say I rode from central NJ to my family home in Bloomfield, CT. One last climb, and then the last 10 miles back home were downhill! 

A torrential burst of rain suddenly poured down, and I stopped to put Petunia’s rainfly on her carriage, and a man in his garage across the street hollered out to me and waved me over. The traffic on this route had really started to pick up, as it was about rush hour, and so I waited in the rain for cars to pass until I could duck under his roof. Bernie Merli introduced himself politely and I noticed his two-car garage was full of large metal parts and tools and machinery. He told me he had a tractor museum and handed me a business card, which indicated he specialized in buying and selling old farm equipment. He went to the back of his shop and brought out two small clean pink hand towels for me to dry off with and dry Tunes off as well. A gentle soul, he saw Petunia was shaking with nerves from the storm (she doesn’t like thunder) and he offered her some water and filled my bottle as well. We chatted a bit, and he had a guest book in his workshop, so I signed it and left our website address. I was unble to produce one of my postcards after fumbling around in three panniers unsuccesfully looking for them since moving them out of my overburdened handlebar bag. The rain stopped, the sun was back out, and he wished me luck and safety on my journey as I pulled away, eager to get home.


 At last! The summit of what was sure to be the last hill, to be followed by a long coast towards a certain and happy destination! I hadn’t gone very far at all when a tan minivan honked a few times, its driver waving frantically out the window at me. What could this be? I waited for the van to circle back, and when it pulled up along side of me, and the driver got out, I recognized the face instantly– it was Uncle Mike! “I tried to rescue you before the storm hit, but I didn’t find you in time. Want a lift home?” I was surprised to see him, unsummoned and so close to my destination, but I appreciated his thoughtfulness, and didn’t want to turn down the gesture. Between Petunia’s sad, wet state and my aching knee, I thought it wouldn’t be a bad thing anyway. We loaded the panniers in the van, then the bike, and made the short ride to my house, chatting about the journey all the way. There was a lot of traffic on the route, so I suppose it was safer anyway. 


No one was home when I arrived, but my brother came back to let me in and to snuggle the pup. I had a chance to wash up, and we went out to dinner with my Aunt Patti, Uncle Mike, & brother Greg while Tunes rested up and blissed out. With a nice rest day ahead on day 6, it was an exciting evening for sure! 


Today (Friday, 5/29) I spent visiting family, and may opt to do so tomorrow, since the weather will be so fantastic, and folks have talked me into all sorts of local adventures (kayaking? Cook-outs?I want to get back on the road, but it’s hard to refuse).

Song of the day: Home, byEdward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

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Lookin’ out over yonder mountain, lookin’ out over waves of grain

Before I left on this journey, I went to visit my Grandma Judy and tell her goodbye for now. We went down to the common room at her assisted living community to see an acoustic guitar player-finger picking standards from the 20s-60s, and before and between his songs we chatted a bit. “Be good, and don’t talk to strangers,” she advised me in her effortlessly good-natured way. But for me, talking to strangers has often led to some of the most memorable and life-affirming moments on a trek like this one. 

Following a peaceful night’s sleep, I bid my cousin adieu after he shared coffee and route chat with me. Thanks, Marc! It’s a great shot of you and Tunes, but I almost don’t want to post any more pictures of me, as I’m looking unkept and plain, makeup free and utterly unremarkable save a slight resemblance to a potato. But moving on.

I had a little breakfast with the Tunes and got back on the ACA course towards Dutchess County, NY, an area as regal-looking as its name implied, including rolling, steep hills that were a bit of a royal pain. One gorgeous farm after another came into view, with cows milling about freely near a pond dotted with lilly pads, horses at the edge of a large lake on the side of a hill that boasted a brilliant red Mansion-sized barn, and a plethora of vineyards lined with fledgling greenery. Though it was buggy and muggy out, it was not dishearteningly so, and I pedaled uphill as fast as I could muster, attempting to shake off the incessantly annoying gnats that were unintentionally becoming my late-morning snack.


A few days ago, the climb up what felt like the steepest hill in PA was utterly unrewarded by a descent down a wrecked rubble of a road, pitted with potholes that threatened to wreck me if I didn’t ride the brakes all the way down and steer ultra-defensively. But the worst climb of the day in NY concluded with a fantastic view of the rolling hills of the county and a sweet downhill cruise that cooled me, and immediately wiped clean all of the self-doubts that mounted with each strained stroke from pulling literally my own weight’s worth of bike/gear/dog. 

 Before I reached the summit, I stopped and asked a landscaper for permission to fill my bottles from the garden hose, and he was happy to help out. Between the both of us, I figure Tunes and I go through 2-3 gallons of water a day, and that’s before we stop at night and “camel,” filling up on water the night before to help ensure the following day’s hydration. Sometimes it’s easier to carry 3-4 full 24-ounce bottles and stop and refill or ask for water than to carry 6 full bottles, but sometimes on these hot and hilly country road routes, you just drink it all before you see any people or places to help out. Plus you get to talk to more people, anyway, and the landscaper, whose name he never gave, donated a couple of dollars towards my fundraiser for Gearing Up. (Hint: You can do this too. Donate to Gearing Up to help women get back on their feet and onto bicycles.) Good deal!

We stopped for more water and a satisfying lunch, including a GIANT PICKLE, YEEEEEAH, at the deli in Amenia, where a cute outdoor table in the shade was a nice place of respite for the both of us.

Then came one of my favorite things about cycling: rail trails. Eff yeah, rail trails. Scenic, quiet, usually flat, lots of plants and animals to see, and only for pedestrians, so no pesky cars to worry about. I think this phrase is becoming one of Petunia’s favorites, because it’s so safe, she gets to enjoy one of her absolute favorite things in the world: running. This dog is totally a runner, and I prefer to pedal, so we become the dream team out there, both enjoying the exercise and fresh air.   

I realized I must’ve looked extra gross when I made a quick stop in to get more toothpaste at a chain-pharmacy store and the clerk looked at me nervously like I was going to drop dead of spandex exhaustion, but I pulled out some more strength to plow up one of the last climbs and crossed the border into Connecticut, my home state!  

Hooray! And… now what? I didn’t think making it another 21 hilly miles to Norfolk was going to happen before the forecasted evening thunderstorms, so I checked WarmShowers on a whim. Sure enough, there was one listing in Lakeville, just 5ish miles away, from a woman who had quite a bit of solo bike-touring experience on the TransAm! I knew it was a last minute request, which isn’t too nice to spring on someone, but I took a chance and left her a voicemail. But having passed Lakeville shortly thereafter, I kept on pushing a few rolley miles into Salisbury, CT, and had just pulled over to strategize some rogue camping options when the phone rang. It was WarmShowers host Devon! She sounded kind and welcoming, and even though she had a lot to do to get ready for a hard three days of work starting early tomorrow AM, she was very willing to let me have a safe place to stay with her. I turned around gleefully, made a quick stop in a health food store where I picked up some dry roasted pumpkin seeds, ginger soda, cocnut water, and pecans with cranberries, and I backtracked about 3 miles. 

I got a great vibe from Devon as soon as she greeted me and helped me move my bike indoors. About my age and with similar interests, we hit it off, and even though she was busy, she kindly treated me to a pesto and sweet potato dish she’d cooked up and made time to chat about our TransAm and other life experiences. As a nurse for Doctors Without Borders, she’d traveled the world, even bravely helping out during the Ebola crisis, and now had ambitions to go back to school to learn midwifery. She was ultra nice to me and Tunes, and even though she claimed she’d never been much of a “dog person,” Tunes didn’t notice and followed her around, sitting beside her while she studied. Just as I settled in, the threatened storm came crashing in, with lightning and heavy rain, and I was glad to be indoors and clean, and hanging out with such a cool, inspiring person, who had been a stranger to me just an hour before.  


The little cow was happy to be back in bed, of course.


Song of the day: Yonder by Donna the Buffalo.

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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 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….


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Crossing The Gap

Song of the day: Crossing the Gap by Railroad Earth.

My eyes attempted to open with the first light at around 4:30 A.M., but decided that would simply not do, and my mummy-sack-entombed body awkwardly rolled over as to not disturb the sleeping pup between my feet. I brushed off several spiders and their newly minted webs from my panniers and departed a bit after 6, and within a quarter mile of leaving the unkempt, overgrown railroad spot I’d crashed in, I saw a small, neatly mown fire department around the bend that would’ve made for a perfect campsite, had I only rolled just a bit farther. I wasn’t even bummed- it was pretty funny, and seemed to have some metaphorical life lesson in there somewhere, and I cycled into the town of Delaware Water Gap for breakfast at Mackeys (thanks for the gift card, mom!). 

I refilled my water bottles, grabbed a coffee for me and a sausage patty for the little cow, and was sitting on the bench outside perusing my maps when a man approached and inquired as to whether I needed help. I asked him about the roads going north towards Burlingham, but he said he was a truck driver, and unfortunately only ever saw the most boring parts of the country– the interstates. José generously donated $20 for the Gearing Up fundraiser, and we chatted for a minute about the way that being alone helps bring you in touch with something more spiritual. “When you’re alone, sometimes that’s the only chance you get to talk to God– seems like there’s no time to do that, otherwise.”

After crossing the river back into NJ, we rode a very quiet, nearly automobile-free 17 mile stretch paralleling a bit of the Appalachian Trail, peacefully avoiding the Memorial Day traffic. Unhurriedly, I let my lungs fill with the sweet sylvan smells, enjoying the shade of the trees and the beauty of the ferns. I heard two hog-like grunts from my passenger, which meant it was time for Petunia to get her exercise, and so she ran alongside me for a couple of miles. She started out at a good clip of 11 MPH, then going up the hills and towards the end of her second mile, we slowed to around 6. She drank a lot of water, walked over to me and I set her back in her carrier and buckled her up. Good dog.

The Kittatinny Mountains were nothing to sneeze at– only the trees and grass were, for me– and I found myself once again doing one push up an exceptionally steep classic-Poconos mountain. Then 28 miles in and without any services around, we began to run out of our 6th and final water bottle. I took a chance by bumping over a rocky, unpaved side road into the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, but their alleged bathroom was austere even by Portapotty standards. But the gravelly detour wasn’t for naught. Tunes and I climbed down a little sandy hill and went for a refreshing swim (bath?) in the Delaware. Well, I went for a swim, but she is not a big fan of the open water. There goes my buddy-triathlon hopes for us.

Feeling refreshed, if not quenched of thirst, I climbed out and rinsed off the silty river muck as best as I could, put on some dry shorts, and cycled out in search of water. 
I saw a large Christian center of some kind before I made it to my next city, and pulled over so Tunes could have a little break and so I could inspect the hose hooked up to the side of the building. I heard voices inside so I knocked on the door and was greeted by an older couple who were going to play mini-golf at a small field set up on the church grounds. I asked if I could fill a couple of my water bottles, and the gentleman happily agreed, quoting a Biblical passage about giving a man a cold drink and being rewarded by the kingdom of heaven. I thanked him and as he went off with putter in hand, I used the bottles to fill Petunia’s water dish and realized the water was quite brown. I assumed it was potable anyway since it came from indoors, and although it likely wouldn’t make the cut as holy water, it was good enough for this parched heathen, and we slugged it down and made it to Port Jervis.

By the standards of the Adventure Cycling Association routes, Port Jervis was a rather large city to encounter, with a population of nearly 9,000. I dodged the cars, had a bite to eat and Petunia got some more goodies (bacon with ice cream). I was even able to charge my phone and spare battery a bit while keeping an eye on Tunes, who was outside in her shaded carrier, leaning up against the window where I sat. A few people asked me the usual questions about where I was going… and although my time-challeged goal destination is Seattle, and had told another couple as much this morning, by 4 PM I’d started feeling that this was too overzealous. I’ve already got one nearly 5,000 mile cross-country bicycle tour under my belt, so why jinx it with such lofty declarations? I’m pretty sure I can solo ride to Maine, which is where the route hooks up with the westbound Northern Tier that rides to Washington. It would be great to then go west towards Niagara Falls, and even the Twin Cities, or possibly Glacier National Park if I had time and limbs left. But there I was, backpedaling on day 2, and telling a little girl that I was riding to Bar Harbor, even though she did not know where Maine was at all. 

It’s more fun to take it day by day and see how the adventure unfolds, anyway, and I was reminded of that as I happened to see a firetruck pass me that said Hugenot FD. It just so happened that this was the next town I’d be passing through, so I continued on to see if I could crash there, having had the kindnesses of so many Fire Departments across the country on my TransAm ride last year. Sure enough, there was one car outside, and its firefighter owner was washing it near the bay doors. I asked if I could set up my tent in an inconspicuous corner of their lawn for the night, and Bill agreed, and chipperly brought me and Tunes a gallon of cold spring water! Great success. 



It was only 5:30 after a hilly 55 mile day, but I was ready to park it and so was my little buddy after a riveting game of fetch– and by fetch, I mean, Petunia runs around with the tennis ball and I chase her, until she stops, I approach from a distance, and she bolts off with it again. I set camp between two trailers, rinsed a few clothes, re-organized some panniers, watched a swarm of cars and trucks pull into the parking lot when an emergency call came in, and waited until it was almost dark to begin my day’s final ablutions. Stealth-bathing outdoors by way of three tepid water bottles while swatting away rapacious mosquitoes is not for everyone. And while it’s not my favorite pastime or anything (although I am starting to see a pattern develop with this bike touring thing…), there is something real and important about eschewing modern comforts and conveniences, atavistically enduring the unpleasantness of the natural world in order to come closer to it. The feel of river mud between my clawing fingers, and of wet grass between my toes. Those were the moments when I could begin to talk to God, as far as I saw it.

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