Riding my bicycle across Vietnam
It really cements things when you cross back into the home state. I’ll be home tomorrow. The totality of the trip has been consuming. I am both ready for an end as well as not wishing to return back to normal. It’s how it always goes. In adapting to one way of life: nomadic, spontaneous, physically involved, I have switched gears from the day to day. The routine, getting up every morning and seeing something new, meeting and interacting with new people, going somewhere else. The repetition of the bicycle. These aspects play an integral part of the traveling lifestyle. I’m hesitant to reintegrate into school, being home, not going somewhere new every day.
On the other hand I am ready. It has been nearly 3 weeks on the road. I’ve done what I wanted to do, to plan and ahead of schedule. I am recognizing every day I’m by myself the missed virtues of having a riding companion. It’s lonely. Today was lonely. 5 hours on the bike don’t always come easily when you know there’s no one a few minutes ahead waiting for you at the ice cream shop. That’s not to be pessimistic. I see the values in traveling solo.
The common theme through New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio has been uneventful riding: flat, minimal scenery. I was thrilled to stop into Breakwall BBQ in Conneaut this afternoon. That was quite good. I was slow on the bike for about a 1/2 hour after. I reached out to my WS host to ask if I could use the kitchen to cook dinner, to which I received an affirmative reply. It was the last night after all, that is still sinking in! The best I could find was a Giant Eagle, I was going out with a bang. Tenderloin, mushrooms, blue cheese, zucchini, and chocolate cake. All integral parts of the last dinner. And it was great!
Another fantastic WS host as well. We talked for quite a while after dinner. I’ve been informed he’s making pancakes in the morning which I’m excited about! Tomorrow is the last day. I’m astounded. It would be untrue to totally say that “it’s all gone by so quickly”. At times like these, when writing and reflecting on the trip, yes, it has. I remember like yesterday when I came into Camden, ME after a hot day of riding, and all the culinary adventures in Portland. Etcetera. On the bike, it’s a different story, it often doesn’t feel to be going by so quickly, but rather quite slowly, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
TM: 4:56, AVS: 11.0, DST: 54.90
Another day another state. I’m getting close now. It’s interesting, I catch myself rationalizing the end of the trip. Simultaneously looking forward to the end, reliving what has happened, and wishing that I had someone to ride with. I have concluded that I much prefer having a riding partner. It makes everything better. The partial antidote for this is WarmShowers and friends.
I spent the morning / afternoon sailing in Chautauqua, a great way to spend some of the day. That was refreshing. I had the day planned partially as a rest day, with only 30ish miles, and a nice WarmShowers planned for Erie. The riding was uneventful; along Lake Erie and very flat. There were quite a few wineries. However the significant highlight of the day was the WarmShowers at the end. I spent hours talking with an awesome retired couple. I was fed and provided with a private room and a shower. “Make yourself at home” was a common utterance. Arguably the best WS I’ve stayed in, these social interactions served somewhat of an antidote to the lonely blues I’d been suffering that afternoon. No matter, I’m almost home now.
TM: 2:55, AVS: 11.5, DST: 33.68
The boat crested the wave, wake foaming and churning underneath the vessel. Then the bow came over the other side, landing forcefully in the depression on the other side. I was battered with water and spray, eyes closed, leaning out, holding onto the sail with all the force my climbing fortified arms could maintain. We were flying. Hitting another wave, surfing, flying. A gust of wind hit, and we yelled “hike”, precariously balancing the boat on the edge of its capabilities, leaning straight off the boat to keep it as flat as possible. This is no work of fiction, I’m simply describing last night.
I rounded out my visit in Buffalo with a nice bowl of oatmeal, butter, and blueberries, said my goodbyes, and was off, later than desired, as per usual. I finally buckled to the siren call of Starbucks on my way out of the city, but then my will remained strong(ish). It was a day of fast food, Subway, and a hot dog stand. Time was of the essence. I had to meet my friend Matthew in Barcelona, NY so that he could drive me in to Chautauqua to spend the night. In years past, I typically spend a week with Matt and his family, but with time constraints this summer, it wasn’t in the cards. Unfortunately there was not a lot of time to stop. The day was interesting, this nearly nonstop biking certainly took its toll, both mentally and physically, which made me all the more ecstatic at the end of the day. The evening commenced with a small potluck at the Catholic House of Chautauqua, an annual tradition that I am somehow always in attendance for. After dinner, Matthew and I decided to go for a little sail. We had no idea it would turn out how it did!
I watched with a disconnected irreverence my plans for an early start disintegrate and die, falling upon my feet. It was no matter. In all fairness, I had gotten to bed later than expected, and of course, needed sleep. I had breakfast at another diner. After spending too much time their sipping coffee and eating hash browns, I was finally on the way.
Due to time constraints I decided not to go into Niagara Falls. Strictly, the Northern Tier goes through that way, then dropping into Buffalo. I neither had time nor wanted to ride that long so I skipped it. I was on the towpath for about 30/45 miles. Things started to get interesting when I was released from the towpath, solely at the whim of Google Maps not to steer me incorrectly.
Coming into Buffalo was interesting. I rolled through Buffalo University, then suburbs, then downtown. Not the most bike friendly city. Either way, I made it to Uncle Scott’s and Aunt Christine’s house just after 5:00.
Visiting that night was undoubtedly the highlight of the day. The last time I was here was about 12 years ago, I reckon. The evening chipped itself away over hamburgers, conversation on cars, and watching TV. It was great. On a more humanistic note, these are the first people that I have interacted with significantly since Mark’s departure on Tuesday. Without Warmshowers or even AirBnB, the conversational element that I do cherish is effectively stripped away. Unfortunate.
TM: 4:02, AVS: 11.0, DST: 44.68