"I thought you said you knew where you were going!" Increased was looking around like one of the buildings was going to jump him.
Equal adjusted his black blazer. "Calm down, we'll just ask a yuppie."
Chevez spotted a refined, light haired man in Armani briskly crossing the street towards them. He pointed, "Here comes one now!"
Increased Impact, Equal Damage, and Chevez Grimlock: The Right On Adventure Story
Increased Impact Strikes out on his own!
After spending years traveling the world with Aces and Eights, finding loot, dodging bullets and outwitting competeing adventurers, I needed a break. So, without the help of any of our high tech equipment or Axels, I decided to visit the country I was born in, Canada, and see if I could bicycle out to the coast. The following countains a map of the route I took, and a journal of my trip.
I woke up at 8:00am sharp, got dressed, made sure the ring was in my wallet, said goodbye to Grandma and Wyatt, and by 8:30 I was gone. It was an uneventful but nice day, and I managed to make it just outside of Trenton by the time I figured I should turn in. I pulled into a farm house and asked if I could use her backyard. "I don't normally do this..." she said, but let me anyway. It rained that night and I got a bit wet. Before I left the next morning she offered me coffee, which I politely refused. I had forgotten the primary rule of a bike traveller. DON'T REFUSE ANYTHING!
A church between Oshawa and Trenton
In Trenton I met a nice lady at a Coffee Time coffee shop. It was pouring rain by now and I needed to get out of the bad weather and do some minor alterations to the bike. She was on disability because she was slowly loosing the feeling in her right leg (apparently she had been a security guard for a university and one night while hurrying to a call for help the woman she was trying to help knocked her down out of panic and landed on the small of her back). Not twenty minutes out of Trenton and I get a flat tire. At first I hoped to find a truck who would take me to the nearest gas station, but that hope soon faded so I walked the bike. Fortunately there was one nearby, and I went in and asked them for help. Like the oversightful person I am, I had forgotten to buy a repair kit (figuring I'd probably never get a flat anyways), and the store didn't have one. Fortunately, the brother of the woman who ran the store (a large middle aged man who was also on disability for reasons so numerous they made the coffee shop woman's story seem a little bland) needed to feel useful. He drove me to the nearest Zellers, I picked up a repair kit, and he fixed my flat for me (and threw in two chocolate milks into the bargain). Despite the bad weather, I saw this as a good omen. Later bought some cheese curds, haven't had those in many a year. I actually made to Kingston (I had thought I wouldn't make it because of the flat delay), and took the ferry to Wolf Island. I stayed at another farm that night, one occupied only by kids at the time. It was dark, and I wasn't about to look for another one, so I pitched my tent in their yard and stayed the night.
Before I left the farm I tried to dry out the tent in their barn for a while. The farm hand was not only not very nice, he seemed downright mean to the cows and dogs (one dog, who never stopped barking, had a crooked front left leg. It had been broken when hit by a car and never healed right.) Oh well. America! The customs official didn't hassle me, he only asked about my trip, and was pretty impressed by the plan. I got to Watertown, NY around mid-day and sent postcards home, then headed for the Aderondacks, getting to the foothills before evening. That was when I first got acquainted with mosquitos, blackflies and other pesky parasites. Note: MUST GET BUG SPRAY!!! My left ring finger feels weird today, a pins-and- needles sensation that won't go away. I found a woman who not only let me use her backyard, but also dry out my sleeping bag when I accidentally got it soaked making mashed potatoes. That night I hear rapid-fire machineguns in the background. There's a military reserve nearby, but I can't help but think it's just American hunters. Still haven't had a chance to read yet. The tent smells like the farm back at Wolf Island. I somehow managed to bloody my nose and it rained again. Luck is a two edged sword.
Hell is a very wet place. Both of my hands now have the pins-and-needles sensation (ring and pinky on both), someone suggested it might me Carpel Tunnel Syndrome. I met a nice lady at a gas station whos accent betrayed her from being from New York City. At this time I tried making chocolate milk for my 4 litre watersack instead of Gatoraid. Tastes better, but Gatoraid is better for travelling. Bikers (as in Motorcycles) have been waving to me during the trip, so I return the favour. In fact, I now signal to each biker I see, and almost without exception they return it. I made it 70 miles for the fourth straight day, not bad for a beginner. It's also rained for four nights in a row, so I ended up breaking down and renting a room at the 3-30 Motel. I cried. It was like I had surrendered or something, but it was necessary to dry everything out. I'm pretty sure I got ripped off for the room, too. I payed $51 Canadian for a $28 American room, I don't want to do this [get a motel] again for a while. I'm swiping their toilet paper and soap, they're lucky I don't take the T.V.! I now have a sunblister on my lip. One major upside to all this... BATH! I finished off the cheese curds, watched T.V., and relaxed. Hopefully I'll make it to Burlington (Vermont) by tomorrow, if I'm lucky (this would keep up my 70 miles a day pace). My watch is wet inside, and has been for the past couple of days (the internal waterproof ring had broke before, never bothered getting it fixed). The DEET bug repellant I got doesn't work well, glad to be indoors for that reason, too. I am so sunburnt and bug bitten it's not funny. Still, I don't want to stay in a motel ever again! I wish I had hybrid tires (part mountain bike, part ten-speed), they would make all the difference in performance. I need to lighten my load, too much weight slowing me down. I raised my seat today and that seems to have helped a bit, more efficient peddling, my knees thanked me. By the way, my room number is 13. God, I love irony. By now I've put EVERYTHING on the front handlebars, including my vest which it's just too hot to wear down here. I had been tempted to pull an 'all-nighter' and bike right on to Burlington, then get a motel there and stay an afternoon as well, but I'm stuck here instead. Oh well.
I am sooooo tempted to stay another night here. My muscles ache and don't want to go on. This feeling has been building for days now, and I can't help but think about what Wyatt said about muscles having to rest, sometimes for a couple of days, in order to grow properly after a workout. Maybe my muscles are trying to tell me something? Also, my pins-and-needles fingers might only need some time to get back to normal, maybe it's just a lack of oxygen because of all the pressure they get pressed against the handlebars all day? I could catch up on my reading and get needed supplies (like new bunjee cords). Also looks like serious rain tonight according to CNN. I'll call Wyatt and see what he thinks about staying another night. Did it. One more night of luxury (my standards are so low that my old apartment in Ottawa is luxury to me). Tonight I read Eaters of the Dead, a reworking of the Beowulf tale. Sent more postcards and got the bunjee cords. Things should get better now. Hope my hand gets better. And my lip. And my skin. And my legs. Took another bath. That night there was some strange air-raid siren. The news says it will rain all week, but should get better then. There was a flood watch for tonight, so I guess it's good I'm not outside.
Where the hell am I? One minute I was in Sarnac Lake, NY, and now I'm somewhere in Vermont! Already the 3-30 Motel is a distant memory! I've come to the conclusion that I know how Bilbo Baggins feels in The Hobbit. Part of him always yearns for his Hobbit hole, and when he does have a chance to rest in style, it's all too brief and all too soon a memory. First I couldn't stand the rain, now it's the humidity! I haven't had a nice, cool, dry day yet!!!! It was somewhere around this time that I first dubbed my bicycle "Mule", and name that has stuck ever since. I made 85 miles today! Granted much of it was downhill, but it's still an accomplishment. My total is 363 miles since I left Oshawa. I'm sunburnt everywhere, I have a blistered lip, mosquitoes continue to bug me (I'm bleeding from some bites) and I'm uncomfortably hot. Still, if it weren't for Nicole (a fellow writer I just met days before I left) there's no place I'd rather be. Still, it's boring being alone on this trip. On the ferry across Lake Champlain I met a bike bum (like a beach bum only different) and a nice family who let me have some food. I tried to find a place to rest and ended up at Ken's place. Ken is a very athletic looking person, his thighs alone are monstrous, and he too like to bike a lot. At one point he even did the whole country, from L.A. to N.Y.C.! Nice guy, too, very enthusiastic to meet a traveller like me.
On the Vermont boarder
I made 80 miles and crossed Vermont into New Hampshire in one day. Passed through Montpelier, Vermont's capital. "The only capital city in America without a McDonald's" a woman told me. I said that was something to be proud of. She agreed. This was the first day ever when I was refused to stay in a person's back yard. In one case I was quite thankful, one man who refused me was very overweight and looked retarded and dangerous (I swear drool must have been coming out of his mouth when he shook his head to say 'no'). But more amazing is the fact that I met a couple of cool kids who when they heard about my trip and the fact I was a writer, found me a place to stay for the night and invited me to dinner. Danny Sanabrio and Tory Searle remind me of Wyatt and myself at their age. They told me that they "run this town" and know everything and everyone in it, but that they also answer to a person they only called "Cain" (I must admit this very idea, taken in context of the cottage country I was in makes for a neat story idea). They also gave me a rock with a sedimentary ring around it (people there say such a thing is good luck). It's a shame I'm so defensive (I'll have my pepper spray ready tonight just in case), I wish I could unconditionally trust someone for once. Even when the kids and their half dozen other siblings asked me to sit down on a particular chair so I could talk to them about my trip I thought it was some kind of trick. The sound of the river I'm camping beside is like white noise. It's mountain water, and safe to drink directly, I should make sure I fill my water bottle with it.
Clean water... honest!!!
Dnner was great, we had slabs of pork, macaroni, and vegetables. Melissa (Danny's mother who invited me) and her husband have a large family made up of three or four of their own children and three or four adopted kids (I lost count). Their oldest, a girl, wants to be a poet, but she stayed inside mostly. Danny is adopted and Tory is his best friend and neighbour. I gave them my New Guinea Kina and a telescope/microscope thing I had as thanks, but they ended up fighting over who got the Kina. I think I can see why, too, something like that inspires mystery and adventure. I must make sure to ask dad for a half dozen of them to carry around for just such an emergency again. I'm sure he's done similar things in his time, the old 'beads to the natives' kind of thing I guess.
I swear these are bikers!
After leaving Tory and Danny's lovely neck of the woods I headed straight for the dreaded Kancamangus Pass. I say "dreaded" because it's about 3000 feet up! I had to walk most of the way, bikers continued to return my waves. On the way down this one guy on a blue and white Harley Davidson took one look at me after negotiating the Pass and BANG, gave me a big enthusiastic thumbs up.
On top of Kancamangus
Somewhere during a break on the Kancamangus I remembered the ring and checked to see if it was still in my wallet. Made it to Maine and had the bright idea of pushing through to Portland that night so I could stay up all night and catch the early ferry. It rained, lightning was constant, I got soaked, I got stopped by a cop for running a red light, and when I finally got there it turned out there was no early ferry, only one at 9pm the next day!
Lightning during the storm
Now there was no where to stay, I got there past midnight and I had no chance of finding a place to crash (even the local hostel doesn't let people in after midnight). NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER DO THAT AGAIN!!!!!
Pulling an all-nighter at a Dunkin Donuts and reading Neuromancer. It's a good read, just wish I was more conscious. This was my last option, couldn't find anywhere to sleep, I even asked a gas station guy that had been helping me if I could use his closet (no room in it).
The end of the all-nighter
Yesterday's total for biking was 575 miles, and I made 113 in one day! Wow! I've been thinking about what made last night so miserable for me, looking back it wasn't so bad, but I think it was a bunch of little things happening all at once. It was dark, I was tired and hungry in an unknown land and a big city at that (big cities at night are always intimidating to me). I had no place to stay, it was well past midnight and I normally got to sleep hours ago. I was cold, wet, bug bitten, had been pestered by cops and so on.... Just took it's toll on me I guess. Sunrise comes quickly. Jesus Freak convention today "Messengers of Good Peace" or some such thing, they're everywhere in Portland today. Heard some debating at a Burger King about interpreting the bible. Found out later through a sign outside a restaurant that the convention is for Jehovah's Witnesses. Checked out their public library, outside there was a woman in a McDonald's employee uniform who was like Forest Gump or Dustin Hoffman from Rain Man (in other words slightly mentally handicapped) and an old man singing sea songs to himself. Later there was a man in a wheelchair who's only method of communication was making seagull like screeches at the top of his lungs. Life's weird when you stop and listen. My feet, after being soaked for two days straight, are like that of a 90 year old man. I dried the clothes that were still wet with a bathroom hand dryer, heh.
Downtown Portland, by the way, is all uphill. ALL UPHILL. Even when you're at the top it's still all uphill. Well, that's how it feels anyways. It's a giant hill where you have to go to the top or over the other side to get where you're going usually. Still, it's a very nice place in the daytime. I'm starting to think that this trip is wrapping up for me. I had planned to go from Nova Scotia to Montreal before calling it quits, but I don't think the bike is up to the task. To say the least I need hybrid tires, the ones I have are almost bald and makes it twice as hard to peddle. The peddles themselves are in bad shape, and beyond repair. The brakes manage to slow me down because they always rub against the tires and I can't stop them. Also my front tire has a permanent dent in it. I just can't go uphill in this thing anymore. Anything greater than a 5% grade upwards and I have to walk. (You can see why I call it Mule)
The Looove Booooat....
I feel like I'm on the Love Boat. This ferry is more like a luxury liner, and the trip takes 11 hours. There's a casino, restaurant, live entertainment and more! I didn't rent a room so I'm going to sleep on the sun roof on one of those long deck chairs. Got my sleeping bag and a fist full of granola bars, I'm set! Goodbye America, nice meeting ya!
At least I slept. I forgot to wear my long sleave thermals, so I was quite chilly for a half hour before I actually woke up. I spent 20 cents the night before on a slot machine, won 2 dollars, spread the wealth with those around me down on their luck and lost the rest. I'm almost finished Neuromancer, I could have finished it yesterday but I want to leave something for the train. The long deck chairs were quite comfortable, but a florescent light above me was on all night, making it difficult to sleep (I would have avoided this, but I thought it was going to rain, at least here I was sheltered). Holy cow is it foggy out!!! Can't see ten feet ahead of me. The fog cleared up quickly enough as soon as the sun got higher in the sky.
With my luck there's an iceburg out there...
On my way to Halifax I stopped at a neat church/museum and got a map of the province. Later I bought Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat to read on the train (now I can finish Neuromancer). Made only 67 miles today, Nova Scotia is NOT flat! It's much larger than I thought, in fact. It could take me DAYS to get to Halifax! Made my first wrong turn ever here, their signs suck. I may take the 103 (a more direct highway, I had taken highway 3 up till now which was more scenic but much longer overall). Stayed in the yard of a man who didn't seem to care less about my trip. In fact not many people in N.S. seemed to care about my trip. Finished Neuromancer, great book!
I've had one dry night outdoors, TOTAL. I wish I had waterproofed my tent better. Supposed to rain tonight as well. Oh well. Time to push on. I HATE HEADWINDS! Headwinds are pestering me all day, slowing me down beyond belief.
Up to a few days ago I had been stowing my khaki vest on the front handlebars because it was too hot to wear, but then I found a way to tie up the sides so that it covers only by back, however this has the side effect of pulling up my T-shirt sleaves. Therefore parts of my arm that had been covered now got burnt, so my arms looked like Neapolitan ice cream (tanned brown, strawberry pink, and milky white above that). I made another 65 miles today. Stopped early so I could try to make a pizza on my gas stove as well as rest. First time ever I found a place and didn't ask permission (some forest off the side of the road, nobody owns it probably). The pizza wasn't that good but it was edible (Wyatt would note that I use the term rather loosely). Still it worked and the idea is sound. I have 78 or so miles to go, so I'll either be in Halifax tomorrow night or early Tuesday morning. Either way I don't think I'll be leaving until Tuesday.
A clam. A CLAM was the cause of my second flat! Sheeesh! Managed to fix it myself, though, a first! However, now the side of my rear tire bulges a bit, threatening to burst. I phoned VIA Rail today and found out I can't get on a train until Wednesday! Oh well, forced to spend a full two weeks, what a pity (not).
Pool table in a gas staion?
Hmmmm... Train doesn't go only on Tuesdays and that's the day I'll be arriving. Looks like Wyatt Luck to me (he's infamous for going to places only to find them closed at the oddest times and days). Started running into people with Scottish-esque accents. Farther south (around Yarmouth) it was tinged with French instead (Acadian). In fact, I heard one conversation down there that was half-french, half-english. I think I'm sleeping on an old landfill tonight. Still, it's high, it's dry, it's near the road but totally hidden, and the view is nice. I don't think I have to worry here. Dead bugs litter my walls, I really do have to wash this tent sometime. Don't know how many miles I made, my Oedometer has gone loopy. I have only 70km (42 miles) to go till Halifax. I figure I made 50-60 miles today, no way to be sure. My grand total by the end of this will be about 800 miles. Before I ended up at this hill I was politely refused by an old couple to stay at their place by being referred to a hostel (which no longer exists) and a park. On the way to the park I found this nice grassy shrubby hill that's being used to dump things beside. Still it's nice and will do. In the middle of the night a truck pulled up to dump something, with a couple of drunk guys talking. They never saw me. Later, a terrible klaxon sounded for five minutes, which a fire truck eventually replied by arriving to the town it came from. However it made me realize through the sheer terror I felt at these movements that I feared man more than any wild animal.
Early start, made some biscuits with jam and peanut butter. I should note now that of all the places I've been, I've never been to one with more rude drivers and almost non-existent road shoulders than Nova Scotia. I've been yelled at by a couple of drivers and others honk their horn as if I don't belong there (of course some are just letting me know they are there, too). New York by far has the best road shoulders, large enough to drive a car on almost, but they also had the largest number of punks who like to scare me by blasting their horn just a millisecond before passing. I remember seeing an old man mow his lawn with a broken leg, crutch in hand as he did so. Pretty admirable. I'm at the Second Cup (a coffee shop) now in Halifax, having a large coffee and spilling it all over the place. I've decided to live it up tonight (so to speak). It's cheap night at the theatres here, so I'm going to see The Phantom and The Rock tonight to keep me up until around midnight and then I'll read Never Cry Wolf at a 24 hour coffee shop until dawn, catch it at the Citadel (a really amazing museum/fort) and then spend the morning in the fort taking pictures until I leave at 2pm on a train for Montreal. That's the plan anyway.
It's strange, but now that I'm here I don't want this trip to end. The lack of a good bike makes this a necessity and even just this morning I was begging for the torture to stop, but now that I'm here I don't. Why? Sitting here at this mall I think I can begin to understand. This is the "prize". After torturing myself with sunburn, bleeding lip, fatigue, cold and wet mornings, and painful afternoons, I have arrived at a new land. The same would be true if my destination had been the white mountains, but they were just an obstacle en-route to Nova Scotia. No, now that I'm here I want a new destination, a new quest. "The road goes ever ever on" as J.R.R. Tolkien wrote. I think I really do understand Bilbo Baggins now. He whined and complained during the whole trip but when it was over he didn't want it to end. This is not the end, but a beginning. I looked at myself in the mirror earlier and saw my tanned and burned body, my hat rumpled and washed clean of its wax by accident, and most of all my vest. I've always felt uncomfortable wearing these khaki vests before because I felt like a "poser", a "wanna-be". Looking in that mirror I saw that it fit me now better than ever. I've earned the right to wear it, but it's a privilege that must be earned over and over. "The road goes ever ever on", I'm beginning to see now that this speaks well of the path I'm choosing.
By the way, The Phantom sucked big time! Just before The Rock, the ushers got two "volunteers" to make complete idiots of themselves in front of everyone to win free movie passes. Quite funny. The woman who volunteered her friend to do a Clint Eastwood impersonation was then made to sing "I'm a little teapot" as revenge. The Rock turned out to be a pretty good movie, took the bad taste out of my mouth of the last movie. I'm at a Tim Hortons now, waiting for dawn to come. Got something to do. I had almost forgot about the ring. Farley Mowat rules, by the way.
2:15am I overhear three guys my age or younger talking about Cage Fights, where an outdoor caged off tennis court is used for a fight to the "end" (unconscious or worse). The spectators prevent the fighters from escaping. The nonchalance of their discussion struck me as odd, so I asked them about it. They were very nice polite folks, one of them had sandy blond hair and a couple of teeth missing, the other had obviously been in fights before, but the third was somewhat baby-faced, and didn't talk much (I never saw him talk at all). At first I thought they were talking theoretically, but it turns out that it's a common occurrence there. I've never heard of this happening in Ontario before, but I'm sure it must happen. It's not like I'm renown for my Streetwise knowledge or something. One of the three, the guy missing some teeth, constantly fiddled and rearranged a necklace of his covered in beads, knickknacks and other little things. I asked him about it and he explained that it was, in part, a symbolic thing. For example, a skull with a pair of mini handcuffs (thumbcuffs) through it represented his belief of "Imprisonment is Death".
3:20am I play with the ring in my fingers.
5:00am Twilight is upon me
6:20am I've been standing by the shore of the Atlantic for almost an hour now, hoping to see the sunrise, but the fog this morning is too thick. Nothing ever seems to go as planned for me. I had dreamt of this day for many months, ever since I started to seriously plan this trip (which had been originally planned to be a cross-country trip starting from Nova Scotia). This will sound hokey to anyone reading this, but I don't care...
Standing by the shore, the sky light and grey, I fumbled with the ring for the last time. It was Wendy's engagement right, which she had given back when we broke up and I have kept in my wallet ever since for this day. With the music of Ashley MacIssac playing in my left ear I threw that ring into the Atlantic ocean as hard as I could. I turned around and walked away, saying "Goodbye Wendy" to myself as I did. At no point did I look back.
Hokey, cliche, silly. All correct. But when you have your heart focused on something symbolic to yourself, it cannot be ignored. Symbolism is an important part of our lives, sometimes playing a therapeutic role by creating a point of focus. Or so I've convinced myself. Anyways, it's done. Soon I leave for home.
Spent the past few hours at The Citadel, saw, heard, and felt the noonday gun. Pretty darn loud. Wish I had this place to myself, I bet Wyatt would love to make a movie here. Got tons of photos.
A Citadel Cannon
(Note to myself: Next trip, get lip balm or zinc oxide! Saw a soldier wearing it, he had the right idea!) I end this journal of my trip, not when I get home, but now, on the train before it even arrives in Oshawa. Anything more would be meaningless. So I end asking myself some questions. What was the point? Was it worth it? Will I do it again? The last two are easy. Damn right it was worth every agonizing moment, and I'm already planning my next trip (I'm planning to go to Algonquin for a week in August or maybe July depending). But what was the point? I ended up spending more money than I expected, my bike's a wreck, my fingers are still half-numb, all the sunburn I have wasn't planned, my watch is practically unreadable (all the moisture inside), Grandma is going to have a huge phone bill probably. Heck, I didn't even make it Montreal as planned. In many ways this trip sucked, but I don't feel that way.
Changing of the Guards
Like I said yesterday, I feel like Bilbo Baggins, and I know that somehow down the road this will all pay off for me, it's just a matter of time. Also, in many ways this trip is a practice run, to get me better prepared for future endeavours. On one level this trip was no big deal. I mean, it was only 2 weeks. I mostly slept in nice people's back yards, and I did stay at a motel for 2 nights. But on another level this was the greatest moment of my life to date. I crossed 4 states, 2 provinces, the Appellation Range, for a total of 800 miles not only on my own power but all alone! I overcame bad weather, bad luck and bad timing to make it where I wanted to ahead of schedule (I thought I'd hit Portland in 2 weeks instead of 9 days). Perhaps most of all I proved to myself that I can do all the things I dream of, and I am not incompetent. I may not be the best, but I think I'm pretty damn good.
Back to my hobbit hole... for a while anyways.