Wednesday, June 10, 2009


After hundreds of miles with no internet, I was passing through Madison, OH. Sprinkles of rain were beginning to come down, and I could hear thunder in the distance. I met Galen here, who brought me home to his family, where I am safe from the rain and have internet. At least until we leave to go shoot skeet.


I had a lot of fun hanging out with Mel. Enough that I decided to stay the weekend and hang out, even though I wasn't looking for work. Mel was a pretty big part of the local music scene, and with her, I met a lot of other musicians and saw a lot of cool bands. I have to say my favorite was the Pelicans, who formed on the spot to perform at a show we went to on Saturday night. I wish I could have gotten a video of them performing.

I left on Monday and started biking along lake Erie. It was a nice, easy ride. I could feel that I was getting stronger. I was zipping along and getting off to walk much, much less. Until suddenly, in Irving, the riding became rough. I stopped and felt the rear tire. Flat.

"Bummer!" It was a motorcyclist at a gas station right where I'd stopped.

"Yeah," I said, "happens all the time." I walked the bike over to a bench, took off all the luggage, turned it over, and started taking off the wheel.

"Where are you headed?"


"I'm from Santa Barbara, headed to Maine!"

"Oh, nice! You're almost there."

"Well, it's a little easier for me. Man, I thought I was vulnerable, riding on this thing, look at you!"

"It's been done before."

"You all by yourself?"



I walked into the gas station.

"What's up, man, you get a blowout?"

"Yeah, they happen all the time. Any chance I could just have some tap water?"

"Sure!" The guy grabbed a paper cup and showed me the back room where there was a sink. "Feel free to use the bathroom and stuff too. Check this guy out, guys, he's going to Oregon."

"Man. Where are you from?"

"Bit north of Boston."

"So you've got what, about 500 miles behind you?"

"Something like that."

"About 2,500 to go?"

"Sounds about right."

I brought the wheel into the station so I could keep talking.


By the time I fixed it, it had started to rain. I checked the weather on my phone. It wasn't going to get better. F__k.

"Hey, do you guys know a cheap place to stay around here? I really don't want to ride through the rain."

"I always see that motel just past the light. There's the garage, and then the motel. Looks like it ought to be cheap."

I went outside, where a kid was painting the station.

"Man, I hate the rain."

"You're telling me. Every time I paint this f___er, the rain washes it right off."

"You're not going to keep painting, are you?"

"Hell, no. I'm going home, cracking open a beer. I'd'a gone fishing, but again, the rain."

"Yeah, nice to be inside when it's raining. I'm just looking for a place to be inside myself."

"All right, man, I'm going home. Good luck with that."

I rode the half mile through the rain to the motel. It was quite cheap for a motel, but not as cheap as I'd hoped. Not that I had much choice. I didn't have any time to look for people to invite me anywhere, and the primary demographic that does—women in their early 20s—didn't seem to be present anyway.

I checked in around 2 PM. It was probably a good idea to spend one night in a motel. I fell on the bed immediately and went to sleep. I woke up in the late afternoon. The sun had come out again. I cursed myself and told myself I should have just ignored the forecast and waited out the rain at the gas station. Then I promptly fell asleep again.

I got a phone call around 11 PM that woke me up. It was pouring. There was thunder and lightning. I was again glad I'd checked into the motel; otherwise I'd have probably tried to pitch my tent under a bridge, and possibly gotten kicked out. I talked on the phone and promptly fell back asleep and slept until 5:30 AM.

I thought about it and realized I don't sleep much when I'm with other people. I had been really, really tired.


A little after 6, I dropped the key in the drop box and rode off. I only made it a few miles before I got a flat in front of a supermarket. I went in and bought a big box of cookies ($4) to make myself feel better. I ate as many as I could. Then I fixed the tire.

That was when I realized I'd broken a spoke. S__t. I had no spare spokes. I checked on my phone where the nearest bike shop was. Erie, PA. Guess that's where I'm going, I thought. 60 miles on one broken spoke isn't actually too awful, though I made a mental note to get a fiber spoke.

I rode another few miles. My tire went flat again. This time I got smarter and did two things right:

  1. I didn't take the wheel off the bike, nor the entire tire off the wheel. I just popped off the section where I heard the air leaking and pulled out that part of the tube. That saved me a lot of time as I patched up the puncture.
  2. I ran my fingers along the inside of the tire. And I found the culprit. A sharp object I couldn't identify that would have kept puncturing my tube, over and over.

From then on, the ride was fine. But I was suddenly, and inexplicably, feeling lonely. This caused me to think of all the people I'd already stayed with, and miss them. There was also an incredibly strong headwind, that made every mile seem like three. The wind never seems to blow from the east; always from the west.

To make myself feel a little better, I tried to address both issues by trying to write myself an epic poem in Russian as I rode, about how, though the winds may try to blow me back into the past, I must ride faithfully into the future. The key word being "trying."


Eventually, I reached a long-awaited point.

As I kept biking, I saw a sign that said "ERIE 15". Nice! I was going to get to that city with plenty of time to fix my bike, eat, and maybe do other stuff. So I thought until, several miles later, I passed another sign: "ERIE 15". OK.... I stopped and ate some cookies. I was starting to run out of water.

Several miles later, I saw another sign: "ERIE 15". Now I thought somebody was making fun of me. I rode onward. And onward. And onward. The road was completely empty, just fields and orchards as far as the eye could see. I couldn't even pinpoint myself on the map.

Finally, I pulled into a more populated area, with a long stretch uphill. I got off the bike, pulled out my phone, walked, and called my little brother. As we talked, I passed a road, and when I told him, he decided to find it on a map, and told me I was only five miles from Erie.

I got into the city, fixed my spoke, got some more helpful bike advice, replaced a spare tube, etc, etc. I got a sub, my first non-cookie food for the day. I met Kari, at whose place I stayed that night.


But right after getting the sub, I realized my phone battery was low. Crap. I needed to charge it. I wandered around a shopping plaza and noticed an outlet on the outdoor wall of a supermarket. I plugged the charger in. It was an active outlet. Sweet! The supermarket was selling plastic lawn chairs and had them on display. I pulled one up to the outlet and sat with my charging phone, eating my sub, checking my E-mail, calling my grandmother.

"Where are you coming from?" A man pulled up on a bike.

"Bit north of Boston."

"Nice. I always wanted to do something like that. I try to ride 300 to 400 miles a week."

I was genuinely surprised. "That's about what I'm doing."

We talked. For hours. And hours. And hours.

"So what do you do, stop at motels?"

"I can't afford those. I usually meet people one way or another. I'll probably stay with this girl Kari here, but she had to go for a while, her friend is in the hospital."

"Oh, yeah? You hang out with them, too?"

"Usually. I don't know about her, though, she seems to be a busy girl. Working a bunch of jobs so she can get out of Erie."

He laughed out loud. "She'll be back."


Erie didn't look promising work-wise either, and Kari really was busy, so the next morning, I took off and kept going. It had gotten flatter. I was positively flying. It was still morning when I hit the next state.

I was enjoying the speed so much that I didn't even stop when people called to me. In Ashtabula, I encountered a bunch of cyclists going the other way. One of them, a man with a big, gray beard, yelled out "Where are you headed?"


"Oregon, G_dd__n!"

And then we were mutually out of earshot. I just kept flying along.

...and here I am.

1 comment:

  1. Greg, Good Luck Dear, stay safe and sound !
    You are doing great, We think about you often !
    Please visit us, we will cook for you !