Warm Showers for Windows Phone

In the time between finishing the ride and starting a new job, I finally finished what I’d intended to have available for the ride:  a Warm Showers app on my phone.  If I were on iPhone or Android I could have downloaded someone else’s Warm Showers app, but what’s the fun in that?

Warm Showers is an international reciprocal hospitality organization for touring cyclists.  Sign up and offer to host cyclists at your home, then when on your own tour you have all kinds of options for free lodging and like-minded contact throughout the world.  We met some wonderful hosts on our ride and have hosted one amazing adventurer (so far) at our home in Boise.

The app helps you discover, locate, and coordinate with nearby hosts.  This would have come in really handy on the ride.  With it, I’m certain we would have availed ourselves of Warm Showers more often.

Oh well.  Now every touring cyclist with a Windows phone can download the Warm Showers app.  All three of you.

Five Wheels for the Cure!

Last night Zoe presented the really big check to the St. Luke’s Health Foundation.  She was beaming through the whole thing, we’re proud of her desire to help others.  Even though mom and dad helped with the details, the charity was her show.  The folks at St. Luke’s presented Zoe with a flower bouquet in a smiley-face container which was well received.  You can’t quite see it on the check but Zoe signs with a smiley face these days Smile

As an added treat, Cap’n Rob was on hand to cheer Zoe on.  He’s the tall ship captain that showed us such a great time back in San Pedro early in the adventure.  He drove up from California just before the snow dumped and is visiting for a little while.  Maybe a little longer than planned if the snow continues to fall…

An update on the inspiration for the charity, Zoe’s Aunt Muffy (aka Kellie):  We just got back from a week with Lisa’s family in West Virginia.  Kellie is finished with her radiation and chemo treatments and is feeling a lot stronger.  And her hair is growing back!    It was great to see her and the rest of Lisa’s family.

And this wraps up the adventure.  Thanks to everyone who donated to the cause as well everyone who showed us such incredible hospitality along the way.  Stay tuned for our next adventure…

WP_20130107_002

 

WP_20130107_008

 

WP_20130107_014

Five Wheels for the Cure!

At long last, we’ve decided where to donate the money Zoe raised to fight breast cancer.  Our original intent was to find a research-oriented program, but when we came across the Mountain States Tumor Institute, Zoe thought this was the best use of the money.  They have a compelling mission that directly benefits women in Idaho.  It is operated by St. Luke’s Health Foundation here in Boise.  Here is some information about the program:

Mountain States Tumor Institute (MSTI) is a very special place where thousands of adults and children benefit from the remarkable range of medical services and treatment available at our cancer clinics. With increased need for financial assistance to obtain a mammogram, this funding is more important than ever before. This fund saves lives.

I want to share the words of one woman who has benefited from the generosity of those who have contributed to this fund.  “Thank you!!  For the gift of peace of mind and body. First of all, it is very scary to hear you have breast cancer, but it is also scary to lose your job and your health insurance a few years after you are diagnosed and you can’t find the cash for your check-up mammogram. Thank you for providing me the calm assurance that I can make a few more months with a clean bill of health. Thank you to people and programs that provide these life saving, peace giving, love extending diagnostics. When I get back on my feet again I will provide the gift to someone also. Thank you for the tender break.”

Here is another thank you from a grateful patient: “I want to thank everyone involved with the St. Luke’s Breast Care Services for the wonderful service they provide. I was reluctant to undergo this mammogram due to cost and fear of the outcome. I survive on $751 social security a month and knew I couldn’t afford the procedure nor the follow-up if there was ‘something’.  St. Luke’s stepped up and allowed me to have the mammogram without cost and I appreciate that! Everyone I dealt with treated me with kindness and respect. Thank you all”.

We’re now in the process of gathering the pledged donations, close to $2500!  If you made a pledge on the Five Wheels page, I’ll contact you via email with instructions on where to route the money, either to Zoe or directly to the program.  Either way, all the donations will go to the MSTI program as one lump sum coming from Zoe.  They’re planning to print one of those big checks that Zoe can present to them. 

Thanks to everyone who pledged!

Multi-Modal

Day 156-161 • Aug 4-9, 2012 •  New York, NY to Boise, ID

After completing the chronicle of the cycling portion of the journey in the last blog entry, I slumped over the keyboard, unconscious, my forehead hitting the Enter key.  The blogging was harder work than the cycling.  As I wipe more than three months’ worth of drool from the keyboard, I’m ready to finish this thing off.

Hotel Pennsylvania was only a couple blocks from Times Square so we spent a lot of time there.  Bright lights and a mass of humanity, like Vegas without the gambling.  Zoe commissioned a street artist to do a caricature.  I was glad we decided against doing the caricature at the National Zoo in DC—the NYC version was better and cheaper.IMG_1522IMG_1516

 

 

 

 

Zoe Caricature

Of course we had to check out the Empire State building, again just a few blocks from our hotel.  It’s a cool building that afforded a panoramic, if hazy, view of the city.  But the real experience with this iconic tourist destination was that of cattle.  Don’t do it if you’re claustrophobic or dislike people.  And don’t fall prey to the hawkers out front offering special prices.  Our tickets did get us in, but they were especially expensive.  Just for us.

IMG_1563IMG_1571

 

 

 

 

 

 

We thought we were being clever hopping on one of those double-decker tour buses that circle the island and let you hop on and off wherever you want.  A great way to relax and learn about some of the sites, we thought.  And Zoe had been wanting to ride on one the whole trip.  Unfortunately we picked the one tour company that appeared to have a single bus in their pool.  You could hop off whenever you wanted but you might never see another bus to hop back on.  After an extended stay in Chinatown we just stayed on the bus until we got back to the hotel.

IMG_1585

IMG_1584

 

 

 

IMG_1583IMG_1613

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I loved the subway.  When it was time to head to the Theatre District to see a Broadway show, I convinced the girls to take it.  It got us there reasonably quickly but for the roughly twenty blocks we traveled, a cab would have been a wash in both time and cost.  The subway made more sense when we traveled all the way to Battery Park to pick up the boat to visit the Statue of Liberty.  The rest of the time we either walked or took a cab. Tonight, Wicked was on the agenda.  I’m not a big fan of musicals but this show was truly outstanding.  We caught only one show because of the cost and our limited time in the city but I wish we’d done another.

For our boat ride to see the statue and Ellis Island, we had better weather than Zoe and I had on our ferry ride in.  Lady Liberty was looking stately and no worse for a little bit of drizzle and fog, but I thought the museum at Ellis Island was a lot more interesting.  Both provided Zoe some more NP passport and Junior Ranger opportunities.

IMG_1627IMG_1632

IMG_1159 (2)IMG_1653

 

 

 

 

 

 

While we were in NYC, our friends and former New Yorkers Ellen, Cameron, and Lucy were vacationing on Cape Cod and thought they might pop down to meet us.  Though nearby, the logistics of just “popping down” to NYC were unfortunately a little too much so we didn’t get to see them.  But they did treat us to dinner at one of their (and now our) favorite restaurants— The View.  It revolves high atop the Hilton in the Theatre District, offering a 360 degree view of Manhattan while we sipped some of the best, and most expensive, G&Ts we’d ever tasted.  Zoe’s Sprite was equally good and slightly more reasonably priced.  While we dined, we got a great view of one of the biggest thunderstorms of the entire trip.  Watching harrowing weather while eating was nothing new to Zoe and I, but this time was a little more relaxed and a lot less immersive.  It felt more like old times when Zoe witnessed lightning striking the top of a nearby building.  We were glad we didn’t try to cram any other activity into this evening—the View is a place you won’t visit very often, but when you do you’ll want to linger as long as possible.

Of course no trip to NYC is complete without a stop at the American Girl factory.  At least that was the verdict of Zoe and my mom, who inspected every inch of that place.  I was just happy these are not porcelain dolls with the creepy, imploring gaze or I probably would have gone out one of the windows.  It was an amazing, miniature experience with doll makeup artists, hair stylists, cafes, even a doll MD on premise.  And lots of inventory to make your own.

WP_000494IMG_1712

 

 

 

 

 

 

For our last day in NYC, we had some time to kill before our train departed in the afternoon.  We decided to knock Central Park off our list.  Having honed our tourist skills in the last several days, we nailed this one by renting a pedi-cab and driver to bike us around the (very big) park.  Earlier in the week we would have been some of the poor saps who fall prey to the strangely unregulated pedi-cab industry and wind up owing $400 at the end of the ride.  It seems pedi-cabbies can charge by any metric they want—time, per ride, or per block, and often aren’t real specific before the ride begins. If you wind up in one of the per-block cabs you might be in for some sticker shock.  With some NYC experience under our belts and, most importantly, some good fortune, we wound up in a flat-rate cab and had a great time with a funny and very knowledgeable cabbie.  It’s the best way to see the park if your time is limited.  The cab only held three people so I got to ride alongside on a rented mountain bike.

IMG_1176 (2)IMG_1717

IMG_1758

Zoe and I had never been to NYC.  We had a blast and no doubt impressed with our tourist savvy.  I’d say NYC met or exceeded my expectations except for one thing:  laundry.  All across the nation we’d never been denied a coin-op laundry wherever and whenever we needed it.  For a city that never sleeps, I was surprised to find that laundries don’t open until 8 or 9 AM—I saw no sign of the venerable 24-hour Coin-Op.  And we were staying in the Garment District.   I come by this conclusion with some amount of authority, having left the hotel at 6 AM and wandered the entire width of the island looking for one.

Up to our arrival in NYC we and our support crew availed ourselves of nearly every mode of transportation available:  Airplane, subway, light rail, ferry, trike, bus, foot, auto.  In New York we added a bunch of taxi rides including the pedi-cab.  Now for the trip home we add perhaps the coolest mode of all:  a full size passenger train.  I was a kid about Zoe’s age the last time I rode a train for anything more than a scenic joyride.

I think we were all a little underwhelmed by the first leg of our trip, from NYC to Chicago.  This was a commuter train and there was a businesslike dreariness to the experience.  The train was small and lacked certain amenities, the staff was indifferent, and the scenery was a tad monotonous.  We’d ridden through plenty of similar terrain on the trikes, but somehow this seemed less interesting.

In Chicago we changed trains to a spacious double-decker model, the California Zephyr, which improved the ride dramatically.  We enjoyed good dinners—much better than what you may or may not remember in the dim and distant past of airline travel—while the landscape rolled past in the setting sun.  And while not The View, we even enjoyed a few good G&Ts. My mom hopped the train in Denver and was home before it began rolling again.  It was great to hang with Mom in NYC and the ride home.

Leaving Denver we got a surprise that can only be truly appreciated by the Junior Ranger in all of us.  We had stumbled upon one of only a couple days in the summer when the National Park Service rides along to provide geological and biological commentary while crossing the Rockies.  A couple of volunteer biologists hung out in the observation car, pointing out all kinds of interesting tidbits while we enjoyed a view of the Rockies only available by train.  Even better, they had an entire Junior Ranger program with workbook, stamps, and badges designed around the California Zephyr and the trip through the Rockies.  Who knew?  One of the highlights of the train ride was Moffat Tunnel.  At over 9200 feet it is (currently) the highest point on an active rail line in the US, representing 6.2 miles of darkness.  It was financed in 1928 as part of a deal to pipe water from the west slope to the front range.  Does that make Denver the LA of the Rockies?

IMG_1807WP_000505

 

 

 

 

 

The end of the line for us was Salt Lake City. Though in what seemed a sketchy neighborhood, the Prius was waiting, intact, where Lisa had left it.  When we were ready to grab our baggage, there it was, completely intact.  This train thing was working out well.  I crammed all of the gear in the Prius with millimeters to spare.  Even though I carefully calculated the volume of gear and capacity of the Prius, (barely) convincing Lisa of my accuracy and attention to detail, I think I dodged a bullet on this one.

WP_000510WP_000509

 

 

 

 

 

How many of you Boiseans out there have visited the Golden Spike National Historic Site?  None?  Well we hadn’t either but we thought about it every time we made the trip between Boise and SLC.  This time, however, we had the incentive of one final Junior Ranger experience.  The train had dropped us off early in the day, we couldn’t resist.  It turns out the route required to pick up the site isn’t dramatically slower than the usual I-84 path and, not being on an interstate, is way more interesting.  If you’re a train buff (and who isn’t?), it’s a no-brainer.  They have full-size, fully-functional replicas of the train engines that met when the Golden Spike was laid.  They have volunteer engineers and firemen that operate them.  It’s really very cool.  And, of course, one final Junior Ranger program for Zoe et. al. to complete.  We scoured every inch of that monument to turn in one final, glorious, Junior Ranger workbook.  Zoe had her final swearing-in as awestruck visitors looked on.   It was an emotional day in the National Park System.

IMG_1835IMG_1847IMG_1859

On the way home from SLC we slipped into the recent reality of the intermountain west: heavy smoke from one of the worst wildfire seasons in history.  It made for some amazing sunsets but wasn’t so good on the lungs.

IMG_1866

Before we left on the trip, Zoe was anxious to get her ears pierced.  The prospect of thrice-daily cleanings and the risk of infection while on the road made it easy to trump that idea.  Now that the ride was over I didn’t have any more excuses.  Within a couple of weeks after returning to Boise, Zoe was at the mall, grimacing as her ears were being pierced.  The ride was over and was already fading into the background.  All that’s left are a zillion memories and some holes waiting to hold those bicycle-chain earrings she bought on that hot, dusty trail in Missouri.

WP_000521

Pennsylvania 6-5000

Day 155 • Aug 3, 2012 •  Middletown, NJ to New York, NY •  32 miles

For our last day of riding we let the Belford Ferry do most of the work.  We rode a few miles to the dock in New Jersey, sat on the ferry for nearly thirty miles, rode about ten blocks to our hotel, and we were done.  On the way by we could barely pick out the Statue of Liberty through the fog.  Lisa beat us to our hotel by maybe an hour and was waiting with some of the bags I needed to pack up the trikes.  She had shipped a box to the hotel and it was also waiting for us.  Lisa and Zoe did a little sightseeing while I began packing up the trikes.  There was a nice clear spot on the sidewalk that was out of the flow of people; tearing down right here would avoid having to negotiate doors, elevators, and crowds with our unwieldy contraptions.   We couldn’t check in to our room yet anyway and it was a nice day.  I might have been quite a spectacle as a strange man strewing strange parts about a bustling city sidewalk but no one seemed to take much notice.   In the universe of odd things happening on the streets of Manhattan I don’t think I registered much bigger than cosmic dust. 

One person appreciated the spectacle and treated us to one final brush with authority.  While I was tearing down a man in a big suit and an even bigger Bronx accent walked up to me and said, “whaddaya doooin’ heeya?”  He wasn’t smiling so I figured something was up.  While I thought I’d cleverly found the perfect spot to tear down, patrons of Lindy’s restaurant behind me were apparently not happy.  The man told me to move along.  I told him I’d be out of there in an hour.  That seemed to satisfy him but a few minutes later the manager of Lindy’s came out to weigh in.  I was ruining his business.  Ouch.  If only Zoe were here to give him the look.  I hurried as fast as I could to avoid a visit by NYPD.

For all of my angst about riding the trikes through mid-town Manhattan, it turned out to be rather enjoyable.  Certainly better than our experience in eastern Kentucky.  On the surface, the mass of people and traffic seemed chaotic but once on the road there was a certain order to it all.   It didn’t hurt that with this much humanity crammed into such a small space, no one was moving very quickly.   A nice, big, and heavily used bike path got us part of the way there and a bike route most of the rest of the way.  I rarely ride on sidewalks but I made an exception when we reached 7th avenue, a one-way street going in the wrong direction.  Our hotel was a block or two up this street so I chose to ride among a sea of people on the sidewalk instead of the bigger sea of cars I’d have to negotiate if I rode around the block.  I felt like Moses as the sea of people parted to let us slowly pass. 

Our hotel.  To put it as succinctly as possible, our room at the Hotel Pennsylvania was worse than the worst Budget Inn we’d experienced our entire trip and cost three times more.  It was tiny, in poor repair, and dirty.  The sink was falling off the wall, the carpet looked like it hadn’t been replaced since the hotel’s opening in 1919.  Checking in was agonizingly and inexplicably slow, hotel staff was generally indifferent.  We thought we were being strategic by picking a hotel across the street from the train station, but when the time came to move all of our gear both the hotel bell-hops and the “red hats” at Penn Station laughed at the prospect of their luggage carts crossing the street.  They wouldn’t do it for us and we couldn’t use the carts.  Too much liability.  We would have done better to pick a hotel further away from the station and hire as many taxis as necessary to move all our stuff.

On the other hand, the hotel was living history.  The lobby is grand and ornate, very much in contrast to the rooms themselves.  The phone number is still 212-736-5000, or Pennsylvania 6-5000, inspiration for the famous song from the big-band era.  It was central to some of the most famous and iconic landmarks in the world.   My mom arrived later in the day and we spent the evening and the following several days using Hotel Penn as our New York hub.

IMG_1478

IMG_1501IMG_1508

IMG_1512

IMG_1513

Middletown

Day 154 • Aug 2, 2012 •  Skillman to Middletown, NJ •  40 miles

Our warm showers hosts tonight were strategically picked quite awhile ago because they live within a few miles of the ferry we’d be taking to NYC in the morning.  Lucky for us Toby and Dan offered more than just a great location, they capped for us a perfect streak of wonderful hosts.  More home cooked meals, a room of our own, even a pool to lounge in after a hot ride. They also had a ton of information for us about New York that we perused as well as great advice pulled from their own experience. 

IMG_1471

IMG_1477

Dodging Raindrops

Day 153 • Aug 1, 2012 •  Norristown, PA to Skillman, NJ •  56 miles

Last night we stayed with Barb and George, wonderful Warm Showers hosts.  We enjoyed another home cooked meal and room of our own.  They even treated us to ice cream at a regional parlor called Zwahlen’s. Barb does a lot of bike touring so we had a lot to talk about.  As we were leaving this morning my driver-side mirror broke off, another in a long list of minor mechanical issues that, with only three riding days left, I was barely attending to.  This one was important though so Barb found an old tent stake and helped me splint it in place.  This repair was so successful that I still haven’t bothered to replace the broken mirror. 

Zoe and I backtracked slightly to pick up some more history, and National Park passport stamps, at Valley Forge.  Then it was Pennsylvania Bike Route S most of the way to the New Jersey border.  We’d been following this route off and on since York, usually favoring it over the Adventure Cycling route.   We rode the edge of an intense line of thunderstorms most of the way through the Pennsylvania section today.  The lightning provided a continual light show but we somehow managed to avoid significant rain.  We crossed the Delaware River into Lambertville, NJ on a multi-use path posted that bikes must be walked.  I’d long ago given up trying to explain why it’s much easier and safer for everyone if we just ride our contraption very slowly.  We just do what we need to do and don’t ask for permission.  This time, however, there were a pair of cops in the middle of the bridge, right on the border between PA and NJ.  Maybe they were security guards or meter maids, I don’t know, but they seemed to have the authority to ticket people brazen enough to ignore the rules.  Thankfully I don’t think they had guns or Tasers.  They yelled at us to walk our “bikes” as we slowly pedaled by.  We did our best not to make eye contact.  The parting shot was a stern warning that we’d be ticketed next time.  OK, next time.  Welcome to New Jersey.

This is one of those days for which I can’t really pinpoint where, exactly, we squandered our time, but squander it we did.  By the time we reached Lambertville and a pretty significant climb out of the Delaware River valley it was getting dark.  This wasn’t a very polite way to treat our Warm Showers hosts tonight and I really didn’t want to be trudging the final few miles in the dark.  As I was pondering my options, not coming up with any good ones, I got a call from Chris.  She and her partner Eileen, our hosts tonight, were getting a little worried so she had set out to find us in her car.  She was maybe a quarter mile away—rescued again!   By now we had the routine down:  throw the kid and most of the panniers in the car so I can make good time the rest of the way.  This plan worked well.  I flew down CR-518, a beautiful road for cycling by the way, minimizing our exposure to night riding in fog.

The astute reader may be wondering how I could leave my child with someone I’d met only moments earlier.  This thought had crossed my mind.  All I can say is that in the course of negotiating our stay with them we were far from strangers even though we hadn’t physically met.  At this point in the process there were a lot of details in play, any one of which could have tipped off nefarious intent if it didn’t check out.  And then there was meeting Chris in person, and later Eileen.  Salt of the earth.  In fact in the shady calculus of risk they probably had more to fear from us than we from them– we were their first Warm Showers guests.  They’d just rescued us from the added risk of riding a foggy night on narrow county roads.  There is no question in my mind that this was the right thing to do.  But please don’t tell my wife about it just the same.

Chris and Eileen live in a beautiful log cabin in an equally beautiful part of the state.  Another wonderful home cooked meal and a room of our own was waiting for us.   And for me, beer!  They had read about my weakness for local micro brews and had an assortment waiting.  River Horse Brewing out of Lambertville, good stuff.  This blogging thing was really beginning to pay off.

IMG_1451

Bridge over the Delaware River

IMG_1463

IMG_1464

Farm to Market

Day 152 • July 31, 2012 •  Ephrata to Norristown, PA •  44 miles

To anyone who thinks a bike trip like ours foolhardy or an elaborate form of suicide, consider folks like John, the Mennonite gentleman whose family boarded us last night.  They ride bikes or drive carriages every single day on some of the worst roads for traffic we’ve seen.  They don’t view it as unnecessary risk, but an important part of life that is worth some manageable risk. Just like driving a car is worth substantial risk for most of us, whether or not we admit the risk.  I asked John if car/bike and car/carriage accidents were a problem for them.  He quickly said no.  But then he thought about it and admitted that, yes, occasionally accidents happen, not very often, and gave me a look and a shrug that said to me “duh!—of course accidents happen, but why would that keep us from living the life we want?”

As we were preparing to leave this morning, John casually mentioned that they could drive to market if Zoe would like a ride in the carriage.  Was this another trick question?  I jumped at yet another wonderful opportunity courtesy of John and his family.  Before I could get the trike packed, John and Ellen were waiting with horse and buggy.  The market was on our route so Zoe rode with them while I followed in the trike.  Going up the hills I learned that I’m noticeably less than one horsepower.

Market was a bustling, chaotic place where horse-drawn buggies mixed it up with big panel trucks awaiting the local produce.  I steered the trike around a boy who must have been about Zoe’s age driving a carriage full of people and produce.  Carriages were lined up for one of two auctions that were running simultaneously.  I don’t know how business was transacted through the din of the dueling auctioneers, but no one seemed to mind. Zoe and I stayed for quite a while, chatting and just watching the activity.  Janet was there hoping to score some more prime purchases for her fruit stand, like the peaches we bought yesterday.  Zoe and I got the last of that batch.

Eventually we said goodbye to John and Ellen and Janet and headed on down the road.  Before leaving the area, we stopped at an Amish/Mennonite welcome center where we ate the lunch that Ellen had packed for us.  The Amish gentleman running the place was in his eighties I’d say and told us all about the area.  He seemed a little down, I think because his lifelong church had recently closed.  The restrictions of a conventional Amish church, particularly disallowing the use of automobiles, had driven local youth to less restrictive churches.  As older folks had died with no young people to back fill, the church’s population had dwindled to the point where they decided to close it.  He was now part of a church that was much less restrictive about technology.  This outcome surprised me a bit.  I didn’t detect any particular longing for technology in John’s family—even the young people seemed to be leading fulfilling lives without the aid of automobiles or other trappings of “modern” life.  Maybe that’s just what I wish for them.

IMG_1423

IMG_1431

IMG_1440 Stitch

IMG_1444

The Simple Life

Day 151 • July 30, 2012 •  York to Ephrata, PA •  47 miles

Leaving York this morning we rode a little more rail trail before picking up Route 462 across the Susquehanna River and through Columbia and Lancaster.  Yesterday on the trail I noticed that the closer we got to York, the more intact the abandoned rail we were paralleling.  Today we were startled to find ourselves facing a real live diesel locomotive bearing down on us.  At some point the line had ceased to be abandoned and I hadn’t noticed that the warning signs where the trail crosses the track had become more emphatic.  Words like “real, live, moving locomotive!” might have helped.

Our destination today was a campground that claimed an opportunity to experience the Amish and Mennonite culture prevalent here, but by the end of the day we’d experienced so much Mennonite hospitality that we had no need for the campground.  With only about three miles to go we stopped by a roadside fruit stand hoping to get some peaches.  We did and they were some of the best I’ve ever eaten.  With peach juice dripping from our faces, we chatted with the proprietors as a barn-raising was in full swing off in the distance.  Four or five strapping lads crawling all about attaching rafters and such.  Some more people wandered up, all Mennonite and very interested in our trikes and adventures.  Pretty soon the barn-raising had stopped and the men were now in the growing crowd around Zoe and I. Eventually it started getting dark and we still had to find our campground so I began the process of leaving.  Suspecting this might not be well received, I sheepishly asked the group if they would mind if I took a picture?  For our blog?  What was once a vibrant conversation turned to dead silence.  You could hear a pin drop.  Well, I probably offended everyone within earshot, but on the flip side we’d be on our way quickly.

At this point a man stepped up and asked if we’d like a bed for the night.  Was this a trick question?  Riding in the dark to find an overpriced piece of grass to pitch our tent vs. staying in a bed right here for free.  I asked him to repeat himself to make sure I’d heard it right.  I had and we quickly accepted.  He looked at me and ran his hand along his face, suggesting maybe I could use some cleaning up as well.  Fair enough, I was looking a little scruffy.  John was on his bike so he led us the short distance to his house.  Along the way he turned to me with a smile and said, “you know, it’s not that they didn’t want their picture taken, they probably just don’t know what a blog is.”  I don’t know—John seemed to know what a blog was and Janet, the woman who served us the peaches, seemed pretty aware of such things when met her again the next day.  But I was relieved that the reaction was probably more out of politeness than any real offense. 

John is an instigator.  In the short time he was in the crowd at the fruit stand, he asked us a barrage of questions, some fairly personal, making our little interview back in Kentucky look amateur by comparison.  He’s from a different Mennonite church than the family that ran the fruit stand.  As we were leaving with John, a member of that family smiled as she reassured us, “Don’t worry, we love John.  Except when we want to kill him.”   I’m paraphrasing here, the comment might not have been that dark, but that was the gist.

At the house John broke the news to his wife Ellen that they had guests for the night.  I’d think twice about pulling this on my wife but Ellen seemed used to it.  I’m guessing there’s never a dull moment with John.  This set off a flurry of activity including getting us set up for showers, preparing us dinner as well as a lunch for tomorrow, and booting one of their daughters out of her room so we could stay in it.  Meanwhile John hailed John Jr., who lives next door, to come over and check out the trike.  John Jr. took me up on my offer to give it a test ride, politely riding it around the driveway, but I could tell he wanted to do more.  Later in the evening I suggested he take it out for a real spin.  Still later I learned from one of his sisters that he’d been riding it up and down the hills on Hahnstown road at night, passing cars and generally running amok.  John Jr. is clearly not a timid guy and is quite adept mechanically—I was impressed and pleased that he survived unscathed on his second test ride of my wacky recumbent trike.

The family had already eaten so they sat and talked with Zoe and I as we ate some turkey sandwiches, vegetable stew, and watermelon.  I got a lot of grief about the amount of food I was eating, with Zoe and John leading the charge.  I offer no apology as Ellen’s food, particularly the homemade stew, was excellent and I was suddenly quite hungry.  After dinner, John hailed some neighbors who were natives of Ghana, West Africa.  Wow, I didn’t expect that.  I could tell these guys had John pegged—they were dishing out the barbs as fast as he was.  As the evening progressed I realized that John had a real passion for adventure travel and foreign cultures.  At one point he called his friend Rinker Buck on the landline and then handed the handset over to me.  Rinker is an adventurer who is working on a book that chronicles his recent traversal of the Oregon Trail by covered wagon.  John’s family helped him with some of the logistics, including horses.  We talked for some time about our various adventures, including Rinker’s transcontinental crossing by Piper Cub back when he was 15.  This is chronicled in his book “Flight of Passage: A Memoir.”

The more I watched John, the more I realized that communication—particularly the telephone—was part of what made him tick.  The family telephone seemed to be his communication hub.  This was interesting in that depending on what Mennonite church you belong to, technology like a conventional telephone may or may not be accepted.  I think the family running the fruit stand had neither telephones nor electricity.  John’s church allowed electricity and telephones, but not cell phones.  It’s not so much that Mennonites shun technology– John also has a tractor even though he prefers horse and plow. Rather it seems to me they use appropriate technology when necessary to achieve their goals rather than letting it dictate the goals.  As a “technology guy” I might find it difficult to live this way, but I think they have some things figured out.

IMG_1404

IMG_1420

On Rails

Day 150 • July 29, 2012 •  Reisterstown, MD to York, PA •  52 miles

Charlie had suggested we pick up the Northern Central Railroad Trail near Monkton, MD and take it to York, PA.  Zoe and I were hesitant to take another crushed-limestone trail after our time on the Katy but it was a more direct route than Adventure Cycling and, of course, there would be no motorized traffic to deal with.  I decided to leave it to fate—if we could find a Warm Showers host in York we’d take the rail trail.  Our fate was sealed when Jane and Paul offered to host us.  They live in York right next to the trail.  Perfect.

Once again I can thank Zoe for our good fortune with our hosts.  Paul was out of town and Jane was reluctant to take in a stranger on her own.  But after checking out our blog I think a guy and his nine-year-old daughter must have seemed harmless enough.  Jane met us at the trail and led us back to the house where a wonderful meal was cooking.  She and Paul have done some extensive touring on a tandem so it was fun to hear about their adventures.  Keeping up the blog has been a struggle for me, a month and a half behind!, but it was all worthwhile when Jane offered me a (good) beer because she’d read on the blog that I’d been seeking it out.

As usual the rail trail was a mixed bag.  The railroad museum in Monkton was a nice break, Zoe even got to do some crafts.  The trail in Maryland was poor however, essentially single-track most of the way, which is rough on the trike.  Combined with a significant uphill grade, the first half was pretty slow.  Once we crossed into Pennsylvania at New Freedom, however, things improved dramatically.  The trail was much better, pretty much equivalent to the Katy, and mostly downhill all the way to York.  Even though they’re contiguous trails on the same rail line, the Maryland and Pennsylvania sections are managed separately with little apparent coordination—it was strangely difficult to figure out the extent of the trail when I was planning the ride.

IMG_1385IMG_1387IMG_1392WP_000478IMG_1400