Flight Vida

We say that since change is inevitable, we should direct the change, rather than simply continue to go through the change.

Please bring your seat backs forward bitches. The video on the screen alerts me that it’s the law that I wear a mask at all times, and Delta will gently alert me if it comes off — even while sleeping. Basically, “we will wake you up, motherfucker”. Some of us giggle. The others likely just don’t “get” humor, nor science. No joke that shit actually happened to me on the train ride home from last winters 3000 mile ride. The train attendant woke me up; letting me also know that my bandana was insufficient. Time travel back to now and in my mind I reminiscently time travel back to a pre-911 buffalo-to-nyc flight I arrive 10 minutes before takeoff and make with plenty of time. So far from that; so far from anything real. Masked up and lined up and conformed. The robots have definitely won, we are their pitiful rope bitches — the winged tin can rolls down the tarmac.

A bit bumpy on the take off there, capitan. Does any airline show that Denzel flick Flight on flights?

Attención: I have with me no bike; just some hiking boots — and upon cruising altitude speed we will be moving much faster than a train. Roads? Where we’re going… I need a Pase de Salud. For my bilingually-impaired friends out there, that’s not a salad, it’s Costa Rican for their new “fill this out to arrive in our country” form. A relative newbie back into the current state of international travel, I feel like a bit of a guinea pig. Or a scape goat. Some sort of animal no one wanted to be. Nonetheless, I suspect every nation that didn’t do this shit before is now gonna be doing it. More red tape, blue tape, tape tape. 1) Passport. 2) Boarding pass. 3)Vaccination doc. 4) Health Pass. Whats next? It would be so much easier if Psizer could have just given me a chip that took care of all this bullshit so I can get through the tape and zone out to Sly & the Family Stone in blissful noise-cancelled AirPod peace.

Butt.

Delta Man and it’s been three and a half years since an amazing solo week in Costa Rica; matriculating and melting into the luscious landscape, increasing the vacate. It’s also been 586 days since stepping foot anywhere outside of the US&A. My worldview is bird poop since 27 Februaro of our great year of 2020 AD. It’s now year 1 AC, and in keeping with a decade long tradition, I’m adding new art in a wing of the museum that is my passport. Fuck yes. The shit. Though, yo. Fro yo? Whoa no! Mo joe, fo sho. Yodo. Er — Yoda, doing yoga… in a pagoda? The whole experience got me lucid and spitting jibberish, like bumping into the hottest gal on campus.

Latest addition.

Hours later and I’m now in the bathroom just two rows up – descending with the flying bird, and these tight spaces are just bueno. Thank you to the NYS Fire Academy for that little bit of confined space training. It comes in handy. So much investment into morning coffee and water and the seat belt light comes back on just as the main vein starts to drain. Like right now right now. Midstream. I have to grab the wall and hold on for dear life with all this turbulence. Then an announcement I can barely hear poorly competes with the AirPod greatness that is Gil Scott-Heron’s, We Almost Lost Detroit. Probably telling me to hurry it up and sit back down. The diaper table shelf thing falls open and pops me in the head after I flush. The mild concussion induces a pseudo-psychedelic trip in my brain, a small ego death and suddenly its so clear to me in this moment that the real reason airplane bathrooms are so small has got to be to keep people from fucking in here. Probably the damn flight attendants, those motherfuckers are sex freaks. Anyhoo. The friendly skies finally stabilize; I manage to not get any on me. My brain turns back on. My eyes uncross. What the actual fuck? Ok. So. Damn it really is tight AF in here. Like the actual size of 1.47 seats. The airline executives must really need the money to do this to the working man. Assessing the situation….. hmmm. Ok. Among the things I CAN do in this brave new world of airplane bathrooms is turn myself around. And wash my hands. Absolutely no hokey pokey though. I’m grateful for that: the hand washing and lack of the hokey pokey being what it’s all about. I get back to my seat before this bird bounces hard off the Earf, like Will Smiths fist when in fact he actually says Earth – fuck mildly racist memes.

I am once again on foreign land. My world view returns in just a small measure. My handle on the Spanish language may take a few days. But the travel drought is over. Fin. Finito. After a lovely bus ride into the city center, I link up with the close homie Chase and we hit a BBoy jam, grab some grub and catch up. I have no real plan down here, just to actually be here. The real adventures are still to come, whatever they may be. Pura vida bitches.

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Day 8. 354 Miles. Hot Metal Summer.

Our night in Cedar Creek hiker/biker campground is highlighted by overnight trains and invasive raccoons. The first instance all ride that the fuzzy intruders come close to getting into our shit. We must be close to Pittsburgh, because these little fuckers were ballsy, knocking over bikes and searching through bags for food. Another crew reports that they got into their dehydrated chili mangos, though they didn’t like them much. I can see Chad take mental notes on it.

The last of my coffee and oatmeal and wet wipes takes its place in the ever after. Actually, food wise all I have left is some beef jerky and the emergency trail meals that I’ve now carried for about 5,200 miles — happy I still haven’t needed them. Though I should probably check the expiration date. It’s a pleasant morning, warm and sunny. I expect that the script will flip by late morning — highs are forecasted to be in the mid nineties so the July sun is gonna cook us on our way into the ‘Burgh.

One of the most impressive aspects of this C&O + GAP trail is that it runs downtown to downtown. Typically on a long ride, I’ll avoid cities like the plague. (I wanna say like corona, but I failed at avoiding that one last year). Navigating through the suburbs of most any American city brings forth more than a few of the six million ways to die. No bueno. No me lo gusta. Rarely does both city and suburb present an opportunity and means to safely cycle in. 40 miles ahead of us, the GAP into Steel City offers us just that.

Much of the trail is volunteer maintained, and the signs along the way remind me of this fact. As I’m reflecting on all the work that goes in, a gentleman rolls up on my left. He asks if I’ve come from DC, how I like the trail and where I’m from. He tells me at some point the trail will continue up to Erie, sadly adding, “probably not in my lifetime”. We chat a bit more and he cruises ahead, which is when I notice he’s got a “trail volunteer” plate on the back of his bike. Well done, sir.

Betsy’s Shoppe provides us with the last countrified stop for breakfast, as well as the best breakfast of the tour. Afterward, now late morning the heat is downright oppressive. Like colonizer level oppressive. As we move toward the city, we lose tree coverage.

The heat is getting to me. I’m already feeling lightweight sluggish, probably a combination of too much coffee and too little water — but now I’m really dragging ass on the keep-it-movin’ tip. We’ve got 20 miles left and the remnants of rural PA completely roll away, leaving no trees to even pee on, spiraling into suburban enclaves and eventually down “steel valley”. A version of this still exists back home, but WNY hasn’t done nearly the job to rehab and revitalize the industrial wasteland that dominated both regions until the 70s and 80s. Bridges start piling up; the sharper inclines remind me that I’m on the lesser-geared Space Horse — missing the Sojourns easy breezing granny gear.

My head is pounding and I’m running on fumes; we’re about ten miles out. Fred comes down to join us and ride in the last hour, stopping to give tour guide info on the city. He really knows his shit; I’m trying not to pass out in the heat. We hit the terminus and I celebrate by standing close enough to the fountain to gain some misted relief.

Fred has also arranged for us to stay at the guest suite in his apartment/condominium complex. Superb accommodations for which also include a pool. We dip, shower, enjoy a beverage, hit REI, and finally grab some Thai food on Carson. All of it is amazing, though despite chugging water after water, I’m still out of it. Headache, cramps, blurred vision. I’m pretty certain I’m in heat stroke. Between this and the hearing on the Space Horse and the fact that Kara and Chad are driving back to Buffalo, I pull the plug on riding the 260 miles back home. I was 50/50 on it the entire time and it will now have to wait for another day. I pass out on the couch, hoping to feel better in the morning.

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Day 7. 313 Miles. The Gawd Day.

Ohiopyle State Park provides the quietest morning yet. Fewer angry chirping birds even. And some light fog. Peaceful as fuck in the morning. And the evening before too. We have the ridiculous climb to the highest campsite to thanks. Meanwhile down below, the party of RVs and yurts goes late into the night and likely restarts early too. I’m good.

The morning commences with the typical: jetboiled coffee and oatmeal. Packing up. Pooping. We’ve got this down to a science now. The process is precise. None of this feels mundane, quite the opposite really. Then, down the hill we go. Harrowing in its own right, but much less physically exhausting. Back on the trail, I’m needed on a Slow Roll call — revolution back in the homeskillet has the previous generation a bit shook. Ain’t no such things as half way crooks. Chad rolls on out; Kara and I discuss non-profit issues with corporate lawyers in the middle of the woods. Gladly, Slow Roll’s office is and likely always will be the bicycle. Take that zoom.

After a productive conversation, we finally get moving further along the GAP. The trail is gorgeous. Shoutout to J Dilla, Kool and Together, and Blondie on the playlist. There is a wonderful array of people out riding. Young and old. Day-riders and long haulers. Kitted out MAMILs and borderline obese moms. It’s feel absolutely energizing to see how many folks are getting active and being outside. I’ve been told bicycling surged 3000% during 2020 and is still climbing this year. Here in this trail, it’s a lot more people than last year. Four or five times the amount. And thats about the only futile comparison on my mind as we merrily roll into Connellsville.

This little town is the definition of a bike trail town. Kickstand Kitchen is the name of the cafe around the corner from the bike shop, called Bikes Unlimited. Population 7,411 and there’s more miles of separated bicycle facility here than in Buffalo. They really know their market here. Go where the dollars are. The shop is closed but the cafe is open. We dip in for coffee and lunch.

Folgers coffee. That’s what they have. Snobs turn their nose up, I’m enjoying it right now. This is why I’m an addict and not a connoisseur. I’m also loving the AC in here. The kid at the counter says to have as much as I want. The coffee thermos which he just placed on the carafe bar, not the AC. Though I imagine I can have as much of that as I want as well. I’m inside and happy to be wearing my last truly clean shirt. After this everything is all mixed up a bit, making a more or less degree of cleanliness situation. Beyond this moment it’s smell me if you dare.

A few more lovely miles up and we hit the famous refrigerator on the trail. It is quite literally a refrigerator on the trail. And yet also so much more. A family run farm fresh cafe of sorts. Outdoor seating. I think there’s also a B&B as well. Really a superb experience. We grab a couple Body Armors (also not paying me to say their brand) and chat with the woman who runs the operation. Last year I met her husband, she tells me her son makes a better egg sandwich than hubby does. Both of them tell me I gotta come back in August for corn. great spot. Chad offers how remarkable he finds the resources all along the trail, “you can’t swing a dead cat around without hitting a bike shop”. I can’t make this shit up, and would be too tired to if I could.

Cedar Creek hiker/biker site is nothing short of astonishing. Kara says “amaze-balls”, though that could have been just the dip in the river we manifested before my hammock becomes a gawd. Like G. O. D., gawd. I’m into full on relaxation status quite quickly. Hanging there, I’m using my belly as a cup holder for coffee and almonds and beef jerky. We’ve got daylight to burn like my man Al B Sure is in effect mode.

Hours later and the sun is setting as cyclist after cyclist cruises by our laundry hanging in the gentle breeze, freshly “washed” in the Youghiogheny River. Kara and Chad and I, enjoying the extended off-bike tranquility, sit around chatting for hours. They’ve got camp chairs; I’ve got my hammock. We realize it’s now dark and we’re sitting around a fire but there’s no fire. We’re too tired to make that happen, and eventually peel off one by one into our tents (Kara into her camping hammock) for another slumber under the stars.

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