Riding in this 2×2 matrix formation makes us kinda like a car with four passengers. But way better. We play music. We chat and joke. The matrix formation also brings into my mind a bit of cross quadrant segmentation analysis (was that even a thing before just now?). Daniel and I have the long touring experience. I actually met him few years after my Northern Tier Tour, gave him my maps and then he rode it in the opposite direction. Chad and Damon have zero touring days in the saddle whatsoever. They’re jumping in head first. They have previously connected in Amsterdam, Netherlands on a trip I planned for Damon’s bachelor party a few years ago. Chad and Daniel know each other through a mutual friend and are both teachers. I’ve already documented my background with Damon previously in this blog. And Damon and Daniel are brand new friends. We all fit together in different way. We’re all fucking weird as shit and out riding hard as fuck together.
I sleep better than I have in weeks. But when climb out of my tent to drain the main vein, I’m overcome with how damn cold it is. I mean frigid. Cold!! I dash back into my sleeping bag and curl up. Ow! Curling up leads to cramping up. I lay there another 20 minutes when I hear someone rustling around. Chad is up. In my best Cartman impression, I yell “but mom! I don’t wanna go to school!” I succumb and put my long sleeve cotton shirt on and climb out. Daniel has a little fire going. Chad is making coffee. Damon wrestles with his tent. Sip sip. Plop plop. Fill up the waters and we’re out.
We whip off 40 morning miles on off road Erie Canalway trail. Lots of tree coverage. Fantastic riding. Little towns along the route, probably packed with working class residents adept at voting against their own self interests. Our on ride chats get a little political, but only in normal American argument sense. It’s clear none of us cares much for dysfunctional government, whether it’s consider right or left. State level Democratic or federal level Republican. It’s all horseshit. Only I’m now currently smelling horseshit as we roll by a farm… and horseshit is much better.
I can state with authority that I’ve bicycled from Rome to Amsterdam in two days. And damnit, it’s pronounced Ahm-schtar-dahm. Daniel asks a stranger walking her dog how long to Holland? She’s doesn’t get it. We spot a cafe right along the trail. Damon and Daniel, in this Amsterdam coffee shop, after we’ve been joking about cannabis bars. It’s like a tv sitcom. Their personalities definitely make for an ultimate odd couple. I expect them to harass the shops cashier about “the other menu”. But we’re again tamed by fresh produce, cool AC and hot coffee. And somehow someway it was filled with nothing but beautiful and happy women the entire time.
Chad and Damon are chatting in this cafe about how nice people have been to us along the way. They’re simply in awe of the amount of people who have helped us out. I’ve seen it and witnessed, so while I don’t take it for granted whatsoever, I’m not nearly as shocked as they are. Daniel has experienced it as well. He calls it tour magic. I cannot disagree. 10 miles later we’re looking to rejoin the off road path and didn’t think we’d be crossing some gravelly railroad tracks when I woman holding a machete walks up. She asks “you looking for the bike path” while swinging the machete around a bit. We affirm. And she lets us know to indeed cross the tracks. Can’t make this shit up. Trail magic.
We’re cooking with gas along this here Erie Canalway trail today. When I say gas, I don’t mean the bullshit fracked out of the earth – I mean my own flagellation. Damon got me eating vegan food or sumfin. We stop in Schenectady. Damon and Daniel hit the cafe. Chad and I walk a block and behold! Chad’s childhood home. Ages 0-8. I snap a photo of him in front of it. We stop for Italian lemon ice. Later down the road we all stop for a refreshing dip in the river. This is a good day.
Jeff is our warm shower for the night. Somewhere just outside of Albany. The tour magic runs high, as he literally rides out (and uphill) to meet us. Jeff is as weird as we are, and works for NYS DOT. So we’re talking trail infrastructure and bikes and trains. We do some laundry and take showers. Luxury!!! Our tents are set up in Jeff’s backyard. We celebrate riding across the state with pizza and beer. After a couple beers I’m even happier to bend Jeff’s ear about getting more train/bike connection in New York State. Jeff’s hospitality is just another example of the tour magic. After another beer I realize it’s like 10pm – well past the usual bedtime. So I dive and it’s lights out on day 5.