Daniel has a knack for spotting swimming holes. And for finding various roadside accoutrements. At one point the heat and the hills have us hurting. Like delirious. We find a swimming hole and that’s where it’s get really weird. Please welcome Mr. Freakin’ Hot. We’re working on a better name. Please suggest one. But he’s coming with us.
The sun pops up an I emerge from the castle. After a quick roll out from prime stealth camp territory is followed by the hardest segment of climbs yet, we’re coming up into the Delaware Water Gap. 33 miles of foggy hot climbs has us gasping for a break and some breakfast to go along with that break. The Walpack Inn is out. And still doesn’t open for two hours. So we snack on what we have and set up for nap time behind the pace in front of a gorgeous vantage point of rolling green lushness. I lay there in the grass and simply can’t move. Some of the climbs are relentless. The kind that keep going after a bend just when I think I’ve made it. I scream out various hoots or grunts or woos. My exhales start spraying all sort of non COVID germs on the county roads.
Mateo tells me he wants to get into a hot air balloon. We have a little chat about instant coffee. It’s blasphemous as fuck quite honestly. but Mateo is now whipping some up and I accept a small amount. I have a jetboil french press in my rear left saddlebag, so it’s not that I don’t have options. (See above for that part where I simply can’t move.) He’s gotta be more gassed than any of his. Day two for him is brutal for all of us on day 8.
We’ve got the winding climbs and descents along the entire Delaware Water Gap National so and so to come. Please just open the goddamn bathrooms so those of us on bike don’t dehydrate. PS what the fuck is a water gap anyway?
Mateo tells us he wants to get in a raft. I’m soaked in my own perspiration when we cross the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. Two climbs specifically are now branded into the part of my brain that died to make it up them. And with no services and al potholes the last three hours, we are desperate for food and water. This little outdoorsy town has a taco truck for the win. That’s followed by more nap time on some picnic tables by a stream. We’re feeling ready to head south along the Delaware River.
Mateo tells me how some guy in a Mercedes pulled alongside him and asked if he wanted a ride. Every campground we’ve tried the last few days has not allowed tent camping which has proven to be a real pain in the ass. So we have no destination but will simply ride until we can remote sleep. This is my personal preference and I take pride in skillfully pulling it off. Plus we get to knock out more miles and now that it’s raining, I’m feeling refreshed and ready to push. Damon is down. We take a little ten mile break and he proposes it to the group. Seems like a go. Except Mateo says he’s gotta call it quits. I kinda saw it coming with the whole hot air balloon/raft/Mercedes thing. It was nice to expand the team for just a couple days and I hope he had fun. We wish him well and continue on.
The rains pick up. We roll along the Delaware River into a little town with a run down family owned restaurant and hotel and are instantly drawn back into the normal way of living. We can’t resist and 20 minutes later I’m showered and wearing clean clothes. 40 minutes later and I’m sitting at a table being served dinner. What world am I in? This would be abnormal in normal times, but it’s even more surreal now and at this moment David Byrne is spot on about what I may be asking myself. The answer, David, is by bicycle. Bicycle is how I got here.
At dinner Daniel gets into some good old fun with the owner of the place. An older gentleman with a thick accent, he’s been teasing us the entire time in good fun. “I’m not Italian. I’m Greek,” he tells Daniel. They are talking about sex, I think. I’m not really paying attention. “You Italians are all talk while us Greeks are action.” And this old man starts moving his hips. Now I’m paying attention. And I’m laughing uncontrollably. He walks off, “I’m sorry. You opened the can with the worms you know? So what can I say?” Daniel laid off him a bit before the old mans blood pressure skyrocketed. We didn’t see him after that.
We pay the bill and I pass out in a not so comfortable bed. I’d have preferred my tent but the shower and the meal make the sacrifice of sleeping indoors worth it.