Days 15 & 16. 995 Miles. Survive To Come Back Harder.

I’m chilling out in Monroe Park, Richmond Virginia. College kids everywhere. I’m the one closest to looking like Santa Claus — it’s nowhere near Christmas and all of I’ve got is my presence. And I’m clean head to toe. Clean body and clean every article of clothing. Feeling a little like John Malkovich when he goes through his own portal. Sort of. “It’s my head!” I dunno. Taking Richmond in. My phone’s facial recognition doesn’t recognize my face. Even without the sun or safety glasses. Thanks a lot Steve Jobs. There is so much history here. Civil War and Revolutionary. Lest we forget, I’ll take this opportunity to point out that mister-two-dollar-ho himself Thomas Jefferson was a devout atheist, way before it was cool, or before it was known as anything other than being reasonable. Turns out that the “God” most of our Founding Padres were into was the god of reason. Look it up. In 1786, when the US&A was only ten years old, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (drafted by Tee Jeff) was enacted, separating church and state and advancing the legal principle for freedom of religion in the United States… or freedom from religion.

If only my timespace machine were a hot tub I’d get in it like Bennett and sendit back to a windy and cold morning in Jamestown. I’m literally chilling. It’s much colder after that storm. Coldest I have seen so far on this ride. Cold chillin. I’ve technically not paid for this site, so the standard operating procedure here is for me to pack up and sneak out. Uh uh. Nope. I get out to drain the main vein and I dive back into my sleeping bag with barely enough energy to suppress the shivers. Me Timbers. Eventually I work up the cajones to venture out and hit the actual restroom. On my way I spot what is clearly another bike camping rider, whipping up something to nosh. I peeped the setup last night and figured as much. No car. Bike. Tent. It adds up. Confirmation now and her name is Trisha. She lives 50 miles up in Richmond, her girlfriend got her into this sorta thing and now shes preparing for a solo ride up the C&O. It’ll be her first. Trish asks if I rode in on the monsoon, I let her know how I do the Neo bullet-dodge on getting soaked. She’s a bike camp newbie and she’s telling me how she’s already failed — she’s forgotten her coffee. This is a big failure indeed. I let her know she’s a failure. No I don’t. I let her know she’s talking to the exact right human; imma brew some up in about 15 and she should stop over at site 2 for a cup. Can’t spell Caferro without the Cafe.

Coffee coffee chat chat poop poop and I’m out. Just before these late-starting campground attendants come looking. Virginia is for lovers… of accessible campgrounds and trails. The Virginia Capital Trail is a dedicated, paved bicycle and pedestrian trail crossing four counties and 51.7 miles between Jamestown and Richmond, Virginia — that is, between the Colony of Virginia’s first capital and Virginia’s current capital, with an alternate end at Williamsburg, the last colonial capital. With that last extension, it’s a total of 62 miles of non-motorized, golden-bricked goodness into Richmond. Ok. So not gold or brick, but non-motorized and into Richmond. Locals love it so much they just call it simply “Cap.” Lots of them on it too, look at this. Everybody is kinda fit and happy. A little like a Sweden. Though not as good looking, and not that happy. Really, not very much like it at all now that I’m typing this. Still, I give and get a lot of trail “hellos”, “mornings”, nods and bells as I’ve gotten all ride. I stop to record all this goodwill and trail fun with words and no less than 6 or 7 riders ask if I need any help. It’s a nice trail community. There’s even trail ambassadors wearing orange.

The sun has come out by noon. Into this headwind I’m just on cruise control. Lots of breaks. Nice cool and sunny. Heating up as I type though. push on. For brief moments, dried up worms register as rusty nails or hooks. Woops. Not it. Only bike and ped traffic. No nails. We don’t need no hooks, Shaq. No navigating turns and no negotiating with traffic. It’s another Sunday so of course Gil Scott heron is rocking, and we’ve come a long way from Easter. Let’s get a holiday for no navigation nor negotiation. Hello Sunday, Hello Road.

With the lack of my usual nuisances of traffic and turns (traffic is more a hazard and turns more attention), I make timespace to do other bike shit. Slow Roll type shit. Biking while I’m biking, I’ll leave the inception references alone for now. The collective is a fascinating thing. I’m wearing my orange squad shirt today in fact. I look like a trail ambassador and I might as well be.

Slow Roll exists as a free Monday ride in Detroit, Cleveland and Buffalo. In the 716 it’s administered by a 501c3 nonprofit I started a few years ago called Wheel B. Herd; I’m currently the Sgt-At-Arms. There’s never much fighting to break up — slow roll is all about community and connection and collective. It is loved and hated in Buffalo almost equally, which is seriously the most steadfast symptom of success. It’s a bike ride in a sea of Kool Aid. While there are struggles, as with any startup, Slow Roll flourishes and is increasing it positive impact on the communities we ride with. Many people on this ride and all of my long rides assume I’m riding for a cause and ask “why?”. In 20 years of doing this never have a charity nor cause to give them, if I were to, though, it would be Wheel B Herd. Support if you want. Or just come ride in a Monday night:

Miles and miles i the future and I roll into Richmond. It’s sunday I think. I can tell by the lower volume of traffic and higher volume of church bells. Richmond has lots of atypical similarities with Buffalo. First being population, both around 200k in the city, 1 mil plus in the metro area. Lots of historic architecture. Both cities were burned down by those British fucks. A dude is moving on the double time and walks by me, the back of his T-shirt reads “Survive to Return Harder”. Yes sir, I think I will. And I needed a title for this day. Thanks.

This apartment that I hook up is a former punk music venue in Shockoe Bottom, just on the east side of downtown. There’s an actual espresso machine, which I’m sure 9 out of 10 guests give up on figuring out. I’m pulling shots straight away. After coffee it’s time for… more coffee. I finally make up it to Lamplighter Coffee. Hear it’s the bomb. Does not disappoint. They have a program where I can buy food or coffee for someone less fortunate. After all the generosity and trail magic I’ve been bestowed, I simply have to pay it forward and buy a breakfast sandwich for someone I will never meet. I hope it’s yummy in their tummy. I like this Roastery. It is mos def in the hipsterest part of town. Known as The Fan. Sitting here in the sunshine, folks are playing chess or on laptops. Many are wearing black and arrive on bikes. Lots of them are smoking cigarettes and appear to longer conform to a gender. They really lose me with those last two. Inside I’m happy to not be that cool. To each their own. Personally I like genders and I don’t like cigarettes, luckily I’ve positioned myself upwind from both. I wonder if that’s luck or instinct and training?

I spend my day off the bike, well — on the bike. For some of it. Coffee first. Then, Virginia is for lovers… of cemeteries. That’s me. I hit Hollywood Cemetery. It’s holds its own against the super impressive Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo. Presidents James Monroe and John Tyler are buried in Hollywood. Tons of Confederates, including Jefferson Davis, are as well. An entire sections of thousands and thousands of confederate soldiers. Forest Lawn boasts the graves of President Millard Fillmore, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, and of course Rick James. And it’s twice the acreage of Hollywood. Advantage Forest Lawn.

Richmond does have the outdoor people space advantage over bUffalo though. And stripes on roads and crosswalks and bike lanes and such. But then again I can’t think of many cities who don’t. Western New York perpetually corrupt leadership on almost all levels directly precipitates lower quality of life for its residents. Roads are barely striped or re-striped. Open space for people to freely exist is always the first to go. Elected leaders couldn’t give a fuck about things like this, their livability is doing just fine. I explore Richmond’s Brown Island. The T Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge is super awesome and ped and bike only! I hit a couple more parks. Tredegar Iron Works. Patrick Henry Park. Monroe Park, again. All this and let’s not forgot the 60 mile paved trail into the city.

To be filed under preparation and maintenance: I hit the grocery store. I eat a ton of barbecue. Brisket and ribs and Mac and greens and slaw and cornbread, oh my. I clean the Sojourn’s chain and entire drive train. They say you should do it based on sound and I’ve been hearing mine yapping it up. It’s a must. That rain the other night. Plus so much crud and sand and dirt and science knows what else from almost one thousand miles. I watch Being John Malkovitch, cause why the fuck not. If I had an 8 track player I’d rock out this Minnie Riperton tape, because fuck yeah.

I pull one more double shot of espresso to ward off the brisket-and-ribs-coma. Get everything set to push back out and… oh shit it’s way past my bedtime. There’s a bed. This coffee ain’t keeping me up. I get in it. Zzzzzz.

About tonycaferro

Entrepreneur, Citizen, Marketeer, Fire Fighter / EMT, Bicycle-Tourist, Booking Agent, Youth Mentor, Activist, Agitator, Coffee Addict, Foodie, Social Media Nerd, Amateur Film Critic, Son, Brother, Uncle & Rust Belt Representative. Follow me on Twitter @dtr45
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