Day 6. 394 Miles. Holiday, Rode.

Poop poop and more poop. I shit you not. It’s a flow in’. A regular scheisse-fest here in room 110. Plus farts and burps, even Kara and Damon join in. Damn near a hazardous materials incident right about now, funk soul brother. Just uttering hazmat makes me think of my job back home. I shudder at the thought. Todays my day on duty at work; a dedicated day off mindset helps me resist extraneous practical joke texts from my lieutenant during breakfast. I resolve to continue along my vacation trajectory. Holiday Ro-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oooooh.

Speaking of breakfast, Lindsey Buckingham, breakfast is amaze-balls as all fuck. Let me count the ways I break the fast: make your own waffles, tricked out oatmeal, egg frittatas, thin bacon, French toast sticks, apples, oranges, bagels, muffins, juice and coffee. Hell to the yes. Iftar level 12, the mountain has come to Muhammad. I am the fat fuck, replenishing all the calories. Going in on piles of bacon. Not so Muhammad now huh? So much for losing weight on this ride. Maybe next time. We spy a couple folks walking their loading touring bikes out of the lobby and actually get up to inquire. Well, I spy them and Damon and Kara actually get up and walk over. I keep fat kidding. Then do I join a minute into the convo. They’re Canadians, riding Buffalo to NYC. They balk at my claim that it’s like Buffalo. Meh. We share trail tips, and keep on while they are clearly trying to leave. Then someone else come and asks them questions. I am now some sort of Lester and have inspire a Lesterfest. Fuck.

Pack up and on our 2 mile pilgrimage to The Mecca that is Walmart — who doesn’t pay me — I pray the spoke gods absolve us of our sins of Lesterdom. Ah the Wal Mart. Wally World for those that speak Chevy Chase. Damon and Kara just wanna robustly shop for god knows what. Anything really. Probably vegan ice cream or inflatable pillows. I kinda suspect Damon has gotta be a global street marketing exec for corporations across America, they way he rides for these large chains. I should say American corporations based in whatever the best country for tax and human rights loopholes is. He loves Walmart as much as DD. He’s happy it has “everything”. No bike mechanic, though. REI is a coop. Just saying. Kara returns, she literally looked for and finds no inflatable pillow. Compared to other Walmarts I’ve seen, it has a lot of shit. Maybe the selection is higher but the layout and signage is lacking. The spacing. Padding. I dunno. I’m unimpressed. I do grab a Bluetooth speaker for $15. Mine is dead. Yesterdays entry was almost entitled “the day the music died”. I’m happy with my purchase. Walmart saved hard me once I’m Ticonderoga in 2005 and I appreciate the whatever-stage capitalism efforts of the Walton family. For now. Damon says “it is what it is”. I hate it. I hate that phrase. Stop wasting oxygen. I coax him into more meaningful words. We’re having the long discussion. Long distance discussions. Shit that could save the world, or ruin it. I feel like we’re back on the 3000+ mile ride from Pacific to Atlantic, debating the most trivial of points for no good reason other than to do it.

A brief break and I remove my front brake. There, they’re, their. Some sort of hot spot or bent rotor; causing resistance and clicking and vibration, plus the sound has been driving me nuts. Also there’s a steering wheel in my pants. No front brake though, at least til Syracuse. It makes all the difference and I finally hit cruising altitude in the good ole Raleigh Sojourn. Clark Griswold would be proud.

Contrary to the lies my teacher told me only some roads go to Rome and the Erie Canal bike trail diverts from the Erie Canal and goes right through it. On motor vehicular roads which are poorly signed for the “Empire Trail”. Horribly signed in fact, Howard Zinn. I suspect all that trail money got spent up between Albany and New York City. Buffalo’s end of it got corrupted away via the 16 year fiasco we call reliable elected leadership. We resist the typical onslaught; country home cafes, Eddie’s (or someone’s) Diner, hipster noodle joint… Damon is convinced something is gonna be named after the coliseum. We’re cruising out and there it is — no whomp needed — Coliseum Pizza. We nail the dismount and trek forward, toward the return of the stone paths and Carie’s

I’ve officially formally absolutely hit that zone. Quickly in fact. That good-good, I-was-born-to-keep-riding forever vibe. It sometimes takes a week for me. Today is a holiday for real. I move along in union with the natural world, like my man Al B Sure, I’m In Effect Mode. And yes, I used to have crush on Dawn from En Vogue. Harmonious. Thelonius. Miles pile up and we push, 10, 20, 30 out like the fully loaded two wheeled champs we are.

A few hours of daylight remain and we make Green Lake State Park. It’s the bees knees. Or the cat pajamas. Something that sounds cool but doesn’t actually exist. I guess. This exists. We check in at the office and make tracks down to the beach. I hit the water for refreshment — for about 90 seconds — then I hear “ladies and gentleman, it is 7pm and the water is now closed, please leave the beach area”. What the fuck? Kara is knee high and dives in. Damon is still at the shore and throws his hands up in surrender. I definitely have to be “sir’d” by the lifeguard with the giant cone thing. How does water “close”? I’m happy to have gotten that little dip in, and the shower which ensues.

We begrudgingly hit the campground and have the privilege of setting up our tents next to a loud ass RV running its generator— great. What the actual fuck? This cannot stand, dude. Other campers eyeball us. Only one approaches. We’re entering a world of pain. Let’s call him Mark. He looks like a mark ass mark. Mark has questions and Mark also has statements. Mark likes to talk. He talks. He comes back and talks. He sees me heading to the shower and talks. Finally I ask him for a beer. He stops back over with a couple PBR and talks some more. He owns a bike shop and loves bike touring this he doesn’t do it much. He loves talking. Trying to get tandem bike riding ironed out with m his wife and himself. Marks a nice guy, thanks for the beer mark, next time be true to your name. If you’re gonna be so chatty, make it Maker’s Mark, Mark.

The palaces are popped up and just as we start to wind down the generators shit down. Silence! Enjoy it Depeche Mode. We abandon all notions of a fire and a late night hang and head in to catch some zzzzzzzzz.

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Day 5. 338 Miles. Survivability Timeline.

Warning: If you are reading this then this warning is for you. Every word you read of this useless fine print is another second off your life. Don’t you have other things to do? Is your life so empty that you honestly can’t think of a better way to spend these moments? Or are you so impressed with authority that you give respect and credence to all that claim it? Do you read everything you’re supposed to read? Do you think every thing you’re supposed to think? Buy what you’re told to want? Get out of your apartment. Meet a member of the opposite sex. Stop the excessive shopping and masturbation. Quit your job. Start a fight. Prove you’re alive. If you don’t claim your humanity you will become a statistic. You have been warned.

“On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.” At some point every ride ride will end, and for some people that point is sooner or later on the timespace continuum.

Sitting poolside in a hotel in Central New York, I’m really not very motivated to write. More freedom rider than freedom writer. Really more cooling off my swollen sections than anything. Damn it feels good. Want it. Need it. Gotta have it. I wouldn’t expect much clever wordplay or even a punny time travel reference.

Waking up on the shores of the Mohawk River, I definitely sleep better than I have in weeks. A crisp cool night with the fly off means I’m still wrapped up on my more than adequate sleeping bag. I’ve got pants and my jacket on when I emerge, the first one up as yoozsh. It is a chilly sunny morning and I fire up the jetboil coffee, suspecting it might be a while before anyone else rises. All the flies are up so everyone is cozy warm and snoring. I’m sipping coffee and it’s good. I am Jack’s every rising caffeine addict. One by one the crew animates, all in decent spirits. The lack of water here at this non-actual-campsite means we’re thirty, unshowered and relegated to the want portable plastic toilet box. I consider a dip in the river but I’m not sure it swimmable. The survival rate on me not getting into some sort of body of water is running low. I got a threshold, Jules. I got a threshold for the abuse I’ll take… I’m just saying that it’s fuckin’ dangerous to have a racecar in the fuckin’ red. We do our morning thang, pack up and move out.

Five miles in and a detour seems quite ignorable. Amato every detour off the Canal trail equals a climb up a hill. We’re stopped, pondering when someone comes riding towards us. In unison we all think out loud, “maybe this guy can tell us?”. Nope. My man on an unloaded bmx just cruises by the four of us, jaws open and eyes up, clearly looking like we have a question. He gives a simple wave and rolls past us. He’s got music jamming in his ears and is probably thinking “ain’t nobody got time for that”. Fucker. He looks like his parent named him Mackenzie — Earbuds Mackenzie, and he couldn’t give a shit about our inquiries. We roll the dice and ignoring the detour proves to be the right move, no help to that jabroni Mackenzie.

Eight miles up and a quick 10 minute stop has turned into a full on truck stop pit stop. We’re considering the showers and the TA, currently sitting in the back corner of a McDonald’s. Wifi and water and outlets and outsourced global capitalism. They do have solid coffee though. Whoever they is. It ain’t McDonald. Or MacKenzie. Damon has predictably gone on to Dunkin Donuts. Chad is out front napping in the sun. Kara is marveling at how delicious the biscuits are. I hit the bath room for a 2nd movement. It’s a small symphony. Clean in here. The toilet paper could double as sandpaper.

I scramble and give the two minute warning on rollout when Chad’s survival rate drops to zero. Today is the sort of day where the sun comes up to humiliate you. Chad is still feeling like shit. Non Covid chill fevers have him feeling like it’s better to bail. I can tell it’s serious and he’s not gonna make it. He’s gonna head back to Amsterdam and jump on the next Amtrak home. I hit him with a banana and some ibuprofen and we all send him off with love. Like that our bike club is now just three once more.

The next 35 miles are tough. The sun has come back out. Losing our comrade takes it’s me taking toll. we grind out climbs and detours and keep on keepin on. Push push push. Finally we are just to beat to make the next down up and we take a break trail a side. Kara pops up her chair, a lay on this mold and loss covered picnic table. Damon puts his life on the line and lays on the trail.

After half an hour, we’re greeted by a solo trail rider. It’s Ethan! Ethan owns Campus Wheelworks, a bike shop in Buffalo. Super knowledgeable and friendly, Ethan is out for the first time cooking his way across the state solo with nothing but an underseat back and his credit card. Like high speed cruising. He’s clearly been alone for a while because he has got that solo bike tour energy. 70 miles in already, he’s trying to get to Albany today, which would mean about 140 on the day. He has had it with locks. He’s also had enough with stone trails. He was originally going all the way to NYC but I suspect Albany might be it for him, despite getting a hot shower and a king size hotel bed every night. Kara and I know him from frequenting the bike shop. Turns out Damon and Ethan sort of know each other from way back in childhood Jamestown New York. Ethan’s dad was Damon’s math teacher. Wow. On a long enough timeline, we all know each other. We hang for a bit longer and then cruise on in our opposite directions, feeling encouraged at the coincidental trail mingling.

After a break stop by grub in Little Falls, we gear up for rain as the skies and forecast seem to predict an upcoming shower. And not the type we really need. Fate it seems is not without a sense of irony. Raincoats on and we’re making our next push to Utica.

Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.

66 miles in and Kara is calling Damon “Papa”. “Daddy” would probably be weird. He springs for a hotel room in Utica. Good ole Damon Warbucks. We all are wiped and there’s aren’t many good options. So this option it is. This option has a shower. A pool. Laundry. Coffee and tea in the lobby. Breakfast tomorrow. My writings survivability has dropped to zero. And now I’m in that pool, cooling off my parts. I’m in the shower. I’m doing laundry. I’m eating. I am not writing. It’s been a long hard few days and we are surviving. So. Go and do something. Goodnight.

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Day 4. 272 Miles. Add The Chad.

Damon and The Chad

Fade in, I’m basically Uma Thurman waking up out of the coma in Kill Bill. Essentially. Wiggling my toe. Me no function. I feel like sleeping on this couch would have probably fucked up my back — if my entire body wasn’t already in total disrepair. Every bit of me is broken. The sounds of creaks and cracks coming out of both Damon and Kara as they stretch provide affirmation of how im pretty sure i feel. As if I needed the audio cue. Nothing works. I can’t move. Mary is up, getting ready for work. It’s probably 6 or 7. She brings me coffee while I’m still splayed on the couch. She’s a fucking saint. I drink it. She’s talking about Watervliet. That’s where we are. She’s from this house I am sleeping in. Lived in Buffalo years ago when her and Kara met during the October Storm. IYKYK. I learn about the arsenal here. Access from road and water and air. They land planes on the interstate Highway. Thanks a lot military industrial complex, I guess. For real though, thank you Mary – your hospitality was most certainly MJ in game 7.

Kara and Damon each activate in similar ways, that’s when those creaks and cracks happen, letting me know I’m not surrounded by six pieces of pine. Coffee and convo with Mary for all ensues. Another hour and I am re learning how to use my thumbs and hands. Neurons awaken in my brain just a tad bit. More timespace happens along this same trajectory; reanimating in a normal, non-Tarantino manner that isnt the movie that is my life. Deep breathes reservoir dog. We’ve manage to scrape ourselves up and Damon finds a Dunkin Donuts around the corner. It’s like he works for them as an ambassador. He’s pushing it hard. I now must become ambulatory once again. This is big stuff. Walk. Ugh. Walk. Feet. Work. Please. Literal baby steps. I’m now in line at a place that claims it is what America runs on. Only they don’t sell guns or Jesus or racial inequality. No infringement on womens bodies or citizens private affairs. No economic wealth built on genocide and slavery, no military might built of fomented coups and secret back room dealings undermining the very democracy it claims to purport. So not much actual America at all. They do however have the bean exilir of life that I hold sacred. I’m next up to order and I realize that I have no idea how in the hell i got here. It’s kinda like that scene in Wolf Of Wall Street where Leo is woken up at home by the cops and doesn’t quite really know how it all went down the night before. Except 11 hours in the saddle is my qualudes. Yup. Lizard brain is still in effect. Only the most basic motor functions, apparently. I can breathe, which I’m thankful for in the US of America. Hardly some fight or fight can happen. I am indeed able to walk again. But I can’t do complex processes, like math, or pooping. Not yet anyway. Strange, I’m usually good at math and pooping. Damon’s all hyped up about this, telling me, “yo dawg wait till you’ve had this coffee then you’ll definitely be shitting.” I find his faith in my patriotic protest pooping utterly delightful. They have oat milk at least.

Chad is a country in Africa. It is also only one of five nations on earth whose name is one syllable in their native language (Thus Spain is really España and doesn’t qualify). Comment with another of these nations and win prizes from sponsors I don’t have. Chad is also an old friend and a great tour companion, much like Kara and Damon. Chad is also a Chad. Maybe The Chad. The previous entries on this here site back that up. Search “Chad” if you must. Our trio finally manifests it’s originally intended quadrant steez with his arrival into Albany on Amtrak whatever whatever. He is presently inbound to Mary’s as I prepare to somehow ride more miles, and hopefully shit beforehand. The poop happens, the miles are a little harder.

Some brief cordials later and we are back on that non motorized trail life; Chad and Kara and Damon speed ahead and I cruise along in the back with my shirt off enjoying every square foot of environment. Se are now on the Erie Canalway Trail. Still part of the Empire Trail and also composed of smaller trails, like the Mohawk Hudson Trail. So technically I’m on three trails at once. Trail’ception. Chris Nolan call me I’ve got a sequel idea. I’ve rode this two years ago and I’m excited to experience in the opposite direction. First stop up is Schenectady.

I’m taking my wheels to Synecdoche, er Schenectady. Chads and English teacher so he helps me out here. Wheels: a part used to represent the whole of my bike; Synecdoche. Not to be confused with metonymy. So I’m fact I took more than my wheels here. Also, not to be confused with Synecdoche; New York. Shoutout to the ghost of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Whether I’m putting a part for a whole or a whole for a part, 25 miles later and I’m feeling much better now that I’m noshing on this pepper ham sammich with a ginger ale on the side. Yeah, Civitello’s way to get your Italian deli, complete with lush ivy decorated outdoor patio space.

Outfront of the supermarket Damon has a flat. He gets another like two miles up. It’s still pride month and I’m so proud of Damon as he repairs his own flats. It wasn’t long ago when he had zero ability to do that. Secretly though, I’m wondering if any of the other deadly sins are getting their own month this time around. December is probably just an unspoken Gluttony month already. I’m so exhausted I’m hoping July is Sloth month. Pretty please.

Freshly fueled up, we smoke it to Amsterdam. That’s a goddamn lie. I am the tortoise, moving slowly. Finally I get back into a little groove. Mini Stella. 11 mph, shoutout to Th1rt3en on the playlist. Their entire album “A Magnificent Day For An Exorcism” gets me through the pain. It’s worth checking.

Ahm-Schtar-Dahm. Fun fact, I’ve now been to Amsterdam Netherlands and Amsterdam New York with all three of my ride companions: Kara, Damon, Chad. One two three. In the place to be. There’s a castle here but otherwise it doesn’t look like the Netherlands at all. No “coffee shops” (despite the mutually legal cannabis), no lovely public parks or art galleries, no sex workers doing what they do. We’re like the only ones on bicycles — so this must be New York. Meh. The tavern is the only thing open today, with a bulletin board full of Let’s Go Brandon stickers reminds me how non-international we are. This place wreaks of voting against your own self interest. It’s no wonder the knitwits out front like the new Top Gun, going on about it as Damon and I enjoy a refreshing beer.

Damon is still going, this dudes got little kid on the spectrum energy. “That Dunkin’ shit gets me lit, even when I have it early in the morning”, he proclaims to the group. He is ready to ride through the night. Chad is crabby. Crabby Chad. He didn’t sleep much and desperately needs to some rest. Sorely needed he says. Kara looks like I feel though she seems to be having an easier time than me. Either way 3 out of 4 agree, just another few miles left in the tank today. We push out another few miles along the Mohawk River as the sun is setting and find a nice little day use spot to set up camp. Pop up the penthouse, crush a peanut butter banana burrito and hit the hay. It’s a crisp cool night on the Mohawk River and I’m intending to sleep like a chief.

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