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Last Stop: New York, New York

Posted by on Sep 2, 04:14 AM
Filed under , | Comment [3]

Pennsylvania. We scented the Atlantic, despite the great distance still to be covered before we reached it. The ocean was around every bend, over every hill, never far off in our anticipation. And of course Pennsylvania wasn’t as bad as little Big Brother made it out to be. I, for my own part, relish every moment of rigorous knee-grinding masochism, every inch of heart-throbbing incline, every mile painfully borne in the heatstroke-inducing East Coast summer. But only in retrospect. Those moments burn themselves into the physical memory and lend a sense of accomplishment, of meaningfulness. They give unique color to an otherwise monotonous undertaking. Difficult strivings are memorable.
Today we knew we were close: our legs, tired from the last few days’ push, took us slowly to the top of a certain little hill in New Jersey. When we reached the top, NYC Harbor was spread out before us, far below!
Coasting closer, we connected with more congested roadways, until it seemed that all the roads in New Jersey were emptying like creeks into a river of tumultuous traffic. And that’s when we hit the bridge—I don’t remember which, but it doesn’t matter. We were well onto it before we had a chance to turn around, and by then, it was too late: our momentum had carried us up the short shoulder into the irresistable current of rush-hour traffic. It may have only been four lanes wide, or six, or eight: bedlam reigned. A car horn sounded immediately behind us, jarring our wits; a car careened between us: we lifted out of our saddles and sprinted, convinced our lives depended on it. The cars were only just too fast for us, slowly outstripping our efforts on the shallow incline. Legs straining, we trained our eyes and wills on the cars in front, and pushed—faster and faster! Lighter traffic would have been fatal, for the sheer number of cars on the road kept the pace relatively slow. We strained slowly toward the bridge’s crest, streaming perspiration. Several long minutes passed, and then: the crest! Staten Island opened brilliantly in panorama below: we relaxed into an easy glide that took us to the bottom of the bridge and turned off the busy road in relief. The tumult faded as we left it far behind. But traffic was still heavy, and as we navigated towards Brooklyn, I was nearly run-down several times.
After a short ferry ride past the Statue of Liberty, we were in Brooklyn. Our host, a pseudo-nerdy, quasi-hip cyclist in a neon pink jersey, met us there and guided us back to his place where we passed the night comfortably enough.
And even though we met with memorable hospitality in the city, it had an unwholesome flavor to my rustic palate. It was bleak, despite its diversity, colorless despite its rich blend of culture—the city seemed to lack an essential part of its soul. But my impression is partly due to the contrast between precocious America and the novel Old World charms of Paris, a disparity much in favor of the latter city.
And in fact, Paris was just ahead. We had three days to organize before catching our flight; it was barely time enough. Up to the last moment details crowded upon us with importunate obstinacy. The day of departure came around, and we were running late. Thankfully, our host gave us a ride to the subway station, an impossible half-mile by foot, and we dragged our boxes into the crowded subway,

Looking back, I can easily say that this portion of the trip was far more difficult, far more trying than even the hottest, hilliest leg in the Mojave Desert, Pennsylvania, or any other part of the United States

throwing apologies left and right as we jostled fellow passengers. Our bodies were laden too: jacket pockets bulged with our heaviest articles; carry-on bags hung precariously from our bodies.
I raged inwardly every time the subway stopped, until we reached our first transfer point. Boxes were shoved hastily out of the door, and we slid them slowly to the next train. It was really crowded, but by using the boxes as battering rams, we charged our way into the tangle of bodies just before the doors clapped shut. We might still make our flight, I thought, but knew we hadn’t any time to waste. After several more transfers of like nature, we made our way with some difficulty up escalators and through long hallways with sundry boxes in tow, until we finally arrived at the terminal, sweaty and disheveled. Looking back, I can easily say that this portion of the trip was far more difficult, far more trying than even the hottest, hilliest leg in the Mojave Desert, Pennsylvania, or any part of the United States. Aer Lingus crowned our difficulty with a hefty fee of $125 for excess baggage, but we were merely glad to be rid of it, and so paid readily before boarding our flight.
Hours later, we touched down in the Charles de Gaul airport, just outside of Paris, concluding the first chapter of our minor odyssey—a second departure from the Aegis of the familiar for the unknown delights and perils of the open road. We had arrived; and after the protracted assembly of our bikes, rendered more difficult by the disorientating affect of flying, we were on our way in a state of sleep-deprived giddiness to the poetry and prose of that wonderful city, that old friend and mistress, Paris. It was a significant moment, a milestone: but the trip was only just beginning.


  1. You guys are awesome. What a great adventure. Enjoy every word of your blog and the pictures are tremendous. Thanks for sharing.

    Chris Sandvig · Sep 2, 07:34 PM · #

  2. SAVOUR and DO NOT RUSH your adventure….it appears you’re rushing thru, far too fast! Take some time out, and fit IN. Either, your wonderful, courageous folks, taught you how to convey your impressions, emotions and perspective VERY WELL, or, Whidbey High earned it’s fees! We truly enjoy the vicarious pleasure of your adventure…like National Geo on two wheels!!! Pburgh and NY: don’t those two make you appreciate, and long for, the PNW, and certainly WI, WA?!!? Looking forward to a long evening of tales and photos at Useless Bay, when you return…remember to S-A-V-O-U-R!!! M&R Honeymoon Bay

    — Marilyn and Robert · Sep 6, 09:01 PM · #

  3. Flattery never hurts…thanks all! I think that I can speak for both of us when I remark that our dear mother must be given most of the credit if in fact we have claim to any talent or education since she taught us at home for most of our lives.

    Unfortunitely the last bit of the USA was rushed through in order to make our flight. You can be assured that we are now in full “savor mode”.

    Andrew Leese · Sep 7, 11:15 AM · #

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