Imagine the smell of a dog lying in the hot sun for 10 days dead after a rain. The toxic fume emanating from my Transit Suit is worse. Even the most battle hardened carrion loving flies now avoid me.
Phil had mentioned the suit smelled bad, which it did. After having worn it almost every day for 70+ days now it's to be expected. But after the cycles of rain followed by endless hours of being stuck in slow moving traffic under sticky humid sunshine over the last two days, now it truly reeks.
The comfort Inn I'm staying at serves a real breakfast. I'm wearing the shorts Bruce gave me in deference to the other guests. I never wear shorts.
Yea, it's that bad.
I'm going to be visiting Rachel in Philadelphia tomorrow. I'm tempted through simple human compassion to get a hotel somewhere near her place, shower, change and walk over instead of arriving in all my odiferous glory.
I think I figured out why everything got so soaked in the rain the other day. On these country roads so filled with slow moving traffic I wasn't able to maintain anything over 35mph for any length of time. During the first leg of the trip when I had spent days on end being dumped upon it was all at highway speeds. That creates a wind buffer around the bike which prevents the rain from getting behind the fairing. But at these slow speeds the rain comes down and just soaks everything. Water pooled up on the seat, over the tankbag, everywhere. It also explains why visibility was so poor. There just wasn't enough wind to clear the faceshield. All in all it made for unpleasant riding.
The previous day riding in slow traffic in the rain had taken it out of me. I was too tired to write and ended up sleeping late. The motel I had found in the middle of nowhere was nice. There were pretty flowers.
I had not had dinner the previous night and subsisted on nothing but cashews and pecans. The clerk at the hotel mentioned a diner down the road. It was "Happy Days" themed. I should have taken a photo of the inside. Strangely, much of the memorabilia they had inside seemed authentic from the era. It felt old.
I didn't really have high hopes that it would stay dry. The clouds menaced low over the trees. I hit the road with the intention of making it to the Eastern Grand Canyan in Pennsylvania. It was already pretty warm and humid. The stickiness still hung in the air from a early rain. I got on the bike and rode on. Route 55 through New York is a slow road filled with small towns and traffic, lots and lots of slow moving traffic. There was, however, the occasional cool bridge.
I like old impressive bridges.
It seemed like every attempt at forward progress was thwarted by yet another slow moving vehicle. Mercilessly few passing zones combined with geriatric drivers intent on doing 10mph UNDER the speed limit while randomly braking due to imaginary hazards would conspire to frustrate even the most patient riders. Then there was the tractor trailer doing 20mph for nearly half an hour when finally a two lane passing zone appeared. A pickup truck with yet another geriatric driver who was all of 30 years old, decided to prevent all traffic from passing the tailer and a line of cars 10 deep were stuck in the mid day heat for yet another 30 minutes. Temperatures would at times reach the mid 90's. I roasted.
Have I mentioned I don't seem to do well in the heat?
I felt none of that calm that I felt Out There. I want to hold on to that calm but I am too affected by my environment and today it was really getting to me.
If it hadn't been for the traffic these roads would have been really nice.
At times they traversed hills and could have been alot of fun.
20mph corners are frequent on these roads.
There were also pretty vistas.
It would alternate between a solid rain and hot sticky sunshine. In the sun, this landscape lit up and one could really get a sense of how overwhelmingly green everything is.
I find myself once again in a very different landscape. "How many have I seen thus far?", I would think.
It started to rain again. I happened upon a small pond where a strange mist hung low over one section.
It looked like a setting you might see in a horror film, the mist concealing an approaching evil.
I rode on and came upon a group of deer chomping away at some grass around a transformer. Despite the rain I snapped a photo. I had thought deer would be such a larger part of this story.
There were a number of reservoirs behind earthen dams. This one had a pulloff and cruelly where I stood it was raining steadily and not more than 10 yards away over the water it was sunshine.
Eventually I made it to Pennsylvania. "Too close to home.", I thought as I realized from this point I could easily make it home today if I wanted to. I was already pretty tired from the alternating rain and heat cycles.
I've always liked Pennsylvania. There's a blue collar practicality to the culture here.
Overheating I stopped at a gas station to drink copious amounts of water. This car rolled up.
I didn't talk to the owner.
Much of the infrastructure in Pennsylvania seems really old. A number of bridges like this one can be seen.
There are also incredible vistas of farms and fields as far as the eye can see bounded by thick dark forests.
At times the road would curve down through gentle tree covered valleys.
It would cross tall passes with the occasional awe inspiring scenic overlook.
At this particular overlook a treacherous trail extended out onto a ledge. This precariously perched tree was more impressive in person than in this photo.
Forward progress was just not being made. The traffic lessened for short intervals only to get my hopes up. As the rains stopped the temperature rose. I started to roast in earnest. I had been on the road for hours on end and had managed to average less than 25mph over the day. Realizing I was near exhaustion from the heat, I decided to call it a day over 50 miles from goal.
Because of traffic, heat and conditions, I didn't find that calm I need to "meditate". The only topic I found myself considering as I rode behind yet another Ma and Pa kettle was my relationship with possessions, with Things. I think I aspire to have Less. More on that another time.
I'm going to go downstairs wearing the shorts Bruce gave me and get some breakfast. I have considered bailing on the Eastern Grand Canyon to just start the trip to Philadelphia, but I think I can probably still make it to take a quick look, do some back roads South and then superslab it for the latter half of the day. If I don't run into too much traffic I should be able to get close enough to Philly to make it an easy ride in tomorrow to meet Rachel after noon some time.
My journey is nearly over. In three days I'll be back at home mired in the Stress and surrounded by Obligations and wondering what I'm going to do with the rest of my life. All options are open to me but I have few real answers. Just glimmers of ideas. At some point I'm going to have to stop hemorraghing money and start earning some.
Phil said to me on my last day with him how fortunate he thought I was. "Not everyone can do what you have done. Few have the means to go away for as long as you have.", he said. "But the price I've paid to be able to do this is too high. It's not been worth it.", I replied.
"Many who have lived through Nightmares like you have never resolve them. They're stuck in them until they die. But right now, you are very fortunate. I can't afford to do what you are doing.", he replied.
He's right. If I discount the past and focus only on this long moment, I have been extremely fortunate. This journey has turned out to be so different than I ever expected. So unbelievably Improbable.
There's such a big part of me that wants to pause to regroup and then turn around and head back Out There.
I liked myself out there. I don't think I've ever liked myself before.
I didnt expect Rt 55 to have that traffic, sorry for the bad lead. Those bendy bits and vistas are what I recall.
If you do make it to the Eastern Grand Canyon, Rt 15 south is a pretty fast road aside from the bits through Williamsport and the like. I was on it two weeks ago and was surprised to see a four lane that lacked the infamous PA construction with no one working. It is becoming I-99 in sections.
The transit suit is stalking it because you are going to eat and not inviting it, demonstrating some sort of passive-aggressive behavior?
Hey, getting back home won't be so bad.
There'll be clean clothes and a shower
You can sleep in without worrying about checkout time
No more twitching every time the credit card comes out
The satisfaction knowing that you Did It and are better for it; What you do next is entirely up to you
Phil's right - many would never get a chance to pop out of their hellhole, ever. You're luckier than you think.