Day 3, part 2

I have burned all the hair off my hand. It smells edible.

That was going to be the beginning of my evening post. Now, a bowl of crispy lentil-rice-tomato-oil and a freshen up later, I have opted for a different tack.

This is going to be a short one. I am sitting at the base of the Blue Ridge mountains, the sun now behind them, and the glow of the Blackberry is cheapening the experience. The fireflies are especially annoyed.

Well, slight mistakes again. I skipped my planned spot in White Hall without noticing. At that stage, all I could see were my kneecaps pumping up and down, just beneath my eyelids. Instead, I am at Misty Mountain campground by a babbling brook that the folks at the Sharper Image would kill to record. Neat note: when I checked in, a 12 year old girl came bursting through the doors screaming. Her Daddy was going to get her a cellphone! Then, as quickly as she came, she pulled out in a golf cart.

The sun is nearly gone from behind the mountains. Tomorrow, I will have to climb unless they get moved in the evening. Still, at the top of one of them lies The Cookie Lady and that, I promise, will be a tale.

Day 3, part 1

I am sitting at a very civilized lunch in Charlottesville. I was promised burritos but I will have to make do with my sandwich, fries, milkshake, and a side of mashed potatoes and the deafening bickering of two junior faculty members. The woman can't bring herself to swear but she's convinced her coworker is an S-head. The man -- high camp -- is convinced the faculty is too male-centric. I wish them luck in all their endeavors.

I began at 645 today. I was so excited and rested that I might have woken some medics with my thanks. Things were easier today. It was cooler in the morning and I made tour de Frenchish pace until bumping into two eastbound cyclists. They gave me some tips and, using their fancy cycling computer, let me know that Charlottesville was only 30 miles away.

After that idea had poisoned my mind I knew one thing only -- burritos. The burrito is the base of my food pyramid, right under 'fats I find healthy'. And this was to be the rare burrito I've earned. Sadly, market pressures here in Charlottesville (a competing Grateful Dead memorabilia store, a wine bar perhaps) have pushed Atomic Burrito out. I would eat anything with the prefix Atomic.

Burritos got me across Monroe's Ash Lawn farm and up over Jefferson's wretched Montecello hill. I skipped Montecello for burritos and I'll be damned if I'm going to bike back up it. It looked beautiful: the highest hill in the area, subtle clearings and the thick trees they have down here. More on the flora and fauna to come...


Day 2

I am writing to you from the innards of Mineral's volunteer fire company. I was camping out back of the neighboring Rescue Squad when Charlie, volunteer fireman, told me that there was a small rivalry between the two organizations to see who could be nicer. A warm shower, hot meal, and mild stretch later and I'm ready to cast my vote.

Mineral is a religious town with three churches to its three blocks, and this is Sunday.

There wasn't much traffic when I started out of the RV park. I made my way into the backroads and then made sure I got completely lost. I had the Coast Guard on the line when Benny, a near-messiah in biker's spandex, got my attention and offered to lead the way to Coatsville -- "only we're not using your maps."

Onwards at 16 miles an hour. Over rolling hills and a terrible stretch of up-and-up that the local Methodist church had adopted (I think it is past salvation). He told me about the area and pointed out some interesting bits of local agribusiness. It seems the farmers have banded together in co-ops here too, and good, as everyone wins. I told him "ugh" and "wheeze" and "I swear I'm a good cyclist by New York's standards." Two roads diverged in the middle of the road, and as I took the one that was marked Bikecentennial 76, he pound my fist and told me that he hopes I find what I'm looking for and "fucking do this thing!" Just out of sight, I crumpled to the ground, stuffed a Cliff Bar up my nose, ate a gallon of water and had a nap.

My sleep options were thin today. I could either ride 50 miles or 100. 50 was plenty hard.

Some of the area has been hit hard by the building boom and bust. Huge, ugly, optimistic houses live next to others just like them and wait for equally large families to come in. I contemplated tucking into one and spending the night on the wall-to-wall carpet.

What do you call 4 trucks driving in a row on a Sunday? Church traffic. Sundays do seem to have meaning around these parts. Many streets take the name of the family living on them (Ferguson, Jackson, Applewhite) and houses are either swarmed with cars or left abandoned for other relative's homes, perhaps those with wall-to-wall.

Church traffic made way for jet skis on Lake Anna and jet skis -- which I love despite whatever You say, effete liberal and killjoy inside me, because they are impossibly fun -- well jet skis made way for a game of tag between two 12-year-olds on ATVs and another on a John Deere contraption.

A little ways up the road and I made it here. I grabbed some Gatorade at a local grocer and took notes: often I see crab farms on the front porches; food is as cripplingly expensive as it is in NYC despite being stripped of any nutritive qualities; there are brands of local cigarettes that are, however, quite reasonable. I also saw a man empty out some leftover sardine oil from his pickup window.

I am tired. Tomorrow, go to Trader Joe's, buy one of their salamis and tear off a piece so big you can't open your mouth wide enough to chew it. Then slowly squeeze it down with the roof of your mouth. I'm not going to be so hyperbolic as to say that's all a man needs, but in the moment it felt like it would do.


Day 1, ugh

100 miles. My first day and my first century. I would blame human error if I weren't the human.

Things began smoothish. I was up and at 'em early at the Crown Inn. I biked down the road a little bit and made my way to Yorktown and dipped my fingers in the water as if it were holy. Wholly unusual was the woman staring at me, bony knees deep in the Atlantic with a walker and a metal detector. Photos of her to come.

I turned on her and to my first hill. I pushed the bike up it. I began on the Colonial Parkway to

The parkway is yellow brick and I followed it to the Burg, which is Colonial and confusing. I was lost and in the middle of a battle of some kind. So I delivered on skirmishes.

"How are ye stranger?"
"I’m completely lost. Where can I get some Gatorade?"
"Why whatever do you mean?”
“Oh. I see. I need some water. Where can I find a drinking fountain?”
"You are an odd sort. I don’t know what you’re speaking of.”
“Come on man.”
"I recommend you try the Gift Shoppe o’er yon on the other side of the battlefield, by the carpark."
"Thanks a lot."

I made it past some fake slaves churning butter and found that water was very expensive in colonial times. I said drank it regardless and wouldn't see any for 38 miles.

Before that reunion, I swang by Jamestown and had a lovely convo with a local on a bike on a bike path on which I was. We talked about the trip, how he prefers to ride at 62, and then he shared his charming collection of anecdotes of friends and acquaintances who snuffed it while biking. Then he tore past me.

He was much on my mind when I started looking frantically for anyplace with water. Gas stations, delis, some of the empty beer cans I was counting on the side of the road. When I found Cheryl's Store and Grill, I began to feel blessed.

Backtrack: remember how I wondered which yes my driver understood. It was the wrong yes. It was 'yes you have a map'. I arrived in Norfolk, over the longest bridge in the world -- although I could have sworn Schwarzenegger blew it up in True Lies -- without, ugh, the faintest clue of how to get back over the bay.

Bless DJ and his extortionately priced taxi. Overheard:

"Norfolk is the site of the largest Naval base in the world."

"It's where the ironclads fought and its the site if Ft. Mason."

"I believe that boy Jimmy's got the bipolar 'cause he's not got no call to be so dermned angre."

The motelier was angry when I woke him. Thankfully we were separated by bullet proof glass and we left things simmering.

Back to the past present: I could have kissed Cheryl. Wimbledon was on too.

Miles down the road I discovered that I can't read maps. My campsite at Vedeecker's store (?) wasn't 48 miles away-- it was 138 miles away. I tried all my bedding options: pastors didn't pick up, there were no hotels; people in Virginia seem serious about their property, so no camping on the sly. I even contemplated getting arrested for a petty crime.

I am at my final option. It is 30+ miles away from where I wanted to sleep. It is prom night in Mechanicsville. It is an RV camp near Ashland. It is a small patch of heaven on earth. Everyone is so friendly. The camp hostess kept the pool open late so I could use it. I didn't. I did shower and I might just shower again. Showers are the wonderful marriage between God's gift of water and plumbing.

I made dinner. Magic: whole wheat pasta with summer sausage, a cup of salt, lovely olive oil in a Fiji bottle, sundried tomatoes, and a handful of pine needles I couldn't quite get off the pasta after dropping it. A man I got to talking with swung by again with two CDs of his music. I don't know when I'll see a CD player next, but thank you Bridson.

I have had the worst Mighty Swallow song stuck in my head. Perhaps you can take it off me for a while.

Bang bang Lulu
Lulu ran away
Lulu had to go bang bang
That's why she ran away.

Lulu had a boyfriend,
Name was Tommy Tucker.
He took her round to his house
To see if he could --

Bang bang Lulu...

You get the picture. And with that, goodnight.


Day 0, Part 2

I'd like to drawn some comparison between my ride down here on the Chinatown bus and my ride across the country on my faithful bike. After stopping off at Won Ton Buffet I asked our driver if we could stop earlier than Norfolk.

"Yes," he said.
"Yes," I said.

Now I am not so sure we said yes to the same things. Mine was supposed to be a sign of mutual understanding. His, I fear, was perhaps 'yes you are talking', 'yes you look crazy', or just 'yes'.

When I travel, I hope to be less frantic about seeing my destination. The Pacific is harder to miss.

Things I have seen: the large Confederate Flag that greets you when crossing the Virginia State line; a hotel that advertised having Pepsi as its top selling point; a chain of highway restaurants aimed at the Harley Davidson crowd. Sadly, I fear I am the wrong kind of biker...

Day 0

I am heading south on a terrifying bus at a terrifying speed.

To the left of me is a man with red feet who cries in his sleep. Further left, from what I can tell, are the wheels of the bus, going round and round on the divider. In back -- I can't look in back. For the first couple of miles I heard a baby screaming. Just seconds ago, when I turned around to stare it down, I noticed it was not a baby but a grown man of considerable size.

I have just made my hotel reservation at Yorktown's Crown Inn Motel. I'm in under Goff Manesfiele. The girl I spoke to had a beautiful Southern accent, but when she went to ask her mother what the damage was, I heard a violent fight in Hindi. The damage was 40 bucks.

For those of you new to my experiment, I am riding my bike across America. I am starting in Virginia.

My bike, or what's left of him, is grinding to pieces in the cargo hold beneath someone's zebra-skinned bag. My bagman, Sanjay, is probably crushed between the two. He’s a city bike, thirty years old (ninety in bike years), rusty in important spots, and completely unused to hauling anything more than groceries. I have much more confidence in Sanjay’s surviving our grand tour. I might put money on this.

We start in Yorktown. Sanjay is making his way down there with our belongings. The things we'll carry: a case of rioja, manchego cheese, my easel, some canvases, a bust of Voltaire, a hibachi, a hammock for afternoons, an aero bed, a table for entertaining, spare parts, and if Sanj has done his job, one of those huge chess sets you find at Club Meds. This grand tour will be grand.

Things I will miss on the road: the giving internet, Artichoke pizza, ice and the civilization built around it, Wall-E, people in excess, SpellCheck.

Things I look forwards to: Blackberry thumb, stars, the Pacific, numbness in my extremities, earned showers, perhaps a game or two of chess.

Yorktown is where Cornwallis signed the surrender and it has been the site of some significant skirmishes over the years. Sadly, I can't promise a skirmish; I can, however, assuage your fears of surrender. I can't stand symmetry and if I do plan on quitting I'll save it for Williamsburg which has comparatively little history of the stuff.

We are nearing the Shenandoah Valley. This is where Ted Koppel found his accent. It is also -- grab tissues -- where I hope to find something enduring. The climbs are greater here than in the Rockies, my pack is at its heaviest, and red foot is chewing as he snores. Jimminy.




Testing, un dos tres

This is a test to see if I can write updates with this thumbcrippling Blackberry I got. Also, on the topic of Blackberries, would anyone know how to change a background? Somebody kindly changed mine to a glamor shot of Ben Affleck in a suit...
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