Midterm Review

Trip update. Last Saturday, Daniel and Joan took me to Montpelier, to visit the Onion River Sports Shop. I had an annoying click in my bottom bracket, and I was sure it had something to do with the bolts not being torqued properly. I purchased new pedals, and had the bottom bracket serviced properly.

On the way back, Joan drove us past the cemetery in Barre, which is a town famous for its marble quarry. T2014-07-19 16.42.37he quarrymen were mostly sculptors from Italy, and as a benefit they were allowed to pick their own piece of marble for a headstone. Many of them carved their own headstones in curious and unusual shapes. Some of the sculptures were whimsical; others were hauntingly beautiful.

On Sunday, my hosts took me to Christ Church, Bethel, one of two churches served by the priest who serves their congregation in Randolph Center. The choir only has nine members, and does not sing during the summer. The congregation filled any void that may have been left.

I decided to ride the rest of the way on Monday. However, I did let Joan and Dan carry me and the bicycle to Burlington, Vermont, so I could take them to lunch before setting out. We dined at the Leunig Bistro on the Church Street Marketplace, a delightful downtown street for pedestrians only. The food was delicious, and, of course, the company was even better. On the way back to the car, I realized that I had dropped the small wallet where I carry my ID cards. We searched in vain, and my hosts checked at home. That evening, I phoned in a report to the Burlington Police Department, and began the process of replacing the cards.

Lucky for me, I carry my credit cards in a different wallet than my identification. Although I do this to protect the credit cards from my cell phone, it turns out to be a good idea. I don’t need a driver’s license. I only need my passport and my credit cards to travel. However, I have now learned that nothing can share a pocket with my cell phone. When it comes out, it tends to pull things with it.

Monday afternoon, I set out for Plattsburgh, New York. US 2 followed Interstate 89 and the coast north to Grand Isle, where I took New York 314 to the ferry. The ferry only took 15 minutes to cross over to Plattsburgh. I was in my hotel on Route 3 in plenty of time to have dinner before dark.

2014-07-21 17.46.01

Looking north from Grand Isle

Lake Champlain is even prettier in real life than its pictures. I have been impressed by the beauty of the mountains in Vermont and upstate New York. They are even bluer than the Blue Ridge in Virginia.

Tuesday, I rode north on Military Turnpike (Highway 198) and turned west on US 11. Climbing around the end of the Adirondacks gave me the only hills of any significance this week, and they were gently rolling compared to what I had experienced in New England. For the first two days, I spent much time gawking at the beautiful wind turbines rotating gently over the woods and farms.

2014-07-22 Wind Farm on US 11US 11 is the Old Wagon Trail that runs all the way down the Shenandoah Valley into the Southeast. It cuts through Amish country, so I should not have wondered why there were horse droppings on the shoulder. Indeed, I exchanged waves with several Amish families in their buggies and flatbed wagons.

US 11 is also New York Bike Route 11, and the entire route this week has been one beautiful bikeway. With very few exceptions, it is well paved with a full shoulder in both directions.

I spent Tuesday night in Malone, Wednesday night in Canton, Thursday night in Watertown, and Friday night in Pulaski. Today I am still riding down US 11 on my way to Baldwinsville, which is a suburb of Syracuse. I had planned to start west sooner than this, but this weekend is the Harbor Festival in Oswego. Hotels between the Finger Lakes and Lake Ontario are full to capacity. I was lucky to find accommodations in two new hotels, which were still under the tourist radar.

The easy generosity of country people towards travelers is one of the things that makes me love this life. On the one day that rained, I was able to take shelter on porches both times that a squall went through, so that I arrived at the end of the day as dry as when I left.

Midterm review. It was 10 months ago yesterday that I loaded my bike onto the bus from Charlottesville, Virginia to Marietta, Georgia, and began the life of the Freewheeling Freelancer. This weekend is also close to the midway point of the Northern Trek 2014. It has changed considerably from my original plan, but the endpoint is still the same: the American Translators Association Conference in Chicago in November.

So what has changed?

The itinerary always was flexible, but now it is almost fluid. I was planning to go north to Montréal, east to Rivière-du-Loup, then south to New Brunswick and New England. After that I was going to head west to Michigan and Illinois. Whether I rode the entire distance, or combined it with bus/train travel was going to be a function of when I got back to the United States.

Now I am heading west towards Niagara Falls, where I hope to meet a friend who is coming east from British Columbia across Canada. We then plan to ride east back to Montréal, possibly as far as the Gaspé Peninsula, before turning south to go down the East Coast of the United States. At some point, I will need to break off and head towards Michigan and Chicago.

I also spent almost an entire month in southern Connecticut, which, while delightful, was not part of the original plan.

The short business trip to Fredericksburg, Virginia, in early July validated the flexibility of this lifestyle. It was important to me to have a test of my ability to respond to short assignments like these, whether for teaching, making presentations, or interpreting.

Packing boxes. Between the Southern Swing 2013 and the Northern Trek 2014, I emptied and repacked the boxes with all my earthly belongings. I realized that I needed to have outfits in each box, not boxes of items (socks, pants, shirts, etc.). Indeed, when I returned to Charlottesville, for the Fredericksburg assignment, I only needed to open a couple of different boxes to have the clothes that I needed for that week. I learned that I needed the dimensions of all boxes that were not flat rate postal boxes, so I updated the box inventory with the related dimensions. One of my translation assignments involved shipping paper documents overseas, so I have now tested the international use of the Click-N-Ship feature from the Postal Service. With the integrated customs form on the label, I can have things sent to Canada if I need them.

Packing panniers. This is a challenge every morning. However, I have reached the point where I can pack the entire bicycle in 20 minutes or less, as long as I do not have a tent to fold. One reason for this is that everything is packed in plastic bags with slide closures. The plastic bags keep everything neat, but, just as important, they slide easily next to each other and squeeze into the panniers. I have learned that there is a difference between Ziploc® and Hefty® one-gallon bags. The slide closures on the former are inferior to the latter, and I need to replace all of them with the tougher closure, which does not burst open when squeezed.

There are still some things with me that I have never used. Obviously, I have not needed my bag of off-season bicycle clothes in the summer, but it is already surprisingly cool at night here in upstate New York, so I am sure that I will need those clothes in the next few weeks. I have been carrying six bicycle kits, but I seem to do laundry every four days. When I am not breaking down my bicycle to get on the bus, I probably don’t need the full wrench set. I have some handy multi-tools with all the right sizes in my repair kit.

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Dirt roads are everywhere.

During the first half of this trip, I learned that I must carry a chain cleaner, with cleaning solvent and a rag. Long-distance touring like this simply throws too much sand and grit on the chain, so it must be cleaned at least every week. I must oil and wipe off my chain every time it rains. I could be lazy about this when I was just running errands in Charlottesville, and was never far from a bike shop or my own garage. But my chain wore out in only 800 km on the Eastern Shore, and I don’t want to have to replace it that often.

Also, I must change the paradigm for carrying my prescriptions and supplements. They occupy the largest single bag in my panniers, not because I take so many pills, but because I have not thought carefully about how many of each I need to have with me. The mail order quantities are more than I need. Also, I have decided to discontinue any supplements that I was taking before I began the trip, which were not ordered by my health care professionals. Some of them date back to the stressed-out, sedentary days of my old life, and I need to see if I notice a change without them now that I live on the road. They are all over-the-counter items. The three prescription drugs are small, so they are not part of the problem.

Plastic or nylon? So far, I have stayed with friends and family, or in motels and hotels.

I all fits!

It all fits!

For the second part of the Northern Trek 2014, I am carrying a tent and a sleeping bag, because I expect to camp, starting next week. I actually prefer motels, because they are convenient, and I can afford them. However, there are some long distances ahead, and the friend that I am meeting is used to camping, having crossed the Rockies and the Great Plains. Stay tuned to see how much camping we do on the second half of the Northern Trek 2014.

The blog. As I reviewed the posts from the last year, it occured to me that I do not take enough pictures. I missed an opportunity when my brother offered to lend me his Go Pro action camera, and I forgot to take him up on it. I started to use stock photos from Google Images when I realized how important the pictures were. That was a big change in just the last few weeks. I may yet buy a Go Pro camera, because I cannot afford to stop riding, considering just how much beautiful territory I am visiting every day. The scenery is never the same from one day to the next, and I hope to share that with you when I correct this shortcoming.

Next week, I will continue with another sea story. I will also be going on holiday. I have not had a proper vacation in more than 13 years, so I have decided that for the month of August I will not take in translation work. This will make me a true bicycle tourist for one month.

I will continue to post every Saturday, and I would very much appreciate feedback about the sorts of things that you would like to see as this blog goes forward. Right now it has three major threads going: the bicycle, living and working on the road, and the sea stories. Do I need to focus on just one? Should I continue all three? What have I not told you about?

Smooth roads and tailwinds,

Jonathan.

One thought on “Midterm Review

  1. I enjoy all three threads. The bicycle thread is informative, the “on the road” is informative and interesting, and the sea stories are informative, interesting, and just plain fun. Thank you for sharing!

    Like

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