Saturday, September 23, 2017

Final thoughts and statistics - last post of this blog

First, thank you for following this blog. I had a great time cycling across North America, and having you follow my blog was a motivational boost. So, thanks again.

You can view the pictures from this amazing trip if you Press here for Album.

The trip:

The journey began on May 6th in San Diego, California, with a stop at the hiking store to purchase clothing and equipment needed for the trip. This included two coats (for warmth and for protection from the rain), long thermal pants, a tent, a sleeping bag, and a sleeping pad. These were tested instantly as the rain began that day less than an hour after I left the store and lasted for three days.

I headed up to Big Bear and down to Santa Monica, up the coastal road and headed up to the Sequoia national park. From there down to Fresno and up to the magnificent Yosemite national park. Then to Sacramento to get new tires and a new chain. Headed up to Cascades in Oregon and finally got to the Columbia river where I headed east from Washington State on the Lewis and Clark trail. On this trail, I crossed the Rockies from Idaho to Montana.

I headed from Montana to Yellowstone and crossed the vast and practically empty state of Wyoming. This was the toughest section that needed most the survival skills a cross country cyclist should have. Not only is there hardly a population to rely on, but this emptiness means less water and food are available along the way. Rather than 3 liters (3 quarts) of water, I carried double that amount, more food than usual, but the toughest part was the heat. Upper 90's F (upper 30's C) and no trees to take refuge in their shade. These were a few difficult days until I reached Devil's Tower.

But then the weather changed. I arrived in South Dakota fleeing the thunderstorm which hit just as I reached town. It got hotter and drier again until I reached the middle of Nebraska. Then, another storm changed the weather for the rest of the trip. Most days were cool enough for me to cycle without getting too hot.

The Midwest is flat, for the most part, and beautiful. The corn fields of Iowa reminded me of the home away from home that I had back in the 1980's when I spent three years as a student in the Quad Cites. Visiting my host from those days and my good friend from college made this portion very special.

Illinois and Indiana made cycling safe for me. Both have cycling trails that took me from the Mississippi to Lake Michigan practically all the way off-road. The canals of past, where horses used to pull the boats through a set of locks, have been transformed to cycling trails. They are well maintained most of the way and offer a great cycling experience for days in a row.

Once reaching Michigan, the whole culture and feel changed. People jog and cycle, the food portions are smaller in the restaurants and there is a selection of food types rather than the fried food that is all one can find in the Midwest.

And then it was Canada. It seems that Michigan took a look in one direction, saw the Midwest, looked in the other direction, saw Canada, and decided to go the Canadian way. Canada is extra polite and clean. It has more food options. It is multicultural even before reaching Toronto.

For me, Toronto was very special. I spent a few days with my partner, who was there for a sabbatical.

Heading back towards the United States on the Loyalist parkway, one sees the documentation of the history of Canada with regard to its enemy of the past, the U.S.A. I saw similar, but with a reverse attitude, documentation on the other side.

Once reaching upstate New York the entire atmosphere changed again. Back to the U.S. problems with regard to their politics and way of life. I was back in Trumpland. This lasted for just a short while.

Vermont and New Hampshire are quiet and charming. I cycled through the forests that were starting to turn red and orange and was on off-road country trails. The trails leading to the White Forest National Park were probably the best cycling I had despite the fact that they are not in very high mountains. I loved the uphill in California, hundreds of meters (thousands of feet) a day which Vermont and New Hampshire do not have, but these trails were somewhat technical, lots of dirt paths and had romantic old towns along the way.

It rained on me for a few days until I hit the peak of the White Mountain National Forest. It was all downhill towards the Atlantic Ocean from that point. I started to feel the excitement building up.

I was almost there. Soon after the peak, I reached the point where the Appalachian trail crossed the road I was cycling and pushed on. The first night arrived. It was difficult to find a place to pitch my tent, but luckily I found a campground. Got up the next day and got closer by the minute to the ocean. Finally, Portland. I crossed the city and reached the shore. My mission was complete.

All that remained now was to get to Logan airport some 200 km away within five days. So I took my time cycling down the coast from Maine through New Hampshire to Massachusetts. The seafood is fresh and tasty. The boats in the harbors are picturesque, the air is clear and I was in "I have done it!!!!" mode.

Packed my bicycle at the entrance to the airport terminal. This was the final spot of my trip.


But all that is not the main part of this trip. The main part was the people I met. Other cyclists, local townspeople, farmers, fire fighters, waiters, bartenders, motel receptionists. Goodhearted, hospitable and generous people who made me feel welcome in America.

There are scores of examples over the four and a bit months that I was cycling through the U.S. and Canada. Not all can be published for this will be practically an endless blog entry, so I will list only a few.

I think the most unexpected interaction was with the young woman who I managed, at least for a while, to stop from committing suicide:
I know it is possible that she tried again sometime later, but for that moment, she was safe.

My plan for the trip was to meet Americans (Canada was not part of the original plan and I found that they are more reserved than Americans, so I am focusing on the latter). I wanted to meet people and talk to them. All one gets to see from abroad are TV shows, movies, the news and visitors from America. I spent three years in the 80's in Iowa in a college atmosphere which even then did not represent America. I felt that I do not know enough about Americans and that I have to meet them face to face, talk with them, share a coffee or a beer, ask them tough questions and answer a few myself.

First day of the trip, I have just left the store where I have purchased my rainproof goods including an expensive coat. I am cycling uphill, as I will be doing for the next few days, and rain decides to give me an opportunity to test the coat. I am at a stoplight waiting for it to change so I can find a safe place to take the coat out of the designated bag and put it on. A driver rolls down his window and starts asking me about my bike and my trip. We pull over at the drive-through bank for shelter and we begin talking. This was a good sign, I felt, for the future of this trip. All I could tell him is that I have this plan to cross the U.S. He, a cyclist himself, told me about the cycling opportunities in the area. I was not ready to make changes in my plan, but understood that the locals are a good source of information.

The next day, I understood that firefighters are much more than what the title holds. They are the information source for everything outdoors. They know the forests like they know the back of their hands. It continued to rain all day and I needed a place to pitch my tent for the night. The locals at the diner told me to ask the firefighters for a safe place since there were no motels or campgrounds in the area. The firefighter I spoke with sent me to 'the old highway' (a concept that runs throughout America). There is a section on this highway that is completely blocked for traffic. "Just cross over into that section and you'll be safe from traffic and no one will bother you there".

I was heading into Idylwild park, California, and saw a building. It looked that it could be, perhaps, a restaurant. Lights were on and a few cars were parked outside. I open the door. I turns out that this was a bible study group. After I apologize, they point out that behind this building there is a whole town with restaurants and motels, so I will be able to find refuge from this cold night. As I walk out, Bill follows me and tells me that he is a Warmshowers host, and that I am welcome to stay with him.
While cycling to his home another person stops his car and asks me if I need any help. He is the owner of the local bike store. Endless kindness.

As the days passed, I found myself being stopped by people who want to help. Just like that. While in Washington State, on a very hot day, a woman pulls over. She's on her way to go fishing and has a cooler full of soda. She offered me one. Mountain Dew is not my favorite, but on this day, it was the best soda I ever had.

This day in Montana, is a perfect example of how Americans feel about an Israeli visiting them and how hospitable they are. Not only do they refuse my money because I am an Israeli guest to their country but they also host me in their home just for having an interesting story to tell. Amazing.

I had people offer me money (which I had to refuse), pay for my meals (which I found out only when they were long gone) and open their homes to me.

The Christians wanted to understand how come I am a Jew but don't believe in a god and what do I feel about Jesus.The Republicans wanted to know what Israelis think about Trump. First, I had to explain, Israelis do not thing En Bloc. We have 8 million people and 10 million opinions. Discussions on both topics made me understand that despite having different opinions than I have, these are good people. They want a better world. They are willing to help, they are kind and welcoming. I knew that with these people I was not alone on my trip in America.


San Diego airport to Logan airport:
9,665 km / 6,040 miles
67,958 meters / 224,284 feet accumulated ascent.
Total Trip time: 4 months and -9 days
Net Trip time (excluding flight time and long breaks): 3 months and 24 days.
On average cycling hours per day (including breaks) : 10 hours.
Average cycling distance per day (when cycling full days): 84 km / 52.5 miles


Bamboo bike: 29" all-terrain bike, hard tail which I built in Toronto five years ago.
Dynamo hub on front wheel to generate electricity to charge phone and flashlights.
Bike packs in a bike-packing format.
Tools and spare parts for the bicycle.
Navigation and tracking equipment.
Smartphone (for Google maps, detailed information and communication)
First-aid kit.
Raincoat, down jacket and thermal pants.
Sleeping bag, sleeping pad and a tent.
One pair of shorts and one t-shirt and a couple of pairs of underwear.
One set of extra cycling shorts and cycling shirt.
Socks (6 pairs).
Towel and washing gear.
Backpack with an hydration pack and food rations for a day and a half (e.g. cans of tuna, tortillas and snack bars).

Friday, September 15, 2017

Maine and the Atlantic coast

Once I hit the high point in New Hampshire, all that was left to do, was to get to the coast at Portland, Maine. That should have been easy. The rain has stopped, it is all down hill, only that it was not that easy. But first things first.

The towns along the way have a charm that New Hampshire knows how to boast.

Suddenly, this huge red dump truck honks at me followed by the driver calling out my name (here is the report as published on facebook:

Back in the 1980's I met the Goddard family in Israel. They were there, building Uvda air field as part of the peace process between Israel and Egypt. They had me over for three months on my way to college in Iowa.

I hoped to see Bill Goddard and Cindy Goddard Snow, but that did not work out. I also planned to contact Bob Goddard and he suggested he'd drive over to a location near his home when I think I am close enough. 

Cycling today, in New Hampshire, I think it was the town of Glen, I hear a lorry (dump truck), honking and the driver yelling at me. I thought he was trying to warn me about something. I didn't feel or see anything wrong but he was persistent. Then I heard "DAVID, DAVID". It was Bobby, yes Bob Goddard!!!!

I did not recognize him at first. Out of context, I guess. "It is Bob". Boom! Other than a beard, he has not changed. Bob was always a man who works with his hands and operates equipment. So it was no surprise to see him on this truck. 

He recognized me by my bicycle. He saw pictures and put one and one together.

We spoke for a few minutes. He had to get back to work.

With this as the 'high' of the day, I push on, starting to seek for a place to sleep.

I cross over to Maine:

 It took a few extra hours, but finally I found a campground.

The next day, I reached Portland and the Atlantic ocean:


It was now just a matter of time and a couple of hundred kilometers to the airport.
I had to slow down since my flight was booked for November 14th. I did get to see the beautiful Atlantic coast and its charming towns. I knew that "it ain't over 'till it's over", but still it felt different from everything that came to be prior to that point.
There will be one more post, once I get home, summarizing this amazing trip and major event in my life.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Vermont and New Hampshire

These two beautiful states gave me some of the best cycling adventure on this trip.

I crossed over from New York to Vermont by ferry to the very peaceful Grand Isle. Cyclists everywhere. Crossing this island calmed me down (see NY post). As I reached the southern tip of the island, knowing that I am about to catch another ferry, I was surprised to find that it is a special one.

There is a bike trail going from the island to the mainland with a short break to let the marine traffic some room to cross. Hence the ferry.

The next thing I run into is the Cross Vermont trail. It started on the road, but soon lead me onto a 100km off road trail with single paths (narrow paths that allow for one bicycle at a time) and double paths. The second day it rained which added to the excitement as the roots of the trees became slippery, so one needs to use one's technical abilities to overcome the obstacles.

Along the way, the initial signs of fall are to be seen. Red and orange leaves on some trees and on the path.

Without any change in scenery, I slide into New Hampshire. The continuation of the trail, once a train railway, takes me higher into the White Mountain National Forest. The entire climb, spanning over two days, it rained. A few times the rain was too heavy, forcing me to take refuge (in diners....). This was a wonderful experience. Just the thought of cycling the whole day in rain made me happy.

Finally, I reached the the high point. It is not an impressive height, such as Big Bear, the Rockies or Big horn, but it was the highest point on the eastern section of my trip, 580 meters / 1900 ft, the last uphill and the beginning of the end of my trip.

Back to u.s.a.: upstate new york.

I noticed instantly that Canada is behind me. Trumpland was back:

It is not that so much what they say, it is the aggressive and hateful way it is said. I think the era of democracy, world wide, is on the decline. Once the others, those who disagree with you, are free game, the end of freedom of speech and thought is near and they are no longer relevant.

So, pretty as it may be, only in America you can see a store, in the middle of nowhere upstate New York that has this for a name:

Guns and Guitars (and food) all at a gas station. I guess Papa goes to the gun section and son and daughter check out the music department. Or maybe hippie mum and dad go for a new guitar while baby signs up for an NRA membership. Who knows.

That was upstate New York as I saw it. I hope I just saw one side of it.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Leaving Canda: Two different goodbyes.

It was not easy to leave my partner (Bat Zug) behind. I came to Toronto, and Canada for that matter, just to be with her. So leaving was not easy. Once I left, I cycled on the north shores of Lake Ontario for three days on my way to New York state.

I spent the first night in Oshawa in a run down motel, I think the only one there. The town did not have a happy feel to it either. I guess it was a reflection of my feelings.

But then came the next day! It was an uneventful. I did not meet anyone along the way and the scenery was no different than that of the previous day, so I was focused on cycling.

It was getting cool and I started looking for a place to stay at. I saw a b&b sign which I started to follow. After a few hundred meters, in the town of Coburg I saw a large sign 'Bed and Breakfast'. The owner asked for 120 Canadian dollars. The place was messy. Not what I wanted at all. So, I continue; perhaps I will find another place. But as I cycle on, I see the same b&b sign again which gives me new hope. I get to the town of Grafton. There is a Guest House but it is full. I have been following this sign for 15 kilometers so far, so a few more, I figure, wont hurt. I keep on riding, the sign appears again and restores my hope for a warm bed. Suddenly, the sign points to the right towards the lake, the road winds and in my mind I am hoping that the b&b still exists and if it does, will there be a vacancy. 25 kilometers.

I knocked on the door. A couple, Lawrence, in his 80's, and Frances who own the place, invited me in. They have two parts for visitors in the huge villa. One, a fancy b&b in the basement, and the second part, a shared room, designed for groups such as cyclists, with 7 beds, a shower and toilet. I'm the only occupant in that section.
First question they asked was if I had anything to eat. So they took out two hamburgers, which we prepared on the grill and I had a nice beer to go along with the butgers. As I waited for the burgers to cook, the guests from the b&b section Andei and Gigi, French Canadians from Montreal, join us on the lawn with a bottle of wine. Nice red wine. The next morning, I met Gigi's mother who speaks very little English, so I had a chance to practice my French.
It felt as this is my formal farewell breakfast.

The next day, I found myself on the Loyalist Parkway. The history and the feel I got, was that some people would still be happy to have a closer link to the United Kingdom.

Then, I took a couple of ferries and it was "goodbye Canada".

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Canada (and funny signs)

Crossed over to Canada on a ferry! Another first on this trip.

I don't know why, but I just love silly signs.

I realize that Canada too is an agricultural country. Well, at least Ontario is. I just enjoy seeing the fields of corn and the barns.

The history unfolds. The Quakers who settled the land where apparently pro Empire. The British Empire. Canada is still a part of the Commonwealth and their money still has the Queen on it. Names of towns are from the old country and names of streets have Lord this and Sir that.

I like the fact that on many streets old or abandoned bicycles are transformed into objects of beauty for ornamentation.

I see funny sides in what the locals see as normal. The following sign tells drivers that, when snowing, roads can get icy and one needs to take care. This reminds me of the signs in the U.S. The locals just shoot the signs and they get to look just like this one.

And what is this? Doesn't anyone check the font size?

OK, back to cycling. These fellas just don't care. I cycled right by them. I guess they are used to people.

And finally I reached Lake Ontario and Toronto.