Sunday, May 24, 2009

Bicycle Tour Journal 3


total trip: 329 miles, 8 days by bicycle

Willimantic

New Haven

Springfield


total distance: 114.9 miles, 4 days of traveling with 2 days of rest

hello! this is the final part of the story, but only the beginning of stories like this to come.
i awoke lying on my back with my face pointed the tree above and the sun shining strongly through its leaves. i had slept for 2 hours. it was such an important and great sleep. i had acquired a threatening sunburn over the course of the travels and decided that i would wait until the sun had moved lower in the sky to begin moving again. i played guitar in the park for a few hours, listening to the birds, seeing the steady ongoing movements of the traffic on the street to my left, people-watching as students started to come home from middle and high schools to the neighborhood nearby. i mentally prepared myself for another venture through the night through more meditation. i gathered all of my belongings and put on my sweatshirts for protection from the sun and later, the cool air of the night and said my peace to the park that provided me with a chance to rest.

i arrived at a market and ate some food, mostly salad, sesame sticks, and water, bathroom break. i phoned my brother and told him i expected to be in new haven (hamden) by the early morning, probably 4 or 5 and he graciously said that he would let me in and i could sleep right away on his couch when i arrived. awesome. i acquired socks and gloves to protect my extremities as i had learned from the night before that there was a potential for frostbite if left uncovered. i left the market and the bustling little town of willimantic behind to re-enter the connecticut wilderness.

the road began to become long hills, ups and downs again as the sun prepared to set. i rode along the shoulder of the road with the headlamp lighting the road in front of me and the beeping red taillight attached to my guitar case warning cars from behind. the forests became thicker and taller, blocking out much of the sunlight and creating a dark undertone for the travelers beneath. i approached the tallest hilltop of that night's journey to a breathtaking view of the sunset above distant forest-covered hills for miles around. the spirits of the earth were reminding me that i was a part of its sequence. so many times during this journey i experienced these wonderful re-connections with the oft-overlooked simple beauties of the world. smiles continued.

i rode down the next hill with fervor. i felt as if i had become the wind and would grace the entire area before me in those moments. several hours passed and i arrived in portland. i had to make a stop to reaffirm my directions as being correct. gas station maps always point the way. i walked in the store and bought some peanuts and inquired about a map. the clerk asked me where i was headed, and i told him hamden, by bicycle. another man had walked in and had overheard and turned and said that i wouldn't be getting there that night, it would take me until the morning. he also offered that i shouldn't ride in the road, not at night. there were suspicions of safety for my concern, which i totally understand. on this whole journey, i have felt constantly aware of my safety. i have had to be aware in this way. yes there are crazy drivers and "crazy" people out there, but not really in every experience. people have a magnified perception of danger and "crazy" drivers out there. plus, i would be riding way on the side of the road, the way i had been the whole trip, and conscious of every car that is driving near me. regardless, i could not respond to this man to tell him that i would not be riding in the road, and as we saw eye to eye, i attempted to convey it to him nonverbally. i ate the bag of peanuts, and it was time to continue on.

well, after a ways, i inadvertedly followed the man's advice. i stopped riding on the side of the road. i had entered middletown, the next town over. it was full dark at this point. my directions had told me to follow route 66, which in middletown, adjoins route 9. it's pretty much a highway minus the interstate label. i don't know if what i did was legal, but i rode on the highway for several miles until the exit came. it was similar to route 1 back in massachusetts as far as car speeds and exits, although it didn't feel as much like a local route, and so i had mixed emotions. at one end, i was a little concerned for getting pulled over by a trooper, at the same time, i had the biggest smile on my face, reclaiming the highway for a lone biker as myself. i envisioned the vast expanse of american superhighways taken over by avid cyclists and people commuting to and from their places of employment by bicycle. my feet sped up to race the engines in high gear to my left. soon i was floating down a highway offramp.

the men at the station had advised to make sure i had lights as well, for the next town i would be traveling through would be dark. durham. i had no idea how dark they had meant. durham was really dark. the tall trees overhead blocked out all of the starshine, there were only a few streetlights and not many houses along the road. some cars went by, but for the most part i depended upon my headlight. an eerieness crept over me, i didn't understand it at first, but i think it had something to do with having just traveled through a well-lit city along a highway to a pitch black ruralness. oh, the changes in human density. i kept seeing dark figures crossing the road well ahead of me. a combination of dehydration and sleep deprivation resulted in these hallucinations, or at least that was how i rationalized it. i would rub my eyes and continue on. i felt fully awake, regardless. it was quiet along that road, and as the night continued, the roads that had been climbing uphill for a while started to be in my favor and i whizzed along the smooth, dark path.

i arrived in north haven. i walked up another hill and my feet started to pain. i had walked a great amount in the past 2 days due to all of the steep uphill climbs. i knew i was close and phoned my brother again. he guided me along. it was still the middle of the night and i arrived in hamden where the neighborhoods began to look familiar again. i climbed up one final hill with a white picket fence and tree cover overhead and rolled down the otherside. i arrived and greeted my brother at his apartment. we were very happy to see each other, it had been very long. he had prepared some pasta for me which my stomach was very pleased by, and i talked about some of my experiences. my body needed sleep, and my words probably came out incoherently. i would resume my stories the following afternoon.

i awoke before noon. it was another beautiful sunny day outside. my left knee was very swolen, it was hard to tell the difference between it and the rest of my leg, but i knew where it was because of its red hotness. i would ice it for the next two days in addition to much rest, relaxation and meditation. that night, we went to the market and bought ingredients and made sushi together, my brother ryan, cassie, and i. we feasted with miso soup, and multiple rolls, and told each other stories before sleeping again. the next morning, cassie, her brother and i went to new haven and ate at a vegan restaurant that had a wonderful falafel. we stumbled upon the yale university art gallery, which i had no idea had within it a large assortment of works from 'famous' artists. we were able to see some duchamp, kandinsky, and dali works, and it was refreshing being in a gallery again, for it had been two weeks prior since the art walk. my brother returned and we spent the night relaxing, eating, playing guitar and enjoying the fresh air. they left and i studied the dao shortly before sleep overcame me.

i said goodbye to my brother in the morning. it would be the last leg of my journey. the stay had been wonderful and rejuvenated all of my muscles and my reunited our spirits. i ate a small breakfast and had a lot of water. the hot sun was overhead again, another, yes, another beautiful sunny day. i rode back through hamden and north haven to route 5. this road was another busy state road that held the essence of suburbia on both shoulders. the road gradually sloped uphill for many miles, making my journey very speedy and exhilirating as i was challenged ever so slightly. the 2 day break was just what i needed for my lungs to supply stamina. i rode for several hours as the sky began to become overcast, and the threat of thunder clouds rolled in from the west. the clouds teased the thought of afternoon rain while subsequently cooling the air temperature. i rode straight until hartford, stopping to walk maybe 2 times.

as i biked through south hartford, i was greeted by people on the sidewalk and a group of bikers wearing tight-to the skin biking gear going for their usual saturday ride. the looks of determination on our faces were consistent as we battled the midday traffic in the downtown district. i wondered where they were headed, but no conversations occurred. after some overpasses i left the city and rejoined a wide expanse of state roads mixed with gas stations from which i mistakenly found the access road to the hartford city dump, wrong turn. i stopped for a bathroom break and continued on another route.

in windsor, i came across two teens who were riding a beautiful yellow two-seat bike. before i knew it, i was riding in the middle of a parade. i was following the bikers as their path was away from the caravanning of floats and showpeople on the other side of the road. hundreds of people lined the streets. many people made comments about the yellow bike in front of me, in awe and wonder. "i want to ride a bike like that." the children would say. a smile returned to my face. there was a cheery feeling in the air. the procession of the parade gave way and we had been honored by the general public, well, sort of.

the road continued up a gentle slope all the way to massachusetts. the rain also had held off the whole day. it was a perfect and easy day to be finishing this journey. as i came into longmeadow center, there was a festival. cars were parked end to end on both sides of the road. i heard a blast from in front of me to the right. a dozen men were dressed as soldiers of some early american war and were firing their rifles into the air, followed by slow marches. i rode by rather quickly, and thoughts of simulation raced through my mind. if only i had time for analysis of the recreation of american symbolism. this time, the bicycle allowed for things to simply be, i was almost home.

all streets became familiar in springfield, and i rode along roosevelt over the pond and past many landmarks of my youth. the afternoon had gone by so quickly, and my journey this day was the shortest, as the land was more flat than previous days. i walked up one last hill to my street where my parents live. as i biked down the street, i saw my parents outside. i had phoned them earlier to tell them i would be in soon. they had a finish line set up made out of cardboard and welcomed me with open arms. my journey was complete. i am alive. i had traveled 329 miles in 8 days, some of which were with amazing friends, meeting amazing people along the way, and reconnecting with nature and my spirit into complete happiness. this is just the beginning.

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