I know this is long, sorry. . .
Good heavens it’s has a been a week! Maybe more, I really don’t know how long it’s been and I’m struggling to remember what day of the week it is and so forth and so on. I don’t know where to begin, so I guess I should give a little bit of a Watsi update.
Many of you have been praying for and/or financially supporting Phyllis, mother of five from Kenya who was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am happy to announce that her medical treatment was fully funded, and her mastectomy was a success. She is currently going through some chemo treatments to make sure all of the cancer cells are cleared, but for now things are looking great for her.
Also, Watsi has changed some formatting for group campaigns and fundraisers (which is what we are doing). In order to better track our effectiveness, we are asking that you join our Watsi team if you are planning on donating to medical treatment through Within Biking Distance. If you haven’t done this and are interested in doing so, please do it 🙂
And now, without further ado, our week:
Lizzy left off in Lebanon, NH, so I suppose I should pick up from there. We left Scott’s and managed to meet up with Chantill and giver her wallet back to her. I had managed to get myself into a conversation with a local coffee crew and one retiree suggested that we take the rail trail following the river. He went so far as to take me outside and give me clear instructions how to get to the trail head, complete with hand signals and landmarks: “go through the mall parking lot, left by the pizza place, right at the park, over the bump, left at the barn . . .” We found it.
The trail runs from Lebanon, NH, to concord, NH, and we were headed to Portland, ME, which is much farther north than Concord, and thus the trail was not on our trajectory. However, it was really hot, the land around us was extremely steep and hilly, and this path ran straight flat in the shade of old growth forests and next to a cheerful stream. So it was that we scrapped our plans for Portland, since we really had no reason for going there other than being able to say “we rode from Portland to Portland” which we will be saying anyway. Another plus of skipping Portland was that we now had a day’s worth of miles that we could spend with friends from the West Coast, Timmy and Maia. More about that later.
We took the trail all the way to Concord and ended up sleeping in a very buggy church parking lot. I actually didn’t sleep as we were right next to the highway, and a little beetle had found its way into the drawstring lining of my sleeping bag which I was sleeping in only because it kept the bugs off, and so I was really sweat hot. I kept hearing the beetle right next to my ear, so I would rustle around trying to shake it off not knowing that it was in my bag. Of course, once I started moving the little guy would stop so it took quite a long time resting and swishing before I realized where he was. Horrified, I tried to get it out of by bag, but couldn’t. I accidentally ended up squishing him in there so now I have a big beetle smashed somewhere in my sleeping bag.
I forced myself to stay ‘in bed’ until 5:45, and then grabbed everything and packed up. (Here I would like to add that at around 2 that morning I got up in a haze of exhaustion and hunger and ate a granola bar. I promptly left the wrapper next to my sleeping mat and when I got up in the morning I found it a quarter inch deep with ants) We headed out to find bathrooms and a McDonld’s as we needed the Internet in order to find a new route to the Atlantic.
It happened to be Lizzy’s birthday, and I felt bad because I couldn’t buy her a big breakfast (vegan) and she bought coffee before I could get it for her. We met another retiree coffee crew there and they entertained us with stories of hiking the AT and Crater Lake, and tips about eating wild berries. I found a route that would take us to Kittery, ME, on the shore of the Atlantic, then down through Salem, Boston, and Plymouth, MA, and then to Myles Standdish State Forest. There we planned to camp with Timmy and Mia, who are currently living in Woods Hole, MA, (near Faulmouth) where they are interning with NOAA, and engineering/researching types of floats to measure currents in the ocean. Sounds quite fun I must say.
That night we made it to the ocean and had a bit of a birthday party for Lizzbit, complete with vegan taco bowls in Hampton. We camped in a church parking lot after dinner. I was awaken by sprinklers two times that night and had to move gear, bikes etc. Lizzy had been smart and was cowboy camping on the asphalt. At one point I picket up the tent by the pole–something I am constantly telling myself not to do, and snapped it. So, when the work crew drove into that parking lot at 5 the next morning, they stumbled upon a pretty pathetic looking duo; Lizzy sprawled out on the black top, me in a haphazard and quite broken tent. We crawled to our bikes in a daze and rode on to Massachusetts.
I was looking forward to Salem because I was really excited to see the site of the original settlement there. I spent a good deal of time researching the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, and did a lot of writing concerning the historiography of the Trials, and the event itself as part of my undergraduate studies.
As history reports, a group of teenage girls, the Putnam girls they are called, began to experience strange afflictions. In this time period, witchcraft was not unusual, and though practicing the arts of ‘black magic’ (various incantations or acts that were intended to bring harm to others that involved calling upon the Devil himself and making a convenient with him in blood) was forbidden, it was common to dabble in ‘white magic’ albeit taboo. White magic included placing an upside down horseshoe on the barn as a good luck charm for the fertility of your livestock and so forth. Interestingly enough, the Putnam girls did admit to dabbling in some witchcraft/magic the week before their afflictions began.
No one really knows what caused these afflictions, but they were strange, abnormal, and did happen. Some historians claim that the afflictions were really faked, some say it was the result of ergotism (hallucinations brought on by eating moldy rye) or some other disease–again, no one really knows. The court transcripts of these trials detail the symptoms which included a lot of writhing about and strange bruising. The afflictions spread around town and even affected livestock. The people of Salem were not idiots, but like us, we’re trapped within the historical context of their time. When strange things began to happen, they looked for a cause.
Interestingly enough, Salem was a community wracked with internal strife well before 1692, and had an impressive history of lawsuits. Many things caused contention from livestock quarrels, to church leadership, to the town charter itself. When the strange afflictions began to appear, and after the doctors realized it was beyond their skill to cure, the witch accusations began–and it got ugly as is what happens when fear and bad history mix.
The courts allowed the use of spectral evidence, which meant that anyone who was afflicted could appear at a trial, and if, once they looked upon the face of the accused they cried out in pain or so forth, it was deemed that the ‘specter’ of the accused was afflicting the witness, thus the one accused was obviously a witch. The problem of course is that anyone could potentially pretend anything in order to ‘get rid’ of a problem neighbor.
This is the type of thing historians argue about: was it all fake, were the trails really just an outcry of oppressed women, were the trails really just about socioeconomic conditions within the community, was witchcraft just a tool to get rid of the outcast members of the community–the list goes on and on and on…
It is interesting to note that those who admitted to being a witch were not killed, but were ousted from the community with the idea that they would have some sort of punishment in the future (perhaps). Those who held fast that they were not a witch, that they did not give their soul to the Devil, were the ones who were hanged or crushed. To many of the accused witches, this was an ultimate test of their faith. To save their earthly life, they would essentially have to deny their faith in Christ and claim that they had made an alliance to the Devil, thus, many of the accused witches did not have the option of simply saying they were a witch and going free. I’m telling you, the court transcripts are fascinating and if you get the chance you should read them.
The Salem Trials are interesting in that by the late seventeenth century, witch hunts were largely out of fashion in Europe and never really caught on in the Americas. Salem is an anomaly here. After the better part of a year or so, the accusations simply stopped. It is an extremely complex event, no one that no one will ever have the definitive answer to the cause. I could write about this for hours more but I will stop because I can imagine the exasperated faces of my parents as the read this who had to endure this historical rambling through all of my research.
I digress: we made it to Salem, and I was disappointed to say the least. We found a museum and such, though we didn’t pay to go in. What was bothersome to me (though not surprising) was that the entire town has sprung up a kitchen economy selling novelty witch paraphernalia, and I felt that was deeply disrespectful to those who lost their lives in Salem and were forced to endure the tragic injustice of their neighbor’s accusations.
We rode on, I was miffed by then, and were forced to meander through our first major urban sprawl since Chicago. And someone spit water on me, or at least I have spent a good deal of effort convincing myself it water. And it was hot. And the hills were steep. After turning around, getting lost, meandering and wiggling our way through the heart of the city, we made it to Quincy just outside of Boston. We found a sneaky little spot on a ledge between a Catholic Parish lawn shed and a Chinese grocery store, ate frozen bell pepper strips with black beans on tortillas, and fell sound asleep.
The next morning we rode out to Plymouth so that we could see the Mayflower II and the Plymouth Rock Portico. We leaned our bikes against a rail in a public park that just so happened to be near a museum gift shop. After about and hour and a half spent looking at things, we came back to the bikes. A woman who was a volunteer gardener there (we love gardeners!) approached us, interested in Beef, so Beef got to do his rat ambassador thing. While this was going on, a woman who was working at the gift shop came out, saw Beef, and then warned us that there were many muskrats or weasels about and Beef might draw them up from the water. We kind of laughed a little bit, not sure what she meant by his, or if she was joking. As I was pluging in the GPS coordinates for our camp spot , she came back out and with all seriousness said, “you really need to go now, the weasels are vicious.” We restrained our laughter and left, wondering if there had been weasel attacks that precipitated her warning, or if she happened to intercept some weasel chatter from insider her booth that indicated an impending attack. I don’t know, don’t really care either.
We made it to our real, high class, camp spot at about 1:00, and had a jolly good time making a mess of the place. With so much free time and space, it was hard to decide what to do. Take a nap, wash clothes in the lake, swim in the lake, gather firewood, journal (it’s never journal)… I popped up the tent to let it air out and cook in the sun a bit, we also laid out sleeping bags and mats to air. I took a shower and then decided on a nap. But just 20 minutes after falling into a heavenly sleep an ice cream truck literally parked itself in our campsite, blaring horrid ice cream music, and inviting all of the State Forest camping children to tramp over to our area and buy enough sugar to fuel their yelling and carousing for the evening. And of course, I might add, we happened to pick a camp spot next to a gigantic, cliche’ East Coast family reunion complete with clashing cousins, tattle tailing, hollering moms in eastern accidents–“grab ya juice box and get in the cah”. What a night. I had a great time observing the cubic yards of camping equipment they had brought with them, which included tiki torches for ambience and mosquito net pavilions, and I was perhaps a bit jealous.
Timmy and Maia came bearing great gifts of Oreos, chips, salad, and hot dog buns and condiments, and we had a great time. We swam in the lake and let the schools of blue gill bite Lizzy’s scabs (which are plentiful and great bait), and then headed back to the campfire to eat vegan hot dogs, dumpster potatoes, and baked beans. YUM. We also had a great time watching Timmy and Mia attempt to use the double Enu hammock. It looked. . .snug.
Timmy and Mia had to leave early the next morning for work, and we were sad to see them go. We didn’t even get to try out Tim’s new board game he’d brought. Time is too short.
After seeing Tim and Maia off, Lizzy and I got to spend some time talking with Sabrina and Dexter, and grandmother granddaughter duo from the area who were camping in the yurt behind us, and had offered to let us stay in it that night with them. If we hadn’t had company ourselves we would most definitely have taken them up on the offer.
That day we rode out to Providence, RI (again, there was no state sign) and see my friend Esther from George Fox. Esther has been doing research at Brown University all summer. She and her research partner Emily have been looking at, or trying to find, examples of anomalies of bounded discs in nature. I’m sure there is a better definition for what they’re doing out there, but we didn’t really talk about it that much and that is what I gathered from it. I got really excited to be back in a mathy place complete with whiteboard and chalkboard walls and a mini math library!! Essie showed us around her office, and then walked us back to her house.
We sat around in the basement, the coolest part of the house, and chit chatted bout George Fox, math, topology classes, friends from school and whatever else people talk about. She went to dinner with the house while Lizzy and I stayed home and ate the rest of the vegan hotdogs from the other night. When Esther came back, we got to share some tour highlights with her, give hugs, and then totter off to bed on the 3rd floor. It was hot, very, very hot.
It was so hot I had to go downstairs and retrieve Lizzy’s birthday chocolate. Unfortunately, we found that scarfing loads of chocolate in the heat at 2 in the morning does nothing to cool the body down. After giggling get about Chemeketa for an hour–and it was nonsense I’ll tell you–we headed down to the basement where it was cooler.
You see, we had to make it out to New London, Connecticut before 1:00 the next day, which meant that we had to be on the bikes from Esther’s by 6 in the morning at least. I had planned to have my mom mail Lizzy’s birthday box to New London, thinking that we had until 5 to get there from Providence, and the next morning if we missed it. But, as it turns out, the Post Office doesn’t open on Sunday, and closes early on Saturday. I’m fine with that, I just didn’t know what day of the week it was until my mom called me and told me. . .
So, we clambered on the bikes around 6 the next morning, having total of four hours’ sleep, and the knowledge that we had 60 or so steep miles to the post office. Though I studied the route the night before, I got us lost in the woods of Rhode Island (which is NOT flat mom!!!!) and, trusting Google more than I knew better too, got on some sandy mountain biking trail in the middle of bum truck nowhere. I was not pleased. And it was hot. Once back on the road, I disregarded Google’s advice and headed back to a main road. We made it to New London with an hour to spare.
The Post Lady was extremely nice and pointed us to a food co-op, which we throughly abused. Lizzy napped, I emailed….for hours. I also switched our ferry reservations for that evening so we left and headed to the ferry terminal. Lizzy took a quick pit stop at a comic book shop, and we met a dog that looked just like my dad’s dog Frances, and then we got on the ferry.
We made it to Long Island just as night was falling and decided that since we had no where to stay, we just had to sleep on the beach. It was so warm, with a nice breeze, and I quite liked it. I got to use my new hammock for the first time, it came in Lizzy’s birthday box (thanks Shaun and Em!) I don’t know about Lizzy, but I think it might just have been my most restful night, which is good because we knew we had 70 miles to go the next morning to get to Kevin’s place where we had made arrangements to stay.
That morning however, was one of low motivation. Seeing a knot of rain coming at us did not help matters much. We left late and took lots of breaks. We stopped at the Long Island Congregational Church’s yard sale and Lizzy got a bunny magnet and I got a fancy bowl that I can’t imagine will make it home in one piece, but I will try nonetheless. We talked to the group of men running the sale and they tried to convince us to hang out with them while the rain passed, but we just couldn’t. We also stopped at a puppy petting place. Normally, it goes against principle for me to got to stores that sell puppies, but cycling through that day, looking into the windows into the eyes of a pudgy lab pup, I just had to stop. After some dog therapy, we slowly made it to Huntington. I was feeling icky, fortunately Lizzy wasn’t, but we made it.
Kevin met us and helped ferry our gear and bikes up the stairs to his apartment, and then showed us a little bit around town. We had dinner at a Mexican place around the corner, then came back home to look at his touring pictures. In the morning, he made us some oatmeal and then convinced us to take the train to Manhattan rather than fighting our way 30 miles through not bicycle friendly urban sprawl.
He rode with us out to the train station, let us borrow his and his girlfriend’s bike passes, and then hugged us off. The train was a good idea. I love trains, and it was fun to be inside of one, looking out the windows knowing that we were not going to get lost or hit any surprise potholes.
We made it to Penn Station, took the Underground Kmart freight elevator up, and found ourselves dead in the middle of Manhattan! It was a bit of a shock at first. We had plans to go directly to Chinatown and feast of humbau, but decided it better to drop off our wide-loads of gear at Lizzy’s uncle Mateo’s before hitting the city. It was a good decision. We rode the Hudson greenway to lower Manhattan and then Canal Street to Chianatown and walked around for hours sampling rambutans, tater-tots, and bau. We made a turn into Little Italy to get some cannoli and stumbled into an REI, so of course we had to make a quick visit there. I accidentally exploded the lid of my favorite water bottle at Niagara Falls and was hoping to pick up a replacement lid, but the only one that REI carried was 12 dollars! I left empty handed.
We rode from there back to Kirk and Makario’s building, and then to dinner. We had met some wonderful people when we accidentally stumbled upon the Erie Canal Trail ride who invited us to dinner. We made it up to Washington Heights and lad a lovely time talking bikes and family with all the gals. We also got to celebrate a bit of a birthday party for Leslie’s daughter who is in Hawii. We left from there at around 9:30 and rode back to Kirk and Makario’s.
We were so grateful to be able to stay with Krik and Makario, they have a fancy and relaxing apartment where we could rest safely. It was truly a blessing and I am eternally grateful for their generosity. The next morning I slept in until 8, then went back to be because I could! It was luxurious!!!! Lizzy took off to meet with a friend from home (Al B ) and go to the Natural History Museum. I had made plans to see a friend of mine from home and we were going to eat dinner together later that night, so I stayed home and worked on some business.
Around 6 I left and took the Subway from Harlem to World Trade Center and walked around. I went to Battery Park to watch the sun which was gorgeous, Trinity Church, Brooklyn Bridge, back to Chinatown for some bau and a whole lotta other places too. Unfortunately due to some work issues, I didn’t get to meet Jane for dinner, so I found a dicey pizza place and got a couple slices. They were excellent. I walked around for a few more hours and decided that I should probably at some point figure out how to take the Subway back to Mateo’s. It took me a while to find a Subway entrance, and after chatting with a handful of friendly New Yorkers found myself speeding around under New York. I made it to 117th street, but I was a lot farther East than I realized. So I walked toward what I though was Central Park and found out I was at the Hudson River, so I walked some more and toured Columbia University (quite on accident) and finally gave up and looked at my phone for directions. Needless to say, I got home quite late that night.
In the morning we packed up, said goodbyes and thankyous to Kirk and Mateo, gave them a terrible host gift of cotton candy car airfresheners, and packed out to Morningside park. Kirk and Mateo sent us off with groceries and left over Ethiopian food from the previous night’s dinner, so we sampled some foodstuffs. We met a man named Davis who was cycling through the park. He had been working on Wall Street and after 9/11 had decided to start leaving the grind. He would like to tour and fix up an old house in the Hudson River Valley. I thought that was a fabulous idea. He also told us about a fistfight that had broken out in an IKEA ferry line the other day, “New York is NEVER boring” he told us.
Lizzy and I rode back up toward Washington Heights, crossed the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey (again, no sign), and begrudgingly continued on. Oye. New Jersey. There are fe thinks more frustrating than riding a touring bike through urban sprawl. For miles and miles we had to be on constant guard for pot holes, busses, changing lights, changing street names and so forth. We made it over some scary bridges through scarier industrial areas until finding a Walmart to camp at just outside of Edison. We had hoped to make it to New Brunswick, but just didn’t have it in us. The next morning we pulled ourselves out of bed and rolled to a McDonald’s to use the Internet and get coffee. Some things never change.
So, with all of that said, we made it out of New York alive! We are on our way to DC, which means we are on track to be at the Gulf of Mexico in about a month. We are also almost half way done milage wise. These are things to be excited about, but still, home beckons. I remarked to Lizzy that it was funny that here I am in NYC wishing I was back in McMinnville! How ridiculous is that! So while my homesickness is not debilitating, it still will be good to make that turn West toward the sunset.
Many thanks to all your prayers and to all of those who helped us out in New York, it’s a great place!