Harry Potter and the Deathly Hill-ows 3
Still riding, and writing…
We finally had to pull ourselves away from our newfound civil war reenactment drum corps and fife band friends last week, only to trek a few miles and stop once more, to write a blog post, and you know, loiter.
We didn’t actually leave leave till late that afternoon, and our goal of Buffalo was a full 55 miles out. We were excited for Buffalo because I was expecting a package from my dad at the post office there.
(Tangent: I needed a resupply of rat food for Denali. He eats fancy pants Harlan Teklad blocks which I have to order in 40lb bags off the internet. Needless to say, he doesn’t go through it very fast, and even when I had three rats it lasted forever. So I freeze the majority of it, and it stays fresh. Anyways, I was running low on the food I had brought with me, and had asked my fa to send a few little sandwich baggies of it to me awhile back. When I spoke to him next he told me he had sent the entire bag that was in the freezer, and, thinking that Beefie ate like 1/2 a cup a day, figured that he’d need more, so bought and packed in even more rat food (of questionable origin)…. While I was excited at the prospect of getting a resupply of food, I was… less than excited at the prospect of having to cart around like 15 pounds of it. Anyways, we’ll get back to this later).
So we set out for Buffalo, and at some point while rolling through the beautiful New York countryside, we realized that tomorrow would be Sunday, and in the famous words of Uncle Vernon, “There’s no post on Sunday!”
With nothing to do but keep heading towards Buffalo anyways, we did what we do best, and rolled on. We stopped in Hamburg (just outside Buffalo) that evening, having done 37 miles non-stop from Fredonia.
Not to be disheartened by the prospect of having to wait around Buffalo for a day, we plotted to stay with a Warm Showers host there the next day, and to drop off our bags and scoot out to see Niagara Falls in the meantime.
So, we sneaky camped on the edge of a used car lot with apparently very lax security that night in Hamburg, and in the morning, called up potential hosts. We got in contact with Leslie and Dwight, and their son Elliot, and made arrangements.
After getting a lengthy morning loiter in, we scooted on to Buffalo, eventually wound our way through the city and to our “home” for the night. We met with Dwight (Leslie, Elliot, and Steve, another cyclist staying with them, were all out mountain biking), and slowly unpacked the heaps of gear strapped all over our bicycles. After riding with so much baggage for two months straight, it’s a bit of a shock to see your bike all naked and weightless like that. Definitely not complaining though, and after a quick lunch, we hopped on our skinny little steeds and biked out 20-something miles to Niagara Falls.
We got to ride on a bike path that ran right alongside the rushing Niagara River as it raced towards the falls. I think I liked this part even more than the actual falls, as we were right there next to the rapids, churning and boiling over rocks just feet away.
Once we got to the falls, we appreciated the steep drop, craggy bottom, and the effects of gravity on fast flowing water. It was… fally.
After sitting on our butts, viewing the butts of a hundred tourists, and getting a nice misty breeze for a bit, we were ready to head back.
20-something more miles later, and we were back “home”. The whole gang was now home as well, with an additional couple of people, so we had a full house of interesting folks to chat with. We showered up, then soon enough it was dinnertime. Leslie and Dwight had made quite a spread, complete with hamburgers, hot dogs (even two kinds of vegan dogs!), salad, and tofu-rice-pile-yummy-things.
We had excellent conversation as well, and discussed the prospect of riding down to Ithaca (I had been getting daily phone calls, texts, and emails from my dad and Aunt Joyful who really reaaally wanted us to go there), but unfortunately, we all concluded that the rerouting would add two days of climbing the steep hills of the fingerlakes region. So, let it be known, that at some point in my life, I’ll be back to fulfill my family’s desire of visiting Ithaca! (note: I am constantly planning future bike tours while riding on this one. Will I ever be satisfied????) (Let’s hope not)
After desserts, super good coffee, and more comfortable conversation (staying up late chatting with Leslie and Steve), we finally climbed onto comfy couches, covered up with clean soft sheets, and zonkered the heck out.
I slept in till 9 the next morning, which felt late after having been waking by seven for what seems like forever now. I had breakfast, looked up directions to the post office (which was a full 8 miles back) and scooted on my way. It was nice to zip through town by myself for a bit, not being a tourist, just a commuter on errand for once.
I reached the post office, picked up my package, strapped it on my cyclescoot, and zipped 8 miles back home. Right when I got through the gate, my dad called, and upon hearing that I had just picked up his box, requested that I open it while on the phone. I pulled out my ever handy pocket knife and carefully sliced open the layers of tape.
Much to my surprise (!) it was not in fact full of 15 pounds of rat foods! That sneaky dog had plotted and schemed and lied and sent me a box of goodies, an appropriate amount of rat food, random stuffs (including a couple comic books and a 200 piece puzzle that somehow I will have to complete in one sitting), and notes and letters and drawings from my family back home! (Much love to you all! I miss you!) I had a little shown-and-tell party with Stink, Leslie, Steve, and Beef out on the shady picnic table in the back yard.
We were having a lovely time relaxing with lovely folks, and since we still had yet to repack the bikes and such, I decided it was finally high-time to paint Denali’s mailbox. I had been carting around a can of white spray paint (I needed to paint his house white so that it wouldn’t absorb extra heat from the sunshine) for hundreds of miles, anticipating a time when I could paint the box and let it dry before having to strap it back on the bike. It was a hot day out, and we had time on our hands, so Leslie hooked me up with a tarp, taped up the characteristic red flag of his mailbox, and let me turn her backyard into a paint booth.
While it was drying (quite quickly in the hot sun), we loaded up the bikes, munched some lunch, and talked bikes, touring, and camping gear with Leslie and Steve. It was four o’clock by the time we were ready to roll out, as we may or may not have dilly-dallied a bit to delay having to leave this comfortable paradise we had happened upon.
We finally said our final goodbyes, got hugs, and rolled out the driveway. It was hot hot hot out, and I sure was glad Denali now lived in the Whitehouse, escaping the blazing sun. We rode along, eventually stopping at a Wal-Mart, where Stink bought a tanktop with birthday monies, and I got us some bagels with the gift card Laura, Max, and Sabrina the gum chewing dog from Fredonia had given us. Thanks again guys!
Soon, we were back on the road to get in some more miles since we had left Buffalo so late. After a total of 51 miles that day, we stopped in Le Roy, NY, at a gas station with some convenient picnic tables up front. We cooked up some dinner in the failing light, then scooted out back behind a growth of trees to camp for the night.
The morning had us all soggy with dew, and, much to Stink’s displeasure, the tent and bikes had acquired a collection of slugs and snails overnight. After picking them all off and packing up, we scooted back to the gas station to cook up some oatmeal, then headed back out on the open road.
That day we just packed on the miles. I loaned Stink my iPod so that she could listen to Harry Potter audiobooks, and I cruised to some tunes on her old iPod. Stink is a die-hard Tolkien fan, and as such, had never read the Harry Potter series, so it’s been fun for me to watch the progress of her journey into the magical wizarding world of Harry Potter. Being the way she is, Stink does have some complaints, (“Wouldn’t broomsticks be utterly uncomfortable to ride on?” “How could the invisibility cloak cover three kids and a crated dragon?” “How do the Dursley’s know when to pick up Harry from the train station?”) but I think the story has sufficiently drawn her in.
We rode on to Phleps, NY, climbing hills that were so insanely steep and long that they were laughable. They were just ridiculous, and had the added benefit of giving us endorphin-powered giggle fits at the top of each one.
In Phelps, we stopped at a gas station, were heartily welcomed by an extremely friendly and out-going clerk, and then cooked dinner on the front stoop. The store had a sweet 2 for $1 deal on my favorite (and increasingly difficult to find) brand of sunflower seeds, Spitz. We got to sit and watch all the foot traffic in and out of the convenience store, and chatted with locals. One fella told us we could camp out on a bike path a quarter mile back, so we rolled out in the dark and set up camp under a small information station on the path, glad to be under cover for the inevitable nighttime showers we’ve been getting with increasing frequency.
In the morning we scooted back to the gas station for breakfast, then made our way out on the road.
That day we stopped at a Subway for lunch loitering and purchased a coffee to cover the use of a booth for a few hours. We both completely zonked out and took a trip to snooze-town in the midst of the Subway lunch rush. I think we haven’t been getting very good sleep what with the heat, humidity, and bugs lately, so the nap was well welcomed.
(This is where I would’ve put more details from that day, were I to have recorded any, say, perhaps, in a journal of some sort. Whoops.)
That evening we pulled into Manlius, NY and immediately went to the Price Chopper and browsed the aisles. I got a bag of frozen veggies for dinner and we headed out the doors to a bench by a small stream across the road. I cooked up some “dinner” with rice and beans and my frozen veggies, and Stink had a sandwich with some salad and chicken she picked up at the Price Chopper.
Afterwards, Stink found a park close by on Google maps, so we scooted through neighborhoods in the dark till we arrived at the secluded place. It was super nice because there weren’t any folks around, it was already dark, there weren’t mosquitoes (for once!), and there was a pavilion to sleep under! I got Denali ready for beddy, laid out the tarp and sleeping bag, and soon enough zonked out.
We woke at 6:02 (this is what I set my phone alarm for each night) the next morning and started packing, rushing a bit to get back to the store for bathrooms. Just as we strapped the last bits of junk back on our scoots, dog walkers of all sorts stormed the park, invading our realm! By that I mean a few folks were casually walking through the area… We rode on.
We had an oatmeal breakfast party outside of the gas station next door to the Price Chopper (okay, I keep saying the name because we like it…Let me just add that their logo involves an axe), and then headed out.
That day we jumped onto the Erie Canal Trail, which, as it happened, was having a sort of event. 650 cyclists were en route from Buffalo to Albany, and we had caught them right as they were going through. So, we were soon in the midst of them, experiencing heavy congestion, sometimes in single file on the narrow path, and having to awkwardly fandangle our way along, with plenty of “good morning’s” and “on your left’s” as we passed through the throngs of other cyclists.
We stuck out like sore thumbs due to our wide loads, and I was repeatedly asked what was in the mailbox as we scooted past the pleasure cruisers. Just when we were ready to stop for lunch, we came to refreshment tents full of snacks put on by the event coordinators. We stopped to fill water, and were soon mobbed by inquisitive cyclists, wondering where we were going and what we were doing. They invited us to eat from the snack tables, and perhaps unbeknownst to the coordinating staff, we picked our fill of cookies and crackers and fruits.
It was fun fielding questions from hundreds of other bike-enthusiasts and even Beefie made some friends as we ate our lunch and watched the canal locks raise and lower, allowing pleasure boats passage through.
Soon enough, we scooted on, and out to Rome, where they were all stopping for the day. There was a field of tents and dufflebags (that had been carried by moving truck, rather than peddled along), and an old fort from the revolutionary war. We stopped for a quick tour of the fort (Fort Stanwix for those interested) before heading along.
We cruised out along the canal path again, this time free of other bikes, and I kinda missed all the company. But the path was beautiful and green and we soon got lost in our own thoughts once more (or perhaps Stink got lost within the Harry Potter universe).
Soon enough, we had done above and beyond our miles for the day and found ourselves at a McDonald’s in Herkimer, NY, abusing wifi and charging privileges like nobody’s business. I walked across the road to the Wal-Mart and picked up another bag of frozen veggies for dinner (we weren’t terribly hungry after feasting at lunch and snacking all day, like we do).
Once our gadget’s batteries were all charged, and our own brain batteries sufficiently drained, we packed up and rolled out to a baseball field adjacent to the Wal-Mart. The dugouts were unfortunately locked, so we just locked up the bikes, threw down a tarp in the grass, and zonked out right in the open.
Once again, morning was very dewy, and perhaps it even sprinkled that night. We stuffed away our sodden bags, folded up the tarp and walked our cyclescoots back on over to the Wal-Mart.
I had picked up a discount box of almond milk at some grocery store the day before, so we sat on the curb out front and ate cereal. Lots of cereal. As in we needed to use up the whole carton of milk that morning because the little plastic lid was missing (no wonder it was discounted!)
Before we were ready to go, we decided that we weren’t ready to go, and that a good wifi loiter was needed to get us in the mood for biking in the sun and the humid heat all day. We promptly went to McDonald’s and drank coffee (with almond milk!) and sat around for ages.
Eventually, once the sun was in full blaze, we mustered up the gumption to actually hit the road, and after filling water bottles and getting Denali’s ice cooler all set up, we got the heck outta Dodge. Er, Herkimer or wherever we were.
I dunno much about that day, other than is was probably unbearably hot, humid, and hilly. Okay, seeing as we made it through alive, it might have been just barely bearable….
We did, however, come across two other bike tourists as we were leaving Johnstown. (We stopped for a quick lunch and Stink snuck in a powernap and an ice cream pick-me-up afterwards).
We were just pulling out of the gas station when we noticed them behind us, and decided to turn back and see what they were up to. Their names were Emily and Adam, and as luck would have it, they were heading in the same direction as us, and anticipated ending their day in Saratoga Springs just like us. While we were briefly chatting, it began to rain, so Stink and I prepared for the worst, and they zipped off ahead.
Soon enough we caught up to them on a hill on the way out of town, and after chugging along behind them for a bit and privately, but not at all privately, having a really dorky conversation about the latest events in Harry Potter amongst ourselves, we opted to pass them by and continue on at our own pace.
We got to Saratoga that evening and were thrust into the midst of a bustling main street of fancy shops and fine dining. We locked the bikes up and walked the street, smelling and staring longingly at the small portioned, artfully arranged, no doubt way out of our budget dishes being served to outdoor seating diners all along the sidewalk. We stopped in a consignment antique/thrift shop and spent time sifting through hundred of old photographs and post cards.
Once more walking along, two fellas on a bench, three or four busy city blocks from our bikes mind you, called out and asked if we were the cyclists as we walked past. In our grubby clothes and grubbier skins, we stood out amongst the throngs of people maneuvering through the sidewalks. We chatted with them for a bit, and they told us they would be riding cross-country on Vespas next year. At first I thought they were joking, but now I think they were serious. How awesome!
Eventually, we headed back to the bikes and towards a Wal-Mart five miles down the road. We stopped at a different grocery store with the same potential for sneaky camping before we got there, and decided to scope out the dumpster situation before deciding what to do for dinner. Out back there were three bins full of “compost” that quite pleased us. We got bananas (one large bunch a-piece), bell peppers, lots of little potatoes, an onion, a couple peaches, a cup full of blueberries for oatmeal in the morning, and some grapes. While sifting through, we also ate our fill of blueberries and bananas, there being so much we could never have tried to grab it all.
So, will bellies full of fruit, and a bag of produce dangling from the handlebar of each bike, we rolled on in search of a place to camp for the night.
A few blocks away we found ourselves in a huge mall parking lot, that was bordered by some woods with a nature trail running through. Satisfied that we’d be able to pitch a tent somewhere in there, we went and found a picnic table by one of the mall entrances and began cooking a dinner of potatoes, onion, bell peppers, veggie broth, and peanut butter. Try it! You’ll like it!
Once dinner was eaten and pots and cups and spoons all rinsed and packed away, we scooted into the woods, and it began to lightly rain. After a bit of scouting around in the dark, we found an acceptable place to pitch the tent and leaned the bikes up against some trees. The tent was hot and soggy, but eventually we were able to fall asleep.
I think those dense woods were the most “naturey” place we’d camped in awhile, and I do admit I got a bit spooked when I crawled out of the tent in the dead of night to find a spot to pee…
In the morning, we skipped the mall and headed to this Market 32 grocery store (which is owned by Price Chopper, but is the swanky Whole Foods version, complete with a Starbucks inside). We opted for a classy loiter there, rather than hit up a McDonald’s AGAIN, so happily shared a coffee and stocked up on free honey packets while preparing our oatmeal-plus-dumpster-fruits. Stink then zonked out right at the table, and was asked if she was homeless by a lady named Cookie when she woke up.
In desperate need of laundry washing, and in desperate want of sleeping in doors and not in a soggy, smelly, hot tent, we attempted to set up a Warm Showers hosting for the night, but to no avail.
Thinking we might hear back from a lady in Rutland, Vermont, we set out to do a 70 mile day in the humid landscape.
It was hot. I know that for sure.
At one point we caught up to Emily and Adam again, which was good as we got to chat with them for longer as we peddled the same way. They are a husband and wife from Ohio, and Emily had flown out to Oregon with her brother in June and started out there, and, near Wisconsin I think, her brother went home, and Adam joined in for the last leg of the trip. Nice folks!
We eventually passed them, and continued on our way, only to turn back after a bit, realizing we missed our turn. They were taking the same route as us today as well, so we were right behind them again soon enough. At this point, some extremely steep hills appeared, and as Stink & I climbed away, we got a serious case of the giggles at how absurdly steep the hills were, and how we were smack behind these poor people again, and could not stop laughing. It was… pretty goofy.
After the laughing fit was done and over, we said hi’s and bye’s to them and passed by. The terrain remained mountainous, but we were ready, and felt strong climbing along all day. Though at one point my head on my front shifting cable snapped off (it had been increasingly unwilling to shift into high gear lately, which resulted in me having to really yank on the thing). Luckily, I happened to have this bike mechanic person lady with me, and she quickly fixed up my cyclescoot good as new.
We rode on, and soon were on the lookout for a Rails to Trails trail off the main road that we could ride for 10 miles. We passed by the unmarked spot once, headed back and found it, scooted along, then I climbed a giant ridiculously steep mountain of slate, only to find that the path lay back down below, rolled down, started down an extremely overgrown path, realized that the correct one was just on the other side of a deep ditch, headed back, saw Adam & Emily, looking just as confused as we were at the giant slate mountain, let them know we had scouted out the right way (after multiple attempts) and finally scooted on our way on our well-hidden but highly anticipated bike path.
After a bit we reached a bridge with nice cool looking water below and decided to stop for a swim (it was still hot hot hot out). We unpacked some bathing supplies and changed into skivies for swimming after Emily & Adam had caught up and passed us by. I grabbed Denali’s mailbox and we headed down for a nice refreshing dip.
Well, what would have been a nice dip if this creepy old dude hadn’t come along and literally just stood staring at us from along the top of the bridge… Seriously, dude was straight creepin, hard.
We quickly finished scrubbing grime and I located Denali (who had scampered off into some little burrow when I had my back turned, naughty rat), then headed back up to our bikes.
Turns out, this trail that we thought was out in the boonies like it had been for hours was a little leas than half a mile from a town. We were… unaware of this when changing into swimming clothes. Oh well.
We rolled on, got off the trail 10 miles later, and scooted along to West Rutland where we decided to call it a day (as we hadn’t heard back from the Warm Showers lady in Regular-Normal-Center Rutland). We found a picnic table outside a Price Chopper, cooked up a filling meal of discount whole wheat gnocchi with spaghetti sauce, onion, and dumpster bell pepper.
Stink was plum tuckered, so after dinner, she found a nearby church, and we scooted over to it to make camp in it’s parking lot for the night. Once more, it was a hot, humid, stinky, rainy, buggy night, and we sorely wished we had found a host that day.
We woke up and started packing at 6:02, sans any alarm snoozing since we were in a church parking lot on a Sunday morning. We scooted to a gas station for water & potty, then rolled on to Regular-Normal-Center Rutland for breakfast. We stopped at a Price Chopper to restock on delicious, cheap, good ol quick oats oatmeal, then hit a McDonald’s hard. For hours. Charging, napping (Stink zonked again, we seriously haven’t been getting very good sleep in the weather), finding a Warm Showers host for the night, and starting this blug post.
Only once the sun was full and ready to boil our brains did we head out, around noon it was. We knew we had a mountain pass to climb once we got out of town, but weren’t afraid. We’ve been feeling pretty bike-strong on all the hills lately.
Sure enough, it was steep and hot as heck, prompting to test my limits by attempting to remove my brassiere whilst riding full tilt up a mountain. I was victorious.
Once we got up to the top, it wasn’t even a big enough deal to get a summit picture, so we just jumped at the much anticipated downhill.
The rest of the day was a bit less hilly, being somewhat downhill from the top of the pass. We stopped in various places for water, postcards, a new spare shifting cable, and other various sundries.
At one point I saw that the shoulder of the road was littered with cash monies. I screeched to a stop, called out for Stink (in front of me), and began picking up twenty dollar bills upon twenty dollar bills. Then, looking around, I found a wallet in the middle of the road, and we found various ID’s and cards strewn about. This was all very exciting.
After we had collected all the bits we could find, we rolled on, and I happily imagined finding the owner, Chantell, from Seattle Washington no less, and being able to restore her lost items. I was also entertained by wondering how the heck her wallet had ended up in the middle of the road in bum truck Vermont.
Rolling through a town later that day, we saw a cop doing a routine traffic stop. Stink pulled over and said we ought to give the wallet to the cop, but, I, a bit stubbornly, told her I wanted to try to find the person myself, and that if that didn’t work, then I could take it to the cops. She reluctantly allowed, making note though that it’s owner was probably frantically looking for it and the cop could probably find her faster.
We then saw that we were at a library, and Stink suggested that I go in right then attempt to find Chantell using the computers. But as I was walking to the doors, I had second thoughts about not just giving it to the cop, so I walked back over his way, and flagged him down as he drove past. He got out of the car and I explained the situation to him, but he said he couldn’t take the wallet since it hadn’t been found in the town, and that I’d have to get it back to the owner myself.
With that, I was pleased, and walked back to the library, excited to sleuth it out on the internet, but when I got there, it was closed, and we just had to roll on.
At some unmarked point we passed into New Hampshire (Vermont had been unmarked when we entered as well), and soon weren’t far out from our host, Scott’s house. He called up on the phone and said he’d be heading our way, as he hadn’t gotten to ride all day. Oh, also, by the way, when Stink spoke with him, he had said that a married couple was also going to be staying with him that night. Can you guess who?? Yup, our friendly leap-frogging friends from this week.
When we got into town, we had more steep hills to climb, and soon Scott appearedd and rode with us the rest of the way back to his house, up a series of increasingly steep hills. Keeping up with him left us dripping with sweat when we reached the place, and after saying hullos to Emily & Adam, I jumped into a cold shower and clean clothes!
After that, I let little Beef do some exploring, and watched as he nibbled on a slug, then spazzed out, trying to wipe the slime from his usually very clean-kept handsies. I don’t think he liked the taste either… poor silly rat.
We had yummy tacos for dinner, and chatted about this that and the other thing. We listened to “Alice’s Restaurant”, plotted routes for the next day, I sleuthed around the internet and found the wallet owner, and soon folks were drifting off to bed. I stayed up reals late writing this.
In the morning we were all up and packing early to be out of the house by eight. We said bye, rolled down the hills, and now we find ourselves sitting in a gas station, gobbling up oatmeal, and waiting for Chantell to come meet us.
The end! for now.
Lizzbutts & Beef