Hello Austin!

HI!!! I made it to Austin alive!! (I don’t know why I wouldn’t?) Allow me to tell you about my day!
I started my day off with Kerry dropping me off at the LaGuardia Airport for my flight. We had our horribly heartbreaking goodbye and I was off. There was literally no line for the security, which I was worried about because I was actually supposed to fly yesterday and my flight was cancelled for today because of the weather we’re having. But so yes there was no line and I was two hours early and settled in for the wait. The first flight was a few minutes behind and I made it to my second flight just in time to board. It was a snowy snowy flight down from Chicago to Austin. see look:

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Snowy plains!!

Upon arriving at the airport I went down to the baggage area to collect my suitcases. You remember…the one large one that rolls, the one large one that is enormous and doesn’t roll and the carry-on that I ended up checking because the plane was full. As the carry-on rolling suitcase comes around the bend I’m staring at it strangely because the handles look like they’ve come off. No wait… that’s not even the top…that’s the BOTTOM. THREE of the four wheels have snapped off the bottom of the suitcase and are long gone. LOOOONG gone. So as I’m stunned and pondering just how the fuck I’m going to be able to roll this suitcase plus the other two down the streets of Austin, TX the large rolling bag comes around. IT ALSO IS MISSING IT’S WHEELS. ALL it’s wheels. ALL IT’S WHEELS! Can I scream that loud enough? Yeah, no I can’t. So my setup was this and I wish I’d had the presence of mind to take a photo but I was too busy wondering what to do. Picture a regular sized carry on rolling suitcase. On top of that picture a large rectangular old fashioned suitcase the kind that doesn’t roll that you have to carry yourself. That was the only way I could fathom traveling carrying all the bags. I thought you myself, I’ll just drag these bags, sure why not? …I made it as far as the seats that people sit on who are waiting for their loved ones to arrive on planes. Not only was I dying for air, in pain from gripping my heavy bags but I am dragging dead weight and screeching with every step I take. OBviously the bus idea is not going to work out. I decide to take a cab, all I have to do now is get myself out to where cabs are picking people up. Off I go with all my suitcases dragging and screeching and people watching me. The first street to cross wasn’t SO bad (and by that I mean I didn’t drop anything). The second street I cross to where all the cabs with lights were parked only to be told they can’t pick me up there I have to cross back over and walk to the official ”taxi pick -up” sign. So I turn around and begin crossing again and I could FEEL the bags slipping and the next thing I know the large suitcase has fallen off the carry one and the large rolling one has just fallen and can’t get up. Finally a cabbie gets out to help me out and thank crap for that because I was dying already, can you imagine me trying to bus it and then hoof to Courtney’s house? I cannot. Into the cab I go and then I’m at the hosts house! On my way there I saw CACTUS AFTER CACTUS! It was very cool to see all these things that I know are there but I’ve never actually seen. For example in the airport there was a ton of music stages and giant guitars etc… anyways…
She wasn’t home, which I was prepared for but I knew her roommates were although I wasn’t exactly sure of the layout of her home. I had to walk around the side of the house (several trips as I progressed with my suitcases) . Courtney told me that she had two dogs and that they were friendly but would probably bark a little at me and she was right. They were snarling through the door. I walked in the side door to her bedroom and they were beyond another door which I believed was the living room where she’d said to make myself at home. I cracked the door open and they went crazy soooo I shut it again. I wasn’t about to test the friendliness of these puppies who clearly thought I was an intruder. Her roommates eventually came out and opened the door and introduced me to the dogs who after seeing I was not a threat were very friendly.
Next I unpacked the Suitcases From Hell, organized my bags and shit and plugged in the things that need to charge. I am now currently sitting on her couch typing this out to you guys here. All in all I am very lucky that I was financially ABLE to take a cab so I cannot even complain one bit. Plus I kind of am glad it took 15 minutes to get here and 45 by bus. I’m pretty tired and have a big day ahead of me so wish me luck on picking up my bike tomorrow!! ❤ ❤
Item to buy: hand lotion. I've totally forgotten that and my hands are super chapped. And Advil Migraine. And peanut butter and bread. =)
Remind me if I forget. I'm just waiting for Courtney to get home from work and we can chat! I can't wait to learn all about her stories of bike touring on HER own!

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What’s New with Me?…A Novel.

Can you visualize the insanity that has been happening in my brain these last few weeks as my departure date looms?  I have had so much to think about and straighten out and confirm and just DO that I feel like I’m losing it.  Want to hear all about it?  OF COUUURRSE you do!
Where can I start?  I think I’ll begin with my front rack.

So.  I biked over to Brand’s about three weeks ago to make sure that the front rack I wanted would be compatible to my bike and I am so glad that I did because GUESS WHAT?  MY BIKE (of course) needs a special rack!  Because Evelyn has a suspension front fork I needed to special order my front rack.  Can you imagine if I hadn’t checked about that that day?  It would take a week for my rack to arrive, IMAGINE if I hadn’t checked on that until shortly before I left!  I’m sure you can, so you can understand how that just notched up my panic that much more.  Byron (the manager) reassured me that it would be in within a week and I need not panic (although that didn’t stop me).  I had decided that I was going to keep my bike basket on the handlebars because with the rack I ordered I wouldn’t be using that space at all and anything extra to hold shit would be that much more helpful.  I’m trying to tell this post in chronological order so we’ll come back to the topic in a few minutes, stay with me here.

Next order of panic was all the last minute items I was making sure I had that were coming in the mail.  I was very intentional in not ordering anything less than 2 weeks before my departure date and I am so glad because I would have perhaps completely lost my marbles with worry.  The last thing I ordered was the trunk for my rear rack where I planned to keep my electronics.  I was super pumped about it until after I’d placed the order (in the last week of December) and read that it was shipping from Hong Kong and was estimated to arrive AFTER FEBRUARY 28TH.  FEBRUARY. 28TH.  I am leaving February 5.  THIS WOULD NOT DO, no it would not do at all!  I sent off an e-mail to the company pleading with them to let me pay for faster shipping or some alternative but I never received a reply so I was left to wring my hands until it arrived.  THANKFULLY (oh god so thankfully!) it arrived within about two and half weeks and I have never been so happy to see a package in the mailbox.  It fit everything SO perfectly!  Solar charger, camera, battery recharger, wireless keyboard (because I won’t be taking my laptop with me and will be blogging from my phone but could NOT picture myself posting blogs via touch pad lol), etc etc etc.  It’s just the right size plus has enormous side pockets that even fit my water bottles should I want to shove them there; this worked out perfectly because at that time I hadn’t decided yet to keep my bike basket and was wondering how exactly I would strap my water bottles to the contraption that is Evelyn the Bike.

My friend Caitlin gave me a blanket that is very thin physically but very sturdy warm material so I am bringing it with me.  As I posted earlier this month I was now needing to figure out how exactly to organize my rear seat up and after much fiddling and rearranging bungee cords I figured it out.  [For more details you can flip back through posts to see the photo]

Sam, the Guitar

I have two guitars that I have been trying to re-home because I couldn’t bring them with me much as I wanted to.  My very first guitar, Sam, was a very sentimental item close to my heart.  When I found out from Kerry that the local guitar shop was buying back guitars I was ecstatic and immediately brought it to them.  What I WASN’T prepared for was realizing how much Sam really meant to me as I was handing her over.  Sam was the first guitar I ever bought, I learned to play on her.  She is a Fender and not a great one but she was beautiful and had lovely sound.  She didn’t have a single scratch on her and was always shining, waiting, calling to me to come play with her.  Whenever I was lonely, whether it was in my studio apartment in Illinois (I got yelled at by my downstairs neighbor for this), whether it was playing guitar with my dad, writing songs at the local church in Long Island where I attended years ago, writing my own songs that would allow me to play in a bar in Urbana, IL (my hometown) before I moved to New York, playing in the front yard with the little girls I love during the summer making up songs about the family dog, or just me singing and strumming.  She has been with me through many heartbreaks of all kinds and played loyally while I cried through songs that meant a lot to me, even though I am kind of a shitty guitar player.  I understand that I’m rambling but what I’m trying to potray is quite simple: I loved her and she loved me.  So when I handed over her to the man behind the counter I was not prepared for the suddenly tears that burst upon me.  I cried as I signed paperwork, handed over identifications and accepted the cash for her.  I cried as I touched her strings and smooth wood one last time and I sobbed as I walked away.  The employee who helped me was actually choked up because I was crying so hard and he gave me a hug and told me how proud he was of me (he knew about my trip).  I will never forget sitting in the car and crying so hard for about 20 minutes after leaving the store.  All the way home I wondered if I had made a mistake, if I could have shipped her (I couldn’t it would have been over $100) or something else.  Should I turn around?  What to do, what to DO?  I eventually talked myself to logic, reminding myself the reason that I had had to sell her in the first place but it wasn’t easy.  One day in the future I will have a new guitar and it will also be lovely but I will always remember Sam, my first guitar love.

Two huge mental setbacks and potential actual setbacks:

I was informed about two weeks ago that it is illegal to use interstates by bike in Texas, California, Oregon, Washington and much of Arizona and New Mexico (unless there is no alternative way to get to where you’re going).  Needless to say this created an enormous panic in me.  Much of my plans were on the interstate in Texas as least until I could get to Route 66.  I went onto all of the social media pages that I was on that had to do with Bike touring and asked over and over again what I could do instead.  I was directed to a book called Bicycling the Pacific Coast, by Tom Kirkendall.  I promptly ordered it and paid for speed shipping hoping with all I had that it would arrive before I left.  When it finally came I’m reading it through and it says something along the lines of how terrible of an idea it is to bike UP the Pacific Coast due to the headwinds.  THE HEADWINDS?!  Something that I had stupidly not even considered!  I immediately entertained the idea of changing my route completely, like COMPLETELY.  Instead of heading up the coast I was like okay I’ll go east first then up the east coast!  …No, no, then I’ll be back in NY by May, what fun is that?  I’ll go up through the midwest!  …No, that’s too cold.  I tossed all these ideas eventually and headed to Facebook biking pages again asking about statistics concerning the West coast headwinds.  Finally someone told me that the headwinds begin blowing south around the end of April beginning of May (if I was lucky)  This means that I needed to bike my ass as fast as I could to get to Washington.  If I make good time I think I’ll make it to the Canada/U.S. border shortly after the headwinds start and will only have to endure them the last leg of the west coast.  Problem sort of kind of solved.

Remember the Bike Rack?

So I called Brands after a week to see if the bike rack had come in and halleluiah it had.  Here’s where a problem came in.  That was the week of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  It was the same week that my Advanced Bike Maintenance was scheduled there.  Day one of the class was putting together a mountain bike.  Day two was working on your own bike.  This was perfect because I was going to bring in my bike, learn how to put my front rack on and then leave it there after class to be shipped.  OF COURSE we had a blizzard that week so class was postponed to the following week!  So I brought in my bike that first week and they were gracious enough to put the front rack on for me and left my bike with them a few days later and just had to not know how to put on my front rack, hopefully it won’t be too difficult.  On the bright side Performance Bike just called me like an hour ago to tell me that my bike had arrived and that if I have any trouble putting on my rack they can help me for free.  SO THANKFUL FOR SMALL THINGS!!

Moving On and Out

I have been packing and unpacking my bags over and over and over again just so that I can document what I have, where it is, where it’s going and learn the speediest way to get to what I need.  So as the last items came in I needed to finalize the packing.  I also needed to make sure anything that smells like anything (toothpaste, soap, food, Clif bars etc) were all in odor proof bags because I WILL BE DAMNED IF A BEAR FINDS ME.  As you know bears are becoming my primary fear lol.  Part of this packing had had to wait until the very last days because of my clothes.  I had already gone through my belongings to donate what I didn’t need, shipped to my mom what I DID need to keep (sentimental items and the random clothes that I would keep) and thrown away what I didn’t but when it came to clothes I was waiting because I didn’t want to find my bags all packed and have no clothes to wear…which kind of happened anyway.  I packed all my clothes up and realized I had nothing to wear but the onesie pajamas I was wearing at the time.  I had to go back into my donation bags and pull out two outfits for Sunday-Wednesday lol.  I have a suitcase set, two large suitcases and a carry on.  My plan had been that my panniers would go in the large ones along with my tent, sleeping bag and extra supplies.  The carry on would carry my clif bars and bike basket.  So the first suitcase packed smoothly, perfect!  I’m searching through the house looking for the second one and IT IS NOWHERE TO BE SEEN.  Eventually it was discovered that it had been left somewhere on vacation and meant to be shipped back to me but that never happened!  Uh..okay but I need to have a second suitcase it was not an option to not have a second large bag.  I found a huge one in the basement that fit everything in it perfectly.  The only issue was that it’s one of those older ones with one hand on the side that you carry.  So I now have one large rolling suitcase, one small rolling carry on and one enormous 50 lb suitcase that I have to carry.  This won’t be a problem until I get to Austin.  Why?  Well because I’m taking the city bus to the first hosts house and will have to figure out how to get the suitcases on the bus with me.  I briefly considered taking a taxi but it was going to cost me $40 and that just can’t do.  But at least I have a suitcase, right?  When I get to Austin I will be donating the suitcases because I won’t need them anymore.

So my plans when I get to Austin are in theory, all planned out.  When I land I will be taking a bus to another bus and that will drop me off about a block from the host that I am staying with.  The following day my friend is coming from Houston and we will then go to the bike shop where my bike was shipped to from Brands Cycle here.  I will put my bike back together and do my damndest to put my front rack back on with the help of the bike shop down there.  I will then bring my bike back to the host’s house (her name is Courtney and she sounds amazing!  She’s bike toured the country solo as well which is why I’m super excited to meet her, whenever I hear about a woman doing what I’m doing I am desperate to get all the information I can) for the night.  I will set out on the road officially on Friday, February 7th, if all goes according to plan.  Right now we’re in the middle of a snow storm and we’re supposed to get more snow on Wednesday morning which is when I’m flying so …we shall see.  Fingers crossed for good flying weather.

Last night at Kerry’s Super Bowl party I met a woman named Emily who road tripped across the country recently and she told me about this App called Road Trippers.  I cannot rave enough about finding out about this app, like seriously.  It maps out where you want to go and you have the option to opt out of interstates (BINGOOOOO) which is the best news I’ve heard in forever (although I feel like I’m saying that a lot haha, I’m just being appreciative okay?) This will take a lot of stress off of me wondering how the hell I’m going to get from one place to another without getting lost because I can’t use an interstate.

Closing out this post a quick blurb about my going away party last week.  Kerry threw me a little going away party with the usual gang of friends in the area who go out to karaoke, including my friend Kathy who came out from the city.  It was so great to have one last night with friends who have been listening to me talk and talk and talk about this trip from the very beginning.  Kerry sang me a beautiful song called ”My Wish” by Rascal Flatts, that I had never heard before but will never forget.  I have since added it to my playlist and every time I hear it I think about Kerry who has been a significant constantly reassuring friend through this entire trip planning.  Without her support I think I might have talked myself out of it from the very beginning.

Kerry and I

Kerry and I

Just an idea of the song:

I hope that the days come easy and the moments pass slow,
And each road leads you where you want to go,
And if you’re faced with a choice, and you have to choose,
I hope you choose the one that means the most to you.
And if one door opens to another door closed,
I hope you keep on walkin’ till you find the window,
If it’s cold outside, show the world the warmth of your smile,

But more than anything, more than anything,
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish.

If you’d like to hear it you can click here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3TeskgpWvE

I think I’ve covered everything that I can as of right now!  I know that was a lot to read and bless you for making it to the end of that novel haha!  I’ll be updating hopefully once a week whenever I can get to a public library or coffee shop with internet to post a new blog and plan out that weeks journey!  It’s upon us friends!  The day I’ve been working towards for the past 7 months!!  WHOOHOO! See you out there!!

Unrelated to Anything Else I dedicate this post to my NY Friends

The last few days I’ve been trying to organize my lists of the last few things I need to buy for this trip and have been finding myself feeling kind of blue.  I couldn’t really put my finger on it, aside from attributing it to hating the holiday season (which I really do) without my family.  Then Carole King explained it for me and made me cry (by the way, readers who don’t know me: I cry at a lot of strange things).

When I first moved to New York I worked for this family for an entire year without making any real girlfriends.  The first real friend I made was Rachel.  [ http://thepawreport.wordpress.com/ ]  We met at an animal rights protest for the cats and dogs living and dying in New York City’s Animal Care and Control.  It wasn’t until a few months later that we actually began hanging out but it was destined to be because we were destined to sing karaoke.  The first time we hung out we went shopping at American Apparel and afterwards went to a bar where my drink was horrible and we convinced our server to put Hawaiian Punch in it just to make it a little better (it wasn’t better haha).  After that for about 6 months we karaoke’d together every other weekend and I would stay with her in Brooklyn.  She has a cat named Raskol who is, in her words, a crazy bastard…and he really is.  I’ll never forget waking up in the middle of the night the night before I auditioned for The Voice to him screaming and racing around her apartment lol.  Rachel wasn’t amused but we laugh about it every time now.  When my grandmother died it was Rachel who met fresh from the airport and held me in the middle of the busy sidewalk while I cried.  She’s a very busy bee but whenever I least expect it she’ll surprise me with a sweet little gift or Facebook post of encouragement.

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I was Rachel’s date to a family wedding in Rhode Island this summer

The second friend I made in New York was Kerry.  I was signing up to volunteer at the local animal shelter and Kerry was the person handing out applications.  For some reason that I still don’t know, I asked Kerry if she’d like to have dinner some night and talk about the shelter system in NY.  (SUPER random right?)  Well, we exchanged numbers and made arrangements for dinner.  Kerry will never let me forget that dinner, allow me to explain.  At the time I was friends with a woman who was a little crazy and too intense when it came to animal rescue (I hadn’t realized it yet though) and that night at dinner she ended up asking me to go on a wild cat chase for a missing cat.  I dragged poor Kerry along, who had no idea what she was getting into but the next thing she knew we were knocking on a strangers door in the rain at like 9:30 at night.  I honestly cannot understand why she ever spoke to me again! LOL!  Once I had established that I was not, in fact, insane (well..) we became glorious friends!  She would come over and we would talk about our love interests over a cup of coffee and lots of squealing ridiculously.  Kerry is who pushed me into actually doing this trip.  She is the one who googled camping on public land etc etc.  She listened to me ramble, rant and rave about all the different plans I wish I could have and why they would or would not work and gave me realistic ideas in return.  Kerry is my one friend actually ON Long Island (since everyone else lives in the city) that I could count on in an emergency not even beginning to mention randomly texting for a 5 minute coffee date!  She comes over every Wednesday for coffee and we catch up on the week and that’s that!  Kerry is the best!

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At Kerry’s surprise birthday party this summer

Last year at Thanksgiving Rachel introduced me to her friend Caitlin, who quickly became my friend also!  (Although if you ask her she’ll say SHE infiltrated our friendship).  Caitlin lives with her mother and her fiance with their 4 dogs, 2 (or 3?) cats and other tiny family members.  Caitlin and Richard became another little safe haven for me when I’d get frustrated in my house and needed to escape.  I could always count on them to let me over for a drink and some ranting angrily (plus a lot of loving on from her doggies).  Catlin does work similar to mine so she always understands a lot of the anxieties and frustrations that I go through.  She also has a sassy mouth on her that won’t stop for anything, and I love it.  Sometimes you encounter people who are quiet just to let the peace continue but Caitlin will speak her part come hell or high water even if it’s about you!  Who doesn’t need that in their lives?  I love that I can talk about shit and Caitlin with definitely tell me straight up how she feels about whatever I saying.  She’s also hysterically inappropriate at times like when I give her my Facebook password for emergencies and she hijacks it with status about all kinds of stuff!  What a jerk. ❤

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New Years Eve with Caitlin ❤

I met Alicia, Kathy and Nicole at a concert for an artist that we all love.  For about 6 months we went out every weekend dancing, having fun and getting into trouble.  Eventually we realized our poor wallets couldn’t handle that but all the things we got into during that time allowed us to become very fast friends who can talk about ANYthing and anyone.  Lots of fantastic memories, sleeping on Alicia’s pullout bed and then getting lost trying to find our way back to the subway the next day; dancing and discussing makeup, clothes, significant others in our lives, shoes and upcoming concerts.  I think the best night of the three of us was when we made the not smart decision to go out to a concert on a Tuesday night.  We had hoped the artist would go out with us afterwards (because she had done that the last time she was in New York).  We ended up at a karaoke bar in Brooklyn and suddenly it was 3:30 am, Kathy was being fed a bagel by Alicia like a bird, Nicole was long gone back to PA (where she lived) and I was panicking on trying to get a cab to the train because I had to work at 6:30 am and the last train was at 4.

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Kathy, Alicia, Nicole and her fiance SJ, and I

Last, but not least, is my friend Taina.  I met Taina in July this year.  We ran into each other at a pow wow in Queens and never interacted and then ended up being in a giftshop in a museum at the same time two weeks later.  We went out for coffee and immediately there was a click.  Right away she understood what I meant when I said I love to sigh in the wind, to stand in the rain with my arms up.  We like to say that destiny brought us together at a time when we needed a friend that understood our souls.  We don’t see each other often but whenever we do and whenever we talk we have these deep, honest discussions about EVERYTHING and sometimes there is a language barrier due to her speaking more Spanish than English and me the other way around but we always get our point made and understand.  We have had many adventures and end up laughing over the silliest things later on.  There is always a race to watch the sunset when she comes to Long Island to visit me and hopefully one day on my trip we will watch one.  ❤

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Watching the sunset at the beach

Needless to say, the first time I left New York I didn’t really mind it because I wasn’t leaving anyONE behind.  This time the thought of leaving my girlfriends behind is really rather excruciating.  Since my phone will be off I won’t be able to just text, facebook message or call any of them if I suddenly have a problem with something and just need to talk, want to see their posts on animals on facebook or what hair drama Kathy is having.  For the first time in my life every single girlfriend I have here is someone I can literally say ANYthing to and know that they won’t judge me.  They accept me for who I am, and respect me enough to be honest with me.  I’ve never known friends quite like this that will have an entire thread about my ridiculous antics on Facebook the way these ladies will and it genuinely makes me smile knowing that I love them as much as they love me.  I’m super glad I wrote this blog out because it actually lifted my spirits a lot thinking of all the joy my friends bring to my life.  #FreeFranny

The Hills Are Alive….With the Sounds of Maria Gasping for Air

Well, friends, I survived the weekend.  I don’t even know how to start.  But in the spirit of the Sound of Music headline let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.

I woke up on Saturday morning at 3:20 am.  Laid in bed for ten minutes, realized my phone hadn’t been charging all night so all I had was my spare battery, and then got up, showered, put on my bike clothes and headed off into the dark and drizzle to catch the 4:50am train into the city.  When I got to the station I realized one thing that hadn’t crossed my mind:  there is no elevator at the LIRR (Long Island Rail Road) station I go to.  The escalator was my only option.  No big deal right?  Wroooong.  I rolled my bike onto the escalator expecting it to be easy peasy, not realizing that when something is heavy it’s going to be affected by gravity.  As soon as my back tire was off the ground my bike started falling backwards.  It took all my strength, lots of gasping, and my body holding the handlebars to keep Evelyn from falling back down to the ground level.  As this is happening I hear my train rumbling in arrival.  I started shouting to the ONE other person on the platform to hold the train for me, because if I missed this train the day was screwed.  I made it to the top FINALLY, boarded train and I was off!  Today was going to be great!!

Once I got into Penn Station (with 1.5 batteries for the next two days) the next issue was getting to the subway.  So this is my setup:

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Apparently I looked like a homeless person because suddenly two homeless bag women approached me and asked me if I was new and where was I from.  I explained that I was just biking and waterproofed my sleeping bag with the garbage bag.  They were really friendly and told me where I could find an elevator that would making getting to the subway platform much easier.  One of them walked with me and chit chatted the whole way.  I got on the elevator, then on the subway up to 177th street.

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Evelyn’s first time on the NYC Subway!!

Once I got to 175th street (which is apparently the 177th street stop, I didn’t know and a nice woman told me thank god.  I get out and into the subway to discover:  THE ELEVATOR IS CLOSED FOR REPAIRS.  I rolled my bike to the stairs and stared up them in horror.  How the hell was I going to get my bike up the steps?!? Finally a nice guy showed up, put his coffee down and together we dragged Evelyn up the stairs.  Once at the top he went on his way and I went on mine….to the next two flights of stairs.  There was no one to help me with these so slowly, step by step, I lifted Evelyn’s enormous ass up the stairs.  I have never been so happy to stand in the New York City rain as I was at the top of those stairs.  Biked a block west to the George Washington Bridge Bike Route 9 entrance. It was so steep I had to walk the ramp up to the actual bridge itself.  As I’m doing this people running are passing me and racing on into the misty morning.  Finally, I was on the bridge!  YAY!  My day was going to be great!  Crossed the bridge and began what was to be a very long and exhaustively interesting day.

Within twenty minutes I knew I was in trouble.  Let me remind you, I live on Long Island.  We have no real hills on the island, much less mountainous hills.  As road biker after road biker zipped past me with their serious important faces I started wondering if I was going to survive the day (not for the last time either).  Finally, just as I had began a very huffy puffy version of ”If I Could Be Her” by ZZ Ward I hear a voice behind me as how long I’ve been on the road.  I gave him a quick run down of what I was up to.  He biked with me for about ten minutes, telling me about when he would bike tour in his younger days (the guy was like in his 60’s).  Eventually he wished me lucked and was on his way.  I must say, friendly readers, if it wasn’t for that one encouraging guy I might not have kept going.

About ten miles down the road I came to a three way stop where I could go left or right.  The sign in front of me said Bike Route 9 was to the right.  All the zippy bikers were going to the left.  Hmmm…. I pulled out my map which didn’t help much.  Eventually I decided to just stick to the route in case I lost my way.  I turned right…right down a hill, which obviously led to having to turn left again.  I was looking up THE biggest hill I had ever seen.  Now, this was a residential neighborhood so as I began my little roll up the hill there’s a couple standing outside their house having a truly romantic moment and someone is taking a photo (I REALLY wish it was a video as this would have been great).  So there they are having their moment and there I go in the background literally moaning and gasping and making, I’m sure, a very attractive facial expression.  As soon as I had passed them far enough away for them to not see me, I hopped off my bike and proceeded to moan and gasp WALKING my bike up the hill.  At the top I turned right and watched the bikers again.  APPARENTLY they all knew about the hill and that if they turned left they would avoid the hill altogether.  I knew I should have followed them.

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Piermont, NY

Once I got back on track I found myself going through an ADORABLE little town called Piermont.  It was RIGHT along the Hudson and every single house was enormous and adorable.  Some of them were run down and creepy and gorgeous and others were perfectly painted and chic.  The view of the water was incredible!  At this point I saw my tent was getting uncomfortable so I stopped to adjust it.  While doing that my handlebars tipped over and in my attempt to keep the entire bike from falling, I twisted the whole entire handlebar around.  It took the sound of my brake cable ripping for me to even realize that something was wrong.  Part of the brake metal was twisted and all the cables were weird and….. crap.  I can, again, either go home, get it fixed somewhere, or go on using only my rear brake.  I then realized that the Piermont Bicycle Connection was RIGHT THERE.  So, they fixed it for me, better than before!  Annnnnd I was off!

Eventually I got to another hill that I also had to walk up, this one seemed never ending.  At the top, except it WASN’T THE TOP, I found a gas station.  Spoke with a man who then gave me the best news ever:  THERE WAS A BIGGER HILL IMMEDIATELY TO FOLLOW!  Great.  I walked my ass halfway up that mountain and then pulled over and collapsed in the grass of the Knights of Columbus of South Nyack.  I was only like 10-15 miles away from my goal.  Called my friend Tom who then says ”Where are you?”  “UM…Collapsed on the side of the road”  At this point it’s noon exactly.  Tom said I have three choices: (Ok, lies, he said I have two choices but I totally added in this third choice.  I’ll let you choose which one it was):  I can either walk my bike up the hill at 3 miles an hour and arrive shortly before dark OR I can bike and arrive sooner, OR I can turn around and fly the fuck down those hills back to the safety of my sweet, sweet, flat Long Island.  Eventually I sat up, (mostly because so many passing bikers were asking if I was okay), decided the mountain could suck it, and got on my bike.  I made it 10 yards before I had to stop again but I told myself I would recover and then go another 10 yards.  I did this ALL THE WAY TO TOP!!!  I got to a little coffee shop in the town of Haverstraw, NY and sat for an hour because I knew I only had 7 miles left to go.  A few more miles down the road and I passed the sign announcing I had arrived at Tompkins Cove!! The town I had been ”google map directions…ing…” to all week!  I stopped at a gas station to use the restroom and an old, crickety old man, who works there, approaches me.  He asked me where I’m from, when I started, where I’m headed…etc.  When I told him my goal is Bear Mountain he starts in on how there’s no camping there and the campground is closed.  He’s very intense about it and staring at me like I’m planning to blow up the mountain secretly.  Eventually I went on my way but he definitely had gotten into my head.  As I approach a sign announcing the bridge to Bear Mountain I’m feeling really nervous and paranoid about the camping.  I pass a little tiny church and house and decide to throw caution to the wind.  I dismount and approach the house, which is when I met Charlie, the golden retriever.  He’s barking and growling and I can’t really tell how long of a chain he’s on but I give him plenty of distance while I hoot ”helllloooooo?”  as friendlily (I know it’s not a word) and unthreateningly as possible.  When a women finally opens the door I explain to her my situation and ask if I can camp on the church property.  Not only did she tell me that it was fine, she also said she would leave the door to the bathroom open for me to use (which was great because that issue hadn’t even crossed my mind).

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It was about 3pm at that point so I decided to set up my tent and go from there.  I got my tent all set up, bed made, bags in my tent, and crawled in to freshen up and change my clothes.  After this I head back to Charlie, who by the way, once I knew his name was my new best friend.

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After this I went back to my tent to read a little and ended up falling asleep.  Woke up a few hours later, ate my dinner of a Clif bar and some corn (useless healthwise but tasty nevertheless).  I went outside to plug in my phone and noticed that moon was HUGE and full!!  It was the perfect end of the day!  I went to sleep and slept cozy cozy coooozzzyy until my alarm went off the next morning. …And then another 2 hours.

It took me an hour to break camp, and I took off at 9:30 am resigning myself to the fact that there was a pretty probably chance that the end of my ride was going to be in the dark.  I zoomed past the old man at the gas station, who didn’t see me, thank god.  Before I knew it I was at the coffee shop and it was only 10:30 am.  I stopped for a very quick hot coffee, which I enjoyed in the rain.  Oh, I didn’t mention that it was POURING RAIN?  Yes, well it was.

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I quickly headed off into the rain, which wasn’t really bothering me as I had come prepared for cold, wet weather anyway.  What REALLY killed me that day was that I was sore from the previous day and still had to do the same mountains.  I thought I would never make it up.  Several times I found myself begging my Grandma for help getting up ”this fucking mountain”, telling myself ”If I get to the top I get to roll to the bottom” “You will not die on this mountain” and my favorite “This is crazy, this is so crazy”.

One in particular was never ever ever ever ever ever ever EVER ending.  When I finally made it to the top and started to fly down, I literally was crying with relief and not just the wind blowing.  It was such a sense of joy and relief that it made the torturous journey up more than worth the pain.  Once again, I passed through the town of Piermont and continued up another mountain.  This was a great part, although it was also quite painful.  Every time I was stopped and another biker would pass me from behind the would have encouraging words for me.  “You’re almost there!”  “Doing great!”  “YOU CAN DO IT YOU CAN DOOOO IT!!”  My favorite was one guy who was with a group of guys who were clearly not stopping for him, so as I’m standing there panting for air, he’s biking slowly by, panting for air too, and goes ”Yeah.  I don’t like it either!”  I didn’t even have air to say anything, just laughed/moaned in reply.  The best sign I’d seen all day was the George Washington Bridge: 15 miles sign.  I eventually got to that point where I’d initially gone the wrong/right way on the three way stop and this time I followed the bikers (like a pro whut whuuuut).  As I headed down that last 7 mile road towards the bridge the rain kicked up and eventually I had to put my glasses in my pocket.  I could barely see, and my brakes were so screechy it sounded like my dad’s car. And then I was there!  George Washington Bridge!!! Yaaaay!

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It was super misty AND only 3pm!  I had made the ride in less than 6 hours!

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Once I got across the bridge the next best thing I had seen:  the elevator down to the A train was WORKING AGAIN!!  In I went, quickly got the subway back to Penn Station just in time to get a 4pm train home and the next thing I knew I was back in Massapequa. While adjusting my bike on the train I managed to strain my wrist, which initially I didn’t think was going to be an issue but today I am in a lot of pain.  Now, children, who remembers the very first issue of the weekend?  If any of you said that the train station doesn’t have an elevator you win a high five from me if you ever meet me. I rolled to the edge of the stairs and looked down them.  I tried to pick up my bike and my wrist screamed in protest.  I unloaded EVERYTHING off my bike and took it down the stairs, returning for my bike, which was then not hard to carry down.  Reloaded up and bike home where I immediately put away my bike and hopped into a warm bathtub.

I had done it.  I hadn’t given up.  I made it up my first mountain(s) and didn’t die.  This is good thing.

BRRR!! Here Goes Nothing!

OK! I’m preparing for my first serious run. Like…all alone, starting a campfire, camping on public land not someone’s backyard dry run. ….I am terrified.

First things first: ma tente (I don’t speak French, do you?).  I returned my tent from Dick’s last week and purchased the Camp Dome 2.  I set it up for the first time this morning since my sleeping bag had also arrived.  IT’S BIGGER THAN MY BED!! Along with size it’s so easy to set up that I felt like a pro (or maybe third times a charm?).  I kind of want to just let it stay popped up on my bed and sleep in at night (can you imagine what my employers would think? …Oh yeah, Maria’s in her room camping…) Annnyyyways, okay so next up is my sleeping bag, or as I have been referring to it ”my SLEEPING BAG WHICH IS SO FREAKING COMFY OMG I CAN’T STAND IT!”  I’m not even kidding.  As soon as I start trying to seriously talk about it the memory of it’s coziness overpowers all my sense of composure.  The same way I squeal excitedly singing Fleetwood Mac at the top of my lungs ruining the song whilst imaging that I am a young Latina Stevie Nicks but that is an entirely different subject.  My sleeping bag is AWWWEEEsome!  It’s really really warm, comfortable and JUST the right length for me to be cozy and cuddly.  Add to that my amazing sleeping pad and I’m so snuggly I kind of want to sleep outside like right now (even thought it’s like 30 degrees out if not colder).  

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Tent + Sleeping Bag = Home!

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EEEheeeheehee

Moving right along.  I ambushed REI this week with a mile long list of items that I knew I would need for this weekend of camping.  Cooking supplies, fire started, matches, bunjee cords (more), compass, a whole long list of things.  I packed up my bike yesterday and all that’s left is food for cooking and pajamas.  I hope.    

Now let me actually TELL you about what I’m up to this weekend.  I am going to be going up NY Bike Route 9 to Bear Mountain.

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Red line is my route! Let’s all oooh and aaaah together. That’s a long ass bike route.

Bike Route 9 starts at the George Washington Bridge in the Bronx and goes just shy of the Canada border!  Obviously, since this is just a weekend run I’ll only be going about 40 miles up the route.  For me though this is going to be quite a distance since I know the terrain will be very different from my nice, flat little Long Island biking!  

In terms of the camping part, I will be camping somewhere inside Bear Mountain State Park.  I’m a little worried because try as I might I cannot find in writing a definite explanation of the camping policy for this.  I have to be certain distance from the road, not visible, take back with me what I bring (duh) no fires?  I can’t find it anywhere and as Saturday morning approaches I am getting more and more concerned.   Advice?  Information?  Links?  Really…anything would be great!  Anyhoo, I’ll be making dinner and starting a little fire (rule allowing) and it’s going to be soooo cold and guess what? ….I CAN’T WAIT!  

What are YOU doing this weekend?