March 28, 2002-Thursday
How can it be possible that it’s already two weeks since the end of the
Hawaii bike ride?
I am notorious for not wrapping up journals. I don’t know why – maybe I
don’t want the trip to end. Maybe I just get caught up with newer projects at
home, and then can’t be bothered. But the last day or two of most of my trip
journals go tattered and unfinished.
Furthermore, there is frequently a depression that sets in shortly after
getting back from most tours. I have learned to either accept this or combat
it by immediately beginning other big-time projects.
Faithful readers will recall that the day after getting home from the
long long plane flights – the cramped and uncomfortable and bleary-eyed
details of which I will spare you – I had TWO big photography jobs. The party
receptions stretched from noon on Saturday until past midnight. I survived
the shoots with the help of a friend, and by just taking each hour one at a
time. I got back that night pretty darn weary but happy to have had a camera
in my hands for so long again. Love capturing those kodak moments….
So, here below is the outline of the last two days. And then I have
listed for you some of the Bests and Worsts of 22 Years of Bicycle Touring. I
worked on that during the Hawaii trip and thought some of you might find it
pretty darn interesting.
Oh, and one more thing… on the big cross-country trip of ten years ago
I had no laptop computer. And all my notes were scribbled down on 8×10 sheets
of paper in my tiny almost legible printing. I have begun the project – of
one day at a time – transcribing those 80 days of notes into typed out pages.
I have referred to that epoch trip many times in this Hawaii journal.
So here’s an invitation for you: if you would like to continue your daily
fix of bicycle journal notes and follow the exploits and adventures from
ocean to ocean, let me know asap, and I’ll put you on the growing list. No
comfy-woosy bed-and-breakfasts or motels in THIS coming story – all grit and
everything rough and tumble and new. It makes a good read. You’d get a
catch-up page (about ten days worth – including the cobweb tattooed minister
story) and then just one journal page a day, as we did with Hawaii. Let me
know as soon as you’d like to start.
It was great having you along for Hawaii. The connection was a wonderful
part of my trip. And if I strung together the occasional sentence with good
words that made you smile, or wince, or wonder about the world…. well then
all the better for it.
Time to move on…. catch you next time around I hope…. my best to you
March 14, 2002 – Thursday – Day 10
Miles Today – 3 (around Kona)
In Kona, HI
It was a good last day in Hawaii. I took it pretty much easy. Took a
short ride, and got the bike and some other gear over to the bike store. Did
a little browsing through the shopping area and got a few little things. Had
During the day I tried not to think about what the 14-hour or so trip
through the night would be like coming back home. I would be starting to fly
at 6:30ish today and not get home, because of time zones, delays in
connections, etc., until 24 hours later!!!!
Had to get to the airport by 4:30pm for the 6:30pm flight to Honolulu.
Long hour-long line waits again. Then had to wait for a couple hours for the
flight to San Francisco. THEN had to wait a couple hours for the flight back
to Philly. I was pretty bleary-eyed. And I didn’t have as much luck with
seats this time and it was pretty cramped.
FIRST DAY HOME
March 15, 2002 – Friday – Day 00
– Travel Day Home –
Miles Today – 1 (when home)
During most of the traveling I was in a drowsy fog, body compacted into a
tight folded-up ball of a three-seat row. Ugh. Soon enough though, at the end
of that long dreary travel tunnel, the smiley face of my sister, Lil, was
there at the Philadelphia airport greeting me. It was good seeing her, and
good being back.
Celebrated my 55th birthday today. Circumstances dictated that I would be
‘celebrating’ alone, but at least I got to see Lil. And I had plenty of
time to reflect on things….
Through my traveling years, I’ve learned that it doesn’t really matter
where you are, as long as you are happy with what you’re doing. I’ve been in
majestic paradise places and have seen the absolute looks of boredom and
unhappiness in people who were toiling at jobs that they hated. And I’ve been
in dog-down-dirty poverty-stricken places where people have been endlessly
laboring with their hands and enjoying what they were doing….
After a mile bike ride and a mile run and a good hot shower, I sank into
a deep sleep. And washing over me during that sleep were memories of palm
trees, recollections of new friends, feelings of heightened accomplishment,
and a blue big ocean with endless waves…
-by Joel Perlish
(with apologies to John Masefield’s Sea Fever)
I must get out on the roads again, to the lonely road and sky,
And all I ask is my 21-speed, and a map to steer her by;
And the wheels’ kick, and the chain’s song, and the pedals turning,
And a white haze on the sun’s face, and my legs all a-churning.
I must get out on the roads again, for the call of a touring ride
Is a noble call, and a strong call, and one I must abide;
And all I ask is a tailwind to make me feel like flying,
And a bright sun, white clouds, and the birds with their plaintive crying.
I must get out on the roads again, to those wonderful biking days,
To the fresh air, and the warm breeze, and the moon’s twinkling rays;
And all I ask is a new-found friend and sleep that is wonderfully deep,
And the memory of miles under my wheel, and memories of smiles to keep.
by joel perlish
A FEW MISC. NOTES:
—> Things that can make or break a bike touring day – wind, mechanical
bike problems, the terrain, the cleanliness of the road, the terrain, too
late a start, having problems finding a place to stay.
—> Things that are good to remember as a touring cyclist – remembering
to downshift when stopping,
FACTS AND FIGURES
– I ride a Trek 520 Touring Bike with Blackburn rear racks, and Blackburn
low-rider front racks. The touring bags on the back are Serratus bags (which
I think are the best) and purchased from a mail order place in Canada.
THE BEST AND WORST OF MY 500+ TOURING DAYS
(COVERING 22,500+ MILES)
WORST SMELL – the putrefying badly decomposed buck on the side of the road
outside of Altoona,PA. Tied with that Worst Smell was the aroma coming from
the cattle yards in Kansas. Both in ‘80 on the cross country trip.
BEST SMELL – the smell of fresh laundry on the line as I pulled out of
Shamokin,PA, also back in ‘80. And the aroma of chocolate chip cookies baking
RIDE CLOSEST TO BEING ABORTED – one of the Appalachian Mountain rides where
I had a spoke broken – and a hillbilly metal worker took the delicate
workings of the 21-speed bike wheel and fashioned parts of a clothes hanger
to attach the two halves of the broken spoke. (I rode with it that way for a
number of years!)….
and on one of my west coast rides when my knee busted out and I could
only pedal with one leg – try THAT sometime in the mountains! Well, an
Indian bike store guy gave me a special potion to put on the knee. Finished
up in style.
HARDEST DAY – no question about it – the 60 miles into Oakes, ND, in ‘91 on
the Winnipeg to Omaha ride. (Totally flat. NOTHING in between start and
finish. Total blasting wind in my face the whole way.)
LONGEST DAY – 116 miles out of the Rockies into Soccoro, NM, in ‘80.
FAVORITE PLACE BIKED – Oregon Coast in ‘86.
LEAST FAVORITE PLACE (although pretty damn exciting!) – all the way through
New York City as part of the East Coast section in ‘88.
MOST IMPRESSIVE PERSON MET – three-way tie: the 80-something fellow I met on
the road, and hooked up with for part of my Seattle to Denver trip in ‘87 (it
was his third trip in the last 5 years or so!);
the 70’s-something bike touring guy from France, Jacques Reynard, I met
on one of my Appalachian rides;
– and the water-planner in Texas who I met on my Philly to Dallas trip in
‘82. The fellow claimed to know every word in the dictionary – and after
‘testing’ him, it appeared he did!
WORST EXPERIENCES WITH A CAR – an impatient driver honking at me on a little
hill in Kansas in ‘80, and a kid in the south tossing a cardboard glass of
soda at me in ‘82. Not bad for over 20,000 miles of riding, eh? (Compare
that to the 1000’s of folks who have moved over a little for me, the 100’s
who have waved and shouted encouragement or lifted thumbs up, and the scores
of folks who tried to hand me money out their car window! Pretty astounding!)
BEST SUNSET – that has to be in 1997 at the Florida Keys!
MOST UNEXPECTED MEETING – I was the farthest I had been away from home at the
time – somewhere around a lake in Oregon. I was looking at license plates
hoping to see a PA plate. I saw one on a van that was parked near this lake.
I pulled over to the cab window, the guy looks out, and says, “Hey, you’re
Joel Perlish.” It was Glenn Danner who was a hall-mate of mine at Kutztown
STORIES I MOST ENJOY TELLING – (all from the cross country trip) – the drunk
in the desert story, the mobile home in the desert yarn (with all the women
and kids running around), and the time I got THIS CLOSE to taking a lap
around the Indianapolis 500 track on my bike. (The track president would have
allowed it, but the track manager said then, “any kook” would want to do it.)
CLOSEST BRUSH WITH JAIL – being stopped by the Mexican Border Patrol in ‘80
and being told that I had to go through multiple searches and detained
periods because as a bicyclist, I was “suspicious looking”. I could see 20
years in a Mexican prison staring me in the face.
WORST PLACE FOR A FLAT – smack in the middle of the the seven-mile bridge
between Washington and Oregon on Trip 14 in 1995 A busy, truck traffic laden,
two-lane bridge – in the middle of a galing rainstorm! (Hey, I had to fix it
and get on my way.)
PLACE THAT EVOKED THE MOST AWE AND AMAZEMENT – the Escalante Range in Utah in
‘93. (Riding across a narrow road, Grand Canyon-type views of house-sized
boulders and rugged terrain out to the horizon everywhere in sight.
WORST ROAD (not including under-construction ones) – the 15 miles or so into
Tuscaloosa, Alabama in ‘82 on the way to Dallas. Every ten feet there was a
cinderblock-sized groove stretching all the way across the old road. It was
given to me as a shortcut. It took a looooong time.
MOST EXCITING BRUSHES WITH POLICE – 1.Being yelled at by an officer after I
(illegally) crossed the Burlington-Bristol Bridge in ‘80 near the end of the
ocean-to-ocean journey. Hey, I had crossed the country that far on my bike, I
wasn’t about to put it in the trunk of a car then.
2. Being pulled over on the Interstate into St.Louis. I knew I shouldn’t
have been there, but it was a much flatter ride. The officer was writing up a
hefty fine for me until I mentioned that I was writing a book about my exp
erience, after which he just gave me a warning…
3. On one of the Appalachian rides the campsite was too close to the
Appalachian Trail, and a $55 fine ensued. I recall seeing the officers shoes
at the tent door in the morning.
BEST PICNIC AND NAPPING PLACE – High up a huge culvert somewhere outside of
Gaviota, California. I was up with the clouds, my bike far below. It was a
desolate area – and the air was grand, the sky sunny, the view majestic.
WORST ENCOUNTER WITH BUGS – A cabin in Zion Park in ‘93 – they were infested
into the wood and then thickly blanketed the inside of the place just at
bedtime making it uninhabitable. Ended up sleeping in the tent outside, far
away. The owner wouldn’t give me my money back saying in effect, ‘You’re a
camper, you have to put up with these things.’ On top of that, he wanted to
charge me for the camp site, too!!!
Also, the mosquitoes in Minnesota in ‘85 and in Alaska in 2000.
Also, the billows of gnats that Bob Edwards and I rode through on our
late night ride into Clarkesville in ‘81.
CLOSEST TO NOT HAVING A PLACE TO STAY – I was riding out of Yuma in ‘80, late
at night, refusing to stay in a motel, when a kid who had seen me earlier
that day 75 miles or so away, came by in his pickup truck, and said I could
stay in his garage.
HOTTEST DAYS ON THE BIKE – summer of ‘01 through the northeast. On some of
the mountainous parts, I couldn’t get more than five minutes without stopping
and mopping. On the ‘81 trip to Georgia, the tire treads in the asphalt
COLDEST TIMES ON A TOUR – in the Rockies in ‘80. Some folks I was camping
next to had frost on their sleeping bag.
WORST CROSS WIND – riding for a number of miles at a 45-degree angle with
sharp ravines on my right side coming out of Soccoro, New Mexico in ‘80 on
what I believe was Route 66.
WORST ADVICE – given by a multitude of people, “It’s all down hill to
Soccoro!” It wasn’t all down hill and nobody mentioned the wind. Hard
pedaling down the hill. And I had been counting on a downhill that day, the
longest of my biking career in a single day.
MOST PATHETIC ANIMAL SIGHT – a big deer with a leg mired in the mud, grunting
to get out but stuck beyond help. Near Perry, FL on the Gulf Coast tour in
WORST FOG – on one of the Appalachian Mountain rides. The clouds were
crashing into the mountain. As I stood before one giant cloud, the immensity
of it was awing and it slowly, slowly moved toward the mountain peak i was
on. It was so well fully formed that I could reach out and touch it. Touching
a cloud: what an experience!! But then the bulk of it collided with the
steep terrain, and made a wall of fog. I spent another day at my campsite
catching up on postcards.
SLOWEST MOVING OBJECT SEEN ON A TOUR – In ‘85 from a campsite right on the
banks of the Mississippi I had a wondrous view of the river – and the
barges moved so slowly and smoothly. They were like hour hands… they
hardly seemed to move at all, and then you noticed, after looking away, and
then glancing back, how time tricked you, and movement was there after all.
But like southern drawls, and the ways of many southern folks, the barges
were purposeful & intent. And they were like time itself, forever moving
MOST TOUCHING DOG STORY – As I was coming out of Dodge City in ‘80, a whole
PACK of dogs were loping after me. I was worried a little, but they stayed a
good distance. One by one they got tired and left the pack. Until there was
just one dog left, and he followed me for miles and miles and many more
miles. I would stop and turn, and say, ‘Shoo’… But he would just look at
me from a little distance, wag his tail, and sit there. I grew attached to
the cute little thing, and had thoughts that he would follow me the whole way
home. But finally, he trailed off, and disappeared. I missed him.
MOST MEMORABLE BRIDGE CROSSINGS – he Golden State Bridge at dusk in ‘95, the
Louisiana Bridge over the Mississippi in ‘85 when the police ESCORTED me
across, and that crossing of that 7-mile Astoria bridge in ‘85 with the flat
in the middle of it during the storm.
ONLY ILLNESS ON A BIKE TRIP – A one day fever on the Across Wisconsin and
Michigan trip in ‘92. Spent it holed up in a motel. Better the next day.
MOST IMPORTANT ITEM TO HAVE ON A BICYCLE TOUR – beyond a doubt the most
important item to have is toilet paper.
TIME MOST FELT TRANSPORTED BACK TO PREHISTORIC TIMES – that run near the
campsite on the other side of Salt River Canyon. The trees were ancient, the
birds and bird sounds like pterodactyls winging over forest primeval.
BIGGEST UNEXPECTED LAUGH WHILE ON A BIKE – just coming out of that Salt River
Canyon in ‘80, after a torturously long climb (people were cheering and
trying to hand me money even!), I had just made it to a level area, and I
looked up at one of the very few cars there that went by and there from out
of the back window, three teenagers were mooning me.
THINGS LIKED LEAST ABOUT TOURING – not being able to recycle in a lot of
places. Even in some of the most majestic places, where they should be
conscious of such things, they have no one forward-thinking enough to start a
MOST EMBARRASSING SLIDE SHOW PRESENTATION – A new year’s eve presentation
where only one person showed up – my dad. True, it was snowing, and not many
were expected anyway because of the holiday…..
THE BEST BIKE TRIP – Any trip that is the NEXT one.