Miles Today – 231 – Total Miles – 231
1:30pm-9pm(!) 7.5 hours
Havertown,PA (western Philadelphia suburb) to New Haven, CT
(-stayed at Joel’s cousin’s home-)
(PA-NJ-NY-CT – 4/48)
-FIRST BIKING DAY – WONDERFUL SENDOFF – TRAVAILS IN NEW YORK CITY – HELLISH HEAT INTO WONDROUS COOL OF EVENING – IN LATE
Today was when the bravado and planning and talk about the trip met the reality of things smack in the face!
Went out for a morning run… took note of all the minute details of the trees and home and all along the way. The air was crystal clearness and fresh. Along the way I came coincidently upon Marty and Gianine, a couple with motorcycles. Gianine’s bike is a bright pink, and really stands out. I was excited to tell them about the trip we were to begin later in the day. But first there was business to attend to – Myron Weber’s wedding pictures. The friendly-sounding 60 year-old fellow had called perhaps a month ago. From Canada, and needing a photographer for a short session of pre-wedding photos on Sunday morning, it seemed like a perfect job. My thinking had always been to take a short couple of first days to somewhat gently weave ourselves into the fabric of the sure-to-be arduous trip. And for such a trip one just cannot be getting ready at the last moment, so we’d have to prepare way ahead of time anyway.
(In fact, we were about ready to go a full two weeks before departure. Had to be! In the days ahead of the journey, there were weekend photo shoots to finish – some within a week! This so clients wouldn’t have to wait six weeks for their albums. So we had been getting ready way before the big travel date, having the bike packed and check lists accounted for, gear assembled, and strategies thought about.)
This Sunday morning before departure job would be a small one. We could come home, change out of tuxes, and into motorcycle gear, say good-bye to a gathering of friends we had invited, and launch ourselves out into the country.
It almost worked out as planned. Turned out the list of pictures desired by Myron and his bride numbered almost to 50! And the synagogue where the event was to be held was almost 45 minutes away! So we dealt with it. After my morning run we left about 8am for the huge designed-by-Frank-Lloyd Wright synagogue, and got there in plenty of time. Saw an older slightly stooped fellow walking into the place for his morning prayers, and shouted a hearty, “How’re you doin’??” To which he replied with a smile, “Living!”
The shoot went very well. The 18 or so folks involved were all friendly, and we had lots of hearty joking around. My mind got into the concentration required for each picture, but I also had the bubbling excitement and growing enthusiasm for the adventure ahead – and my eyes constantly drifted to the time. We HAD to leave by 11am. Myron knew this from the start – Karen and I would be leaving even if people arrived late, or things were running late one way or another… It was very exciting, and we did leave only a minute or two after 11.
Now things just had to work like clockwork: home, change outfits, mingle with the pals invited over from 12:30-1:30pm, and be on the road. And that’s pretty much the way things worked.
The tension was broken a bit on the ride home. Listening to messages on the phone tape machine there was a funny call from fellow photographer and motorcycle enthusiast Dave Ickes. With a mock voice of an Italian and noting a fake name, he said he had a $12,000 wedding for us NEXT week, and hoped would we do it. He did it in a very funny way, and it helped break the tension of our thoughts in getting back home in time…
About 15 of the 25 folks invited came to see us off. Friends Felice and Dom brought a bagel tray, spreads, and a bowl of fruit. Howard, my first motorcycling mentor, only had a few moments to stop in on his way to a softball outing, but came to exchange hugs and good wishes. Sparky and Dave, our current motorcycling pals and mentors, came and stayed and rode out part way with us. A few neighbors came over. Brandon, Karen’s son of 23, came with his smile to see us off. We had a surprise visit from Susan, a friend of Karen’s who wasn’t going to originally be able to make it – she surprised us, and it was wonderful seeing her. Teenage photo assistants Sarah and Dean, and Sarah’s family came over for the festivities. Their presence and Sarah’s frequent smile, but sometimes really concerned expressions beamed at me, were a memorable part of the party. A couple folks expressed surprise that we could have people over right before such a trip… But there’s a point at which one just has to stop. Stop getting things done and rely on what’s been accomplished already and just enjoy the moment. And enjoy these minutes with friends we did.
A few moments before leaving I spoke a few words in the living room where a big 2x3ft colorful United States map with the projected route in dark marker was resting on the fireplace. I mumbled some things about thanking everyone for being there, and how their friendliness and energy poured into us and was inspiring. Then, summoning up some of the spirit of traveling and seeing new things, I recited a short poem that a fellow bicycle traveler taught me in Alaska:
Though your bones have got arthritis
and your bowels have got colitis,
You’ve got galloping gallop-itis
and you’re thinking it’s time you died.
But when you’ve been a man of action
though you’re lying there in traction,
You can say with satisfaction,
“Well, b’jeesus, as least I tried.”
And then, right on time, by 1:30pm we were out under the carport getting a picture of the group around the bright blue 1100cc Honda Shadow Spirit motorcycle. The camera flashes burst around us, and as we left I saw some other neighbors and passers-by come out into the humid afternoon to see what all the commotion was about. And we were on our way, Dave and Sparky tail-gunning behind us.
It was about two miles through the familiar neighborhood and then out to the big highway. Then about another nine miles to the even BIGGER highway (Route 95 north which we’d take all the way to Connecticut.) Dave had peeled off at around the 20 mile mark, but not before sending off a huge flashing smile and a generous thumbs up! Karen got a wonderful shot of that thumbs up as Dave zipped past us to the off ramp! Sparky and Dave had watched our backs. Literally. Part way up it was noticed the bags on the back of the bike weren’t seated just right and had shifted. Under an overpass 39 miles from home, Sparky adjusted the bags better and much more securely. He noted how when stopping on the side of the road it is always better to pull off where on-coming cars would have a good line-of-sight. It was important advice and appreciated.
We traveled on through the 90ish degrees of the Sunday afternoon. One time we got caught in about 15 minutes or so of back-up. I shouted over to Spark that this would likely not be the last time such a thing would happen – and he acknowledged that with his broad super-friendly grin and gleaming white teeth. Finally, out of the traffic mess, and after perhaps an hour, Sparky waved farewell, and we were left to ourselves, two friends in a slipstream of cool air heading on a little 10,000-or so mile jaunt around the United States. Off to see wondrous things and engage in whatever adventures befell us….
Along the way around Philadelphia proper we noted many other motorcycles. Some cruisers like ours, and some with the rider hunched over – those bikes are often referred to as ‘crotch rockets’. Many times these riders are young show-offy and risk-taking types. We noted a few crotch rocket guys weaving in and out of the slower traffic – a couple zipped in from the right in front of us……
The first tank up was at the Joyce Kilmer rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike. Gas was $2.31/gallon and we filled up for a bit more than $5. We sailed happily along. Enjoying the first moments of the gigantic ride that would encompass the next six weeks. We didn’t do much sailing in front of the George Washington Bridge however. There, the traffic was stonewalled to the complete stop. And it took us at least an hour and a half to go THREE miles. And that in sweltering humidity. Occasionally I would zip up a small portion of shoulder, but I carefully resisted the temptation to go between the rows of steaming traffic. At one point we chatted with a couple of guys from Pennsylvania, and told them about the trip. Also gave ‘em a pen with our website link so they check out the ride. A bit later they came up beside us, and the passenger guy was smiling and held up a camera phone and took our picture. We hoped he’d send it to us.
Shortly thereafter, moving along at a good clip again, while soaring down the highway, we lost the first thing off the bike. A handkerchief I had sloppily stuffed into the tank bag unwedged itself and flung free onto the highway….
Into the evening, we encountered wonderful coolness – especially appreciated after the day’s heat. The roads were long rolling and clean. It was many miles of pure delight.
By the time we arrived at my cousin Leslie’s home it was seven-and-a-half hours after take off, and a practically dark 9pm. Leslie and Marc own a big sumptuous home set back from the suburban south of New Haven road. A dirt and rock drive snaked up to the front door, and I tentatively purred the bike along that driveway, hoping not to end the day with an embarrassing fall along the uneven surface. It had been a couple years since seeing Les, and she greeted us warmly. Karen met her for the first time. She welcomed us in, and it was great being with her again. We were too late to go out with my uncle for a dinner, but Leslie provided us with all we desired – cold water, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for me, and a bowl of borsht for Karen. Also, a bowlful of cherries. My uncle Sam, an affable guy, came over after a bit, and with Leslie and her husband Marc, we sat on comfy plush sofas, caught up on family news, good-naturedly joked around, reminisced about old times, thought about people now passed away, and pondered about our trip ahead.
The calm conversation couched the defining moments of an auspicious day. We were thankful to be there after the day’s efforts and miles traveled.