Monday October 21st to Sunday October 27th
Monday October 21st
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I was staying with a wonderful family: Laurie, Ellie, Terri, Tom, Julie and Josh. They kindly took me to the Gettysburg Visitor’s Center to see the multiple exhibits they have there. And then toured me around the area, taking in all of the battlefields which cover a large area.
At the Visitor’s Center they show an excellently produced movie about the Civil War & Gettysburg’s role in it. They also have a Cyclorama room– a 360° painting of the battlefield which lights up in sections when the story is recounted over the speaker system. The first version of the painting by Paul Philippoteaux was completed exhibited in 1883. It was then lost and rediscovered in 1965. To think that one man painted this massive 360° extremely detailed painting is incredible.
The Gettysburg battlefields, the movie, the cyclorama– it all saddened me. Men and women killing each other, the pain, the lost limbs, the destruction of families, towns and cities. How can we do this to each other? How can we stand on a battlefield and shoot someone, bomb them, tear them apart and possibly leave them mangled for the rest of their lives? I watched the scenes and thought of these young soldiers– terrified, standing courageously under orders, fighting for what they believe in. I understand that sometimes war is necessary– to prevent a holocaust, torture and slavery– the extremely honorable sacrifice of lives for the benefit of humankind. That is amazing! What courage! But I wish war and armies weren’t necessary and I wish that we only went to battle when absolutely necessary. There are too many wars fought for causes that aren’t absolutely necessary. And I realized that I’ve led a very blessed life not to have ever faced war firsthand.
A bright, sunny day with good company. I felt a part of the family I was staying with. They all made me feel so welcome. But I have to keep going. I left Gettysburg and headed to Washington, DC, where Phill and Britt were waiting for me.
In the evening Phill, Britt and myself went for dinner and then a very amusing and wonderful tour of Washington, DC in Phill’s Jeep Wrangler, with the top off. Britt and I would jump out at various sights– The Jefferson Memorial, The Washington Monument, The Lincoln Memorial, The White House, the World War II Memorial– and Phill would drive around until we were ready to jump back in again. It all felt very SWAT team… Go! Go! Go!… Jump out, tour… “Pick you up on the corner”… Jump back in… Go! Go!Go! It was a great tour, lot’s of fun and all of the monuments were so beautiful at night. Added to that: an almost-full moon, bright white, shining mistily through the clouds above. Surreal.
Tuesday October 22nd
A sightseeing day in Washington DC. I rode the motorcycle to see the White House– amazing to think I got here! I wasn’t sure that I would. I never am sure that I’ll get anywhere. Every day is a present to be opened and to see what’s inside.
Meanwhile, the embers of my relationship back at home were slowly dying out. It didn’t look like our relationship would survive the journey. It’s been a struggle with me being gone.
After the White House I headed to the Newseum– a museum focused on news and media. I enjoyed the Pullitzer Prize Winning photo exhibit, Ethics in Media exhibit, and the 4D movie with my chair moving and wind blowing. I spent some time in the museum as I wanted to understand how stories are told. I have ideas. Throughout the museum I wondered why we focus on the bad news and misery. What about the good news? News and media has to be truthful, unbiased, and report hapeenings in the world, but must it focus on the deadly, the sadness, and the shocking? Couldn’t it focus on the heroic for example?
Then I went to the Old Post Office Tower and made the climb to the top to see the view over Washington DC, and to see the bells given to the USA by Britain to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the cessation of hostilities.
In the evening Phill, Britt and I decided to go Geocaching– something that my host Gail in Kenora had told me about. It’s a scavenger hunt via an App on your phone. “Caches” are placed around your city and you hunt for them via the App which provides GPS coordinates, mapping, a description of the location, hints and clues. We found two Goecaches that night and had fun reading the clues and hunting for the small packages left behind by others.
Wednesday October 23rd
I headed out to see the Arlington National Cemetery. Thousands of grave sites. I wondered around for about an hour taking it all in, then headed towards Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.
On the way I was riding along country roads and came across Bull Run, or First Manassas as it’s also known. This was the site of the first major conflict in the Civil War. Much like Gettysburg there is a large area of fields preserved from the battle site. I toured the visitor’s center and wondered why I am visiting so many sites of war recently.
I headed for Luray, Virginia. It was cold, in the 30’s with a severe weather alert: a freeze warning for the night.
I stayed in a nice B&B overlooking the mountains of Shenandoah. Such a beautiful view– whole mountainsides covered in multi-colored trees.
My relationship back home comes to an end. It is sad. We’ve been best friends for two years.
Thursday October 24th
Now that the journey’s end is a little over a week away and my relationship has dissolved my thoughts are turning more towards how I would like the future to look. Certainly a journey like this makes you not want to return to life as it was. A journey like this shows you other opportunities and possibilities. It makes you realize we are all human and each on our own adventure– no better or worse than any other, just different and unique. It gives you a sense of community.
I headed out to Luray Caverns to hunt down the organ and hope that it would be playing as I went through the caverns. Arty had challenged me to post a video of the organ playing in return for a donation to charity. I’ve been in a few cave systems and I would say that Luray is one of the most beautiful, with thousands of stalagtites and stalagmites. I recommend a visit. The organ was playing (it plays for every tour group that goes through). They hold several weddings here each year in The Cathedral– the cavern that contains the organ. It’s quite a unique place to get married. I threw coins into the wishing well and made a wish.
My only goal today was to make it to West Virginia, only a few miles away from Luray. I had figured out that West Virginia was the last US state remaining in which to ride the Triumph on the North American continent– a goal I now wanted very much to achieve. Little did I know it would take me right into the cold weather system that was coming through.
Driving over the Shenandoah Mountains and through George Washington National Forest was a dramatic experience in the Fall. Stunning tree-lined roads, mountains roads that climbed and fell steeply with sharp curves. Long straight roads in the valleys with trees that formed multi-colored, natural road tunnels. Beautiful! I made it to the top of the mountains. It was so cold. I kept putting my gloved hands on the engine to warm up my fingers and letting the warmth flow through the rest of my body. It was there that I crossed into West Virginia. Goal achieved! Every single state– me and the Triumph Bonneville.
I had looked at Google Maps and really couldn’t see any town to stop in. I had no plan. It was the afternoon. The plan became: ride through West Virginia until I found a place to stop for the night. I rode through Franklin. The weather was getting colder and colder. The next town was Monterey (back in Virginia), then Hot Springs and Warm Springs. One of these towns should have a place to stay hopefully. 21 miles to Monterey. It was dramatically colder on this side of the mountains and getting colder. I guessed the temperature was in the 40’s and dropping beyond 4pm. By the time I reached Monterey I had been riding through a snow shower for half an hour. Finally snow had caught up with me.
I pulled into Monterey and asked a lady walking across the gas station lot where the next town was, if there was anywhere to stay and eat in Monterey. She advised it would be best to stay in Monterey– not much of anything further on. I realized I was standing there with my teeth chattering. Ok, I was done for the day.
I headed to the motel a block away and booked myself a room. Turn up the thermostat and keep all the layers on. I stepped outside– still snowing. More snow predicted through the night. Temperatures below freezing predicted and into the morning.
I was concerned about the cold the next day and riding in it. I had two days to ride 270 miles to Raleigh, North Carolina where my friends Todd and Meredith were expecting me. The plan for the next day: bundle up as much as possible, get out of Monterey and try to ride at least 50 miles to the east where temperatures promised to be around 15 degrees warmer. If I was lucky I could perhaps make it 135 miles– half way to Raleigh.
Friday October 25th
29°s in the morning, with a high forecast in the 30’s. Six layers of clothes on the top, four layers on the bottom, balaclava, two pairs of gloves, and two pairs of socks. I’d stay as warm as I could. I just had to make it 50 miles over the mountains to the other side. It was the coldest day of the journey so far.
No snow this morning. I half expected the bike to be covered in snow when I woke up but it wasn’t. Blue skies and the sun is shining. Thank you!
I made it over the mountains and I felt relieved. I had stayed warm. I could keep going. The only cold parts of me were my fingertips and my nose. Everything else was A-ok. The journey was beautiful along Route 250 east towards Staunton– a drive I would rate very highly. If you’re ever in the area take Route 250.
I kept going. My thinking was ‘get as far south as you can today and maybe head into warmer weather.’ 135 miles, half way to Raleigh and I still kept going, just in case tomorrow was also a frigid day.
The roads I took through Shenandoah were amazing. Tight mountain switch back turns, 15ph stuff at points. Gorgeous tree lined roads. Then through farmlands. Virginia is gorgeous. I was heading east and then south. Got to keep riding and get as far as I can.
I kept sneezing. I hoped I wasn’t coming down with something. Orange juice. Vitamin C. If I kept going I would also make the 21,000-mile mark. I kept going. 21,000 miles! Made it! And Raleigh– I made it the whole way! 270 miles today. How on earth did I do that?
I found a room at La Quinta because I was now a day ahead of schedule and Todd & Meredith hadn’t received my message in time that I had made it to Raleigh. I didn’t want to inconvenience them at the last minute. I was feeling more ill. I headed to Walgreens to buy cold medicine and then went to bed hoping I would sleep the symptoms off.
Saturday October 26th
I woke up with a full blown cold and feeling run down. I didn’t want to get Todd & Meredith sick so I booked another night at La Quinta, stayed in my room, slept, watched a movie (“Craigslist Joe”), blogged a little, ate, rested and rested more– as much as possible. Tomorrow I had to be back on the road to keep on schedule for the finish line in Miami. My hope was that I would wake up feeling well enough to ride 250 miles as planned.
Watching “Craigslist Joe” I felt some affinity with his journey. We had very different journeys and I would say his was harder than mine since I never had to sleep in such rough conditions or stay up until 4am with nowhere to lay my head. I’ve been very blessed with comfortable rooms in people’s houses and motels. But there are certain commonalities– the sense of community, the not knowing where you are going to stay, listening to people’s stories, the generosity of people, inspiring people and being inspired, touching moments, gifts, feeling you’d been with someone for a month when it had only been two days, the sadness of poverty, having to leave people behind– all this is the same.
Sunday October 27th
My plan was to go to church. However, because my cold had prevented me from seeing Todd & Meredith yesterday as planned I made them the priority and headed to their place for breakfast with them before setting out on the road. We caught up and spent a few hours together, after 6 or so years of not seeing each other. I was wonderful to see them.
Day #3 of my cold. Not feeling great on the road isn’t very much fun. I managed to ride 150 miles or so before the light of the day set behind the horizon and I quickly found a place to stay. The temperatures were up in the 60’s today and I can’t tell you how good that felt after the recent cold weather. There’ll be no more cold weather from here on out. It’ll just get hotter and hotter. And I am looking forward to it!
Exactly one week until I cross the finish line. It’s beginning to feel very close and very far away. Right around the corner but a world away from mine for the last four months. It’s going to be very strange, very different, and it’s going to take some getting used to. I arrive in South Carolina. This is the final stretch towards home.
Monday October 14th to Sunday October 20th
Monday October 14th
I was staying in Montauk with Courtney and Tim. We had an affinity and shared plenty of laughs. I would ride around The Hamptons today, see what they are all about and return to stay a second night. Tim kindly mapped out a list of things to see and I set out for the day.
First order of business: visit the Montauk Lighthouse at the end of the island. The lighthouse sits on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic. Slowly the bluff is being eroded. The lighthouse was authorized to be built by Congress under George Washington in 1792. It’s the fourth oldest active lighthouse in the USA. I climbed the tower to the top on a clear-sky day and could see far off across the ocean, along the sandy beaches, and across the State Park inland. A gorgeous view.
I drove back to Sag Harbor to see the super yachts. There were only a couple left in the harbor. Perhaps all the others had already gone south. They weren’t particularly “super” either. I think in October I’d already missed seeing the best of the best.
I headed to Shelter Island but didn’t take the ferry across due to time. Next, Tim had told me that the biggest house in the USA was along Peter’s Pond Lane to the south. I found it and to get view I took a sandy side road towards the beach. It was a big house for sure. Who needs that much space I wondered.
I then headed towards Southampton but weekend traffic exiting The Hamptons, going back to New York City etc was very heavy. I ended up on Dune Road along the coast instead and found all of the big, modern homes Tim had recommended I see. They are something to behold and the sit right on the beach, which I decided to walk along for an hour or so.
Everywhere I went in The Hamptons I was taken by how many homes were for sale. They were everywhere. I don’t know why. Perhaps hard times have hit The Hamptons. There are many, many homes on the market.
Tuesday October 15th
A grueling day. A rushed day. A long day. Probably the longest and most jam-packed day of the whole journey so far.
I started in Montauk, leaving Courtney and Tim behind and headed for a lunch appointment with a friend at Trump Tower on 5th Avenue in New York City. Lunch had been arranged for noon. It took about 2.5 hours to ride there. I think I was about 10 minutes late. Sadly, my lunch with Amanda was rushed and cut short as I had to be back on the road at 1pm to keep my schedule. But it was good to see her and we had enough time to catch up a decent amount, so I’m very glad we made the effort to make it happen.
I left the heart of Manhattan at just after 1pm with the thought in mind that I had arranged to meet all of the UrbanPromise children in Wilmington, Delware at 4pm. It would be a close call. I was thrilled to be riding in the madness of Manhattan. It gave me a sense of accomplishment and I laughed with unbelief that I was riding my motorcycle down Madison Avenue, Avenue of the Americas, W 56th Street and 5th Avenue.
I rode like the wind and arrived at UrbanPromise Wilmington at 3 minutes to 4pm. Thank goodness for answered prayers! I made it. The children were ready for me and we all gathered in a large room with a projection screen on the stage showing my route. As always we talked about my journey, why I’m doing it (to support the children I was talking to because I believe in them), what I’ve seen along the way, and asked them what their dreams were. We went out to see the motorcycle and they asked enthusiastic questions. I get such joy out of meeting the UrbanPromise children. It’s always a high.
Then I had to ride back up into New Jersey, to Deptford Township where I was going to be staying for the next few nights. Deptford Township was perfectly located for my upcoming schedule.
Wednesday October 16th
I was scheduled to meet and talk to the UrbanPromise Trenton, New Jersey children today, at 4pm. That gave me enough time to head into Philadelphia first to do some sightseeing.
I drove around the historic city for a short while and then parked the bike so I could visit The Liberty Bell. Philly didn’t feel safe to be leaving the bike at all. I left it in a supervised lot and walked to The Liberty Bell. I was confused when I got to the bell– it’s just behind glass? You can’t go in and see it? Only see it from the outside? That’s odd. And then it dawned on me that we were still under a ‘Government Shutdown’. Well, I was able to see it through the window thankfully.
I walked the cobblestoned streets for a while, taking photos and then decided I’d like to drive up to Princeton and see it’s Theological Seminary. So I did. It wasn’t that far. The campus is quaint houses, historic churches and buildings, intermingled with trees turning all colors. Beautiful! It was quiet and peaceful and brought a smile after the unsafe feeling of being in Philly with the bike.
I arrived at UrbanPromise Trenton on time. I was surprised by Trenton. Some of it is beautiful historic stone buildings, like the State Capitol building with it’s dome. Other parts of Trenton were old houses that could have been beautiful if they’d been kept up. But they were located in poor neighborhoods, which seemed to cover large sections of the city.
My time with the UP Trenton children was rewarding as always and followed the same format, except this time the children got the additional thrill of me riding around the parking lot for them. They chanted, “wheelie! wheelie! wheelie!” but I can’t do a wheelie on the Bonneville. Instead I rode it through cones for them, hoping that would satisfy them instead.
Antonio, who works at UrbanPromise Trenton, told me that it was so good that we focused on the children’s dreams. He said many have lost hope or didn’t have dreams (what’s the point of having a dream if it’s never, ever going to be fulfilled?)
And I left Trenton after meeting an elderly lady, Edna, with HIV who was in tears. We sat and talked. She cried. She was glad to have someone to listen to her. But I left Trenton quite depressed. I couldn’t shake the feeling of a black cloud hanging over me. The poverty, the rundown houses, Edna, the UrbanPromise kids who are scared to dream– all left me with a heavy feeling.
I felt like Trenton was a prison for most there. Invisible bars of economic hardship and no way out. Horrible. And I only sensed the despair as I drove through. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live there. We must help our own people!
Thursday October 17th
One thing on the agenda today– ride to UrbanPromise Camden, New Jersey, get there at 2pm to speak with the children at first UrbanPromise center, opened 25 years ago.
Camden, New Jersey– billed as the most dangerous and poor city in the United States.
Joan, my host for the last couple of days warned me to be careful in certain sections of Camden. I’d also recalled the account of my Pastor, Hallie visiting this very center and being stopped in her car on the way into Camden and asked, “where are you going?” They let her and her friends go on when they mentioned UrbanPromise. So it was with some trepidation that I entered Camden on my motorcycle. Perhaps it was the route I took but I didn’t feel threatened or in harm’s way. In fact I thought Trenton was perhaps in worse condition than Camden from the standpoint of poverty. Camden has come along in the last few years. There are efforts to help.
UrbanPromise Camden is a unique center because it has a school that serves 600 children (out of 30,000 children in Camden). The school serves elementary through high school ages. I met with Jodina, the Executive Director, and then went into a full assembly room of children. All of the school children were there. As always, so friendly, all smiling, all wanted to say hello. They had made a big poster with their dreams on streamers taped across it. They had made a mobile out of a stick, string and pine cones which they had painted (it looked really good!). And after my presentation and talking about their dreams they sang two songs and also performed a drum piece. It was all quite spectacular.
I sat afterwards with Dr. Bruce Main, President and Founder of UrbanPromise. We chatted for a while about my journey and then he gave me a tour of the school. Wow, what a school! The children are in excellent hands. I would say much better than your average school. The children here are always affirmed, built up, they feel good to be at school, they go through an amazing ‘rite of passage’ camping and hiking trip before high school graduation, they are loved, they are given attention, they are given what they need to succeed in this world. To be honest I was quite envious– I wish I had gone to a school like this! I think most of us would feel the same if you saw the school too. It is a place where children blossom to their full potential. Yes, there should be an UrbanPromise center in every city in the USA, and beyond.
Friday October 18th
Dr. Main had invited me back for an unscheduled additional meeting with the UP Camden high school students– at the weekly Friday Lunch Club. At the Lunch Club local business people (mentors) from the surrounding cities come in and have lunch with the high school students.
On this particular Friday Dr. Main had me push the motorcycle into the lunch room. I was quite amused by this. I thought it was great! So did everyone else (who had no idea why it was there).
We all grabbed lunch, had an ice-breaking few minutes where we all met someone new, and then Dr. Main invited me up to the front for a Q&A session. Following on from me was the two Directors of UrbanPromise Malawi who had flown in to provide an update to everyone on how things were going there and to describe what school was like at UP Malawi. The whole lunch was extremely inspiring for everyone in attendance.
Then off to Lancaster, PA. I had promised Joan, my host, that we would take a ride together through the farmlands and Amish country for a nice afternoon trip. It was a long ride and Joan was surprised to find Lancaster not as she remembered it. But the rolling hills and woods of the farmlands was totally worth the journey. It was a good day!
Later I wrote a text to an MSPC member: “Coming to the fore now are thoughts of the journey ending. It both seems far off (something that doesn’t seem real) and something very close (two weeks away). I wonder what on earth God has in store for me next. I don’t want to go back to doing what I was before, I want to keep doing some kind of missionary work like this, whether it’s in Miami or beyond. What shape it might take, if it happens, I just don’t know. I cannot wait to get back to Miami to see all the dreams on Miami Shores Presbyterian Church. I sincerely feel that I have been doing one of the most important things of my life. I have new hopes and dreams that have risen in my heart because of this journey. I’m looking forward to heeding my own advice… “Just take the next step and leave the rest to God”… And starting on the next adventure. The next adventure won’t look like this one but I hope it’s just as important.”
Saturday October 19th
I had thought that perhaps I could make it to both Washington DC and then to Annapolis, Maryland. It became apparent that I couldn’t do both and so I decided just to head to Annapolis.
Annapolis was such a shock to my system after four days in Wilmington, Trenton and Camden. Annapolis was a pleasant shock. It was the opposite of everything I had seen in the last few days. All of a sudden I had gone from desperate poverty to idyllic quaintness and prosperity. My system had somehow adjusted to scenes of difficulties. To now be in a world of marinas, boats, farmer’s markets, coffee shops, men and women in sharp-dressed uniforms, cobbled streets and 1800’s storefronts, so close to all the poverty was a welcome relief to be honest.
Sunday October 20th
Into town with my hosts Laurie and her daughter Ellie, and two other couch surfers Phill and Britt who were also staying at Brian, Laurie, and Ellie’s house. Grabbed some breakfast and I split off from the group to attend church at First Presbyterian of Annapolis. I found out later that the church was one of our MSPC member’s home church, and where her parents are buried. Small world, all the time.
The message for me today: persistence and stewardship. Interesting. Very. I can’t really explain at this time other than to say that I wonder if stewardship will play a role in my future somehow. The word had came up weeks and weeks prior to this and it’s been rolling around my brain ever since. We’ll see. I think stewardship fits quite nicely with one of the things I sing to myself in my helmet sometimes (and when walking through woods when no one is around)… “Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” I love singing those lines and it makes me recall where everything in this world originates from, and that we must look after it all properly and to the best of our ability.
Phill and Brittany packed up and left for Washington DC. I packed up to head to Gettysburg, PA– a place I had wanted to visit. Before Phill and Britt left they offered me a place to stay in Washington DC, which I gratefully accepted! Then I rode out along the expressway and along route 140 towards Gettysburg where I was spotted on the road by a couple who photographed me riding along from their car, and then later sent me the photo via Facebook. Pretty cool!
I arrived in Gettysburg. I had been told there’s not much there. It isn’t true! There’s lots to see and do in Gettysburg. It’s a small town, very historic, well-maintained, plenty on offer for the tourist, and it is surrounded by well-preserved historic sites from the Civil War. It’s well worth a visit.
Journey’s end creeps closer. Today is exactly two weeks away from crossing the finish line. Real life back home seems like a million miles and hours away from today. Completely unreal. I can’t grasp the reality of it.
Monday October 7th to Sunday October 13th
Monday October 7th
Feeling miserable in a cell of a motel room on the outskirts of Boston. I felt unsafe in the area. I’m increasingly disliking the feeling of being in cities whilst on the journey. The motel has was fenced in. I wonder, is it time to move out of the big city I live in and move to a simpler place? There’s a certain fear and standoffishness that pervades a city. In a city I need to keep on eye on the motorbike.
I was headed for Hyannis on Cape Cod, not knowing that it is the home of the Kennedy family. I randomly chose a town half way up the island for convenience. It has often happened on this journey that I find myself in the perfect location without putting any great planning into it. Prayer is often all the planning you need.
Boston’s rain was still hanging around in the early part of the morning and then changed to a mix of sunny and overcast. The rain has been the worst to deal with. The rain makes the days colder and stops you from doing so many things, like jumping off the bike for that quick photo op. It’s even difficult to put gloves back on when your hands are wet.
I set the GPS to take me along the back road of Massachusetts, heading through small towns such as Plymouth. Plymouth, a lovely little town. I noticed lots of signs about pilgrims. I was about to leave town when I saw a sign for Plymouth Rock. Ohhh, really? That’s where I am? Wow. That changed everything. I parked the bike and took a wander around. I went to see Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower from across the water.
I arrived on Cape Cod and loved how pretty it was. “I could live here,” I thought.
Tuesday October 8th
Mia, my couch surfing host very nicely toured me around Hyannis, showing me all the sights, telling me all the history, showing me where the Kennedy’s live. Then I set off for Provincetown on the end of Cape Cod, and then back towards Rhode Island. A beautiful sunny day. At last.
I stopped along the northern shore of Cape Cod and watched the seals playing in the ocean. There was a sign advising swimmers that Great White Sharks inhabit the waters.
Provincetown turned out to be Cape Cod’s answer to Key West in Florida. Quaint old homes and streets with a main promenade of boutique shops. The Pilgrim Tower is here, celebrating the probable site of the pilgrim’s first landing (not Plymouth Rock). I didn’t find the town to be motorcycle friendly, i.e. the parking lots nearly all said “No motorcycles”, so I rode around and left. The town was full of tourists. The roads leading into town lined with old seaside motels. I imagine in the summer it’s difficult to get around due to traffic congestion.
I stopped outside of Provincetown to see where the pilgrims first found, fresh water. I took a walk through the woods amazed that I was walking where the pilgrims first walked in this strange new land. There was a sign warning of the presence of poison ivy. I’ve never really seen poison ivy or felt it. Part of me wanted to brush up against some to see what the reaction would feel like. But I didn’t. The woods were much like those in England and I wondered what the pilgrims thought of coming thousands of miles to find landscapes with such a familiar feel to them. I love the peace of being out in the countryside alone.
That evening I arrived in Warren, Rhode Island. My hosts cooked loin and roasted vegetables. I was staying with Artemis, Alan and Katerina. Artemis had found out about my journey from a blast sent out on Facebook by Triumph, and had followed my journey for a while on Facebook and then kindly extended an invitation to come and stay with them.
Wednesday October 9th
Ran a few errands with Artemis and then to the mansions of Newport and a walk along the cliffs. It’s amazing to think that some people can amass such wealth to build homes like the mansions of Newport. And they are just the summer homes! They are huge with beautiful grounds, all lining the cliff’s edge, looking out over the ocean.
We took a walk around Warren to look at some of the churches. We stopped by St. Michael’s. The church was closed but there were two ladies standing outside. Artemis knew one of them and asked if they were waiting for the church to open. Yes, they were– for a yoga session. The church provides free yoga sessions. The sanctuary inside is stunning. I can only imagine how moving yoga in that sanctuary could be.
Thursday October 10th
I headed from Rhode Island towards Torrington, Connecticut. There was a couple of National Geographic “Drives of a Lifetime” that I wanted to do in Connecticut.
I rode along Route 169 in eastern Connecticut, through autumnal trees and woods, and New England wood-paneled homes. It was beautiful and cold. I was feeling fed up of feeling chilled to the bone. But the drive along perfect roads, that bent and rose leaving you feeling like you were riding a roller coaster made up for the chill factor.
I stopped at a Dunkin Donuts and someone left $10 on my bike for me. I think it was the guy who walked passed and asked what I was doing and where I was going. I went inside and when I came back out he had departed and $10 was sitting strapped to my bike. The generosity of people sometimes is really heartwarming. It’s not all bad. In fact people are mostly good.
Friday October 11th
A cold night but thankfully a warm day. No chills to the bone on the bike today, thankfully, at last. I breathed a sigh of relief.
I took a National Geographic “Drive of a Lifetime” in a circuitous route from Torrington in western Connecticut, down to New Milford and back up to Canaan, via Routes 202, 109 and 7. The road was truly like a roller coaster taking my stomach with it. Perfect roads and sharp bends through woods. There were times that I felt slightly out of control, just like on a roller coaster. But still, I knew it was going to be ok. “Whooaaaaaa!,” I said sometimes and laughed. I hit 19,000 miles today (or 30,500 km).
I rode into Liberty, New York. Liberty and the nearby towns all looked like they had seen better days. It seemed that businesses had been moving out. Buildings looked dishevelled and run down. The day was wearing on. No time to go anywhere else. Liberty it was for the night. I searched Yelp for a place to stay and found the Lazy Pond B&B. I decided to head there and was delighted by what I found– 12 acres of wooded lands, three wood-paneled buildings and rooms that made you feel like you were sleeping in your own house.
That evening I watched a Diane Sawyer 20/20 Special with Malala. Malala said, “Girls should be able to realize their dreams too.” Malala’s dream is to become a politician.
Saturday October 12th
I was very thankful to be staying at Lazy Pond B&B. Two nights somewhere is always good because you can settle in and leave your belongings and explore without them for once.
I readied for the day with the plan to head to the site of the Woodstock concert. I went out to the bike, looked at the chain and… Oh my word! Droopy! I had planned on a day riding around the Catskill mountains after going to Woodstock. Well, that ride wasn’t going to happen.
I found Rockwell Cycles on the Internet, about 60 miles away. I called and spoke to Nick. He said he could fit me in if I got there between 3 and 4 pm. I looked at my watch. This was now going to be a rushed day with no riding through the Catskills. Technically I was staying in the Catskills so I guess I’d have to be satisfied with that.
I headed to Yasgurs Farm in Bethel about 20 mins away, the original site of the Woodstock concert. I met three ladies there and they told me their dreams of finding that one special relationship, and health and success for one of their daughters. They said my journey was inspiring and that it made them want to do something for charity.
I looked at the fields and tried to imagine 450,000 people in this small place. It was a 600 acre farm but where I stood it looked just like a big field, not nearly enough room to fit that many people. The surrounding roads are small country lanes, bendy, hilly, and narrow. How on earth did they get all those people, the bands, the trucks, everything here? It seems physically impossible. No wonder surrounding houses became islands in a sea of people.
I had about an hour remaining, enough time to visit the museum before I had to leave for Rockwell Cycles in Fort Montgomery, close to West Point. I met two big, burly guys on the way to the parking lot who said “that takes guts” when they heard about my journey. I hope it inspires them to dream big.
The ride to Fort Montgomery was very windy, like struggling through glue. Traffic was horrendous by Bear Mountain. Traffic was backed up for miles– Octoberfest plus a football game. After sitting in traffic for some time it became obvious I wasn’t going to make the appointment and I’d have to wait two days until they re-opened on Tuesday. A group of four motorcycles cut down the center of the two lanes of cars. I decided to follow, using them in front as a shield for any motorists that took exception and tried to cut us off. There were a few of those motorists trying to squeeze us against cars in the other lane thereby stopping us from proceeding. Their plan didn’t work and thankfully our motorcycles were able to make it through safely.
I made it to the appointment late but Rockwell Cycles were still able to do the work I needed before they closed. It was a relief to get there. The dealership informed me that I wouldn’t have been able to go too much further with the existing chain without breaking it. Two more days riding to another dealership could have meant a breakdown on the way. I was very thankful that a new chain was installed just in time. I also bought a new, brighter headlight. The headlight I had supplied very poor visibility at night, dangerously so I thought. I was also able to purchase a new right hand mirror to replace the one that had been precariously glued on and lasted since Anchorage (with some re-gluing and falling off along the way).
Sunday October 13th
I was still in Liberty, NY and had arranged with the B&B to go to church and then come back and collect all my gear. I had chosen First Presbyterian Church of Liberty because it was the first church I saw coming into town, because it was Presbyterian, and because they had a sign outside announcing a fish ‘n chip dinner in a couple of weeks. Sounded like the perfect place for a Brit to go to church!
In the pews was a single blue welcome card for visitors, right next to where I chose to sit. I couldn’t see any more of them around me in other pews. The card announced on the front “I Wish…” and inside “”We want to make your wishes comes true.” It was a nice welcome. I felt at home. It was a message very similar to that of this journey– dreams.
I had come to yet another church with an interim or guest pastor. I’ve visited so many of them on this trip. I wonder why. The Rev. John H Jenner was the itinerant pastor for this week. I learnt later in speaking to him that he was homeless for some time. I wished I’d had time to spend with him and hear his story. Again it was another service full of the word “endure” and a theme of endurance. I felt for the third time that I was getting confirmation that the journey must go on. “Keep going!” is the message I received. If God keeps telling me to keep going then it must be an important journey to Him.
I collected some of the dreams of the congregation. One person’s dream focused on the revitalization of the area and Liberty itself. He said that Liberty was a poor town with very few job opportunities. He seemed to be suffering from the lack of opportunities.
I left Liberty and headed down the beautiful tree-lined Pallisades Highway through New York City, along a very long Long Island, all the way to Montauk at the end of the island. I arrived after dark on a cold night and was thankful for my new headlight.
I would be staying with Courtney and Tim in Montauk for a couple of nights before heading back west towards New York City. A young couple. Courtney wise beyond her years and Tim a light-hearted soul who’s mission it was to catch his first fish. It was a house full of laughter and happiness. They were always giggling. It made me smile. It’s so wonderful to see a happy couple enjoying each other so much.
Monday September 30th – Sunday October 6th
Day 93 – Monday September 30th
I departed Burlington, Ontario and by 10:30 am I was in the heart of the city of Toronto to meet with an old friend, Julia. We hadn’t been in touch for perhaps 6 years. Back then we’d had a falling out and severed ties. It was time for reconciliation. I felt like God was guiding me in that direction and Julia had reached out to me. We sat for an hour or so talking about our present lives. Zero re-hashing of the past. We just moved on. Reconciled.
Six or seven years ago was not a happy time. The economy, investments, the real estate market all seemed to be booming, just before it all crashed in on us. It was a time of stress, panic attacks and visits to the hospital for me. We all felt the pressure. I look back and wonder: are material possessions, prosperity, “keeping up with the Joneses,” and “success” worth the pressure and heartache it can bring along with it? I would say “no.”
We know that jobs, marriages, houses, friendships and businesses were lost during those years of the crash. For me, ad agencies closed down and a total of two years of unemployment followed. My American Dream suburban life fell apart. I look back now and I am very thankful for it. I feel those “bleak winter years” were instrumental in my growth– years in which I came to give up on my own strength and look to God more than ever for guidance and wisdom. He became the only person left to trust, certainly not myself. That is a priceless lesson to learn, a great gift to be received.
Years later it seems that I am in a place where I have grown enough that those lost relationships can be mended. It’s not of my doing. They’ve come as a gift. Before and during this journey I’ve been contacted by old friends that I lost ties with. We’ve been in contact because I had come to their minds and they reached out, not knowing anything about what I was doing, or we ran into each other somewhere. Life-events that all of a sudden brought us together again. I attribute these mended relationships to God because there’s no other way that four people would all come out of the woodwork at the same time, within a few months of each other. You know when God works. I feel very blessed. Thanks for mended relationships! Thanks that I am in a place that they can be!
I headed out of a wet Toronto wanting to get out of the bad weather as soon as I could. Riding 100 to 250 miles per day you can almost discount the weather report because guaranteed the weather will change further on down the road. The key is to keep optional clothing close at hand, to be able to add or remove clothing as required.
I headed to Niagara Falls, the US border and New York State where the rain had stopped and the skies were bluer. I’d been to Niagara Falls before so I rode up and down the road slowly, looking over the wall along the sidewalk and viewing the Falls from the motorbike. If I stood up on the foot rests I could see plenty. No need to get off, pay for parking and walk amongst swarming crowds of tourists. I’m too used to the peace of wide open spaces with hardly anyone around. Three months into my journey I prefer places without hordes of people. If there’s an attraction with lots of people at it I will often keep riding and leave it behind.
The border crossing was easy. Perhaps the customs and immigration officer was a motorcycle rider. I had a feeling he was. It was a pleasant experience.
I headed towards Liverpool, NY just outside of Syracuse. Liverpool– the soccer team in the UK that I support and therefore what made me choose to come and see Liverpool, NY. I had found a CouchSurfing host– Becca greeted me with 5 enthusiastic dogs. Bounce, bounce, bounce! They all kept me laughing that evening.
Day 94 – Tuesday October 1st
Liverpool, NY is 50 miles or so from Colgate, University. A few days previously Rev. Hallie at Miami Shores Presbyterian Church had sent me a note– “are you going anywhere near Colgate University?” I was. Hallie suggested I should visit with Jenna, a former high school leader of MSPC’s youth group. I contacted Jenna and she had set up a lunch at the University with the Chaplain and 20 or so other students.
I rode the 45 miles through the rolling hills and winding roads of New York State, along Route 20, through beautiful towns such as Cazenovia. Colgate University is located on a hillside and was surrounded by autumnal trees, in the midst of the Village of Hamilton, Hamilton has a population of around 4,000 people. The school is ranked 13th on Forbes top liberal arts colleges, which is quite fitting since the university’s lucky number is 13. The school is said to be founded by 13 men with 13 dollars, 13 prayers and 13 articles. Colgate’s address is 13 Oak Drive. The university’s zip code is 13346 (begins with 13 and the remaining three numbers add up to 13). The senior honor society is comprised of 13 men and 13 women. Colgate Day each year is Friday the 13th. Oddly, my lucky number is also 13 and so was my father’s. And a couple of days before my visit I had laughed when I noticed that I had pumped $13.13 worth of gas at pump #13.
Jenna, myself, “Putter” the Chaplain and 20 students gathered in the chapel. We ate pizza, drank soda and I told them about my journey. We collected all of their dreams and they asked plenty of questions. I read them a passage from the epilogue of Bob Goff’s “Love Does” book which talks about your next steps– how do you put love into action? Focus on what you love to do, what you were created to do (look at your likes and dislikes, talents and gifts, what excites you) and take the next step. Watch what happens…
It was a great time together. Putter, Jenna, and two other students, Sam and Jeff, gave me a tour of the chapel, we prayed in the parking lot, and Jenna then gave me a walking tour of the rest of the campus. It is consistently named as one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. I can only imagine how beautiful it is in the snow. There are 2,300 trees on the 515-acre hillside property.
Before I leave Jenna gave me a challenge: to find her a funky pair of socks. (They have already been shipped to her.)
I rode back to Liverpool along Route 20. Everybody at Colgate was saying that the weather was unseasonably warm. It made my ride back a joy. The leaves have turned color and now they were starting to fall and cover the ground. They drop, float to the ground with a kind of delicate sadness. Like a lazy fall to sleep, gently leaving a previous time behind. Occasionally they would blow off in a shower that I would ride through, like giant colorful snowflakes wafting to the floor. I ride through the cloud going “weee, whoa, hahahahahaha.
I left Liverpool, Becca and the five bouncing doggies behind. Becca left me with a challenge– go to Fenway Park and take a photo there. She would donate to SNORT: Short Noses Only Rescue Team. SNORT’s mission: to rescue short nosed dogs (French Bulldogs etc) from shelters and homes that can no longer look after them, and place them into new homes. Becca had been babysitting Roxy, one of the dogs featured on the SNORT website. Roxy also has her own Facebook page with hundreds of followers. Since my visit Roxy has been placed in her new happy home.
I was on my way to Rutland, Vermont– about half of the return journey to the Mount Washington Auto Road in New Hampshire where I would make a second attempt at riding to the top, if the weather permitted. The mountain is famous for dangerously erratic weather. Until 2010 it held the world’s record for the highest wind gust measured on the earth’s surface, at 231mph.
It was a somewhat cold start to the day but the day turned beautiful later. I took the Adirondack Trail through the mountains seeing leaves of many colors. It was prime “leaf-peeping” season. Golds, browns, reds and yellows. The leaves were beginning to fall in showers that would come towards my helmet as I rode through them. Sometimes there were patches of leaves lying in the road. I would ride through them and watch them climb up into the air in my rear view mirror, swirling up behind the bike. I stop many times for photos.
I stopped at a gas station in the mountains to refuel and met Tom Murphy. We talked for a long time. His dream is to ride to Alaska. He wanted to hear my stories and all about the experience of riding there.
I had found a place to stay in Rutland with Couch Surfing host, Christine. I was looking forward to the visit and hearing all about her profession as a Circus Teacher. We met at the gymnastics school that she teaches at. The owner of the school is Shelby, who’s birthday it was that day. Christine, myself, Shelby and her boyfriend Chris all went into the heart of Rutland to listen to an open mic night, and to hear Chris play guitar and sing for Shelby. I met the owner of the pub, Steve, who happened to be English. He’d grown up in London and told me all about all the motorbikes he’d owned and how rough it used to be in London in the 70’s.
I headed east along Route 4 in Vermont, and then north along route 100. This is a National Geographic “Drive of a Lifetime”. I was given a book as a gift with 500 drives of a lifetime. I’m trying to do as many as I can on my journey. This route is truly a drive of a lifetime at this time of year with the leaves so many different colors. Through the green covered mountains that are now a solid golden brown and yellow. The leaves are falling. A few trees have lost all of their leaves and are a ghostly grey, they are now whisps of their previous selves. The weather is like a summers day. Blue skies and hot. Days like this on the bike are an extreme joy. I thank God and the beauty puts butterflies in my stomach. I would consider living in central Vermont, historic towns with old wood paneled buildings, towns founded in the late 1700’s.
I stopped in Waterbury in the center of Vermont where Routes 100 and 2 meet and met Mike. He was working behind the sandwich counter at the gas station. In his mid-thirties, long brown/grey hair, tied back in a pony tail, and a beard. He made me a great Philly Cheesesteak sandwich and we talked. He’s not the owner of the station but he has big dreams and plans. He wants to bring in car hops to serve food in the parking lot, he wants to start “dinner and a movie” night there for families, and on other nights have bands and comedians performing in the back parking lot. He’s very happy and content. He worked behind a desk for 20 years or so. He gave that up, took a big pay cut, and is now very happy doing what he’s doing. He gave me a dollar coin to keep with me on my journey as good luck. He was the nicest guy in the world.
Some of the houses in Vermont have the look of the Adams Family’s house. I’ve never seen houses quite like them in other locations.
Day 97 – Friday October 4th
I had made it back to Gorham for the second time– the town 8 miles from the base of Mount Washington. I got up and called the Mount Washington office, “are you allowing motorcycles up the mountain today?”. “Yes, it’s beautiful up there right now.” they reply.
It had occurred to me that had I been able to ride up the mountain when I was first here it would have been with a rear tire without much tread left on it. I had since been to Toronto and got myself a brand new back tire. I was ready, on this second attempt, to come down steep mountain roads with a good back wheel. I felt much relieved about that. Everything happens for a reason.
The ride up and down the mountain was not a disappointment. The view from the top is quite dramatic since the mountain is the highest for miles around. On a good day you can see the Atlantic Ocean from the top, they say. The road starts lined with beautiful autumnal trees, then as you climb higher you come to alpine pine, and higher still you come to tundra. Most of it is well paved but there is a steep section of hard packed dirt. Thank goodness for the new rear tire. I enjoyed the experience so much I rode up and down the mountain twice.
Then, off to Laconia, home of the biggest annual motorcycle rally in the US. It was the time of year for the rally but I wanted to see what Laconia was like and spend some time riding the roads that would be empty of the hordes of motorcycles at rally time.
Laconia sits on a lake and is pretty nondescript, nothing to bring people out for. Obviously they come for the roads. The leaf-peepers are out. Motel rates are up from just last week. It’s “leaf season.”
Day 98 – Saturday October 5th
I spent the day riding around the roads of New Hampshire, north to the White Mountains, which are dramatic in places with gorges, falls and steep granite cliff faces. Combined with multi-colored trees the region is quite something to behold.
I ride a circuitous route and headed to my final destination of Manchester in the south. I thought about Bob Goff’s comment in an email to me, “let me know what you learn.” I’ve learned, and I’m convinced, that our dreams turn into our stories, that turn into relationships, that all culminates in our legacy. That there is nothing new under the sun as it says in the Bible (Ecclesiastes 1:9). I’ve learnt that I personally draw closer to those that support my dreams and increase the distance from those that don’t. It’s just my natural tendency to do that. I can’t help it. I’m thinking continually of new jobs, the next step, new projects, new ideas. We’ll see what comes to fruition following the trip. I hope some of it.
I ride through Campton, New Hampshire. There are big old wooden houses here. Rolling hills and tree lined roads. I’m naturally gravitating continually to these roads and staying away from big towns.
Going through the White Mountains there are hundreds of East Indian people and I wonder why. There are more East Indians than anyone else. Whole families traveling together. I stayed at Hill Brook Motel that night and the owner was Indian. I asked him about this phenomenon. He said its a close knit community that follows each other, and he’d been noticing the same thing as I.
Day 99 – Sunday October 6th
Bedford Presbyterian Church was just down the road from the motel. I headed there in the rain. A gentleman was climbing out of his car and I asked, “Is this the presbyterian church?” It was. I parked and walked in wearing full wet rain gear, helmet and all.
Bedford, just outside Manchester, New Hampshire is a beautiful residential area. The church has the oldest Presbyterian sanctuary in the state of New Hampshire. The church itself was built in 1832. It was World Communion Sunday, which was started in 1936 by the Presbyterian Church as a way to offer peace around the world.
The sermon was from Psalm 137– it’s tone is one of grief stricken agony. The message– you don’t always have to be joy, joy, joy when you go to church. Bring all of your feelings to church and be honest with God. This pain is part of life. Bring your laments to God and worship. Get real with God and open yourself up.
Afterwards I was introduced to a smiling Rev. Karen Hagy who was delighted to hear about my journey and show me where to go to get coffee and join the adult study group. It was such a joy to be greeted so warmly and genuinely by Karen and everyone else. I joined the study group that was studying “Proof of Heaven” by Eben Alexander, based on his near-death experience. We had a lively discussion about science and religion. At least three people were science teachers who believe in God and the Bible, who believe (like myself) that science points to God not away from God. And if only others could see it. At times the conversation got technical and scientific. We were all animated and excited to be talking amongst like-minded people. We talked about our dreams. I talked of how I’m becoming increasingly convinced that those dreams come out of our core from who we’re created to be. That our dreams need to be affirmed and supported by others because we are therefore affirming what God has created. One science teacher, Eric, was fascinated by my journey because he was currently reading and discussing “Into the Wild”, the story of Chris MacCandless in Alaska.
Rev. Hagy gave me an envelope with supreme joy, containing money that I was to pass along to someone in need that I met along the way. I still have the envelope. I’m looking forward to meeting that person. She also gave me money to help with my journey, which astounded me. It’s extremely touching and affirming of what I am doing. Words aren’t enough to express the gratitude. It was a very pleasant shock.
I drove in the rain. I thought of trying to communicate what the visibility of driving in the rain has been like sometimes. Imagine driving your car in the rain with no windshield wipers and then breathing on the window and steaming it up. That’s the visibility I’m dealing with on occasions, such as this day.
I headed into Boston to secure the photo of Fenway Park for Becca. She’d promised to donate to SNORT: Short Noses Only Rescue Team if I got the photo. It was wet and raining. In and out of Boston. Had it been sunny maybe I would have stayed around because I would love to spend some time in Boston, but the rain forced me to go somewhere else, anywhere else, where I wouldn’t be soaked.
I headed along the expressway. Visibility not great. Cars surrounding me on the expressway. Riding at speed on wet, busy roads. I was getting cold. The battery was dying on the phone (no more GPS directions), I was hungry, tired, and I’d had enough. I had to find somewhere to stay and call it a day. I prayed for a Motel 6 and got one at the next exit. That made me laugh and smile. Within half an hour I was in a dry room getting warm. Oh thank you God!
Monday September 23rd to Sunday September 29th
Day 85 – Monday September 23rd
I was staying one night in one of Debbie Eden’s apartments in St. John, New Brunswick. The day started with Debbie giving me a walking tour of the city and the market. It’s an historic city. All the houses built in the 1800’s. Like a lot of port cities (Seattle, San Francisco, etc) the city burnt down and had to be rebuilt. It’s a gritty and authentic city with plenty of character. It still has the feeling of an old fishing port. It’s real. I like it.
Debbie’s Japanese daughter-in-law and grandson joined us for breakfast at Cora’s restaurant– her and her husband (Debbie’s son) have just returned from living in Japan. Michael is now helping to run the family business of apartment buildings. Debbie gave me a tour of one. They are all big historic brick buildings and they’ve done a great job renovating them– wood floors, high ceilings, interior design at it’s best. From talking to Debbie it seems that St. John would be a good place to buy property, renovate it and sell. St. John used to be the biggest city in Canada at one point. Now it is past it’s glory days but I still like it.
Debbie took me on a driving tour of the city which I was very appreciative of. We headed up to the Reversing Falls. They are not falls, it’s a wide river with rapids. But the unique thing is that the tides rise in the Bay of Fundy so rapidly, and so high, that the tide reverses the flow of the whole river!
Later in the day I rode from St. John, New Brunswick and headed to Maine. I crossed the border at a town called St. Stephen’s. I was back in the USA. I had also crossed the last of 10 time zones, and completed 16,000 miles.
I was sad to be leaving Canada. I felt right at home there. I entered the USA with some reticence and was greeted by a surly immigration person. I aimed for Bar Harbor just outside Acadia National Park. What a lovely surprise Bar Harbor is! Quaint. Lots going on. Swish hotels and B&B’s. I think it’s Maine’s answer to Key West, except a bit more upscale.
I had Maine lobster for dinner. I was dying to try it. I’d been told it’s so succulent here– it just melts in your mouth. I must have chosen the wrong lobster restaurant because I found it to be just as chewy as in Florida, and not as melt-in-your-mouth as the hype had suggested. I hope one day I come back and find a restaurant serving melt-in-your-mouth lobster.
Day 86 – Tuesday September 24th
Up at 7am ready to go! Jumped on the phone at 8am– TicketClinic to pay a speeding fine from before the trip, called and sorted out the water bill at home, called two Triumph stores in Toronto to set up a service appointment, and sent out some Couch Surfing requests for Toronto.
A freezing day outside and damp. My goal– to ride to the top of Cadillac Mountain, Maine and then get on the road to Berlin, New Hampshire so that I can ride the Mount Washington Auto Road tomorrow.
I hoped I would stay warm. Bad fogging of visor and glasses in the morning’s wetness. I could hardly see a thing. It was too wet and not there wasn’t enough grip on tires to go to Cadillac Mountain. I arrived at the park entrance and decided not to go any further. My rear tire needed replacing. It was causing the bike to squirrel (wobble) on corners. So I missed Acadia Nat’l Park and Cadillac Mountain and headed southwest, hopefully out of the rain.
Kids being kids, I have been asked by a couple of UrbanPromise children, “where do you go to the bathroom?” You’ve got to love them. Good question. Today was one of those days I couldn’t find one. If I could have ridden cross-legged I would have. “At a gas station,” is usually the answer. Today it was a few “No, sorry.” Ugh! It’s fine when you’re in towns, but when you’re riding through miles of countryside you have to wait for either a town or a secluded copse.
I arrived at the bottom of Mount Washington. It was around 5:30pm. The road was closed for the day. I booked a room at the Top Notch Motel in town. It was a cold day today but according to the guy at the motel it was worse up on the mountain– snow, ice and hurricane force winds. That didn’t sound promising. Tomorrow was forecast for a clear day but only 36 degrees as a high. Brrrr.
Day 87 – Wednesday September 25th
Waiting. Waiting for the prognosis from the weather station on top of Mount Washington. Would I get to ride it today? Waiting, waiting. I’m the last one to leave the motel. Only my motorcycle in the parking lot. The answer comes: “too windy, we’re not letting motorcycles up on the mountain.”
I needed to stay on schedule for the UrbanPromise visit in Toronto. I couldn’t wait another day. Time to head west towards Toronto.
Through New Hampshire, with the leaves turning color, and into Vermont. I stayed as north as I could because I didn’t want to repeat roads (I’d be coming back to the Auto Road for another attempt). When I return it will be eastward along more southerly roads.
I stopped in Johnnysburg to fill up with gas. The guy running the station, Earl, had his Harley parked outside and proceeded to tell me he’d ridden 160,000 miles on it, just in the local area! I grabbed a coffee and a snack bar. “On the house!” he said. “Thanks!” I replied, shocked.
Somehow I rode too far north and landed at the Canadian border. It was a small town. I turned around and rode south. As I did so I noticed that one residential street in town was blocked off with planters and next to them was an official Canada sign. The border– guarded by flower pots.
As horrible as it may sound I’ve discovered that I like the smell of skunks as I drive by. Just a whiff is ok. Three wild turkeys crossed the expressway. I see plenty of moose warning signs but no moose. The trees are all colors going through Vermont. Beautiful.
I go south and west, right underneath the Canadian border, as close as I can get. All day long I see customs buildings at regular intervals. I make it all the way to Ogdensburg, in the dark, and find a motel. The days continue to get shorter. It’s dark now by 7pm.
Day 88 – Thursday September 26th
What an an absolutely fabulous sunny and warm day! I departed Ogdensburg after having a little exploration through town. Old wooden houses. The town seems to have had better days. Perhaps a population of a few thousand. On the outskirts of town, along the main highway, there’s the usual big box stores situated in big parking lots. Today I was happy to see them– a new pack of long life lithium batteries for the Spot Connect GPS tracker.
The Canadian border was just outside Ogdensburg. I had to cross a long, metal grated bridge to get there. The bike weaved the whole way across (reaction of knobbly tires on metal grating). Unnerving to say the least. 25mph was my top speed.
I crossed the border easily. The official was very nice. I set the GPS to take back roads towards Whitby, just outside Toronto. I headed through the town of Perth– gorgeous stonework on the buildings! Reminds me of Kendall in the Lake District in England. A little piece of home. The country roads were perfect and so was the weather. I was glad to be riding today. An absolute joy! A guy on an ATV says, “safe travels man, that’s awesome” as he checks out my loaded bike. Today I cried out, “I love Canada!” And I do.
Day 89 – Friday September 27th
Off to GP Motorcycles in Whitby to get a new rear tire, the chain tightened, an oil change and overall check up. I took a fully-loaded bike to get serviced and unloaded everything in the work bay.
I sat in the waiting area until 3pm, mostly working on preparations on what to say to the children at UrbanPromise Toronto at 4:30pm. I left at 3:15. It takes an hour or so to get to UrbanPromise. Perfect. Except… I leave and two blocks away the right hand mirror falls off the bike and bounces down the road. Great! I quickly turn around and we super-glue it back on at the dealership.
I fight the traffic across town. Toronto traffic is bumper to bumper. There seems to be no end to the cars for all of the hour-long journey. I arrive 15 minutes late but it’s ok. The children are not quite ready.
The children are all pleased to see me. I speak to them from the stage. They sit below on the floor. There’s a big screen behind me with my route map on it. We talk geography– where I’ve been. And animals– what I’ve seen and could have seen. They ask me lots of questions. They were all so inquisitive. “How much gas?”, “Where do you sleep?”, “Are you going to show us your motorcycle?”, “Can we see it?”, “Will you ride it for us?” I told them how I came up with the idea for the journey, how we’re all doing something for them because they are special, I asked them about their dreams, and then the best of the best– we headed out to the parking lot with great excitement to see the bike that had been to the Arctic. They knew about the brakes, exactly where they were. They wanted to know everything about the bike. “Please, will you ride it around?” And so I did. Down the parking lot and back. “Yayyy!” “Again! Faster!” So I did. “Yayyyy!” We all took photos together before I departed.
I left the children and headed towards my host’s house in Burlington– Jennifer. I arrived to the irresistible aromas of dinner cooking. I hadn’t eaten since 9 in the morning. It was a welcome arrival. I met her potential new roommate and we both agreed he wasn’t a good fit.
Day 90 – Saturday September 28th
Jennifer has her motorcycle license. No motorcycle though, not after an accident where she fell and skidded across a bend in the road and received the bruises and road-rash to show for it. But today we were going to get her back on a motorbike and go for a tour around the Burlington area.
Jennifer pointed out the highlights of Burlington from the passenger seat and I was careful to take the bends slowly and not do anything that would make her apprehensive. I was hoping she would feel more comfortable about being on a bike again after such a long while. We headed up to Rattlesnake Point– a steep road with hairpin bends. We went down, and up, and down again. Jennifer did well with the steep hairpin turns. A successful trip!
We arrived back around 4pm and quickly got ready to take the Go Train into Toronto. I had a challenge to complete– eat a burrito at the Big Fat Burrito in Kensington Market. We arrived in the city and were flooded with hundreds of people on the streets, most of whom were wearing Toronto Maple Leafs hockey shirts and were off to see the game at the stadium a few blocks away. We met Brett from UrbanPromise (wearing his Maple Leafs shirt for the game) and he gave me a “Free Hugs” t-shirt that had been shipped to me from Miami. That challenge is yet to be completed– “give 100 free hugs.”
Jennifer and I grabbed a taxi and headed towards Kensington Market. It’s a funky, artsy area with murals on walls and a car with plants in it. There’s also a car covered in butterflies. All sorts of restaurants and shops– a mixture with an artsy/healthy/social flare. It’s the kind of place you expect to find a poetry reading going on in some cafe. We found the Big Fat Burrito and when I got my burrito… well, they are not joking, it’s huge. And good! Challenge completed we headed back on the train. It reminded me of my time in London, heading home in the dark on a full train on a Saturday evening, all sorts of socializing and conversations going on.
Day 91 – Sunday September 29th
Ahhh, I slept great and woke up refreshed. I got ready and headed out to Knox Presbyterian Church for Sunday morning service. Emma is the pastor there. She’s new. So many of the churches I’ve visited have new pastors. It’s great to see the new, fresh faces coming in.
The prayer of confession was perfect this morning. It really came from the pastor’s heart. It was wonderful. The church is full of old people as most seem to be these days and I wondered why. I wondered, “is it because they have accumulated knowledge and wisdom throughout their lives and this is where it’s brought them to? This is where they know they can put their trust– in a relationship with God. They come because they are wise. They know.”
The sermon was good. It focused on the pastor’s first mission trip to Cuba. I got a lot out of it. The service ended in an unorthodox way– a pre-arranged fire drill, the first for them in two years. We all headed out to the parking lot in an orderly manner and waited to be counted. Great! All present! We all got out alive! Emma gave the parting benediction in the parking lot. It was great on a beautiful sunny day. I spent quite some time with the people at coffee hour exchanging stories.
Then I headed to another “suburb” of Toronto, a city called Etobicoke, to meet my old friends Dana and Rebecca McArdle. I hadn’t seen them in about 7 years. We spent 4 hours catching up with our lives. It was great to see them. They are really good people with good hearts. Dana wants to start a free athletic club for children, giving them a place to go. Since meeting he’s begun working on his plans. I hope his dream comes to fruition!