Here we are in Troy on a gray and rainy Monday. We limped into town with two cranky and broken bikes on Saturday night, arriving at our destination at about 11 at night. It had been a tough week, as since we left London, Ontario, we have had freezing temperatures, snow, icy rains and terrible road conditions. As to be expected, as we are still in the Northeast and late November. Of course. We knew that. And actually, it is nowhere near as bad as everyone thinks it may be. And we missed the craziness in Buffalo by a hair.
So long as you have the right amount of layers on and keep moving, it is totally fine to be cycling in the winter. And actually it is utterly beautiful. Since we left London, Ontario, we have had snow every day. We hit the snow squall about ten miles outside of town and then continued very very slowly onwards. We had wanted to make the 88 miles to Hamilton, but with the poor visibility, and pulling over for every car and truck that passed because we had no shoulder, we ended up doing 30 and calling it a day in Woodstock.
This meant that we had to find a place to stay. Normally we locate a good place to put up our tent and call it a day, but weather conditions of cold and more importantly wet snow just, well, suck for camping. We hung out at the YMCA for a while, figured that the fire department was our best bet. Cycling through town on the now icy streets, we asked the people at the fire department whether we could put up our tent out back. No. Unfortunately not. So back on our bikes we got and slowly and steadily we headed back to town to find the church that offered shelter. Once back in downtown we walked along the main street, pushing our bikes along the slippery sidewalks, and we got talking with this guy who knew where this church was. He had done a couple of cross country bike rides through Canada to raise money for Child Find Ontario. His daughter, Victoria, went missing in April 2009 and was found brutally murdered in July. Our conversation with Rodney was brief and intense. How do you react to someone whose child had been brutally murdered? That he had taken the trips, the second trip cycling with his son on a tandem, were to him therapeutic. We thanked him for walking with us and sharing his story, as he hurried on into the snowy city streets and we had arrived at our destination. Silence, taking in the words of Rodney, feeling his words, lingering.
Entering the church, we went downstairs and saw groups of people sitting, eating, chatting. A man came over. This was Pat, he loved cycling also and we would spend the next 17 hours or so with him. After an initial introduction, he offered us a place to stay in his home and dinner at a nearby restaurant. His wife was in Toronto at an English Country dance meet-up, he didn’t like to cook and would enjoy our company. His home was a spectacular Victorian house, which had at one point housed the jailor of the Woodstock prison, who was a key figure in the Reginald Birchall trial. We were up late listening to the fascinating accounts of history that Pat told us about the local region. The next day, Pat put on his serious and seriously bright cycling gear and headed out with us towards Hamilton, coming with us all the way to Paris. There we had coffee, before saying our final goodbyes and continuing on to Hamilton.
Icy drops of water hit the face, eyes are blinking trying to keep the water out and focus on the road. Fingers are moved like they’re playing the piano, toes are lifted and flexed, dancing in two pairs of socks trying to keep the blood circulating.
Lake Ontario, faint, grey, snow blanketing plants and trees, the Lake trail meandering along the coastline, still, clean air.
Further down the road, darkness descends, slushy rain making traveling more difficult as we pass through St Catherines and onto the Welland Canal Trail. A monstrous freight ship passes through the tiny docks, squeezing past with inches to spare. We keep on pedaling on the snow covered ground, eyes squinting, lights refracturing in the wet night. Focus is needed to not fall over. Tiredness hits our bodies and albeit the beauty, we ache to be in Niagara Falls.
Nine kilometers outside of Niagara Falls, we stop at a gas station to pee and drink hot chocolate, warm up. It is almost midnight. The cop that is there asks the attendant why we can’t just rest on the benches in the attached Subway building. The attendant says, it is not his call to make. We call it a night. Outside of the gas station is a snow covered grass field, we set up out tent, pull out all the different layers to our sleeping bags and try to get some much needed rest.
Next day, while still cold and wet, is great. We pull into Niagara Falls Canada, take some photos by the falls, and then cross the Rainbow Bridge back in the Niagara Falls. Good bye Canada.
Fast forward 8 states.
New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, (Long Island/NYC – New York state again), New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland.
We have hit some rough tough patches. No shoulders. Panniers sticking out into traffic. Thanksgiving traffic. Early sunsets meaning early darkness, constant rain, cold faces, cold fingers, cold toes, wet sleeping bags, too much traffic, too many people, broken bikes, cracked rims, 2 sets of brakes in less than 300 miles. The east coast has been kicking our ass. Definitely missing the wide open spaces of the West. Yet, we know we are so lucky. People like Patrick, Jonathan and his son Jake, Gina from the post office, Pam the van driver, Daryl and Teresa from Bristol as well as the many many more we have met are constant reminders of how amazing people can be, how kind, how open.
We have also met a lot of sad people recently. Sad that they are stuck. Whether they be real walls or imaginary or self-imposed, or created out of fear is not really the question. They are stuck. They see we are not stuck and wished themselves to be in a different place. Some had told us of dreams of traveling, of just one day setting of and heading out to see something different. But responsibilities are keeping them there. For the time being.
For each of those individuals we met, you hope that they can too realize their dream. We try and offer words of encouragement, that it can be done but the sadness in their eyes make the words seem hollow. And as we gather their strands of stories, they too leave us with a twinge of sadness.
On an aside, a super awesome and exciting part of the east coast has been connecting with friends and family. Some we haven’t seen in nearly two decades, others we did not even know that well and had met traveling in far away places, others were best friends, as well as new friends. Showing up on their doorsteps, usually soaked (Sorry for leaving all that mess…) and late, it was an approach that was filled with excitement! And we had so much fun connecting with everybody.
It is the 25th December today. So happy christmas to everybody. Let’s see where this trip will continue to take us in the future. For the moment, we will lay low. There are some bike issues to consider, we ended up being picked up in Perryville, MD as Marcus had found out that morning that his front hub had several ball bearings missing, which were replaced, but had the bike mechanic looking uncertain and worried about how much longer the front wheel will hold out. He gave it a week. Worrying indeed. So, we are considering all our options. Onwards ho.