Friday, 27 May 2011

Troy, New York State - On the wrong side of the law ... again

For the second time on this trip I found myself on the wrong side of the law. A few mornings ago, Graham and I were cycling along Highway 2 when a State Trooper, blue lights flashing, pulled us over and shouted as we slowed “it’s the end of the line, folks”. It sounded serious. I thought I was going to jail. At least then I wouldn’t have to cycle over 4000 miles to Seattle! However, we’d just ended up on a road that prohibits bicycles and our State Trooper politely escorted us off.

We’d gone onto a busier but more direct highway to try to cut some mileage. To be honest, the first week of cycling in the States was pretty tough. The weather has been awful with drenching mists and torrential rain, we’ve had to cycle some 60 and 70-mile days to link campsites and the navigation west of Boston was infuriating through a bewildering maze of suburban roads. A couple of days of welcome relief were provided in Ashland by friends of Graham in the beautiful, New England home of Karen, David, Craig, Jennifer and Doogle the dog.

From Ashland the weather has brightened and we’ve now cycled west into the thick, bear-infested forests of the Berkshires. A long, steep climb afforded us 100-mile views across woods that stretched to the horizon and a descent that got Graham up to a frightening 41mph! We’re cycling now on quiet roads through pleasant rural towns but we always seem to find a McDonalds at some point for Wifi access … honestly … the fries and coffee are just a bonus! People have been overwhelmingly friendly and helpful and we’ve only had a couple of instances of drivers rolling down their windows to shout at us “get off the road”. Nice! And so we’ve crossed Massachusetts, flirted briefly with Vermont and are now in New York State to join the Erie Canal cycle route at Troy that will take us 400 miles west to Buffalo.

The campsites we are using now are deep in the woods so we have to “bear aware”. We have bear bells attached to our bikes so they can hear us coming and carry bear spray, an unpleasant but harmless concoction of peppers that repels bears in the unlikely event of an attack. At the end of the day now, our food, cooking utensils, toiletries and even the clothes we were wearing when we were cooking, go into a bag that is placed out of the reach of bears, either hung between two trees or placed in the campsite office. We spend most of the day talking and fretting about bears despite everybody telling us not to worry about black bears – “they’re after your food, not you”.

Yesterday was my 42nd birthday and one sign of my advancing years is my inability to get through the night without getting up for the loo. In bear country you can’t simply pop behind a bush near the tent as the scent can attract bears. So in the middle of the night, I can brave the walk to the toilet block through the trees where, in the dark, every stump resembles a bear. Or I can stay in my tent and use a “pee bottle”. I’ve opted for the pee bottle!

Bears aren’t the only nuisances in American campsites – there are also midge-like flies called no-see-ums, mosquitoes, biting May flies and people who use golf buggies to travel to and from the toilet block!

But for all our worries about bears, the only food we’ve lost so far to a ravenous beast is a packet of dried milk, wrapper and all, to Doogle the dog!

Photos on Flickr and updated map below.


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