Friday, August 31, 2007


I'm on the move right now, working on places to stay, so I'll post more--and pictures later. The big news as the title implies is that I've finished with New York, blasted through a little slice of Pennsylvania, and am now in Ohio, about 60 miles east of Cleveland. Yesterday, I broke the 1,000 mile mark--oh, yeah, baby. That feels good, like I can actually do this thing. The riding has been flat and fast, and I often average 15 mph for long stretches. Lots of farm country and views of Lake Erie--so damn bloody big. I saw an ocean-going-size freighter out there this afternoon. Lake Ming this is not.

The moisture in the air is a constant wonder and frequent hassle. I woke up to a clear, clear morning, just beautiful clouds out over the lake--and everything was as soaked as if it had rained all night. Well, all this greenery has to survive on something. I've learned to just pack up the tent and whatever else is wet and hit the first laundry place I find and dry out. Not bad as I only spend a few quarters and I'm done in about 15 min., just long enough for a good break.

Now I'm off on the hunt for a place to stay. Tonight could be "interesting." Tomorrow, I think I can get something lined up for Cleveland--where I may or may not take a day off. Folks have said I gotta go see the Rock 'n' Roll museum.

Until next time, your intrepid correspondent signing off from The Frontier of Human Powered Travel in the Outback of...Cleveland?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Tatanka Trip

Not much to add on my day off. Since I have access to an incredible computer, I thought I'd load up some pictures of my day in Buffalo. I met up with a great couchsurfing host, Paul, and he led me on a walking tour of the town. There is an unbelievable wealth of classic architecture in this town, including the world's first modern "high rise" building, some of the most classic art deco designs on the city hall, and more. Everywhere you turn, it's fantastic. This was all a result of exceptional economic activity in the 19th and early 20th centuries. With the opening of the Erie Canal and the electric power provided by Niagara Falls hydro plant, this was one of the richest cities in the nation with many millionaires building palaces during the heyday of mega-expansion in the early 1900's especially. Buffalo was the world's first electrified city, the talk of the civilized world.

Now, the town is falling apart. Many of the classic buildings are empty and decaying. There has been a rather extreme urban flight such that on a mid-day, mid-week when one would expect lots of hustle and bustle in a town this developed, the streets felt rather empty, kind of like San Francisco at 6am on a Sunday morning. Some parts of the town are being gentrified, but Buffalo needs some motivated cash to get back on its feet. As a couple folks have said, Buffalo's biggest export is educated young people--lots of great colleges, very few good jobs.

This house sold for about $240,000!

This one was recently assessed at $120,000. Anyone want to move to Buffalo?

This is Zoe, the other groovy hound keeping me up with my doggie fix.

The Buffalo Shuffle

I confronted a grim-visaged customs agent at the Canadian border. What? No passport or birth certificate? He was unhappy, but upon seeing my bike and my massive legs (The Guns of Navarone), he had to submit to my desires. A world champion recumbent cyclo-tourist will not be denied. He made a couple of starts into his carefully memorized lines about Canada being a "multi-cultural community" and how they have to treat everyone the same--yadda, yadda, yadda. But no one treats the recumbent cyclo-tourist like everyone else. Besides, the agent was a cyclist, too, so there was no helping it. He waved me through.

I quickly picked up the Niagara Recreational Trail and zipped along to The Falls. I was confronted soon enough by The Horror: a clot of development, a hideous gorgon of Las Vegas and Disneyland overlooking the Canadian side of the falls--space needle, rides, cheesy attractions. I resolved not to spend a dime in the area. Then, of course, I wouldn't have to deal with exchanging currency.

The good thing about the Canadian side of the falls is that you can get very close and have better views generally. And you can turn your back on the lousy glitz and just think about all that water, Great Lakes changing places over immense drops. The magnitude of this cascading ocean is difficult to comprehend. Like most of the world's great dramatic features, it tends to shut down our chattering minds for a moment and make us feel very small. Our meager self-importance dissolves like the mist rising in vast clouds from the churning cauldron below. We are nothing and this proves it. I enjoy that feeling--as must the untold multitude with whom I was sharing this private little moment.

Afterwords I called Jodi from a park and for the first, last, and only time I got to say this and mean it: "I've got to shuffle off to Buffalo." On the way I had a funny encounter. Needing to use a restroom, I pulled into a construction site to use one of those blue outhouses. A hardhat wearing foreman of some sort emerged from a nearby building. "I just need to use the outhouse," I said.

"Sorry," he replied, "but you don't have proper protective equipment." I laughed and pointed to the helmet on my head, surely sufficient for the radical dangers of a wee tinkle in a booth of blue plastic, but he would have none of it and sent me packing. Canadians are tough customers, that's for sure.

By early afternoon I was cranking over the Peace Bridge back into the USA, Buffalo, NY, to be exact. I slipped into an area of semi-urban blight, such a drastic change from the multi-million dollar estates along the Niagara Parkway and the quiet forest scenes along the canal. Buffalo has its rough edges as I was quickly discovering. I soon found my way to my host's place about an hour before he was due. Since Justin wasn't in, I hung out with a group across the street--a tangle of laughing little kids and adults sitting in the shade on their front steps, the kind of scene we rarely see in Tehachapi. Three able-bodied young men were in the group along with several women coming and going. I wondered about these working-age fellows doing nothing on a weekday afternoon. When I asked to take their picture to help document my journey, there was a lot of laughing and smiling and comments like, "No, no, I don't think you'd better do that!" implying a subtext of a life that is better left undocumented. The one with the big Dior sunglasses looked particularly interesting. Another photo-journalistic opportunity best let go. At their suggestion, I photographed the kids instead.

Justin finally showed up and helped me get settled in. I'd stumbled into a nest of mostly twenty-somethings, a classic big house with a constant flow of people coming and going, the expected disarray, everyone as nice and easy going as they could be. This would do! Justin lived in back in a rough loft over an aging garage with his dog, Dutch, a sweet big goof, excellent doggie fix for me.

That night I got to visit a bit with his family, his father Jan especially, who also rides recumbents, and then we hit the town for a stroll and brew at a local watering hole. The Elmwood district is where the locals go to socialize, eat, soften brain cells. Justin told me a lot about his life, including being with a friend in a rough part of town when he was shot down before Justin's eyes. Edgy Buffalo, what? The friend lived, but that event along with other changes has led Justin to the adventurous, questing life he his now pursuing. About the time I get home, he'll be headed out for New Zealand with a friend for three months of travel. He then plans to just wonder the globe for a while, working, seeing, living, finding, as he says, another part of himself everywhere he goes. Good man. Don't let the bastards hold you down.

So I'll lay low here for today, assiduously avoiding certain parts of town, and head out west tomorrow. I may sample some of the "wings" that Buffalo is famous for, and there are some other classic food items I've been told are local must-eats. We'll see. Dietary restrictions are pretty much out the window at this point. Bicycle touring does terrible things to a man.

Note some new photos and a little video on earlier posts.

Until next time, your faithful correspondent signing off from The Frontier of Human Powered Travel in the Great American Outback.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Canal Cruising

I'm certainly out of the mountains now. For the last two days I have been motoring along the Erie Canal tow path, a multi-use path that was once used by teams of horses to move barges along the canal. There is a series of wonderful towns about every ten miles, places like Fairport, Albion, and the end of the line, Lockport, where I'll be spending the night. Beautiful clouds and warm but not hot weather have graced my passage these days. Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of camping right on the canal at Holley--with access to the showers that usually only the boaters get (the canal is no longer used for commercial purposes--just recreational boating and tourism).

Some of the path is paved, but much of it is a very firm crushed limestone--a little dusty but generally affording a good ride. I managed to average between 12 and 16 mph without too much trouble. Flat riding, what a pleasure!

Tomorrow, I'll be doing the recumbent boogie into Canada and the tourists throngs around Niagra Falls. I was concerned about getting into Canada without a passport or birth certificate, but I met some locals who said it's still okay with just a driver's license, so I'm going for it, especially because there is a very scenic bike path along the river on the Canadian side. Hey, I love Canadians. They gotta let me in.

I've been meeting the greatest folks. I tooled around Albion and marveled at the churches, one after another doing battle for highest steeple and most dramatic edifice awards--just fantastic. In front the the Catholic church, I met Brian, arborist supreme, who gave me a little tour of the church--where he (now 44) was baptized, where he was married, where he has rejoiced the best of life and mourned the passing of loved ones. His pride and connection to the church were an inspiration. You da man, Brian!

Much of the riding has a European feel, kind of like a New Yorkian-American Dutch thing. I've got a terribly slow connection here, so I'll post pictures later when conditions are more appropriate.

Until my next post, this is Scott, Wold-Champion Recumbent Cyclo-tourist, signing off with his latest Dispatch from the Frontier of Human Powered Travel in the Great American Outback.

One of many classic barns:

Typical canal scene:

The town of Holley:

Sculpture titled, what else? "The Big Apple":

One of my favorite canal spots just before Albion: