Day 66: Mud and Trailer Parks
Despite not using a sleeping bag or tent, I definitely slept better in New London than I did in Kansas when I tried the same thing. However, I still didn’t sleep well and I woke up as soon as the sun was up. Having few things to pack up, I was soon eating some of the bars Chris had given me and was ready to ride.
I already look pretty tired...
While on the ferry I had also looked ahead for some more Warmshowers opportunities and got in touch with Marese. Marese had never done any touring herself, but she was an avid triathlon athlete and was very interested in touring. She had just read about Warmshowers somewhere and had signed up as a host on a whim.
On Warmshowers, you can see how recently someone has logged into their account to give you an indication of how likely they are to respond. Because Marese had only recently made her account, to me it looked like she was active on the website. But actually, Marese thought there was almost no chance of anyone contacting her because she felt she was in the middle of nowhere.
When I had reached out to her a day or two ago, she had called me and left a voice message about how excited she was to potentially be hosting, but also informed me that they were on a mini vacation to a long-term trailer park they would go to in summer. It was a little further than their normal house, but if I could make it to the trailer park, they would be happy to host me.
Marese’s enthusiasm to host me won me over despite any reservations I had about the type of people who go to long-term trailer parks for vacations, and I decided it would make for a great adventure at the very least. While I thought I would have a lot of fun meeting Marese, I was not very hopefully for the place I would be staying that night. But, determined to keep my spirits up, I told her I was coming and hoped Marese would make up for whatever else I arrived to.
That said, I figured today’s highlight would be the journey as I would be riding through three states in one day! Connecticut, Rhode Island, and then into Massachusetts, the final state on my journey. I would also be taking on some more dirt roads and it seemed like it was going to be an exciting day of riding.
In retrospect, three states in one day was actually less impressive than I thought as I had already done that several times. First, I traveled from West Virginia, through Virginia, and into Maryland. Then, I traveled from Maryland to Pennsylvania to Delaware and then back into Pennsylvania in one day. And finally, I had traveled from Pennsylvania through New Jersey, and into New York all in one day. So what I thought would be a unique accomplishment, I had actually repeatedly done in just the prior few days...
I was also in touch with Claudia again. She was just a little behind me, having skirted around all the cities while I relaxed (cheated) on ferries. Marese invited her to stay if she could make it, but it would be a little too far for Claudia, so we decided to meet the next day for the penultimate ride of my trip.
I set off and took the pedestrian walkway over the ‘Thames River.’ I guess it’s fitting for New London. The best part of uncomfortable sleep are the early starts you get as a result, and the weather was cool, which made for some really nice riding. It helped that the East was so damp in the mornings.
The East is also especially interesting to ride through because they make the history so much more visible. Most of the towns I rode through would list when they were established as well as other historical information I could see as I biked by.
The roads themselves were pleasant and there were few cars so early in the morning. I stopped for a quick break when I saw a sign for ice cream, and I got to enjoy a delicious ice cream sandwich from Sweet Grass Creamery, a small dairy farm. 4.9 stars on Google with 43 reviews as I look at it again!
From there, I continued my ride on mostly quiet backroads and only occasionally had to navigate some construction. It was a breath of fresh air to be riding through so much farmland after having been in one of the most densely populated areas in the world for several days prior. Now, I was passing small dairy farms and sunflowers instead of skyscrapers and endless concrete.
The ride was going smoothly until the route suddenly became dirt. Looking on the map, I had some ways to go and I didn’t know when it would become paved again, but I decided to go for it anyways. To go around would be a somewhat significant addition to the planned ride.
While it wasn’t too bad at first, the dirt road just became worse and worse. All of the moisture that had kept me cool earlier in the morning now caused the dirt to become mud and then sludge. I was very impressed with what my bike was able to ride through, but I still had to jump off and into the mud at some points to prevent myself from falling or had to carry my bike around water. The mud was also getting into my bike gearing and causing my chain to get gunked up.
This was just one of many similar sections and it's not even a particularly bad section because for those I was so focused on how to cross them that I forgot to take photos...
Despite being slowed for several miles by the bog, I eventually did pop out onto a paved road and took that time to thoroughly clean my bike as best as I could. While I cleaned, a group of walkers came by and asked me about my trip. They were shocked that I had biked there from California. When I mentioned I was heading to Rhode Island and then Massachusetts today, they informed me that I had already achieved the first goal as I had crossed into Rhode Island somewhere back in the bog. We chatted for a few more minutes while I finished cleaning the bike, but we soon said goodbye and I was on my way again.
The dirt being much worse than I expected took a lot out of me, especially because I was so tired after getting poor sleep the previous night. But on the way to Providence, I found myself on a fantastic bike path, and I focused on getting to the city so I could take a break and find some caffeine somewhere.
The bike path largely followed the river and I had a great time looking at the scenery and crossing over several bridges. The path itself was well removed from the roads, so I didn’t see any cars unless I had to cross over a street, but those were rare occasions. Something I desperately wish I could say about many of the bike paths in the Bay Area.
Eventually, I did make it to Providence, and I stopped at a bakery to get some lavender matcha tea and several baked goods. They also had free ice water and I ended up filling up all my bottles from the café. I stayed there for about an hour just resting and recovering. I called my parents and talked to them for a bit while I waited. The ride was proving to be harder than I expected... It’s a good thing I got my early start!
I set off again and it wasn’t long at all until I found the last state line of my trip!
You can see in my eyes that I was pretty tired already. Yet, I was only halfway to Marese’s trailer park. I realized that no matter what their trailer was like, I was going to be resting well that evening.
As I pounded out the miles, Marese sent me some directions on how to access the trailer park and find them inside. I figured I would use those directions once I had reached the entrance using Google maps. I kept following my route, which I had take me the shortest possible way since I was pretty exhausted.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realize my route was taking me to the opposite side of the big park that the camp was in the middle of. Marese’s directions weren’t going to work unless I biked all the way around. I was way too tired for that, so I decided to follow my planned route and figure it out later.
You can see in the image below why I really didn't want to detour. I was at the Southers Marsh Golf Club and my destination was only 1km away as the crow flies. But if I didn't go directly, then I would have to take the road all the way around to the south and it would easily be more than 10 times the distance.
I’ve said it many times before, yet, I don’t seem to listen to myself. Locals always know best.
When I came to the edge of the park, where my route was telling me to go, I came to what might have once been a road about 25 years ago, but what was now entirely weeds and brush. I didn’t know what to do at that point, so I looked at my map and saw that there was another trail a little further that would also lead to the same place, so I decided to try that.
This trail was a little better, and having no other options that didn’t involve biking most of the circumference of the park, I went down the path.
Unfortunately, this was a very poor decision. The path was already sandy when I started on it and it just became worse the deeper I rode. Nobody, besides the occasional ATV, seemed to have been back here in years. I would try to ride my bike, but each time I would just sink into the sand and tip over. It was like that for the entirety of the last four miles of the day. I was pretty miserable. What was worse is that I was so close as the bird flies to the campground, but the way I had to go added several miles to the trip because there were no direct roads from my side into the camp.
As I finally got to the camp, the balloon that Marese had set out for me definitely helped to lift my spirits. I also soon met up with her and her husband, Mark. I was guided to their trailer where I could finally ditch my bike and where they had also prepared a little gift basket for me! I was back in good spirits. They suggested I cool off in the lake. Sounded like a great idea to me at that point...
After the lake, I got to shower and learned that it just happened that the particular evening I arrived was the day the whole trailer park would get together and have a little party. Mark’s band was going to play for everyone and food, drinks, and desert were all provided. While I had been tired earlier in the day, I was now very excited for the evening!
I also began to meet many of the other trailer park campers, and everyone was excited to talk as we got ready for the event in the evening. I felt super welcomed by the whole community.
The trailer park is invite-only, and the people who stay there do so mostly part-time and just for fun. Mark said when he was first introduced to the idea of the trailer park, he also scoffed at it. But after visiting the place and meeting the people, he was fully onboard and I was too! Everyone was so nice and fun to be around that I can completely understand why everyone keeps coming back year after year to the park. I am so incredibly thankful to have been able to experience a quick peek of the community while I was there as it made my last Warmshowers host of the trip one I will forever remember.
That evening, Marese, Mark, and I headed over to the communal area and I got to meet more of the residents while they started up a fire and prepared for the music. They also gave out lots of drinks and got the fireplace ready to grill some freshly caught tuna steaks as well as set out a ton of other food buffet style.
Nothing sounds better to a tourist than a buffet, and they just kept feeding me more and more! Mark’s band was also fantastic and Marese sang for them as well. Sometimes, things just work out perfectly. I am incredibly lucky so have arrived the day I did. That evening was one of my favorites of the whole trip, and it happened in the middle of nowhere, in Massachusetts, in a trailer park, on the second to last day. About the last place I expected.
To cap off the night, we had grilled donuts and they passed around a hat to collect some money for my charity. What an evening!
Eventually we headed back to the trailer where I had my own area, and shockingly, enough room. I did end up having a great night’s sleep after all.