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Days 60 and 61: More Police and More Big Cities

As the forecast predicted, it was raining steadily the next morning. Today’s ride would be short at only just over 40 miles, but 40 miles in the rain was not something I was eager to do. Even the far tougher Claudia, who rides almost no matter what, decided it would be best to wait at least a little bit. However, she really only has one mode: go. Around 12 PM, while it was still sprinkling, she decided she was going to take off. She was also planning to take a slightly longer route than me, which would skirt her around much of the city and is the suggested route from the Adventure Cycling Association. The photo below is what it looked like right before she left. I was opting for the more direct and urban route. I decided to stay put longer and hope that the forecast got better.

After Kansas, I still had significant trust issues with Apple Weather. Now, I was using a variety of different programs and it wasn’t until almost 3 PM that everything indicated the weather was looking up. Luckily, it was still quite warm, even with all the rain, so I wasn’t too worried about Claudia. Claudia’s bags are waterproof and she has a reflective vest she can wear in poor weather. All my clothes are black and my bags are just water resistant. I used that as my excuse to chicken out on all the wet weather riding that I could.

But at 3 PM, the rain stopped. I had to head out then regardless or I wouldn’t be able to make it to Baltimore in time to eat with my host and meet up with Claudia. I said goodbye to Sandra after a great couple days and resumed my ride.

With the extra time I had that morning due to the rain delay, I plotted out a route that would take me past two bakeries before leaving Washington DC to give me all the energy I would need to get to Baltimore. One was specifically a Mexican bakery to try and give Mexican baked goods a second chance. Unfortunately, the redemption of Mexican pastries has yet to come for me. I have to agree with my father that Mexican cuisine shines elsewhere… They did have some non-Mexican baked goods that were quite good though!

Because it was still quite wet out, I didn’t take a ton of photos today, but my ride was also mostly uneventful. Between DC and Baltimore, the riding actually wasn’t too bad despite the urban route choice. It was only once I reached the outskirts of Baltimore itself that I had any issues with traffic and lights. Even then, going through the city was inevitable no matter what direction I approached from. It would turn out that my route was actually one of the better ones. Baltimore doesn’t have a great reputation, and while where I went was a little seedy, I never felt truly uncomfortable. However, because Claudia had left earlier and had time to go to the main part of town, she took a different route to our host’s house and ended up going through one of the worst parts of Baltimore. She said she didn’t feel safe and there were ton of people catcalling and yelling at her as she rode by. Luckily, she just kept her pace up and she made it to our host’s without issue.

Our host would prove to be very interesting! Dan had been a part of the first group-ride across the TransAmerica bike route in 1976. While his stories of the ride were great, what made it even better was all of the photos he had from the trip. He had done a lot of the photography for the group. Largely from his photos, the riders had created a book for everyone who was a part of that first trip along the route. I hope that one day I can look back at this blog similarly to how Dan could look at his book. Or maybe I’ll look back and just think about how I talk too much about baked goods.

Dan’s journey was even more impressive to me because I can’t even imagine doing my route more than 5 years ago. It’s only within the last 5 years that the type of storage I was using for my bike has been developed and made easily accessible. For years and years, the pannier setup used by Dan and Claudia was the only way to go. Some people would opt for a trailer, but the vast majority used panniers. The bikes and the racks back in 1976 were not designed for cross country trips, and mechanicals were a large part of the journey for Dan. Meanwhile, throughout all of my trip, I had just one flat and one other significant mechanical, all while doing tons of off-road and remote segments. Even these days, if you tried to do my route with panniers there is no chance you could do it successfully as either the bike or rack would certainly break. So it’s only very recently that my trip was made possible and Dan’s stories just made me happy I'm doing my touring now and not before. I am passionate about my dislike of dealing with bike mechanics, and it would have significantly hampered the enjoyment of my trip if I had to deal with what Dan did.

Liz, Dan’s wife, made us a delicious dinner. This was the first short day of riding I had in some time and it would begin a trend for the rest of my trip where I started reducing my mileage after going so hard for so long after the Rocky Mountains.

While Claudia and I were staying together that night, tomorrow we would once again be going separate ways. I wanted to ride to Philadelphia and then ride through New York City and ride all of Long Island. From the end of Long Island (Orient Point), I would take a ferry to Connecticut. I had never been to NYC, and this was going to be my best opportunity to visit for the foreseeable future. Claudia wanted to avoid the big city and instead would go around the urban areas by riding more inland. But our routes would intersect again in Massachusetts, and we decided to try and meet up then if it worked out.

The next morning I was up early. I only had 110 miles to ride, but because I would be riding to Philadelphia, I was worried that lights and traffic would cause the 110 miles to go by much slower than normal. Liz made us a great breakfast, and I met their very young grandson who Liz and Dan help watch for their daughter.

Because I was worried about traffic lights, I decided I would try and stick to highways again and hope that the highways here were better than my experience with Highway 50 near Washington DC. That evening I had arranged to stay with another Warmshowers host, Dustin. He had recently moved into a new house, and I would be his first guest at the new place. He also just got an incredibly cute puppy and had another dog named Zooey! I was excited to meet all of them and right after breakfast, I left Dan’s house. This was the only time on the whole trip I think I left before Claudia.

Riding out of Baltimore was about as easy for me as riding in, especially because I left relatively early. I had no issues making it to the highway. While the highway didn’t make for the most interesting ride, it was definitely the most efficient. The shoulder was wide enough and I was so used to cars driving by me that at this point they didn’t bother me too much. I was a little more worried about the legality of where I was riding because Dan didn’t know if highway riding was legal in Maryland, but I had ridden about 3000 miles on highways previously, so I was fine with testing it.

The only part that was a little sketchy was crossing the Susquehanna River. There aren’t many places to cross the river on a bike, especially when you’re trying to be efficient. With Dan’s help, I had decided to try the dam crossing. As I approached, the road narrowed to the point where I was riding with traffic, but traffic slowed and then stopped because of construction on the dam. I was about to try riding past cars on the narrow edge of the road, but I glanced behind me and saw a cop car two cars back. I decided not to press my luck as they hadn’t signaled me to pull over and I didn’t want to give them any reason to do so.

Eventually, it was our turn to cross the dam. There was only one lane due to the construction, but it also meant cars had to go slow. I could keep up with traffic as long as I was riding hard. As I hit the climb on the other side of the dam, the road opened up again and I was in the clear. The construction probably made that part of the ride much easier than it would have normally been as the dam itself didn’t have a shoulder. Without the construction slowing everyone down, I would have slowed everyone down instead…

After the dam, it was smooth sailing once again. The shoulder was good and, despite all the traffic, I felt perfectly safe. Just a few miles later and I was crossing over into Pennsylvania! A few miles after that, a police car rolled up behind me and flashed his lights. At the time, I was stopped on the shoulder looking for a place to eat or finalizing my route, so I thought he might be worried because I wasn’t riding. I gave him a thumbs up. He gave me a thumbs down…

I turned around and biked over to where he pulled over. He explained that somewhere a couple miles back, the highway had changed types and had become illegal to ride on. He got all my information and ran me for warrants and when I told him my address, he asked me what brought me all the way out to Pennsylvania. I told him a biked here and he just laughed and said "okay". He then said that he’d stay behind me until the next off ramp and then gave me some directions about what roads to use and where to go. He said that after several miles the highway became legal to ride on again and I could get back on. With that, we headed off, and before too long he said goodbye as I began riding down the frontage road.

The cop warned me that the road wasn’t especially safe. Now I had no shoulder. Less traffic, but just having distance from cars on a shoulder is the most important thing for me. So while it may have been the legal route, I don’t think it was the safer one. The one thing it did help with was getting me closer to Delaware. I was not going to risk going back on the highway and getting pulled over again, so I decided to stick to roads for the rest of the day. With the river crossing behind me, the hardest part of the ride was already out of the way.

Delaware has a little bulb that sticks out from the rest of the state. Being so close, and having a day to rest yesterday, I decided I needed to clip the edge of the bulb to claim I’ve been to Delaware and never feel like I have the obligation to go ever again.

I was only in Delaware for a couple miles, but it didn’t cost me much time to make the detour and I’m glad I did. From there, I just had a little more riding until Philadelphia.

I missed hitting the main part of downtown Philadelphia, but the traffic lights I did run into were annoying enough that it was well worth skipping the densest part of the city. Instead, I got treated to some ATVs doing wheelies in the streets along with some bikes. I’d seen some videos online, but I had thought they were more like events than a regular occurrence. It was definitely a slow day of riding since it took 8 hours 15 minutes to finish just 112 miles, but it wasn’t too bad thanks to being able to take a fairly direct route for most of the day.

I rolled up to Dustin’s and I got to meet him and his dogs. I would have a whole room and bathroom to myself. We chatted for a bit while we waited for his partner, Shea, to return home. After she got back, we headed out for dinner. At my request, they took me to get a Philly cheesesteak. I've had a Philly cheesesteak a couple times in my life, but it has never really impressed me. I felt I needed the authentic experience to really tell if it was for me or not. They took me to a small, but very popular, cheesesteak restaurant.

When we finally got our cheesesteaks, it was a solid 6/10 and I haven’t had one since… That being said, I am very happy to have had the experience and I wouldn’t have chosen to eat anywhere else given a second chance. The food was definitely improved by Dustin’s tart he had made with the fruit from his yard. By that point we were all tired, and with a goodnight to the dogs, I was lights out.

This is right before Claudia left Sandra and Hans' house!

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