Saturday, August 09, 2008


We hitch the trailer to the Honda, collect the bike. Stroudsburg is a fifteen minute drive. I attempt to give thanks, ask for an address.
“It's nothing,” my savior tells me. A nothing miracle of generosity! And so typical of my few weeks in the United States...
I set out on this journey through the Americas in 2006 from Providence, Rhode Island, the home of my ex and her son, Jed. I traveled south by train to Dallas and Don and Jane Weempe and adventured with the Boys with Bikes and was saved from disaster in Amarillo by the Angel of the Bourbon Street Cafe. Now, riding north in 2008 I was saved first by the wicked Muslim at the Texas gas station on my way to Galveston to enjoy the company and hospitality of Terry and Ed, Carol and Peter. I have been pampered in North Carolina by Jim and Liz and aided by Mike Townsend at the Long View Cycle shop. Now I ride towards my daughter and her partner in Duchess County, New York. Encountering such kindness, such generosity, why dare I be so critical of the United States? Why do I feel more at home, more secure, in Hispanic America?


I park the bike behind the church. The young man in the Honda opens the passenger door. The rear is loaded with waders and rods and fishing tackle.
He asks where I come from.
“You rode that far on that small bike...” He shakes his head in semi-disbelief. Then, “There's no sense leaving the bike out here. I have a trailer at the house...”
We drive through semi-suburban pinewoods country. His home is on a rise, dark-stained cedar, white window frames, perfectly maintained. Azaleas and rhododendrons are in bud. His parents live near by. So do his in-laws. He works for the electricity company, maintenance on high-wire pylons. He and his wife have a first baby. They were at church this morning. His wife gave him the afternoon off to go fishing.
City folk are moving into the neighborhood, building weekend and holiday homes. City folk complain if he keeps a pig or his chickens crow. We have the same problem back home. An ancient yew tree has been massacred on our lane. Neighboring women complained that the tree cut their light. The tree was there before they bought their cottages. It was there before they were born.


The chain has snapped. I pry the chain free, drape it over the crutches and push the bike fifty meters to a side turn. Do I push the bike onward until I find a village? Or do I wait in hope of a miracle? The miracle appears in the guise of a red Honda 4x4 driven by a typically friendly young man with short hair and dressed in standard GAP. Sunday and bike shops are closed. He suggests I park the bike a hundred meters down the road behind a church. The bike will be safe. He will drive me to a motel in Stroudsburg.
I imagine, as I push the bike, attempting to push a Harley or Gold Wing.
No way...I would collapse.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Route 209 joins the main highway south of Stroudsburg. Sunday hasn't kept truck drivers off the road. I open the throttle to max in hope of not being run down. Full throttle on the flat is around 100 KPH. A machine gun fires a burst under my backside. The chain has snapped. The chain will entangle the wheel spokes. The wheel will collapse. I'll be catapulted onto the road. I'll have two seconds watching a truck's tyres before I get squashed. Totally squashed. Smeared. Except the bike comes quietly to a halt at the road edge.
I sit a while before dismounting.
The sun shines. I breathe carefully and inhale the scent of pine woods bordering the highway. Trucks thunder by.
What am I going to do? I am seriously short of funds. So close, yet so far...


Midday, the sky clears. The country grows more open, bigger fields bordered by good woodland, wealthier. Polished automobiles pack the parking lot of a roadside diner. The diner is low and light and new and built to last half of a short life time. I finger-comb my hair before entering and struggle out of a wet bomber jacket. Sunday lunch and tables are full. Uniformity in dress is obligatory. GAP or Old Navy is the choice in male tailoring. A smiling waitress with good teeth seats me at the counter and asks, “How are we today?”
Cold and hungry.
In England waiting is obligatory.
This is the US and coffee comes by instant magic.
I cup the mug in cold fingers. I must look a little weird. Too fat for a scarecrow, but, yes, a little weird: three short sleeve jerseys over one long-sleeved jersey, all tucked inside two pairs of outsize rain-proof pants yanked half way up my chest, two sets of broad suspenders visible, red and grey.
What is he? A pessimist? Maybe. But weird, definitely weird.
Country Brits would show their suspicions. Here bland faces hide any curiosity. Or maybe I'm invisible.
Oh, to be back in Hispanic America. South of the border I'd be in conversation, answering questions.
Fish and chips is England's national dish. In my youth the chippy wrapped your dinner in newspaper. Now it comes wrapped in off-white recycled. The smell of sweat, malt vinegar and stale oil is the same. So is the thick, grease-soggy batter and greasy-soggy potatoes. US fish and fries may be equally designed to halt longevity. However the batter and fries are crisp, the servings are immense and I prefer the odour of chemical air freshener.
I doubt that I can reach my daughter's today. So one more night in a motel. One more night and the journey is done. From the start I expected to give up somewhere along the road - admit that I was an old fool, that the journey was too tough. All in all, I am well content.

Monday, August 04, 2008


I ride beneath a low gray sky. A thin drizzle falls. Broken-backed trailer-homes hide in dripping birch woods. The mining and mill towns are imprisoned in narrow valleys: Tremont, Minersville, Port Carbon, New Philadelphia. Battered pick-ups are a fashion statement - abandoned automobiles and soon-to-be abandoned automobiles. Shop windows are boarded up. For Sale notices thrive on small red-brick and clapboard houses. Sullen teenagers cultivate a tobacco habit. Health Warnings? What has life on offer?
So were the Scottish Borders of the Thatcher Government in the 1980s, mills shut, mines closed, a lost generation of kids on street corners. Bitter? Yes, indeed...Though Senator McCain claims that bitterness is un-American.
Tories in Scotland ceased to exist.
What future have the Republicans?
What future do I have?
For bikers, this is unfriendly weather. Oh for a little Global Warming...