IMG_0280

Memorial Holiday Weekend on the Trail

Sunday

After two nights in a hotel we were both ready to be back on the trail.  However, the clean laundry, opportunity to watch tv in bed, and hot showers was much needed and served to reignite our spirits.  Over the course of the two days we had also had more than our fill of exploring Utica by foot, though we really didn’t visit many places other than Tramontane and the library the entire time we were visiting since there really wasn’t much else TO see.

Back in Ft. Plain I had learned of an interactive historical village in Rome, NY that would allow Little Prince to experience life on the Erie Canal during its boom period of the late 1800s, early 1900s. It also looked as though it was right off the path and therefore would not add to our distance too much or delay us by adding travel time. Getting out of Utica, however, proved to be just as confusing and harrowing as getting into the city had been. We followed city streets for a while, turned around at least twice, but eventually found our way on to back to the path in Oriskany and were able to follow the stone dust path until we reached Rome.

Rome, NY was very similar to Utica in that the road we needed was a four lane road with a rather high maximum speed limit. However, there were short access roads that we were able to use in order to avoid intervals of traffic. And at one point I decided to brave the side walks as Little Prince had been causing trouble attached to me again. This proved difficult when we encountered a McDonalds undergoing a remodel that included the sidewalk. But, we persevered and made it through, around, and over all of the obstacles to bikes that come from developing a car-centric city.

Turning down state route 46/49 there was supposed to be a separate path, but I didn’t see it and was more interested in finding the Erie Canal Village. As we rode along we saw signs for the village and knew we were on the right track, in fact we didn’t even realize we had been looking at it until we came upon the entrance and discovered that it was closed on Sundays. (Well, at least we have a pattern developing!)

I had been counting on the village being open and getting something to eat either there or at a grocery store along the way, having been thwarted in the plan it was time to bring out the handy-dandy smart phone and google a grocery store! Thankfully, there was one on the way to lock 21 in New London where we planned to camp for the night. So, we continued along looking for the entrance to the dedicated path.

Finally, we found the entrance and continued along the trail for a while until our handy-dandy navigation told us to turn back onto route 46/49. I debated following this advice but as I wasn’t completely sure where the grocery store was I decided to follow the lady’s voice and headed back on to the main road. It was not too busy and we rode along with no problem until we came upon a junction of state routes where there was a gas station. Apparently THIS was the grocery store google was sending us to. Not sure what to expect we went in anyway as we were getting pretty hungry and found a number of items to make a rather healthy, vegan, lunch including dried fruit, trail mix, nuts, olives, and hamburger buns. Taking our loot outside we crossed the state route and followed circle st and rejoined the trail (I knew there was an easier way than following the state route!) in less than a quarter mile and took a much deserved break at the crossroad to enjoy our bounty and the warm spring day.

Eventually, a large group of riders that we had earlier seen headed to Rome passed us as we ate headed our way and suddenly I became anxious that the campsites at the lock would be full and leave us with only stealth camping as an option. So, as we rode along the trail I, therefore, kept an eye out for good spots to camp if necessary. It wasn’t long, possibly three miles, down the trail from where we had lunch that we camp upon lock 21 and that large group of bikers. There were also a large number of people fishing along the canal and a number of tents set up in a group that looked to be all a part of the same large group of people.

While still in Utica yesterday I had called the lock to see if we needed to reserve a camp site. It turns out that while the website says you can reserve the phone number listed goes straight to the lock captain who doesn’t do reservations and so he had no idea how crowded he was going to be this weekend. Lock 21 in New London is distinctive as a campground because there are tent platforms available. While we could have just pitched the tent, I had learned that the polite thing to do was to first check in with the captain. So, even though it meant enduring the crowd of bikers and a boat going through the lock I waited patiently and Little Prince simply endured. This turned to our advantage because the lock captain remembered that I had called and offered his bathroom to us (this isn’t usually done as the bathroom is in the captain’s office) as well as the chance to refill our waters. This lock had neither potable water or bathrooms, so it is definitely one of the less luxurious locks!

Slowly, the evening progressed and the fishers all went home leaving only us campers behind. Unfortunately our fellow campers were not the most considerate of neighbors, and while Little Prince was able to fall asleep with no problem (other than the ones he imagined) I was kept awake by the drama unfolding more than 600ft away.

Monday

Memorial Day at last! Today we planned on making it all the way to the Green Lakes State park just outside of Syracuse. But it was also a day to honor the men and women who serve, and have served, in the American Military. It was with these thoughts that I packed our camp site up and got us on the road just around 8:30 this morning. The captain was not the same as last night but he was nice enough to let us refill our water and use the bathroom before we set out.

As we rode along, the path took us through the end of one town’s breakfast for veterans, over a few aqueducts, and then we passed a memorial decorated with flags. It was strange to witness and pass by these celebrations and yet not be a part of them. At the memorial we discussed some of the major military battles that have recently occurred and it made me wonder what our memorials to those that have died in combat while fighting “terror” will be. Will there even be a memorial?

Early in the afternoon we were getting close to the state park and started looking for the bridge which we needed to cross in order to reach it. We saw one wooden bridge and figured it couldn’t hurt to see if this was the one we needed so over we went. Seeing no signs I asked a man coming down a steep undeveloped trail (that I was REALLY hoping wasn’t the path we needed) if this was the path to the state park. As it turned out this was not the path we sought. However, serendipity was starting to play her hand in our journey because the gentleman I asked turned out to be Rob Benedict, a member of the Mohawk nation and a musician with a long and colorful resume! Rob directed us where we needed to go and even took time out to play us a couple songs. It is no wonder he has played for Pete Seeger and a number of other well known artists! The sound of the native flute is haunting and distinct, there is a certain magic when played that hints of times long gone.

Leaving Rob, Little Prince and I continued on our way to the state park and had no more trouble finding it. It also turned out that my hunch that most people would check out on Monday morning was correct and so we were able to get our choice of campsites. However, the price was a lot more than I had been expecting at $15! However, it was nice to have potable water, toilets, and the Green Lakes were amazing to see!

These are another geological marvel left over from the time of the glaciers when waterfalls pounded the earth, creating deep craters that are now filled with water of a clear quality and appear to be crystalline green, hence the name: Green Lakes.

The other nice thing about the state park was that there were kids for Little Prince to play with and be entertained by while I made dinner for us. We turned in around 8, which turned out to be early for a campsite since we were visited by another camper. The other problem was that this park was full of car campers and RVs so even late at night people were driving around the grounds with their lights on, which kept waking me up. Though, the icing on the cake for the night was when someone shown a flashlight in face and reported that they had found Little Prince crying on the side of the road because he had gone to the bathroom without waking me and couldn’t find his way back in the dark! Clearly, there was going to be little sleep for me now!

wpid-cam00197.jpg

Changing Winds in Utica, NY

Breaking Camp

At lock 17 we learned that the lock captains work single shifts, meaning the locks close down for the night at 6 PM and reopen the next morning at 8.  My goal was to be ready to get back on the trail around 8 that morning, and while we were ready Little Prince was ADAMANT about not leaving until a boat had gone through the lock.  Fortunately for him there was a boat docked on the eastern side that had also camped out for the night  but must have arrived after we had turned in since I didn’t remember it from our exploration of the area.
It was getting close to 8:15 and with no movement of the lock Little Prince decided to go find out what the hold up was.  Up we climbed the metal steps to the control tower and chatted with the captain, apparently the boat’s captain had not put in a call so, Little Prince’s prodding was probably a benefit to them as well!
Now, if you think filling a bath tub takes a long time, imagine filling this lock!  The captain was incredibly friendly and answered all our questions such as: how many boats can fit in the lock at once (as many as they can squeeze in which has been 37 smaller boats or 10 larger yachts) where does the water to fill the lock come from (tunnels under the water are manually opened by the captain), and many more.  All of this took close to 20 minutes and as the boat was going westward, Little Prince and I descended the stair case and made for the trail.

On to Utica!

The day was gray and rain was threatening (again), my goal was to get us to Utica for lunch and then on to lock 20 or 21 for a night or two where we could wait out the Memorial Weekend crowds before pressing on.  However, per usual on a gray morning Little Prince’s feet were dragging and he was using every stall tactic he knew.  Plus, it didn’t help that I had some how reattached his handlebar incorrectly so that more tension was on his brakes, making it difficult to pedal forward.  Finally, we reached the end of the bike path where I had said he had to get to before he was hooked back onto the follow-me.
For the first time since starting along the Erie Canal we were no longer given the option of a separate bike path and were forced to go along NY Bike route 5 which follows NY state routes and some back roads.  This particular stretch of Bike route 5 followed NY state 5s and had a decent sized shoulder, however the availability of amenities for bikers are limited.  While on the path Little Prince could just go behind a bush for his bathroom breaks, along the State route bushes were few and far between so when the inevitable “I have to pee,” came I pulled into a used appliance store in East Schuyler and asked the proprietor if LP could use their restroom.
Thankfully they were accommodating and completely baffled as to WHY Little Prince and I were biking from Boston.  It was the second time I received the question, “wouldn’t it be easier…”  Sure, it would be easier but this completely misses the point of this particular endeavor and suggests a weakness in American culture: we are more focused on our destinations than the journeys we take to reach them.
While I was thinking upon this Little Prince and I set off again as rain began to fall hard and cold.
We made it to West Schuyler before the rain became too much to bear and I was able to find an overhang under which we could seek some semblance of shelter and wait for it to ease.  It was there that I rechecked the map to find we were only 4.8 miles from the restaurant in Utica I had selected, so close but still so very very far!  With the cold still upon us but the rain easing we set off again.  And while the weather was cold, both our tempers were hot and frustration was setting in as the way remained flat but became steadily busier the closer we came to reaching Utica.
The final approach to Utica in sight and it was with mixed feelings that we entered the final stretch to the restaurant, because Utica we found is NOT a bike friendly place!

Utica

The main street was a four lane highway, no bike lane, and the speed limit was too high for me to ride as I do in Boston.  Therefore, my only choice was to unhook Little Prince and ride the sidewalks which were thankfully wide and lacking in a large amount of pedestrian traffic.  We made our way to the vegan restaurant I had found on HappyCow only to find it no longer in existence.  So, we headed for our second choice: Tramontane Cafe.
Vegan friendly and a great atmosphere Tramontane was the perfect refuge from the cold that had set in after the rain.  Little Prince and I settled into their couches and spent a few hours plotting our next move.  The rain had drained both our energies and all we both really wanted was to curl up on one of the Cafe’s couches and go to sleep (or at least that was what I wanted).  Instead, we made the trek three blocks to the Utica Public Library.
While every library is going to have different policies this was the first library I have EVER visited where there are signs informing patrons that 1. bikes are not allowed inside, and 2. the police will be called if a child under 10 is left unsupervised.  Not that I am in the habit of leaving Little Prince unsupervised but the floor plan of the library made it very difficult for either of us to accomplish what we wanted to do while there.  In the end we were able to work it out, but there was a great deal of whining and bargaining to get to that solution.
By the time the library closed both of us were rather exhausted and not looking forward to the weather forecast for the next day which called for more rain and thunderstorms.  So I caved, and got us a room at the Best Western for the next two nights since it was unlikely that we would be able to find a camp site once the weekend set in.

Changing Plans

I’ve decided that the best amenities in a hotel are microwaves, especially when in a limited vegan-option area.  That night, as is our usual routine I called my mom to check and we discussed our plans to get to California and the expected dates of arrival.  With the end of May approaching and us not even halfway through New York I am beginning to fear we won’t make it to Salt Lake City or any of my other points of alternate transportation to California.  Talking with my mom I was able to get a better sense of when she is expecting to reach California and her plans to see my brother and an old friend in Oregon before heading south.
Being a bit type A, I needed that information and have started to rethink our route.  As much as I’d like to make it through South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse my thought is that the Northern Tier route may be a better choice as it is already well planned out by the Adventure Cycling Organization and so there would be much less research and leg work on my part.  Plus, it would mean meeting up with my mom in Oregon, much sooner than California.  Clearly, there are options but I think the first thing I need to do is get us a flight home from the west coast, because that is one thing I know for SURE we won’t be able bike back from and still make my first class in September!
20140614-105237-39157892.jpg

Something different today

A number of years ago I was driving home from service at Calvary Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, Va listening to NPR and the show that morning was talking about Father’s Day. According to that show the first person to campaign for a specific holiday honoring a father was Sonora Smart Dodd, who had been raised by a widower, in 1910. It wouldn’t be until 1972 that Father’s Day became a national holiday thanks to President Richard Nixon, this link is not that story but it does expand and verify what I remember of that particular broadcast.
20140614-103205-37925816.jpg
Now, 7 years later, my life has changed a lot. I no longer drive to church, in fact I no longer own a car! I no longer have to worry about Little
Prince sticking to his nap schedule, though I still worry about him getting enough sleep! And yet, some things are the same: Little Prince and I are still a wonder team of two. And it works for us. But that does not mean there are not men in our lives fulfilling that role in some way and it is them that we both wish to honor today. Some of you come and go too quickly but are long remembered. And some of you are around for the long haul, showing the many different sides of masculinity, how to care and respect others, and indulging your inner child which Little Prince is and EXPERT at drawing out! Raising a child truly takes an entire community and as a single parent I depend on that community to provide friendship, lessons, and comfort and for your willingness to be a part of our little community, I thank you.

20140614-103204-37924856.jpg
Traveling across Ontario this past week I noticed an abundance of churches and one church had a billboard out front that said,

Any man can be a Father, it takes someone special to be a Dad.

My immediate thought was, “Absolutely.” Mothers, we have nine months in which we are literally attached to our children, we then have another 6+ months with which we bond as breastfeed and care for our new baby. But men have a harder time, and to get over that hump takes patience and willingness to support the mother in every possible way, which can sometimes be frustrating or feel as though the contribution is minimal or unnoticed. I am honored that I have been witness to one man going through this and that my own Father made it through that time five times! Parenting is not an easy job and we often feel as though we are utter failures so I certainly respect those that choose to never parent another human. But, just because someone does not share your genes does not disqualify you as a parent. In fact, in my opinion, parenting without a blood relation says more about a person than anything else. It shows tenacity, patience, compassion, and caring at levels that should never be admonished but rather admired and respected.

20140614-103205-37925936.jpg
So, today, on Father’s Day, I leave you with this:

Father, brother, uncle, cousin, friend.
You have many roles and titles.
Cis or trans it matters not.
Who you love we neither care.
What matters is that you love.
Your being here is what we care for,
It is what we look forward to and,
what your absence is always sorely missed.

Father, brother, uncle, cousin, friend.
Many roles,
always loved.

20140614-103205-37925575.jpg

Some local graffiti that seemed fitting.

Thunder and Locks

Mohawk-Hudson Trail

The next morning dawned bright and sunny and proved to be a wonderful day for bike travel.  Little Prince and I breakfasted on donuts from X’s to O’s bakery and headed out around 8:00 in the morning.  The first few miles were through urban terrain until we crossed a set of railroad tracks and climbed the biggest hill of the day (which wasn’t that big) and we began our journey along the Mohawk-Hudson Rail Trail.  This trail begins in Cohoes, though the official Erie Canal trail guide which I finally found at an amazing bookstore in Troy indicates that the trail continues on into Albany.  From what I could tell however, this is not always a segregated bike path but rather follows a combination of city streets and a waterfront trail.  Cohoes is the start of the largest portion of complete bike path which we followed all day, stopping at well-used parks (even on a weekday) for bathroom usage, snacks, and to refill our water supplies.

The path was smooth and easy to ride and it was the first time in more than a week that Little Prince was able to be disconnected and only worry about pedestrians and other cyclists rather than the stress of riding in the city where a car or person can – and will – often appear suddenly from around a corner.  For me, riding without the added weight, and at the slower speed, equates to what I imagine the Sunday drives of yore were like.  I just amble along, sometimes singing or humming a tune or bantering with Little Prince.  While this sometimes happen when we are attached, there is a relaxed nature to the ride when we are separated that I have found incredibly enjoyable.

About 3-5 miles after being unhooked from the follow-me, however Little Prince had reached the apex of his stamina so we hooked back up and on we went to our first lock of the day: number 7!

Lock 7

Lock 7 on the Erie Canal was our first introduction to the purpose of the Erie Canal: to transport goods and people westward from the coast.  It is the source of the New York State nickname: the Empire State.

Camping for free

Back in Rensselaer, A and M had been full of advice and good tips about touring and two tips that I will forever appreciate were: all the locks are available to camp at, and if needed, camping on the bike path is an option.  And at lock 7 I was able to confirm with the lock captain that camping on the locks was indeed allowed and encouraged!  Sadly, it was only around noon that we had arrived at lock 7 otherwise we would have stayed for this lock had one of the larger grassy areas, a port-a-pottie, and potable water available.  But my goal was to get to lock 11 by that night, for we had great weather and the trail was easy.  However, a week of rugged terrain and then two days off the bikes lulled me into a false sense of ease and when Lock 11 did not look as inviting to camping as expected I continued to pedal us on until the sun was setting and we had yet to reach the next lock.  Around 7 we were both tired and cranky so when the bikes fell for the second time, we pitched our first bandit-camp on the side of the path.

Some people passed by as we set up around 8 in the evening but didn’t say anything and in no time the tent was up, dinner eaten, and we were tucked quietly into our sleeping bags.  My only fear was that thunderstorms were in the forecast.

Thunder

Close to 4:00 the next morning a large rolling boom in the distance woke me from a fitful sleep.  The sun and birds were not even awake yet and so I lay there listening, unsure if it were the thunder I feared or some other source.  I didn’t have to wait long to hear it again and suddenly an intense and overwhelming fear sent me into action.  While our campsite was well away from people and we were unlikely to attract the attention of animals or authorities we were not well protected against lightning, and my only thought was that thunder brings lightning.  Waking Little Prince from his sound sleep (I swear he could sleep through anything) we broke camp and packed the bikes in record setting time.  I wasn’t completely positive where on the map we were but I did know, from looking at it last night, that there was a crossing of I-90 within at least 5 miles of our campsite and so I prayed that it was an overpass and we’d be able to wait out the storm underneath it.  Thankfully, my hunch had been correct and we reached the overpass not long after the storm began in earnest.

Around 5 AM the rain was not as hard and soon was reduced to little more than a drizzle with the sun promising to arrive in full force soon enough.  The trail that early, and just after a rain storm was something no picture can ever fully convey but we did meet these folks just outside of Canajoharie:

Ft. Plain Museum

After meeting the herd of deer Little Prince and I moved on into Canajoharie where we hoped to find a restaurant with something to warm our bellies and a source of water to replenish our water supplies.  While the restaurant we chose was not the most vegan-friendly, we were able to get some potatoes and oatmeal before setting off for a hardware store to find some pliers.  Just before the hardware store Little Prince saw a sign for the Ft. Plain museum.  Since we had gotten such an early start and were already more than halfway to that night’s destination I didn’t have any qualms about at least seeing how much admission might be.

As it turned out the museum was not only free, but came with an amazing personal tour of their exhibits from early Native American habitation of the area through to the days when the Erie Canal brought a booming business to the area.  And afterwards we went up to the top of the hill where the fort had been and explored a bit.

And… Hail.

The area surrounding Ft. Plain is much as it was in the 1800s: farming is still the major source of occupation and income for the residents.  Therefore, it is no wonder, as we followed bike route 5 back to the trail, that we began to see signs warning drivers of horse and buggy in the area.  Sadly, we didn’t see any of these but we did meet a man who spoke with a thick Dutch accent and was kind enough to keep us company as we put sunscreen on for the day that had started cold and wet was turning hot and humid.  The humidity was my first clue, the dark clouds rolling while we sat and ate our lunch at the top of one of many rolling hills was another.  But, it wasn’t until about a half hour after we were back on the trail that the  thunder started to roll.  We were close to Lock 17 by this time and the map also showed a nature park close by that was sure to have shelter so, back onto the follow-me Little Prince was hooked, as I raced us towards the promise of safety.

When the rain started coming down it was in large fat drops and on we raced, Little Prince pedaling his heart out. But it wasn’t long before the rain turned to hail and fearing injury I drove the bikes straight for the treeline and found shelter midst the undergrowth and sheltering branches of the trees on the edge of the path.

The hail didn’t last very long, thankfully, and just as it was clearing I spotted another cyclist coming towards us decked out in rain gear and clearly prepared for the weather with protective coverings over his panniers and clearly looking much drier than I was feeling at that moment!  It must have been quite a shock to see Little Prince hiding like fugitives among the trees, but he was nice enough to stop and chat for a while.  It turned out JW was coming from Buffalo on his first tour of the canal, to spend the Memorial Day weekend with family in Troy.  We exchanged contact information and I hoped that we might run into each other again.  Our two groups went on our separate ways as the rain slowed to a clear, hot, sunny day once more.

Lock 17

I had been correct that shelter wasn’t far, but no longer useful to us, Little Prince and I continued on to lock 17.  While there were plenty of quiet places along the trail that day to bandit camp, my reason for going to lock 17 was to see and take in the multitude of lessons available.  Not only are there geological marvels, the glacier potholes, but there are also mechanical and engineering achievements to witness.

At this lock the boats are raised by the greatest amount (40.5 feet) along the canal and it is truly breath-taking how incredibly huge this lock has to be in order to achieve this, especially when compared with the ruins of an original lock that was one of many to raise boats to the same elevation.

With two highly successful days under our belts and our imaginations fed by exploring Moss Island for a good hour Little Prince and I turned in for the night and hoped for little more than lunch at a vegan restaurant the next day.

Just a warning…

The coming post is a bit long and yet only covers two days!  Thanks for sticking with it and I hope you – dear reader – enjoy sharing in our trials and triumphs.  As you have probably surmised this blog is far behind our actual positions.  I will do my best to update more frequently, just hang in there.  This stuff is just getting good!

In one day, a whole card was completed!

Troy, New York

Having not had a chance to play with A ALL day on Sunday Little Prince was ecstatic to learn that the same day we were heading to Troy, A and M were also going to be running an errand there and we would be able to tag along with them. Where logistics are concerned I felt much more comfortable riding the road to Troy with A and M. There is safety in numbers when cycling, and when accompanied by an experienced local. M also provided us with a quick history and guide to the local scene in Troy.  The town is an old factory town from the days of the American Industrial Revolution and it is interesting to see that it is still broken up along similar wealth and status lines.

X’s to O’s

Troy is also home to an AMAZING vegan bakery called X’s  to O’s bakery where not only are sweet treats available (and with gluten-free options) but lunch items are too!  And I can not begin to tell you how truly amazing their food is.  But, I think my favorite exchange with one of the staff members came when I asked for my usual order (Little Prince knows this by heart now) which is a loose leaf chai tea with steamed almond milk.  In some shops this is a tea au lait.  In other places its something else.  And the reason I order this is because chai lattes are often pre-mixed with honey as a sweetener or sugar.  And, as a vegan, both are not acceptable.  But as a nutritionist and tea-lover these are also big no-nos.  Chai tea should bite, not be sour, but have a slight kick to it.  And the sugar added is often too much for me.

What made me laugh was that in the confusion of making the drink a supervisor came over to help and realized what I had ordered was a chai latte.  When I told her “yes, but I don’t want any sweetener.”  She looked at me with a horrified face, and exclaimed that other places put sweetener in a chai latte?!

Therefore, X’s to O’s, you will always have a soft spot in heart because not only did you carry the most amazing baked goods, savory and healthy foods, provided a whole smorgasbord of games for Little Prince but you clearly understand us crazy folks who feel there is an overabundance of sugar in our American diet!

Library

While more than 80% of our day occured at the bakery, Little Prince and I did also take time to check out Troy’s library (again, no pictures, sorry).  I was able to finish my thesis work and send it off to my adviser, now I just sit back and wait for comments! I also did a little work on the blog while Little Prince wrote in his log book and completed his school work for the day.  Once completed, he inquired of the librarian if he could also use a computer, turns out in Troy they require a child be 8 years old, so 7 and 3/4 just doesn’t cut it!

We didn’t stay much longer before heading off back to the bakery to grab dinner before they closed and then ate at waterfront park before meeting our host for the evening J, watching an episode of My Little Pony, reading a chapter from Dorothy and the Wizard, and falling fast asleep.  And it was a good thing to, because the next day we headed out on the Erie Canal!

Albany from Madison Ave. 5/19/14

Al-ba-ny! Al-ba-ny! Al-ba-ny!

After seven days on the bikes with little break, the half day in Greenfield really didn’t feel like much of a break, Little Prince and I were excited to explore the state capital of New York.  M and A, our hosts in Rensselaer were great, providing us with an amazing dinner the night of our arrival and yummy breakfast that got us going that morning.  We also – finally – got to do laundry! Man we were getting smelly.

Little Prince also wanted an opportunity to explore the park with his new best friend – A – and A was sweet enough to indulge the producer/director/actor in Little Prince and play his wonderfully imaginative pretend games.  But what I appreciated most was that A expanded on my lessons of compassion during their time playing:

Years ago, when Little Prince first became interested in good vs. evil (as I have learned this is a normal part of development that allows children to better understand and handle the changing world around them) I was able to convince him that simply “killing” the bad was not really a good solution.  Instead we settled on “jail” as a compromise.  A, took this a step forward and asked, “why don’t we bring the “bad-guys” to the “community” and have them decide the best way to teach our villains a better way?”  My heart swelled as Little Prince took this suggestion to heart, and while the “bad-guys” still ended up in jail, it was the first exposure Little Prince had to introducing foundations of compassionate justice, and rehabilitation rather than removal.

With this lesson in mind Little Prince and I hopped on our unloaded bikes and headed across the Hudson into Albany.

ALBANY!

Albany from Madison Ave. 5/19/14
Albany from Madison Ave. 5/19/14

M was kind enough to provide us with the local’s insight on the best way into Albany and directions to a vegan restaurant, Lil Buddha Tea, a small shop on Lark st. that specializes in tea but – I thought – also served food.  Turns out this would be the

Lil Buddha Tea, shop front

first of many times I would misread information, or find misinformation that I was too tired or strapped for time to verify.  While the shop DOES carry food this is only Tuesday-Saturday, and so we were a day late.  But, as I have found there is a reason for all things.

With drinks in hand, Little Prince and I left our bikes locked up in front of the tea shop and walked up the street to Lark Natural Foods.  While there were no reviews on HappyCow to give us any idea what this store was like, by this time we both extremely peckish and ready for anything!  It turned out to be a very small, garden-level store with a few snack items – such as Little Prince’s favorite: sea-snacks!  And it was also there that the man behind the counter told us about a Natural Lifestyles Expo going on in Albany that day not far from his shop.  It sounded interesting and as I figured the New York State Museum was sure to be open (and less busy) on Monday we figured we might as well check out the Expo that was on its last day.

Expo

The first thing I noticed upon reaching the Armory, that was holding

The Armory is located at 195 Washington Ave. (Photo credit: Chad Gamboa)

the Expo were signs for tickets and will call ticket pick up.  Nervous that the tickets would be too expensive (museum was free) I warned Little Prince that attendance might be too expensive.  Forewarned, we inquired of the two volunteers the price of tickets, turns out they were free!  So, in we went and spent the remainder of the afternoon getting chair massages, winning a football, sampling food, and even picking up a few treats for the road.

State Capital Tour

The next day, Little Prince and I set off for Albany early in the morning hoping to get a jump-start on the day and arrive not long after the New York State Museum opened.  Arriving with little problem we found that bike parking in that area was seriously lacking.  The racks we did find were this style:

Standard horizontal bike rack courtesy of intrexfurniture.com

Bike racks like this are my absolute least favorite when the bikes are unloaded for three reasons: 1. to securely lock your bicycle to these racks your front wheel is meant to go up and over, this is nearly impossible for Little Prince’s 20″ and mine is really too heavy to make this practical; 2. such racks also tend to damage the bike or when someone else adds their bike they often end up getting tangled with, or damaging the bikes already parked; and 3. such racks are often placed too close to the building to be used properly.

Finally locking the bikes we entered the museum to find it: closed.  So, what were we to do?  A quick search found the number for tours of the New York State Capitol, and they

had one starting in two hours!  So, off we went to find a bookstore and a playground to fill the time.  Sadly, the conclusion of this search was that Albany shuts down on Mondays and playgrounds were a little too far from the capitol building to be useful.  So, Little Prince and I played catch with his new football in the Empire Plaza before joining the tour.

We had a great time, and learned a lot about New York’s history.  Even I learned something.  Little Prince’s take away is best quoted from his post-tour observations as written in his journal:

Four Presidents were Generals. The State Capitol of New York looks like a castle.

And indeed it does!  Which, turns out, was the point of its construction: to show the wealth and power of the state known as the Empire State. For more information you can take a tour yourself or check out this great webpage with excerpts from our own tour: http://www.hallofgovernors.ny.gov/

Self guided tour

The remainder of our stay in Albany was a bit of a self-guided bike tour around the city as we searched for an illusive bookstore to purchase the Erie Canal Trail Guide that I had heard about at the Expo.  We never did find a bookstore (that was both open and carried the book) in Albany.  We did find a great Library with a place just for Little Prince:

Albany Public Library’s Comic Cave

image
Pamphlet from Albany Public Library on comic books and reading

And we had some pretty good food at Bombers Burrito Bar and Thai at Sukohothai Restaurant right next door.  Both were very good and pretty vegan-friendly which is always a big plus for us!  But, at Bombers Burrito Bar we also found a newspaper with the following horoscopes:

Seemed to be pretty right on with our experiences for the last few days!  After two days in Albany we were expecting to be back on the road after a short stint in Troy, NY.  Hopefully, forewarned we would overcome the obstacles sure to be in front of us.

Finding our groove

When trying to accomplish a big goal it is often that I can forget to stop and appreciate the little goals that have been accomplished or even the beauty that is found in the process of reaching a goal.  By our second day of travel I had to start contacting hosts to let them know we were falling behind in our schedule and would not be reaching them on the days I had originally asked that they host us.  For one particular host couple this was never a problem and I really feel like they have become my “zen masters” of touring.

I don’t always think I need a “zen master” or believe such mentors to be limited to certain pursuits such as meditation.  But cycling IS a form of meditation, relaxation, and this tour is ultimately about much more than a destination.  It is about the journey.

Day 3

After a good night’s sleep and the first words of wisdom from my zen masters LP and I started this day off with a bit more of a relaxed outlook and a motto: “slow and steady, consistency is key.”  Slowly but surely we made the trek along route 2A through small towns, up and over small and large hills, and with far less frustration than we had previously faced.

As we had previously, with each new town we heralded the cry, “New town!”  But this time LP and I were more relaxed and started to

Scarecrow face on side of road
Scarecrow face on side of road

notice distinguishing features of each town, or catalog the dates each was established and then compare them to towns we had previously encountered to determine the oldest and youngest that we passed through.

One such town was Gardner: the chair city.  While mostly a manufacturing town it was one of the more notable being earlier in the morning as well as having a giant yellow chair (2-storeys high) right around the corner from this sign.

The Chair City
The Chair City

One trick, or technique, I had read about in my preparations for this trip was that sending stuff home after the first night could be a big morale booster because there is a seeming reduction in weight.  While neither our second or first nights involved our own cooking we did camp the first night and then the second I chose to completely unpack and set aside any items that were not used at all (besides camping equipment).  These we then mailed home from Templeton, Ma.

Around 5:00 PM LP and I began to see more populous areas and signs that we were nearing the town of Greenfield.  The day had been rather overcast and the solar panel I have, was not able to keep my phone charged.  Unsure of the next step LP and I stopped at the beautiful Free Library of Wendell.  Their website does not even begin to show the beauty of this building.  While small, there was a multitude of resources and even a great little playground for LP to run around in while I printed off our final steps to Greenfield and Shelburne Falls, where our second host was waiting.

However, after climbing the hills of Wendell Depot Rd., and then going through Wendell State Forest more hills were really the last things my legs needed.  Therefore, around 6:00 PM I had enough battery and just enough reception to call the host and find out just where we were in relation to them.  As it turned out we were still 12 miles away and facing some hilly terrain.  So, with no campgrounds all that close and at least three hotels to choose from less than a mile behind us, LP and I made the decision to settle into another hotel for the night.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Hampton Inn of Greenfield, while expensive was the first and closest to have a room available.  Much more expensive than the Rodeway Inn of the previous night the hotel staff at this location were incredibly accommodating, kind, and compassionate.  Not to mention they were amazed that LP and I had found our way to Greenfield by bike!  And, as you would imagine, with greater expense comes greater amenities of which Little Prince was more than happy to avail himself of!  The only difficulty we had, was dinner.  For some reason, Tuesdays are not a great day for food delivery in Greenfield and with no in-room microwave I had to make do with a coffee pot to heat the water for our dinner.  But all-in-all we fell quickly to sleep by the time we had settled down.

Day 4

More words of wisdom and encouragement from my zen masters as well as an email reminder from my thesis advisor convinced me that continuing on as we had been was the wisest course of action.  Greenfield is a rather large city in Massachusetts and even has a number of vegan options for food.  Therefore, this seemed like a great opportunity to explore the city and rest our legs from the last few days.

One of the great perks of the Hampton Inn was a free breakfast in the morning.  With the usual offerings LP and I were able to find some vegan options such as a bagel with jam for him and oatmeal with nuts and dried fruit for me.  Then, we packed up the bikes, headed back through the I-91/Rt-2 round-a-bout and into downtown Greenfield.  We loaded up on supplied of anti-sting ointment, vitamins, and snacks at Green Field’s Market, a local coop grocery store and then headed to their local library.  With only an hour of time on their computers I was able to get much of the

Good Crooks Bk. 1

methodology done and transcribe the survey I will be using next spring while LP found a number of great books including Good Crooks by Mary Amato which he wasn’t able to finish but added to a list of books to look for at the next library we visit (there are sure to be many library visits on this tour).

While at the library there was an incident with another patron (I wasn’t involved) that I had never seen at a library.  While largely unaffected, the incident certainly colored my impression of this city and I was pleased with how professional and calmly staff handled the incident.  Though it certainly makes me wonder how often these incidents occur!

Conscious of time ticking away and still unsure of where we would be staying that night LP and I made our way down the street to Greenfield’s vegan-friendly Mesa Verde for burritos.  I had their kale and sweet potato concoction which I highly recommend while LP had the fajita burrito.  Feeling a bit run down from allergies and tired from our days of biking LP asked me to read a few more chapters of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, our current reading which is loaded on my iPad and so lunch turned into a two hour event!

Afterwards I decided to check out the local bike shop for advice on area roads as it was looking unlikely that we would make our warmshower in Shelburne Falls and would instead end up at a campground about 10 miles from Greenfield called Country Aire Campground.  The folks at Bicycle World on Federal st. in Greenfield were amazingly,stupendously helpful. They gave me a bunch of free maps of the Franklin County area (super bike friendly by the way), directions on the best way to Lanesborough and EVEN let us use their bathroom before setting out on the road again!

And so, off we went on to Charlemont to spend the night in the same campground as a school group of 8th graders which of course brought back memories of my own class trips in 6th and 8th grade.  Some fun times when you have no care for the adults around you and are more

Pirate Ship sailing the sand seas of the Country Aire playground

worried about who-likes-who and how your peers perceive you.  To me though, these were ok kids who let Little Prince join in their game and play on the play structure with them while I made dinner.  And thankfully they quieted down not long after the two of us had settled in for the night.  The campground itself was one of my preferred locations.  A little too close to route 2A for me, it was a very large area with a playground full of innovative and distinct structures.  The bathroom

Heated bathroom, close to office and rec room

we used was heated (there is an unheated one as well) that was complete with showers and had beautiful wooden stalls in the women’s room.  The next morning it was a bit rainy and cold so Little Prince and I went to eat our breakfast under the awning by the bathrooms.  One of the owners was nice enough to allow us to sit in their Rec room which was also rather large and held a game called “carpet ball.”  I really enjoyed our time at this particular campground, but as I have seen on this trip some stays are too short and so, after breakfast away LP and I pedaled into the mountains of NW Massachusetts.

20140519-221737-80257025.jpg

The first days or, Overcoming F.E.A.R.

Overcoming F.E.A.R. or False Evidence Appearing Real seems to have been the theme for this first week of our trip. Whether it was realizing that some reactions to our adventure were the result of their own F.E.A.R.s or finding the strength to pull through when the hills were too steep and night was coming.

Day 1
D-day went off without a hitch. Even after only four hour sleep we still left on time and made it to our last Chinese classes on time! The principal invited me to talk to the students about our upcoming trip and listen to another student’s trip to Africa during the spring break. LP has also been asked to give a talk when we get back in September, so we’ve got an extra incentive for keeping his log!

After class LP and I had lunch at a park around the corner and while he played on the park I confirmed our directions to our first overnight in Stow, MA. I even had a small nap before we headed out. Arriving around 5:30 at our wonderful host’s home I collapsed next to their backyard pond while LP enjoyed hammock before meeting T and C who prepared an amazing dinner and entertained LP with a homemade Pokemon bingo and even a Staeryue costume for LP to try on! The night was perfect, moonlit, and LP and I were serenaded by nature on our first night on the road.

Day 2
I had read that the second day was one of the worst on a tour and… It was so true! I started out with the best of intentions and ideas of grandeur to get to Greenfield by the end of the day. Our second host was scheduled a month prior and it had been my intention to spend the first night halfway between Boston and this host. However, we ended up unable to a secure a host closer than Stow (17 miles from Boston), which ended up working out since I’d never give up having met T and C! Around 4:00 PM LP and I had climbed a number of hills and been reduced to walking up many of them by the time we reached Princeton, Ma and were only halfway to our intended destination. Then it became a matter of, “well, what do we do now?” And, “what do we feel capable of doing, as far as distance is concerned?” We were pretty close to being in the middle of nowhere as far as tourism and amenities for people not in cars are concerned. The closest possible hosts were about 10 miles north and south and no campsites were coming up on google. Finally, the search for a “motel” pulled up a Rodeway Inn eight miles away. I felt confident we could make those eight miles, and when I put it to LP that we could either do eight miles to the motel or 60 back home, he made the choice to do eight.

However, choosing and doing are two very different things, and about halfway in I was reduced to tears as the mountain just kept going up and all I wanted to do was pitch our tent and call it a day! I had a little boy who needed to be fed and I just wanted somewhere warm and dry for the night. But Massachusetts is not a friendly place to the stealth camper, or maybe the virgin-stealth camper. Both sides of the road were at steep grades or over ditches and were still fairly visible at 5 in the afternoon to the roadway. But, my little prince prevailed and turned my words back on me. So what could I do but get up and get moving?

An hour later Little Prince and I pedaled up another steep incline, registered for a hotel room, and found ourselves showered and exhausted eating microwaved dinner while watching the Mighty Ducks before turning out the light.
20140519-221451-80091581.jpg

20140519-221453-80093495.jpg

20140519-221452-80092565.jpg

Performances, languages, and homeschooling

One of my main reasons for choosing to homeschool is to give Little Prince the opportunity to experience the beauty of language, and the expansion of world view that comes from learning a language other that into which you were born.  And so, every Sunday morning this past year we have been rising with the sun to head out to Newton and attend Chinese classes with the Huaxin Chinese School, an extension of the Greater Boston Chinese Cultural Association.

LP is also a natural-born performer, so while school’s often have many showcases for kids to perform for their parents and prove that they really are learning something.  I see LP learning every day and there are not many outlets for this type of expression for him.  Which is why I was really looking forward to the Speech “contest” (for LP it was more recital) in early April.  And I know LP looked forward to it as well and as you can see, he had a LOT of fun with it:

LP’s performance at Chinese School 4/5/14

While he clearly enjoys performing he is very anti- “on-demand” as far as performing.  And be honest former (or current) language learners: how often do you have some witty comeback for the stranger/friend/family member who discovers you are learning/speak x language and wants you to say something in that language?  As LP’s homeschool coordinator I often feel on trial when people do this to him (mostly in language and math), and that should he fail to answer appropriately is a direct reflection on my supposed “inability” to properly educate my son.  However, my belief is that education, especially early education, should be child-centered.  That rather than worry so much about ensuring our 5-12 year old children are “ready” for college we – adults – should worry more about guiding them in their struggle to understand the world in which they exist.  And there are many, many, MANY different strategies to learning this.  Whether through structured lesson plans, or interest-led discussions that randomly crop up through out the day.  Children are constantly learning and that learning should be encouraged and painless.  Which is what I love about the Huaxin Chinese School’s philosophy: they are there for the child and to make learning fun.  They want their school to be a place that kids WANT to come to (especially early on a Sunday morning) and they know that there may be times a kid doesn’t want to get up, or just doesn’t want to do the homework and that is OK.

LP and I truly enjoyed our first year with Huaxin Chinese School, and if you are in the Boston area and interested in learning Chinese, I can not recommend this school highly enough.  They offered a great resource as far as learning and an outlet for LP to do what he does best: perform!  We are both sad to have had to cut our year short but will certainly be back to continue our lessons in the fall and are trying to spend some time each day speaking to one another and reviewing what we already now.  Did I mention that they offer concurrent adult classes?  No?  Well, they do.  And I think that is stupendous!

The celebrations and simple joys of raising an abolitionist vegan single parent family

Food Stories

Food, Science, Recipes, Cooking, and Stories about food.

Change From Within

Musings by Jamie Utt

Michael J's

Bicycle Dream Ride

Violet's Veg*n e-Comics

Virtual Vegan Comics for Children

Kendall F. Person, thepublicblogger

where writing is a performance art and every post is a show

X's to O's Vegan Bakery

baked with kindness, organic at it's finest!

A Homeschool Mom

Inspiration for Learning, Living, and Life.

I'm Supposed to be Doing Something Else Right Now

A personal blog about pregnancy, grad school, the outdoors, and being the spouse of a mtf transgender person.

Vegans of Color

Because we don't have the luxury of being single-issue

Pecanwaffle's Weblog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Veganism and Privilege

Exploring the role of privilege in the vegan community

Gemüsings---Vegan Musings

Musings on food, friends, furries and family

Eric Prescott

A work in progress

Little House On The Vegan Prairie

Simple, delicious food for the mindfully hungry...

A day in the Life of an Unschooling Family

Insights into the Hows, Whys, and Whens of Unschooling

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 230 other followers

%d bloggers like this: