Monday, August 30, 2010

And, in the End, the Love you Take is Equal to the Love you Make...

Well, I said I would write one last blog for this trip and here it belatedly is.

We made it all the way to Maryland and stood on an Ocean all of us had seen all our lives like we had never seen such a thing before. We ran in and posed for pictures and took videos and loaded up our stuff to go get some well deserved dinner. Pacella, being the psycho that he is, insisted on biking to his front door and nearly beat us there because he was racing a car full of lollygaggers.

After arriving at Pacella's house we were greeted with delicious crab cakes. Half of us showered and headed out for celebratory drinks and a walk on the boardwalk downy ocean hon.

The next day we watched the second Lord of the Rings because we're all giant nerds and Mike German, Jesse and I set off for home after an awkward goodbye. I mean, how could it be anything but awkward. All of us didn't even know one another before this trip started. Then we spent two continuous months together and then we all went back to our separate lives. We shook hands and congratulated one another on a good trip well done and off we went.

I called home to let them know we were coming like a good daughter apparently surprising them greatly because our plans had changed so many times people thought down was up and up was down. I very politely with all sorts of sugar asked my parents to add us onto their dinner plans and they ever so graciously consented. I was expected them to throw some extra burgers on the grill or something of that nature. Something easy, but oh no. Not my parents. We show up and my father has cooked an entire turkey dinner: Turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, broccoli. Delicious. He told me if I had given him more than 3 hours warning he would have had some stuffing too. My dad makes fantastic turkey dinners.

He also makes fantastic Apple Pies, one of which just so happened to be cooking in the oven while dinner was being prepared.

This is not to mention the balloons and signs and card with a dinosaur and hot air balloons and a mini car painted just like our baam mobile and flowers and chocolates put out by my mother.

So we had a dinner that couldn't be beat and Mike and Jesse after lots of hugs set off for Western Maryland with bellies full and I'm guessing barely a care in the world. Life is hard.

I turned off my phone, shut off my computer and went about visiting everyone within a 2 hour radius of my house. I most especially did not look at anything BAAM related for quite a while.

Well I didn't have long to rest and neither did the guys.

Mike Pacella moved into his new apartment in Baltimore City and has since started his graduate level work. It didn't take him long to get back on his bike (try less than 48 hours) and he will most likely be rather unreachable indefinitely while he works for twelve hours straight doing science and biking like a psycho. I think he's rather happy.

Jesse crow has moved back to UMBC for his next semester. He's working as an Maintenance Assistant putting all that construction experience to good use and apparently UMBC is as ready as it'll ever be for it's new crop of freshmen.

As an aside, have you seen what they've done to the campus? I'm so glad I got out of there before they ripped open the streets with construction plans. Have fun Jesse!

Mike German got back and saw everyone about as much as I did. Consequently, because we have a lot of the same friends we were hanging out the next day... and the day after, but definitely not the day after that.

He had to get all his hanging out and visiting done right quick because Papa Bear is taking over Pennsylvania. He moved up to somewhere, I want to say Bethlehem because I seem to remember being told he was moving to Bethlehem and snorting. Right, so he is now moved in with a nice young couple with a baby. He's only broken glass around the baby once so far, which is pretty good, and hasn't yet ripped off one of their toilet seats, even though it was a near thing.

He'll be studying environmental engineering something or another and saving the world one person at a time with whatever brilliant idea strikes his fancy. He is super happy to be back in school and using his mind again.

As another aside, we are only about 400 dollars away from our fundraising goal of 8,000!!!! We're actually going to do what we set out to do, isn't that neat? A big huge thanks to everyone who contributed including, but not limited to: friends (many of whom don'e have much to begin with themselves), family, churches, Anna Crow specifically (because of her super awesome fundraiser that boosted us up over 1000 dollars), local businesses along the way, and everyone else ever in the whole wide world. We're feelin' the love.

As for me, I got back and had a week of interviews with the Americorps Program, Public Allies. My favorite placement was in Laurel learning how to do casework and organize holiday programs. To my extreme fortune and pleasure they offered me a position as an Ally with them doing just that. I start in October and I can't wait to pretend to be a real person for awhile.

Well, standing around idle didn't really suit me (I use the term standing around lightly, I visited practically everyone I knew in Maryland and attended a wedding). I got rather antsy, so I took off for New England to visit everyone I knew and didn't even know I knew and everyone else in between that I might be able to rustle up.

I started out going to a casino in New York with my cousin Jim, them hop skipping over to Maine to visit Meaghan and her grandmother, now I'm in Connecticut visiting Alicia, a girl I backpacked in the Grand Canyon with. I'll be back when my time or my money runs out. It'll have to be soon because I promised I'd hop skip down to Atlanta to see Mr. David Tatum while I had the time.

Oh the lighthouses are so beautiful. I love lighthouses, they are so whimsical. All I need is a hot air balloon and a cup of tea and my life will be perfect.

Things everyone should know:

The majority of people are good and like you and me. I use good lightly without a capital G. No one is good good good good good. I just mean that most people are not the ones you see on the Nightly News for murder. The reason such people make the news is because they're so rare and interesting. Most people are just going about their lives however they choose to make them and when you show up they talk nicely to you about your travels and sometimes offer you a floor to sleep on if you ask and talk nicely in return.

Which brings me to point number two: most people are willing to help one another out, especially if you're a stranger in a strange land, and as it seemed to me on this trip, the less people had the more they were willing to give, from the kind people who cooked us food in a small town in Nevada to the nice people in Appalachia who drove by and rolled down their windows to make sure we had already been taken care of.

Point Number Three: We met so many people who expressed wishes of traveling like we did. We met a lot of people with a lot of dreams and while life will most definitely prevent some of them as goals and circumstances change, I just wanted to say that the biggest thing you have to do in order to do something like take a renegade cross country fund raising trip or open your own shop or travel to another country, the biggest hurdle is giving yourself permission to do it. If you decide you want to and then actually decide to do it, it's much easier than you think. It's when you build it up so big in your mind as Something For Other People that it becomes something unattainable. You cut your legs off before you even start.

And that's all she wrote, folks.

Signed most sincerely to all who followed our journey,
One Shelly Kessler, nearly a real person and rather contrite for getting preachy (but it's for your own good)

P.S. Don't take my word for it, go and find out for yourselves.

P.P.S. ...and Papa Bear, Snuggles, Psycho and Superwoman went on to have many more adventures.

P.P.P.S. The End

Friday, July 30, 2010

Virginia is for lovers... and I assume for haters (I doubt they'd turn away the money)

We're finally on the East Coast! We were incredibly excited because we found a Chic Fil A. I haven't seen a Chic Fil A since I left Maryland. It is incredibly difficult to go from eating Chic Fil A practically everyday on campus to no Chic Fil A at all. I didn't even realize that I missed it until I saw the sign and convinced Pacella and Jesse (who were not at all hard to convince) that breakfast at Chic Fil A was a good idea for breakfast.

The plan for coming home continues to fluctuate wildly. Initially we were to go to Yorktown, come back along the route and bike up to Baltimore.

Then we thought, why are we going all the way to Yorktown, when we can just bike up to Baltimore? Because we still need to touch the ocean to make it official.

Ok so the next plan was, we're going to bike up to Baltimore and arrive on the 5th, have our welcome home party on the 6th and then lead a mass of what I'm assuming would be only a few of our more crazy friends, but what Mike was probably assuming would be his entire network of Baltimore people, to the beach on our final day of riding.

That was all well and good, until we realized we were moving faster than planned and we'd be in Baltimore by the 3rd and why in the world would we wait around for 3 days to finish the trip? That seemed silly. And if we didn't want to wait three days to bike with everyone to the coast, why were we going to Baltimore at all?

The third plan was something along the lines of, we won't go to Yorktown, Virginia or Baltimore. Instead we were going to go up the DC/Baltimore metropolitan area, but we were going to stop in Annapolis, go across the key bridge and end at ocean city or Assateague island depending on whomever got their way. Ok, great sounds good.

Well we were looking at it, and that seemed silly because the transamerica route takes us up on roads we know we can bike on, then we could break away before Yorktown and make our way to the middle between the Bay Bridge and the Tunnel which Mike informed us had nothing but a ferry to take us across that cost 25 bucks a person and wouldn't take cars.

The moral of this story is that I have no clue what we are actually doing because it has changed so many times, but no matter what the route is, the date August third is the only one I have heard.

In conclusion, we are heading north east. We are ending in Eastern Maryland. We are taking either a bridge, a ferry or a tunnel to get from this side to that side.

I think we're taking a ferry? No wait I think I remember something about us cramming into the car for a drive across the tunnel and that'll be fine because it's only 20 bucks... and then something about wouldn't it be awesome if we got there the day they opened the bridge to bikers and walkers and then something about how the ferry puts us right where we need to be on better roads to bike on...

In conclusion I have no idea because I stopped paying attention and looked at the newest xkcd comic: the one about the University website. It's pretty good and completely accurate.

I apologize for the lack of blogging near the end of this trip. We didn't have internet in most of the places we've stayed and our cell service was pretty spotty for the last day or two while we were in National Forests.

I will now account for you about Kentucky.

Things I have learned:

Lincoln is from Kentucky. Who knew? I sure didn't. However, I have never claimed to be an American history major. I got to visit his boyhood home and his birth place and the town that has his museum and I'm not entirely sure what their relation to him was.

It made me realize that Lincoln is pretty much every guy I know from UMBC. Eventually I will post the picture of the exhibit of Lincoln awkwardly standing on the doorstep of the woman whom he was courting waiting for the door to open. Some of his letters were also priceless and bizarrely familiar. I wish I had taken more pictures.

Lets seeeee. Apparently Appalachia is it's own country. According to Jesse no matter where in Appalachia you are, people tend to speak pretty similarly and eat the same types of foods and have the same types of jobs and so the same types of concerns, making them rather separate from the state that they may happen to occupy.

Appalachia is thoroughly beautiful, when the forests are not cut down. It is shocking to come out of a natural forest and look beyond at the same mountains laid bare with no trees. Appalachia is also the place where we had the least cell phone reception.

The best place we have stayed. Well OK, there are two.

We stayed at this Baptist youth center with three big screen TVs, an xbox, a Wii and the complete extended edition box set of The Lord of the Rings. Luckily, when we woke up it was raining hard, the boys couldn't leave and so we watched the first movie in the trilogy while the rain cleared up.

People in Kentucky have been very kind. When I said we stayed in two best places, I meant three.

We stayed with an awesomesauce woman and her roommate in Berea. She cook us an amazing meal with everything leftover in her kitchen. I got to sleep in a real live bed! It was particularly great because I walked in and it reminded me of Alli's, Elise's and my kitchen junior year. I walked in and she gave me a hug, making me realized I haven't hugged anyone in two months and proceeded to talk like a girl and not a stinky boy about all things interesting and not biking while she cooked us an amazing dinner (completely reminding me of Alli). Then, because I am this desperate for my girlfriends, I asked her if we could watch a girly movie (I don't even like girly movies). I feel as though I haven't seen anyone but boys for two whole months.

There are very few girls on this trip. All the cyclists were guys. All the pastors, men. All the women, older than 40. This was the first time I was in a girls apartment in a long long time.


This also drove home the fact that I was going home to live at my parents house and not to Elise and Alli's kitchen. This is a bummer. I would prefer to live in poverty with 5 other girls in a crappy apartment, just so I can get that kitchen feel. You know the one. The, we like cooking and don't have time time to clean and have a ton of spices and odds and ends in our cabinets and if you cook something people will come swarming around to see what you're doing and taste things, so you have to always cook way more than you're going to eat because you end up feeding everyone who comes in with things like cheap pasta and soup and tea and all things lovely and homelike... kind of kitchens.

I was just talking about this with Pacella. In highschool, I dreaded going back to school after summer. I never wanted the summer to end. I hated school. I really did. They made you learn things you didn't care about and then you got to go home and do homework.

College. Now going back to college is not going back to school. Going to college is like going back to an entire new way of life. It's fantastic. It's live in community with many people you know and walk five minutes to class and barely sleep and walk out your front door and something is always going on. It's free museums and concerts and outdoor movies and interesting lectures and papers thrown together just so they'll let you stay. It's 2 am trips to Walmart and discussions and studying in laundry rooms or bathrooms at all hours of the night because it's the only place people aren't sleeping. It's walks at night and multiple parties to pick and choose from and traditions and gigantic dining hall tables full of only a small percentage of people you know because you know practically everyone and discussing what you'd do in a zombie apocalypse, or whether white pizza is pizza and what are the parameters the constitute a pizza? It's long arguments on morality and Christianity and Judaism and Islam and Paganism and the gods only know what else.

It's people being nerds cause it's college and everyone has a passion about something that they can talk long hours about and there are people around to be interested and talk long hours with them.

...yea sorry about that. I'm still in mourning.

So, her house was nice.

Then we stayed at this amazing free hiker/cyclist hostel on top of a mountain. It had bunks and a shower and a chair to sit in outside. I sat in that chair all day while I finished reading Dune and listened to the rain hit the tin roof as showers moved by thinking about how nice it would be to live here.

Some vague conclusions as I near the end of this trip, or more specifically, things I have learned to do better:

I can now navigate with only spotty information and a gps without worrying about it. I can even call Dave Tatum for directions and not have a single urge to yell at him while I decipher the directions he kind of gives me. In all actuality this may be because he has gotten better at giving directions now that he owns a car and drives in Atlanta.

I can now drive in places like San Fransisco and Pueblo and hopefully Baltimore.

I can walk up and knock on churches and peoples doors and ask for things, but I have learned what I already knew; I don't actually like doing this.

Perhaps I will save this for my last blog post on this website. I suppose we're obligated to post a final one. It will probably be the last after this one.

We are heading towards the beach, like I said, rather than travel up Virginia and Maryland in the mountains because we have been on every other terrain, but the coast and would like to do that for a few days, just for a change of scenery.

Not only that, but if we head towards the beach, I get to read in a new location... on a beach. Finally, a vacation.

Much Love,
Shelly Kessler, nearly home from her American adventure

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Come on Hear the Illinoise

We have made it to Illinois. Home of Popeye the Sailor man as the sign proudly announced as I hit the first town. Well, technically the town was home to popeye, but I suppose that means by relationship the state as well. They also have a 6 foot popeye statue, which I missed because it was dark and I was late anyway.

I did take a picture of the Illinois sign; The Land of Lincoln it proudly proclaims, but I didn't take a picture of me in front of it because it was dark. I also did not take a picture of the Mississippi river, which I have never seen before because the bridge I took to get across did not have things like places for tourists to take pictures.

The Mississippi was vast and powerful and I'm not entirely sure why I was impressed by it except for the vague notion that I haven't seen that much water in two months.

While I was driving over the bridge I carefully did not crash my car while I looked at the sun setting on the river. Really it was beautiful, perhaps I can rustle up a postcard, but I refuse to backtrack an hour to find one.

We stayed with another couchsurfer with his own fun stories of couchsurfing and things of that nature. We all talked for awhile, and then everyone got some sleep. This place was super fantastic because we each got a couch or mattress or futon to sleep on and because he was the couchsurfing type where he gives you his address, tells you he might not be there, but to walk in and make yourselves at home. Yes people actually do this and it makes them fantastic people.

I checked out the vegetarian restaurant in this place in Illinois, I can't actually remember where I am... Carbondale, I'm in Carbondale.

I now principally spend my time in coffee shops, local, indy, chains... I don't care as long as it has internet and a selection of tea.

The coffee shop clientele are interesting. They all look too cool and artsy for me. Businessmen come here to sit outside of cubicles on laptops and cell phones, artsy women in floral dresses come to talk about big ideas and to work on their craft, be it writing or drawing or who knows what.

I have Facebook chats with friends from home and get bored of my own thoughts and think about being a real person. This nomadic homeless existence is essentially like college without a dorm room. Not like the real world, or perhaps it is and I've just been fooled my entire life to think that real life is something different from school.

I'm fairly certain that I'm going to have to go back to school because I manage to become thoroughly bored with old thoughts within the space of a month or two and where can you get new thoughts? School. It's like an addiction. It has to be fed, otherwise I end up pacing in circles listening to the same old boring music and thinking the same thoughts in a rut that I need to pour new ideas into so I can get out of it.

Honestly I fit and and don't fit into these coffee shops. I'm in jeans and a t-shirt from Walmart... I doubt this crowd doesn't admit that they shop at Walmart. The clothes are carefully vintage. Of course there are the people passing through, but these aren't coffee shop people. There is a type.

And of course I'm writing like this because I went to Barnes and Nobles and impulsively bought a book about being a young twenty something in New York that's a bit like a cheap Sex in the City without as much success and isn't that thoroughly depressing as a concept?

Well, this isn't my blog, so I'm going to talk about this trip.

We were in Missouri last I blogged. Well, hurrah a new state, we're in Illinois. I like it better, I think because there are more things. It turns out, I like things. At the very least I like the option of going to see a movie and soy milk.

Don't blink because you might actually miss Illinois, we're only going to be here today. We were in this great hostel in Missouri yesterday called Al's Place. It's a bike hostel, show up, call the number on the door (The Fire Department who happens to run it) and they give you the passcode to get in. It's a requested 20 dollar donation to stay in a place that looks like a million dollar apartment in New York. It was over the old historic jail and had sections of the original brick artfully peaking through the drywall. It was actually a thoroughly beautiful and awesome place, right next to their downtown area, a block from the coffee shop and complete with another person to talk to.

We of course met another cyclist going west, they are starting to slim out because the high time for them in this area is late june, early july so they get to the end by August.

This place had everything a touring group needs. In case you are wondering this includes: air conditioning, bunk beds upon bunk beds, computer and internet, outlets by every single bed, including the lofted ones, a fridge and cabinets with leftover food for small amounts of money, a microwave and a washing machine and dryer.

The only thing it could have used was an oven and stovetop. In all it was pretty nifty.

Some fun things about Missouri I have learned. It is entirely acceptable to smoke. In most places smokers have been socially outcast to standing outside in the cold in strange alleys outside of bars. Here, they get to smoke in sunny booths in cafes and diners in front of their children and the rest of the patrons and no one looks twice. It's interesting what is socially acceptable and not acceptable depending on where you go. In Greece I walked out of the theater to get some air and into an entire cloud of smoke because everyone in the theater got up and went out to have a smoke which is how things used to be done in Maryland and are now no longer acceptable.

They call Missouri the show me state, it was explained to me why this was and I vaguely remember. It was something like they'll believe it when you see it, won't buy your bull crap, you'll have to show them it works first kind of thing.

What else? The Ozarks are beautiful. I highly recommend a trip to see them. The springs were like something out of a fairytale. I could not believe that it actually existed. I took pictures in case people didn't believe me that it was that beautiful.

The Ozarks are also like driving, and I would imagine biking, a roller coaster. I am very glad I was driving and not being driven. Up and down and up and down and up and down and curve around and do it again.

My glasses probably give me more cred in this coffee shop (We established on google buzz that I like side notes). The adults are sitting here having conversations about liberal parenting. Is it worrysome that I still think in terms of adults and children? Well, not adults and children. Adults and the real world, and college students and the better world... or something. College students not actually being adults, artfully prolonging the time before they have to enter the personal responsibility and drudgery in the land of no new ideas also known as the Real World.

I hear there are mythical jobs that people actually like where they get to have new ideas and try to actually do them. This is quite honestly maybe one of the only reasons I want to get into social justicey servicey work. That and helping people, of course. I could do that on the side, on a volunteer basis, but as a job? Perhaps a chance to like what I do and not live with when I'm not doing what I do.

Perhaps there will be a continuous stream of new ideas in the Real World and the college thing is a myth. Perhaps I will just hang out with everyone I knew who went to grad school without going to grad school myself just to hear new ideas. They're not even new ideas most of the time anyway, they're just new to us.

So how bout that Missouri? What else? The people we met who helped us out were awesome. The beautiful waterways would have been great to canoe if I had someone to go with. I refuse to go canoeing by myself, I am entirely aware of how nonathletic (spellcheck is telling me unathletic is not a word) and incompetent in things like canoeing that I am.

Anyway, apparently the land of Kentucky is full of dogs to chase the boys, which will be sure to keep them occupied. What ends up happening is Pacella and perhaps Jesse go by first which triggers them to start running after them. When they leave the dog's territory it stops and turns around to hurrah! See Mike German coming up behind them.

This is actually OK because Mike is very good with hostile animals. Ask him about the feral cat he managed to pick up.

So, that's about it. I'm actually publishing this on BAAM... I want my own blog, or no blog at all. That might be best.

Signed from the Land of Pretend that is Long Term Traveling,
Shelly Kessler,

Saturday, July 17, 2010

In Misery

Well, we're in Missouri.

So far the people have been very kind. Mike went to the library to ask about accommodations in Golden City, MO and got directed to our most excellent host Paul. Paul used to run a bike hostel in town. Cyclists would pick up keys, volunteers would help clean the rooms, they would lock the doors on their way out. It was all on the honor system. They'd ask for a 5 dollar donation to keep the lights on. Well they had to shut it down because they couldn't insure it without having someone in there running the place with the cyclists in it. The way it was being run, they just let the cyclists have the place to themselves.

So, Paul is on warm showers and is a most excellent host if anyone is ever going through the area.

His house has very cold air conditioning, it was fantastic.

Alright so we stayed in that First Baptist church and then made it here, we had finally caught up with Rich again. Rich was the same fellow who stayed with us in Telluride. He was in great spirits and took us up on a place to stay with air conditioning rather than in a park.

We found this super awesome Chinese Buffet. I think it was super awesome because I had been thinking about having Chinese food since San Fran.

Well alright so that was two days ago and then we get here and go to sleep planning on getting an early start, well when we got up it was to find that Pacella had been up all night sick and it was a no go for biking that day.

He looked pretty wretched. Mike and Jesse went to go get yet another meal and I eventually followed. I walked over to get some chicken noodle soup from the local store while Mike and Jesse went back to take a nap.

Man can Jesse sleep. You can't wake him up. He probably slept 14 hours yesterday.

Mike finally got out of the worst of his illness. At this point he was contorted in his sleeping bag and had managed to wind his way across the room and nearly under a table. Mike German of course thought the best thing for him was to eat a huge meal and get some energy in him. He balked at chicken noodle soup, which had nothing in it and which Jesse and I explained was the point.

I swear that boy can eat anything, Mike German that is.

Well alright we're guessing it was food poisoning because it came on so suddenly and severely. It did not go away quite so quickly. He managed to get from the floor to a chair for a bit and watch the tour de France. That's about it.

Paul invited us to watch a movie with him. It was a British mystery in a series which was really neat. I enjoyed having a chance to eat popcorn and watch a real movie. Mike joined us, but Jesse and our new cyclist friend Matt stayed out here talking about something. Who knows what. The nature of the universe? Actually I think that's what it may have been.

Matt, by the way is another cyclist we met going west. His friend was initially with him, but got something like 5 flats and one day and called it quits. Apparently he's very tall and muscular and was carrying 100 lbs worth of gear and the road bike wasn't liking it. It would have been like that all the way across America.

Well we introduced Matt to Paul and hooked him up with some air conditioning to sleep in, we figured we needed to replace Rich who had gone on his way that morning.

Oh! If you're ever in Golden City, there is pie. Lots and lots of award winning pie. Family's secret recipe award winning kind of pie. Stop in at Cooky's Cafe if you want some. They also have excellent dinner specials. Real good food.

So, Mike and I watched a movie with Paul and I get a text from Pacella asking where we were. Seems he couldn't seem to bring himself to claw his way off the floor. I can't blame him, the kid was looking pretty rough. We fed him some chicken noodle soup and some buttered bread and water while he protested he could make the soup and Mike German explained to him how being sick worked.

He checked his phone and saw a missed call from his parents. You didn't post that I was sick on-line? He asked. My parents read your blog, you know.

Oh, no I didn't. I told Elise because she's my texting buddy, but I didn't post it on-line.

Maybe Mike or Jesse? Mike did you post that Pacella was sick on-line?

No... well actually I did write a blog today and I talked about him being sick and us taking a day off.

Sorry Pacella.

Well, seeing as how his parents read this blog. He's fine. He was eating things and looking less like a survivor of a ship wreak this morning. They all set out late today after a long good night's sleep and were sticking close together. Mike German is actually a Papa Bear and will keep an eye on him. He's good about looking out for people.

They cut down how far they were riding today dramatically. We made sure he ate a full breakfast and drank lots of water before we set out and they're going very slow while he tests out his biking legs. We're going to ease back into the rhythm of riding and we're definitely not starting out with 100 mile days.

They're taking 8 hours to go 40 miles today with an idea of stopping in a closer town if it proves too much too soon.

It looks like we're not actually getting back on the 5th as initially planned and are now shooting for the 8th, so that I have time to get to my Americorps interview.

That's all. I didn't read Mike's blog. He probably already said everything I just said.

Signed in Missouri,
One Shelly Kessler

Friday, July 16, 2010

Golden City, MO by Mike German

Golden City, MO

Today we rest in Golden City, MO. We’ve been riding ~100 miles per day for the last forever. At 5:30AM we were all up and ready to go, but Pacella was in the bathroom puking, as he had been all night. After Jesse and I got ready to head out, and were about to pump up our tires, put on sunscreen, and be gone we realized it would be best for the group to take a day off, keep ourselves together and enjoy a day of rest. Jesse and I then got second breakfast at Cooky’s Diner CafĂ©. I had 2 eggs over easy, 2 sausage, a biscuit, 2 biscuits and gravy, orange juice, and a great slice of strawberry rhubarb pie a la mode. Fat and happy, we came back to the house of one of the amazing people we’ve met along this trip- Paul. He had let us stay overnight indoors in air conditioning!! Thank God that we found this place, especially not knowing that Pacella was going to get sick. Being sick camping would have been miserable for all. After arriving back at 9AM we slept until 1PM! Life is beautiful. Now I’m sitting in a library ripping some random books to my computer so I can listen to some books for the rest of the trip. It costs $2 to use the computer, which is a little dumb but I’m sure a nice source of income from all the residents and bikers who use the library. I tried hooking my computer up to their Ethernet, but that didn’t work.

A couple accounts of people and businesses generosity in the last days:

Passing through a town on the way to Newton, KS I was provided pizza and salad bar as a donation from D’Angelo’s Pizza (a lovely place). Since I’ve started asking businesses for food donations this has become a daily happenstance, except when we are in small towns who get very low populations passing through. On the way out of town, I stopped at a house with a baby pool to dunk my head in because the heat was horrendous (I think this was one of the days it hit ~110 heat index). They let me soak my head and thought I was a bit funny, the grandmother told me to sit down, and I obliged. The mother was so lovely she was trying to give me anything she could to help us cool down, some Gatorade, a ride to the next town, etc. Of the many people we’ve met, they didn’t seem too well to do, but their hearts were large and the family was close. The grandmother eventually gave us a total of ~$80, ~$30 at the house and then a $50 bill as we were biking down the highway, while still offering us a ride to the next town (2 bikers and 2 bikes, as she drove a PT Cruiser). I was floored.

The night before this on my way into Alexander, KS I stopped in a Lutheran Church because I saw there were cars outside and I had enough time to spend an hour before finishing the ride with some light still overhead. I walked in and the AC condensed all the sweat on my body, so that I was a walking puddle. The pastor came by during announcements and asked what I was about and I showed him my quartersheet I show to everyone about our trip. During a break he introduced me, let me talk for a while, and took up an impromptu offering where we collected $65.

We’ve stopped in countless houses who’ve provided water, bathroom, snacks, and short indoor stays with AC.

At night, we’ve knocked a ton of different churches and most have given us a place to stay. Although, I would recommend first checking in with the “First Baptist Church” in any town because they have been the most hospitable by far. They did turn us down in Laeoti, KS (sp?) but I think that was the only town so far where a First Baptist Church has failed us. In Laeoti, we stayed at a Presbyterian Church that was then considering opening up the church as a stop for future cross-country cyclists. They donated ~$200.

I thought that this trip would be a departure from wonderful tastes and eating, but with the warm hearts of so many individuals and businesses I’ve eaten extravagantly at times. Eureka, NV was the most ridiculous, where we were provided with homemade meals for nearly every meal, that were all wonderful. I think I’ve already written about how the sunsets in Diamond Valley compared with Hawai’i and the Mennonite/Baptist food was wonderful. But there’s also been many quality restaurants who’ve donated lunches and dinners that have been outstanding, especially a bakery and BBQ place in Telluride, two recent Mexican restaurants, meatloaf upon arriving in Pueblo, CO (at the wonderful Black Eye Pea), a Chinese Buffet in Great Bend, KS (you can eat healthy at these places, just avoid the fried and overly saucy foods- rice, meat and vegetables, and plates of fruit= grand), Hamburger Goulash (that reminded of the homemade Italian gravy I had from Mrs. Harman during my summer in Columbia, MD) at the Copper Kettle (in some recent town in KS, where we might get featured in their paper, I think it was between Hutchinson and Eureka), etc. By the end of this trip, I think my taste buds will have returned from their college days of eat anything and everything in sight. Although, everyone else in the group will say my breakfasts of rice and anything within reach are a bit atrocious. I think of rice topped with granola, dried fruit, peanut butter, jelly, and honey as more like a hearty mash or a PB&J on hearty, bird seed bread.

I’m going to get to finished up some post cards! 75 cards have taken a while to write, but it’s been fun and worthwhile. I was considering sending out 2 to everyone, but it’s taken me a great while to get done just the first round.

One regret of this trip, has been the time restraint. I would have loved to have sat down and talked longer with many of the people we meet day in and out. This would probably have made fundraising easier. But, as a first cycling tour and cross-country trip it’s been a great, quick summary of America. If you have the chance I recommend self-supported touring in a group charity ride while taking your time. I’m hoping this coming Spring Break I’m able to do another cycling tour in the Baltimore- Philadelphia-Lancaster-Lehigh area for a week. I figure that would be a relaxing tour of 60-70 miles per day by plenty of interesting towns, lovely people (some people we know), etc. So if you’re interested in a tour, sign up for Papa Bear’s Bike Tours!


Mike G


Pacella is doing much better and we will ride tomorrow.  We'll find out how long once the day is started.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

So What's there to do in Kansas?

It turns out, there is plenty to do in Kansas.

For starters they have lots of community pools and they let cyclists in for free for showers and a swim. I spent the day at the pool, reading a book and hopping in and out of the water to cool off. It was absolutely wonderful. I could nearly pretend that it was the ocean where most of my family is currently vacationing.

Honest to God if I were near a real airport I would be at the beach right now. Not that I'm not enjoying Kansas, but sometimes a girl just craves the ocean. I've been landlocked for far to long. I have no idea how people live their entire lives without being near an ocean.

Alright so there are community pools.

There are also restrooms. This is a big deal I swear. A lot of the towns in Kansas will let you camp in their city park and they even put bathrooms in for the travelers. So, we've been sleeping on cushy grass next to a place with lights and running water that we can use. They're in the strangest of places too. Nicest restroom I've ever seen and it's right outside of a town of 70 people.

Then I went to a fort! They have a fort from the 1800s that is fully restored and preserved. Fort Larned is it's name. The park rangers were as always super nice. I think it must be amazing to work in some of the most beautiful land in the country doing what you love to do. It makes them all smiley.

Well the rangers take turns dressing up in period costume and talking to the people walking through. I got to put on a soldiers coat and hat for a picture. It was a really nice place.

Then yesterday I did something even more exciting... an Air and Space Museum!!! Turns out Kansas has the cosmosphere, which has an Imax and a Planetarium. They repair and accurately restore machinery used by NASA and put it on display.

What's really neat is they helped make all the stuff for the movie Apollo 13 look accurate. According to them everything used in the movie is accurate. So, they have big shuttles outside and you can step out and they play a recording that makes it sounds like it's about to take off while you look up and up and up at it.

They had an entire section on the rocketry developed by the germans during WWII which led into a section on the atomic era and the cold war and the space race. They even had a section of the Berlin Wall.

Alright so it went from German rocketry to the Cold War to the Space Race to the first people in space and an Exhibit on the Apollo flights and walking on the moon. They had the duck and cover videos and the whole broadcast of the first moon landing.

Oh man! They also had a planetarium, which I have always in my life wanted to go to. They sit you in reclining chairs and you look at the ceiling while they turn out the lights and project the night sky on the ceiling. Then they point out constellations that I've always never been able to see and draw pictures around them so you can visualize it. They went through the night sky in the northern hemisphere in all four seasons and then ended with a picture of the sky that night and what to look for at what time. Super cool.

They had an Imax film about creating airliners for the 21st century which was neat because you got an idea of how airplanes were made, but kind of silly because it was basically a big advertisement for Boeing.

And they had Dr. Goddard's lab, where a 7th grade science teacher from the local school lit things on fire. She dipped a cotton ball into liquid oxygen and then set it on fire (boom!) and she made and set off small rockets while explaining the very basics of what makes them work. It was really cute.

Oh! They also had pictures of famous events in early space flight with some of the famous astronauts who wrote quotes and signed them.

The moral of this story: Space museums are as exciting as dinosaur museums.

There is something about air and space museums that always makes me cry, I think it has to do with the sheer amount of human dreams and potential contained within one space that does it. It's like the space shuttles exude the raw emotion put into their creation. Especially the early ones, where crazy people risked their lives to test fly these things that had never existed before because they had this bizzare dream that they could fly, that they could have the audacity to go to space.

Man used to look up at the stars and claim them the territory of the gods and these crazy people went there and claimed it as within their grasp.

So... yeah. I love air and space museums. The only thing better would be if they had hot air balloons. I think I'll be the first woman to fly a hot air balloon on mars. (Only two people are going to get that joke.)

Alright, so there are swimming pools and forts and spaceships in Kansas. What else?

There is homemade icecream, which I'm not supposed to eat but I did anyway. There are gas stations that serve everything from cold cuts to homemade food to fast food to go where the locals come and get a cup of coffee and hang out for an hour. There are always people to talk to when you walk in.

There are also local museums. These are super great because you get to wander around with someone who is volunteering there and probably grew up in the community. I wandered around a local museum today with a really nice lady who made up the displays herself. She played the music box for me and let me touch things I probably wasn't supposed to. My inner history/ancient studies minor was cringing at being allowed to touch things I knew I wasn't supposed to, but it was a typical case of the tragedy of the commons. Everyone else was touching these public artifacts, so they were going to be destoryed anyway. They were all out and not preserved at all and oh to get to touch them before they're destroyed! I never get to touch them at home.

We played with the suitcase organ and the thing that looks like binnoculars which you put old pictures in front of and look through. I got to go in an old jail and stand in it and look at all the pretty ladies things.

She was very nice and gave me an excellent tour. I highly recommend community museums, they are so neat.

Now I'm in another library, it's rather new, so I think it's still being put together and added to, but It's very open and clean like all the other libraries I have been in.

I am mildly considering how much I still want to be a librarian, but I hear jobs are hard to come by.

Anyway, things to do in Kansas: community swimming pools, cosmosphere, community museums, homemade everything delicious, but especially icecream.

Oh and I almost forgot, Kansas has really interesting storms, so if you like watching them you don't have to wait long to see one. Apparently the storm chasers come rolling through here a lot. They get motorcyclists, cyclists and storm chasers through these parts. They look at you and guess which one you are. So far they have always asked me if i'm a cyclist. This is because the motorcyclists wear more black (i'm trying to stay cool and am in white), and the storm chasers look super intense and come running into libraries demanding internet and coffee and this and that and oh man we have to go go go there's a storm go go go! I am on a leisurely vacation and so they hazard a guess at cyclist.

I do believe that is all I have to say about Kansas for now, I'll let you know if I find anything else out in particular.

I guess I never did do a reflection on Colorado.

Colorado has a lot of mountains. The people in Colorado that we met tended towards the quirky with quirky buildings and coffee shops and stores. Outdoorsy reigned supreme, with many communities of people who moved out there because they love skiing and mountain biking and hiking. There are hikers who hike the rockies and cyclists who are biking over them and they all converge on this one place called the transamerica trail.

It's interesting to say the least. Colorado was probably the state that I wanted to spend much more time in. I would have liked to take a side trip into the mountains (Not a hike up a fourteener without any equipment while everyone else has base camps and ice picks and all sorts of gear, in that case I'll take another massage instead).

Alright, that's it, I'm off to find food.

I will say this about Kansas, if you're driving through, have a book on tape to listen to. It makes the scenery more interesting.

Signed most estatically,
One Shelly Kessler, Crazy Moon Woman