Way back a couple weeks ago, we left the grey sky and comfort of Washington D.C. for our next big stop, Philadelphia. Before getting to Philly, we ran into a little weather.
Just south of Baltimore, we found some rain, or rather it found us. The rain and no plan of a place to stay for the night stopped us in Lansdowne and kept us there for a couple hours while we attempted to wait the rain out. The waiting game was clearly in the rain’s favor as the light slowly faded from the day. We had made a desperate attempt to find couch surfing hosts in the area before nightfall and were still waiting in the dark when we finally heard back from someone.
Danielle was still working when she contacted us. She said we could stay with her for the night, but we had to ride to downtown Baltimore to meet her at work. When she was done, we would be able to ride over and get some rest. With a relaxed workplace that has a keg on tap at all times, she welcomed us to her town and warmed us up. We spent the rainy evening getting acquainted and utilizing said work-keg; juggling lessons may or may not have been involved. It was a long night for how tired we were when we arrived, but the fun balanced out the lack of sleep.
We woke late the next morning, ate pineapple, and rode north toward Pennsylvania. Rolling hills and small towns later, we found ourselves in yet another little town.
We set up our hammocks behind a billboard and went comfortably to sleep. The following day we rode rolling hills through small towns again until we were riding through the socially splotchy neighborhoods of South Philadelphia.
Our destination was the home of a good friend made in Costa Rica, Bill Bowman. Bill and his parents provided our welcome, which seemed endless throughout our long weekend at the Bowman residence.
As part of our welcome, Bill took us to one of the secret treasures of his city. The treasure was a cliff jumping spot on the river we rode along when we first came into Philly. Even though we wanted to see the downtown and get a feel for the history of Philadelphia when we imagined our time there, time playing a handball-like game Bill and his friends created and jumping into a river off a huge boulder were easily as memorable.
Time well spent with the good people we needed to meet rather than fancy photos of historical buildings served us well. We never made it back in to experience the downtown, but no regrets what so ever.
Shortly after we left Philadelphia we were in New Jersey. Trenton, the first city we passed through, was a bit rough. In a light rain we didn’t find ourselves appreciating it or much else in the little state. The city came and went without pause because we decided we would try to go the eighty miles from North Philadelphia to Manhattan in one day. Time was of the essence and we were happy to find ourselves on a bike trail off the highway that was headed immediately north.
It was starting to be all smiles while we shot footage of the beautiful scenery we were surrounded with until a bike accident sent Andrew swerving. He swung to his right and directly into me. I was then sent careening toward a tree, which I hit head on. After the hit I fell into the river along with my bike. Andrew rushed over to hoist both my bike and I out of the canal.
It was a horrible moment that was fortunately not ended in any real tragedy. I was not seriously hurt and the only item lost was an ipod that was well worth the trade. It was shocking enough to keep us in place, reeling. While I sat on the trail and recalled the events that had just transpired I looked at clouds that were dark and low. The rain started falling on us with nowhere to go, so we grabbed a tarp and threw it over everything.
While we waited for the pounding to slow down, we couldn’t help ourselves but laugh at how everything can be perfect then change so rapidly with one simple accident. It was the most miserable thing that we had experienced on this trip. It was terrifying. It was destructive. It was absurd, and no amount of anger could erase that. The bad parts of this trip had helped to make it memorable and that was more apparent then than ever.
The crash story does manage to have a semi-happy ending. Shortly after the rain finally let up, a cyclist rode up to us and asked how we were. He was just curious about our trip, as we found out he was a cross-country tripper himself. We told him about what had happened and he responded by offering us a place to stay for the night. Hesitant to give up on Manhattan, we debated stopping for the day, but chose to not ruin ourselves just for the sake of impatience. Jeff had given us his number to call him if we decided to stay. We called and met up with him again soon after.
It was a surreal series of events that led us to be at a table of a pizza place with Jeff, his children, and his son’s girlfriend. It was his son’s 21st birthday and we were all celebrating together. It was strangely comforting to eat pizza and listen to Jeff acquaint himself with his son’s main squeeze.
After dinner, we came back to the house and made ourselves at home on the couches. Fast to sleep and early to rise, we took some photos with our serendipitous hosts then headed back to the trail we never felt like returning to.