When I was a young girl I had a 10 speed trek bicycle. From the moment the snow melted I would be ready to go. I was never an athlete, but that bike…I rode more miles then anyone else I knew at that age. Almost daily during the summer months I would find joy as I peddled down the road heading toward a large hill simply to experience flying down the next slope and gliding half way up the following one. There was an added rush on the way down the second hill as you had to make the left or right turn at the bottom of it or crash into a swamp! Many of the roads were like this where I grew up and choosing to ride 1500 miles in one week to re-launch the American Wedding Project reminded me of being on my childhood bike.
I’ve been planning the American Wedding Project for more years than I care to admit to now. There have been various complications and one of the biggest has been transportation. When I got super sick in 2016 I needed to make a decision between car insurance and health insurance. Then I had to make a decision between rent and a car payment. I chose the health insurance and rent and for the first time in my adult life had absolutely no vehicle. The following spring after nine months of steroids and two chemo infusions I was finally physically feeling better and decided to get my motorcycle license again and an inexpensive bike. I once again had that freedom like so long ago (only I didn’t have to stand up on the pedals to get up the hill…just grip the throttle a bit harder.)
I had a few concerns about my health earlier in the year which made me slow down the plan of action to document at least a couple of sample weddings. Then I was given a break to go to Rhode Island for wedding at the Regatta. How could I say no to an opportunity like that? When I talked with the couple I fell in love with them instantly. Now the big decision – use the bike or rent a car.
One piece at a time, the plan to use the bike came to fruition. Duffel bags were purchased; a small tent and air mattress fit in them perfectly. A backpack that would hold my computer, clothing, and sleeping bag. The under-seat compartment was foamed for camera equipment while the back trunk was filled with rain gear and a change of cloths. It was supposed to only take two days of riding to get there and two days back leaving me with two extra days for an adventure.
The schedule was tight but I was confident…only thing I didn’t really plan on – left over hurricane rain. The morning I was supposed to leave it was pouring so hard I couldn’t see four feet in front of me…so I waited, loaded the bike when it let up a little, put on the rain gear, and left six hours later than planned. I was chasing the rain and was often times in it. By the time I pulled into a campsite I was exhausted and it was too wet to tent it, so a cabin became my first night out.
The following day was glorious. I was in the finger lakes of NY and it was hill after hill and at the summit of each was another breathtaking view of trees, small towns, curvy roads, and a sky clear and blue. Zooming down and leaning into the curves as mile after mile spun behind my tires. I was 14 again!
To describe each day would be a book trust me…it rained a lot…but what I do want to try to communicate is the resplendent solitude.
I wear a full face helmet that cuts the noise significantly. You can’t talk on your phone, I don’t listen to a radio, and there is no munching while riding… it’s you, the bike, and the road. 100% of your attention has to be right there. It is almost as peaceful as meditating in a room alone, only you are penetrating the air at whatever the speed limit is.
I often times refer to my bike as my personal transportation device as if I’m a member of the Jetson family in a flying car. As long as the roads are smooth I feel like Neo in the Matrix soaring between buildings with a purpose.
It was that first full day of riding through vineyards then orchards then animal based farms that I realized a facet of riding that gets totally missed while in a car – smell. The world around us has so many different scents. I rode past a pizza restaurant and almost turned around, I rode past a bakery and did turn back! I held my breath as I passed road kill and took deep breaths in when the rain finally stopped in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts – I swear you could smell the plants growing.
I averaged 73 miles to the gallon even with all my gear and being soaked 5 days out of 9. It took three more days than planned but I arrived at the wedding location on time, met amazing people, camped in interesting places, and I even slept on a strangers couch one night. Although it would be much more convenient to have an RV or a van I learned that I really really really want to do this project on the motorbike. These past three years of being sick have made me feel much older than I actually am…the one week on the bike made me feel as giddy as a 14 year old flying down a hill with a left or a right to make or a wet Ker Plunk into a swamp.
One of the most important things in life is having people you can count on. For me Steve Forslund has always been my mentor and friend. We hadn’t physically seen each other in over 25 years and it was such a blessing to spend a little time catching up and actually being able to hug him in real life. As long as one is on Cape Cod, I figured I should grab a lobster roll. Yes, yes, yes it was good!
It was super cold the next night so I chose to stay in a Yurt at Shawme-Crowell State Forest in Sandwich MA. The next morning I packed up in beautiful sun and headed back over the big bridge into mainland MA before it started raining yet again!
All the gear in the first picture is how I stayed warm in this fall weather that rained and rained and rained. I soaked through three pairs of gloves and pulled over at a motor sports store to get muffs for the handle bars. I think I want heated hand grips.
The day that started out so nice turned into torrential rain all day. I was supposed to be back in Buffalo the following day by noon and I just wasn’t going to make it. I pulled into a small deli/grocery store asked to use a bathroom and Nancy (on the left) hung out because she was wicked curious about me. We had a nice conversation and I mentioned that I might have to grab a flight back to Buffalo for doctor appointments and then come back for the bike. She then offered me a couch to sleep on and a hot meal instead of me paying for another hotel room. She said that everyone in her home is a rescue. Her friend rescued her after her divorce, both of their mothers now live with them, a grandson, a ex-son-in-law, two dogs, two or three cats, a rabbit and I believe there is a horse in the back yard. It was a nice evening and I got a good night sleep in hopes for a clear day. My doctors postponed the appointments until the following week so I continued to ride.
It rained again the last full day I was on the road slowing me down yet again. I promised myself on the way back I would stop and check out this place on top of one of the many hills of the finger lakes in Lafayette, NY. Although I could not partake in any of the beverages to warm me up, I did get a much needed break from the rain and I picked up a four pack of hard cider to enjoy at home.