Saturday, June 13, 2009

The birth of Red Velvet

Day 10 - June 12, 11:13pm

55 miles. Schuylkill Haven PA to Harrisburg, PA

Scratch yesterday's post. Today was officially the best day yet of bike and build.

So because yesterday we had seen a ton of yard sales but never stopped, Meryl and I today firmly decided to stop at one no matter what. It was only a few miles out where two huge stuffed monkeys advertising one. It was here that I met Red Velvet. Lying amongst a rack of women's skirts and blouses it's red crocheting caught my eye and never let go. At first I noticed it and laughed but then when i failed to find anything else i thought, "Wait, why wouldn't buy a ridiculous hot red, form-fitting, see-through women's sweater"

The wonderful sisters Gale and Lisa were not quite expecting my decision to say the least but gladly donated it. As if my day wasn't already overloaded on awesomesauce at that moment, I then noticed the most irresistable pair of fuzzy leopard skin dice as we were leaving. Guess who's handlebars they're on now!

The terrain was pretty gentle and the scenery still nice. I managed a nice conversation with Miranda which I hadn't yet really done. Something i like to do with people comes from this awesome dude named Sanford who taught a FOP workshop at school this past spring.

How it works is to have 2 person exchanges where each person has 2 minutes to talk about specific features of hemselves(usually their school, best friend, favorite teacher, etc) while the other person can only nod their head and say "uh huh". in It's really interesting what comes out and how much we can learn about each other's essences in only a few short minutes. The questions that result once the listener is allowed to speak always amaze me. While structuring a simple conversation initially wierds most people out, its highly worth it. Perhaps you'll give it a try sometime?

Anyway, back to the ride, a real highlight was Miranda complementing my shadow and how cool it looked as we were riding. I've never ever had anyone say that and it felt really cool. Thanks Miranda!

As we approached the wafting smells of cocoa in Hershey, Pennsylvania a factory tour pitstop was most necessary. Little did we know what was about to happen. After the ridiculous factory tour ride involving dancing and singing robotic cows(alright they were kinda cool) Max decided that he really really wanted to see if they would give us complementary admission to Hershey Park. The five of us decided to give it a shot expecting nothing and at the guest services counter we met Bob whose conversation with us basically went as follows:

"Well what i can do is hold your credit card and not charge it so long as you're back in 45 minutes, actually lets make that an hour, actually just take your time, actually let me call the ride manager and let you skip the line onto our most extreme roller coaster, actually let me reserve front row seats for you in the coaster" So yes, thanks to the infinite generosity and kindness of Bob at Guest Services we had been in and out of Hershey Park's best roller coaster free of charge within 20 minutes. Though we might have also hit up the horse carousel and a picture with the walking chocolate bars. The roller coaster was sick and even now I still can't process what super fun had happened there on such a whim.

Tonight our church was kind enough to open up this sweet parish house to us and dinner was all arranged and cooked by the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. First of all they had couscous. That's at least +9 points for them. However it was only once I got there dressed in my see through skin tight red sweater did I realize that they had actually invited all of their members to mingle with us. Talk about first impressions...

I did get to meet Erica and Antron there. Our small talk slowly rolled into much deeper conversation and I just loved them. The way Antron talked about loving what he can do for people through his Habitat job rather than just focusing on what paycheck's he could be getting at other jobs cut right through me. He had this total earnestness gushing from every pore and seeping down his great dreads. We talked a lot about how we both love meeting new people and man we just totally connected. It was all of ten minutes but that feeling is the thunder of life for me. I can hardly think of anything better in the world than connecting with another human being. Erica was equally as charming and we just threw jokes around left and right. She was so sweet and sharp in conversation i could sit with her all day. She is actually in charge of interviewing potential homeowners applying for a Habitat house which sounds like a great job. I wish i had talked more with her about it.

Red Velvet was a hit with everyone so I think it will continue to occupy my bag, as will the dice. More affordable housing presentations tonight, and following them Dan Cooperman was kind enough to buy us all huge tubs of Rita's "Water Ice". I know it as "Italian Ice" but its the same thing and it was great.

There's this wierd game people keep playing where they describe a line between two objects repeatedly according to some hidden "rule". They give good and bad examples while the rest of us mortals have to figure out what the rule is. It's pretty ridiculous personally but then again i still can't figure it out. Hopefully that will change.

Unfortunately today I discovered some butt issues while riding. And by that i mean i felt the fires of hell burning all up in there if you get me. I'm going to try some ointments and monitor it closely. It would really suck to have to ride in the van because of it not to mention, that its hard to even sit down sometimes. We'll definitely treat it and it'll soon be fine but it just kinda sucks.

Some other people have been having serious knee issues though, and i can't imagine what it's been like for them to not be able to ride, or to ride with extreme pain. Steve, Carlie and Marisa are true champs.

Today i finally realized that some irritation i've been feeling lately has been coming from the sheer stress of constantly being around 31 people in such cramped quarters. I realized that its just kind of inevitable and that its not that i dislike people particularly. It's like a roommate's idiosyncracies multiplied by 31. I'm glad to have been able to diagnose this in myself as i think it will help me avoid any passive aggressive anger from developing.

Tomorrow I think I'm going to confront/try to resolve that annoying interpersonal issue(trust me it's not what you think). Hopefully all will turn out well.

All in all, its odd trying to balance a personal journal with a public record. Since this is my only written record, that's why i tend to reveal more rather than less.There isn't really the room to reveal all my really personal feelings and concerns though without losing the joy of sharing this all with you. However think its going just fine and I hope its been good for you all so far! Love the comments!

1 more day in PA! Not the most sleep tonight but still better then yesterday.

Imagination Zone! and Flags!

Day 10 - June 11, 11:58 pm

61 miles. Stroudsberg, PA to Schuylkill Haven, PA (yea i couldn't pronounce it either)

I really must start going to bed earlier. LIghts off is at 11 and we wake up at 6am every morning. However there is just too much fun stuff from today to write about. This might have been my funnest day yet. And coincidentally the sun was also out.

Today I rode sweep along with Noah. This means that we are the last riders of the group at all atimes and responsible for helping anyone who may have run into trouble. This also means that we have an excuse for taking all the time in the world to stop everywhere and do every silly thing imaginable. To clarify, the only rules for riding each day is that you arrive by 4pm. Everyone rides at whatever speed they like and stops as much as they want.

As I alluded yesterday, Noah's wackiness cannot be described and our desire for fun today was a force to be reckoned with. It wasn't long before we found our first field to frolic in. Part of the reason we could stop so much was because of all the level ground we had today. After CT, these flat stretches in PA were like nutella and croissants for a starving Frenchman on a desert island. We easily rocked 20mph for a solid 3 miles at one point.

Today was also the first day I really felt like i was seeing America. The gentle hills and acres of green farmland were just unbelievable. We agreed that we could officially start using the word pasture from here on out. The lush green Appalachian mountains flanking us in the distance were just so immense and overwhelming in the best way. During several downhill coasts through this scenery my fantastic-meter definitely maxed out.

Soon enough we came across The Flag Store and decided for another unnecessary stop. As we prepared to give our usual pitch, we were interrupted by the fact that the lady had already seen us on tv that morning.( i forgot to mention yesterday that a local news channel came to interview us). This store was ridiculous in the best way possible in that it just had tons and tons of flags. The very nice owner Vena was so kind and donated a large American flag and Pennsylvania flag for us to fly on our trailer. We also snagged a sweet checkered racing flag that we'll start using to start off in the mornings. She also threw in a pamphlet describing the meanings of each fold in the traditional 13 fold flag folding ceremony of the US armed forces as well as other cool facts. (Did you know that a 21 gun salute comes from the sum of the digits in 1776?)

Our next irresistable detour was at the Imagination Zone. It's basically this children's funhouse(think playpens with plastic balls) which was too well named for our immature selves not to check out. Upon closer inspection we found their logo to be a circle containing a large flying pink unicorn opposite a voluptous red dragon. Needless to say Noah and I immediately jumped into several dragon and unicorn like poses as we set timers on our cameras.

Now get this, it turns out at lunch that one of the girls, Anne Lise, had been late because she had been flying in an open cockpit biplane! Turns out her dad and his friend are pilots and decided to meet her en route and take her on a quick spin. Awesomesauce? i think yes. After they left us, they flew their sweet blue and yellow propeller plane in circles around us dipping as low as 100 feet as they waved to us. I might as well have been a 5 year old is how excited I was.

I also saw my first ever real junkyard today. It just had mountains of scrap metal that are mindboggling. Of course several photos were taken here along with this totally random tin man statue in front of some random person's mailbox. MMM..That was fun.

Schuylkill Haven is a quiet town and the church was gracious enough to let us take over the entire parish house. They were just so sweet and had a great spread out for us. It was primarily the women's club organizing it. So you know those mustard stuffed egg things? Apparently they're called Devil Eggs, and the lovely Doris made a ton of them today. Basically, I love them and you can guess how many tables i almost knocked over upon seeing them and after having just ridden 60 miles. I unfortunately didnt get to chat with Doris too much, let alone learn any secret recipes, but thank you for the eggs Doris!

A typical B&B trip is expected to raise about $500 in donations on the road. After dinner, the women of the church threw a ridiculous $500 donation to us. Could they be any cooler? Seriously though, all these folks we meet aren't totally loaded and that was huge. I can't even process this kind of generosity. At this rate we already have close to $1,000 fundraised on the road within the first week.

It's too bad I repaid the church by clogging up their toilet. I eventually fixed it but it was just not fun times with that plunger.

Oh and there was a carnival in town tonight. Nothing too special, just a chance to see the locals and eat cotton candy.

Tomorrow i think i can get back to my pushup routine and will make an active effort to sleep early. Routine's are interesting. I really should be sleeping now but decided to write this in order to honor the routine that i am trying to cultivate. They're really the kinds of things that take a lot of time and energy initially, and almost beg you to give up. But once you pass the initial hill of resistance, they have enormous rewards.

I'm hoping that the discipline of this journal routine will roll over to other spheres of my life as i need it to. What routines do you have in your life and why are they valuable? What is stopping you from developing a new routine that will add value to your life? Are these obstacles really that insurmountable?


New Jersey?

Day 9 - June 11, 11:14pm

60 miles. Warwick, NY to Stroudsberg, PA

Rain + biking is not the funnest combination. It doesn't help when your body pretends to have been mashed by a 32oz aluminum softball bat the night before. Today had plenty of nice flat ground which was great but the rain made everything just plain icky. Fortunately we were quickly able to start off the day with two quick poses in front of boarded up dance studios (What?)

Three miles into the route today, our leaders had planned a special surprise for us. As we eagerly rode we soon found a sign welcoming us to New Jersey. Turns out, our leaders rerouted our ride to give us the honor of being graced by such marvelous marshlands for 10 miles and to add another state to our list bringing it to 18. Talk about exotic.

The day continued well until some pain started hitting my right knee. This was disconcerting so early on in the trip but after lunch it was much better. This was of course aside from the fact that my triceps were totally blasted today from all those hills yesterday. Yes, cycling is a full body sport and I've finally realized these past two days how much of a legitimate physical strain this trip is. I'm just hoping that my legs will hold up without too much pain. Fortunately my bruise from yesterday's fall is almost totally better.

After lunch we hit a pretty solid downpour for a good 3 miles. It was pretty fun in a way to have to ride in such absolutely ridiculous conditions. Also! *Cool alert* if you looked down at the ground while you were riding today you could see your full reflection in the water in the pavement. It was totally wierd and almost like riding on a mirror.

Today was also the birthday of one of our trip leaders, Noah. Awesome guy, but also the absolute wackiest i have ever met hands down. The birthday tradition on our trip(which he also started) is to apparently ride around all day with a spongebob squarepants bib on in front. He proudly did so along with his purple spandex pants.

Stroudsberg, PA is a legit nice town. The (once again very welcoming church) is right on main street and its such a quaint scene. I had totally wanted to nab this sweet neon orange hat from a camping store next door but they were closed after another great Church dinner. Either way, I still got to enjoy the fact that the store was owned by the "Fenkelberger" family. Those who have seen Senior Sing 07 understand.

After Laundry I chilled a little in this sweet comic book shop(do those even exist anymore?) and also passed by a clothing boutique and chatted them up about this funky line of t shirts they carried called "Artful Dodger". The crosswalks had a voice counting down the seconds and was kinda creepy honestly. I speculate that all our urban crosswalks will soon come complete with full robots telling us when to cross as well as making small talk with us about the weather and how Ms. Johnson is doing. If the future really goes sour, they may even have a winking feature as well.

A group of us all just came back from watching "UP" for Noah's birthday. The manager was super kind to let us in for free after we explained what we were doing. The movie was really fun and well put together. Unfortunately I was so exhausted that i kept nodding off though and didnt really get to fully sleep or watch the movie.

I really hope to get to explore towns like this more, though its tough given the little free time after arriving at destinations. We'll be in PA for a little while longer, I wonder what it has to offer.

One quick note: I forgot to mention a highlight of yesterday which was that as we were riding we were passed by 6 consecutive Lamborghini's, the drivers of which pumped their fists at us. It may be such a typical male thing to be into hot cars, but that was damn awesome.

PS - Also, totally weird, did anyone notice how I started writing both today's and yesterday's posts at exactly the same time? Talk about routine.