Washington DC – New York
Our story of riding up the east coast describes good people living in a long, contiguous urban environment full of destitution and punctuated only by small pockets of prosperity. The ride from Washington, DC to New York took us through a list of the most dangerous cities in the United States. Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Trenton, and Newark are all on the top ten list for murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft AND were on our way up the coast. Now, sitting in a McDonalds less than a mile from the most dangerous city in the US, Camden, NJ, I cannot believe that my hometown of Bainbridge Island, or the small towns of Kansas, or for that matter, the house in the picture below, are in the same country.
Looking out at crumbing graffiti walls partially obscuring glistening skyscrapers, trash building up in windless corners and eavesdropping on tales of house arrest and court fees, it strikes me that poverty in America is a very unique situation in and of itself. In Philadelphia, with the 7th largest metropolitan economy in the USA, they do not appear to even have the money to clean the trash up off the streets, let alone organize more prodigious programs that might lead some of the many destitute people wandering the streets into better lives.
Capital Cities are eerie places. There is something about the large open spaces, barricades, fences and big block buildings that brings the feeling of power to mind, and all the security and artillery that is necessary to concentrate and maintain it. And yet, the monuments are fun, and the free museums make up for a lot of fences in friendliness.
As we cycled into town a 35,000 person marathon was taking place and we had to find a way around the runners.
We left our bikes with a Warmshowers host, Arup, and wandered out on a beautiful fall day to walk around the mall. We only had enough energy for one museum, The museum of Natural History.
In the morning we took off and said goodbye to Arup before cycling through The Mall and the White House.
In a way it felt like the trip was kind of over and our progress up the coast was a little sluggish.
But soon we were in Maryland and finally made it, up a very busy Route 1, to Baltimore.
Baltimore is an eclectic and affordable city, full of students and artists. Our Warmshowers host had an awesome urban garden in his backyard with vegetables and chickens.
And the Interstates keep getting bigger and bigger!
Soon we arrived in a small town called Havre de Grace and discovered that there was a bridge (The Thomas J Hatem Memorial Bridge) we are not legally able to cross. Going around is a 20 mile detour. We called the police for help and they said we should call the Maryland Transportation Authority. We called them and they told us to call a Taxi. It cost us $11.00 to get over the bridge. The sun was setting at this point and we found an unlikely forest and spent our last night camping in the United States.
Our next night was in Wilmington, Delaware.
A young man named Andrew and his girlfriend Shannon hosted us in their apartment just south of the Pennsylvania border.
In the morning he made us a great breakfast before we took off.
Leaving Andrew’s house, we passed quickly into Pennsylvania and dropped down to the Delaware Bay, riding along a wide industrial highway. The repatched pavement dribbled out to junkyards, drab cube shaped houses made of bricks and larger cubes that were industrial warehouses. The large buildings dwarfed the houses and made them look out of place, as if they had been built there accidentally.
Our one main stop in Philadelphia was at a restaurant that served vegetarian Philly Cheese Steak. Nervous about leaving our bikes out even in the middle of town, we sat on the sidewalk in 40 degree weather and enjoyed our feast despite the cold wind.
Abandoned buildings are not an uncommon sight.
Will and Wanda took us in here in Philadelphia. Homeschooling their kids, eating organic, making their own soaps and creams and researching the real story behind the condition of food, politics and the economy in the United States Will and Wanda are holding down a conscious and isolated existence in the home Will grew up in while the environment around them has deteriorated over the years with crime and destitution.
Staying up late and talking about the current state of affairs in America and trading food philosophies, Will invited us to stay a second night with them. He spoke of packing up the family and taking them out of Philadelphia on a round the world adventure on bikes as a way of life and education for their children.
He taught us how to make soap and hand cream some of which we gratefully accepted.
The second night, after eating an amazing organic dinner made by Wanda the previous evening, it was our turn to cook. As a parting gift, Will gave us two works of art, pens he had crafted using a lathe and pieces of wood. Will had an inspiring story of self-actualization which I won’t divulge the entirety of but what I found to be the most interesting part was how he described his process of beginning to write a journal. “There is a point,” He said “Where you are faced with a choice of weather or not you write down everything, even the things you aren’t proud of” Will decided to make that choice and it opened a door to self reflection that eventually made him the conscious, considerate and self aware person he is today. As a token of generosity taken from his own life story, Will sent us off with three notebooks, one for each of us, and one for the tidbits of wisdom we wanted to write to our future kids along with our two pens.
Their son Evan, a talkative and bright young man from years of homeschooling told us the name of the shark we had just seen in the Natural History Museum among other things. After we left Will emailed us this picture of them.
Artists don’t have to spray paint in alleyways and work in obscure districts here in Trenton. They have been given the downtown area as their main canvas. Trenton’s mayor recently indicted on charges of corruption, and hundreds of police officer laid off in recent years have left the downtown a huddled mass of empty structures. A desolate downtown, empty streets have made way for a small group of artists to revive the city center with grants from various non-profits and tacit approval from the city council, who they call in the off-chance that one of the remaining police officers questions their activities.
Wills Kinsley, a sculptor and member of the artists group Sage Coalition, took us in on our way through town, giving us shelter in their main hub of operations. He had done many tours by bike and one by school bus.
An empty lot next to their hub of operations that had nothing else going for it they turned into a garden and art park.
Wills, far right took us out to eat and paid for dinner. A generous gesture on an artists salary! “Its not for you guys, I need my karma points!” He joked. Then he took us back into Pennsylvania so we could see the sign on the bridge entering Trenton.
Later we slept in their little office upstairs while the bass from a recording studio blared below us.
In the morning Wills rode us out of town on one of his Tall Bikes he has made himself.
Fortunately there was a canal trail that took us most of our ride that day, past Princeton and up to East Brunswick.
Our host that evening, Paul was the son of a widely circulated artist in the first half of the 20th century, Lu Kimmel.
Paul made a hobby of collecting his father’s paintings and was also a pianist and chemistry professor. He owned two tandems and a “triple” and had toured with various family members on all of them.
From Paul’s house we had a exhaust clogged 40 mile ride into the city down some busy industrial streets to North Bergen.
But we finally made it. And the North American portion of our journey is over!
Thank you everyone for following our journey, and for all of you that helped us along the way!
Andrew Muth of Bainbridge Island, WA for the inspiration and encouragement to take this journey
Glen of Highway 175, CA for a ride to the center and for teaching me how to live a little better.
Manuel Rubi of Santa Cruz, CA for letting us stay in his yurt!
KG of Monterey, CA for giving us a place to sleep and a great dinner and also to his friend for bringing us breakfast.
Toni and Rachael Artho of Los Osos, CA for a great dinner and a place to sleep in their studio.
David Coe of Santa Barbara, CA for a nice bed to sleep in and a kitchen to cook some food.
Lady who sells Sprouts of the Ventura Farmer’s Market, CA for a free bag of sprouts.
Heikki Ketola of Malibu, CA for a last minute phone call and an awesome place to sleep.
Guy in Malibu, CA who gave us $20
Pat and John Mathisen of Los Angeles, CA for great conversation, a great meal and a place to sleep.
Will and Ellen Marshall of Los Angeles, CA for great conversation, a cup of coffee and a pistachio scone!
Brian of Pomona, CA for a place to sleep and kitchen use
Keith and Sue Jordan of Hemet, CA for an amazing dinner, breakfast and place to sleep.
Sarah Barton of La Quinta, CA for some great vegan tacos, a place to sleep and a dip in the La Quinta resort hot tub and pool.
Thom of Palm Desert, CA for $100 given for our journey.
7th Day Adventists Church in Waterford, Ca for letting us sleep behind the church
Thai couple from Waterford, CA who gave us berries
Starbucks girl in Bishop for a free coffee
Couple in Death Valley who gave us gatorade
Canadian couple in Death Valley who gave us gatorade and water
Woman in North Las Vegas, NV for $1.50 and some kind words
David Akins of Kingman, Az for a place to sleep, some cliff bars and a shower
Ron of Chloride, Az for 3 slices of Pizza
Ran of Kingman, AZ for a place to sleep laundry and a discount at his bike shop.
Couple from Sedona, AZ for $20 for lunch
Vic and Sharon Nelson of Oak Creek Village, AZ for two nights in an awesome bed, amazing meals, taking us hiking and shopping!
Devin and Laurel Wala of Payson, AZ for two nights in a great room, dinners and breakfasts!
Constant and Logan and his Brother in Springer, AZ for giving us a hotel room for the night.
Anthony in the El Mapais NRA, NM for giving us watermelon and letting us interview him.
Guy from Casino RV Park west of Albuquerque, NM for some granola bars and water
Dave and Steph Salinas of Albuquerque, NM for hosting us and feeding us for the night
Woman working at Whole Foods in Albuquerque, NM who gave us two coconut waters
Jennifer and Kyle Swan of Albuquerque, NM for hosting us and taking us out to dinner.
Gaia of Santa Fe NM for a bed for two nights!
Jeremy of Santa Fe, NM for letting us crash on his fold out bed.
Bill of Angel Fire, NM who bought us two cookies
Bill of the Panhandle of Texas for letting us sleep in his campsite and giving us Jesus Rings
Guy in Clayton, NM who fixed our bikes on the fly
Woman of Hugoton, Kansas who gave us $20
Catherine Mccormack of Paoli, Pennsylvania for buying dinner after we fixed her bike
Darren Liby of Hutchinson KS for giving us some dip mix packets and hooking us up with the Bike Hostel Church in Hutchenson
Managers of Watersports Campground of Dodge CIty, Kansas for hooking us up with a free day of camping
Dorothy Hidebrink of Warrenton, MO for storing our bicycles for two months while we went home to get married.
David and Shauna Riely and Grandma of Seattle, WA for meeting us at the farm in Missouri and everything they did for us there.
Patti Hutt of Saint Jacob, IL for an awesome night in her apartment
Clyde and Joyce of Wayne City, IL for cooking us a wonderful meal and giving us a place to stay.
Connie Padgett of Mt Carmel, IL for picking us up off the wet (and dark) streets and giving us her bed AND taking us out to breakfast in the morning.
Some Nice Folks of Mt Vernon, IL for some popcorn, lemonade, cider and cookies.
The Owner of the Pharmacy in Georgetown, IN for some Epson Salts, Bandaids and $20.
Chad Cooley of Louisville, KY for the most lavish three days of fine dining and socializing, taking us to the backside of Churchhill Downs, the Muhammad Ali museum and the comedy club, and letting us sleep at his house for three nights.
Brian of Georgetown, KY for feeding us dinner and breakfast and providing an amazing bed, shower and laundry machines.
Owner of Lock and Key Coffee of Georgetown, KY for giving us two breakfast sandwiches.
Jon Hinckle of Little Rock, KY for hot dogs, buns, a campfire and a lawn to camp on.
Guys of Bourbon County, KY for giving us two Indian Arrowheads and a tool for skinning hide.
Man of Owingsville, KY for a homemade peanutbutter cup.
Ed Smith of Morehead, KY for buying us breakfast at McDonalds and giving us $20 the day before his 80th birthday.
Two Women of Olive Hill, KY for two sprites and five post cards.
Assen Popoff of Huntington, WV for putting us up for the night, giving Rasham a kickstand, laundry, shower, ginger/sugar mix, dinner, bananas, tea and onions.
Arles and Emma Smith of Summersville, WV for putting us up in a motel for the night, giving us two Sprites, driving us over the Appellation pass, taking us on the scenic byway and for giving us $100.
Rick and Cindy Roberson of Mountain Valley, VA for driving us to their home, feeding us dinner, giving us a place to sleep, giving Trenton a bicycle Jersey, giving Rasham a sleeping bag liner, Taking us around to see the area, getting us in the local paper, setting us up in one of their mobile homes in Craigsville, and setting us up with a place to stay in Harrisonburg.
Dairy Farmer of Bridgewater, VA for buying us two chocolate milks.
Thomas and Julie Jenkins of Harrisonburg, VA for putting us up for the night, dinner, some handlebar tape and helping us with our bikes.
Paul of Harrisonburg, VA for a beer
Anne and Carl Wick of Arlington, VA for a wonderful dinner, comfy bed, homemade breakfast and subway passes.
Arup of Washington, DC for storing our bikes for us and giving us a couch to sleep on.
Old men of Washington, DC for coupons for McDonalds
Jared of Baltimore, MD for putting us up for the night and coffee in the morning
Guy selling Vegetables in Havre de Grace, MD for giving us $3.50 off some vegetables
Andrew of Wilmington, DE for cooking us breakfast and giving us a place to crash
Will and Wanda Hughes of Philadelphia, PA for soap. Teaching us to make soap, teaching us to make hand cream, giving us hand cream, giving us homemade pens, making us dinner, giving us notebooks and two nights of sleeping and doing a load of laundry!
Wills of Trenton, NJ for showing us around town, buying us dinner, giving us a place to crash and some Trenton stickers and a can opener!
Paul Kimmel of East Brunswick, NJ for giving us a warm bed, breakfast and dinner.
Guy from Jersey City, NJ for giving us $20