Friday, 18 October 2013

THE URBAN SPRAWL

Leaving New York on a bike seemed as though it might pose a problem. Some directions I looked up suggested a ferry or the train. The problem was not so much in New York, but rather where to go once I'd crossed the George Washington bridge across the Hudson river into New Jersey. From there onwards it seemed to be a maze of Interstates and other "illegal" routes, and the more directions I tried to get from locals, the more it seemed as though I may be stuck.
Instead of painting myself in a corner, I found a nice covered loading platform behind a shopping mall, and I called it an early day. I'd done some shopping and had enough time to cook up a good pot of food, which I enjoyed while taking in the view of Manhattan across the water. This is not the first loading platform where I've camped, especially to escape wet weather, but this was a good one - there was even a "porter pottie". It turns out the shop behind the door was still in the process of being fitted out, and the following morning John and his partner were rather surprised to find a camper on their work-site. It was no problem however, we had a good chat and they even took pictures of me. John also looked up directions for me on his phone, which helped me a long way out to where I found accessable roads.
As I said, loading platforms are a favourite night-time haunt of mine, especially in wet weather, and while I was finding my way through the concrete jungles of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and DC there was a miserable series of rain (sometimes I was lucky to find shelter). I never expected to be in Philadelphia in my life, let-alone arriving there at dusk, and camping in a central park on Lemon Hill, looking at the city lights through the pouring rain.
I also found that the dugouts at local baseball parks made a reasonable shelter, although not all dugouts are covered. At one particular place somebody directed me to the dugouts at the ball park behind their building, but when I searched the place I found no dugouts at all.
Bridges also offer some shelter, but they come with their own problems. Undesirable elements often hang out there, or you may find that the drainage pipe pours out right on top of your tent. On the outskirts of Baltimore I camped in a suspect area between 2 railway lines under the Interstate 95 overpass. Well, the I 95 never sleeps, and the noise of the heavy traffic rattling overhead blasted me the whole night.
Directions are often suspect, as many people don't know their neighbourhoods very well, and especially not bike routes as drivers mostly use the highways. On route 40 through Delaware, although the road was busy, there was a bike lane at the side. However, when I got to the bridge which crosses that part of Chesapeake Bay, bikes were prohibited and the police called a cab to take me across (taking a chunk out of my meagre finances). The cab driver told me about a New Zealand touring cyclist who had just about made it across the bridge by the time he was caught, and made to cycle all the way back to take a cab). Often when I asked for directions (which was indeed often), people were generally curious about where I was off to with all the stuff I'm carting around, wanting to chat at in many instances taking pictures (such as these guys at a workshop in Maryland).
Distances cycled since New York have been:- Edgewater 42 km; Fords 67 km; New Brunswick 27 km; Morrisville 60 km; Philadelphia 63 km; Chester 44 km; New Castle 33 km; Perryville 51 km; Edgewood 66 km; and Baltimore 53 km. Total overall distance cycled so far is 118 024 km (73 765 miles).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's a shame none of the Philadelphia residents directed you to Fairmount Park. It's one of the largest urban parks in the country. You wouldn't have even realized that you were in the city! I shared a moment with a fox there once.
Your journey is truly inspiring. Thank you for sharing what you are doing.