English United States

Virginia and Tennessee

After short visits in Bristol and Knoxville, I’m heading towards Nashville the coming week. Because my tourist visa expires on the first of June, I have to make choices in the States that I want to visit. I’ll probably hire a car in Nashville and head to the North-West from there. If I have enough time, I would love to see Utah and Arizona.

After a long night and a big breakfast, I was physically and mentally fully ready for the Blueridge Parkway. Bill cycled with me for the first couple of miles. After he returned home, I had to do another 30 minutes of climbing, which finally brought me to the beginning of the parkway. I was prepared for a very tough road with steep climbs. Obviously, I took a picture before I started. And that was the moment when I started to climb. And that went much better than I anticipated and hoped for. The climbs were long, but not very steep, exactly the kind of exercise that I like: endurance. I had the feeling that I could go on forever, and the view was fantastic. Every now and then, I came across a viewpoint which was just to beautiful to pass. I took a lot of pictures.

During one of the climbs, I saw a black bear crossing the road. It stood still for a moment, looked me in the eyed, and ran across the road. I would’ve liked to tell a rough story about me fighting the bear, followed by a night in the carcass of a horse, but I’ll leave that up to Mr. DiCaprio. This bear just crossed the road. At 2 PM in the afternoon, I was already at the exit of the campground. I didn’t want to stop. I knew that the weather was gonna be worse tomorrow, so I decided to continue. It eventually became my longest distance so far, which is not very logical when you consider that I cycled through the mountains. Just before 6 PM, I arrived at the first campground of my trip (where they didn’t send me away…). After a hot shower, I immediately fell asleep in my comfortable sleeping bag. When I woke up the next day, my tent was covered in snow. It was much worse than they had predicted. It was about 2 inches of snow, much worse than they predicted. The parway was closed….

The parkway was closed and I didn’t feel comfortable cycling around the gate. I decided to bypass the parkway and take a detour instead. I didn’t regret that decision because while I was cycling in the valley, I couldn’t even see the top of the mountains. That basically meant that I would’ve climbed for hours to end up in the clouds. I anticipated to cycle the parkway for three days, but this turned out to be just one. dayI was one day ahead of my estimated time of arrival in Roanoke, but warmshower hosts Will and Lyndsey were still able to receive me. It was no problem all. Not long after I met them, we went to a local restaurant for their weekly trivia evening. They’ve done it for years with the same group. I thought that they were gonna play it with a small group of people, but the entire restaurant was playing. They were pretty dedicated. They were whispering the answers to each other, or they even wrote it on a piece of paper. You could tell that they had done it more often. Except for the music category, I barely knew any answers. ‘We’ eventually became 2nd, and the group was almost disappointed because they didn’t win.

Will (left of me), Lyndsey (in front of me) and friends

The next day, I left much later than I actually wanted. Lyndsey and Will were already working. They gave me their spare key and I could leave whenever I wanted. Yesterday, I didn’t even know them. Today, they trust me with the key of their house. I like it. At the end of a sunny cycling day, I spotted a very nice church on top of a hill. I didn’t feel like cycling much more, especially because I was cycling on a pretty busy and unpleasant road. The view was very nice and it was so quiet compared to the road. Suddenly, a lot of cars arrived at the church. Apparently, they had their weekly committee meeting. I talked to an older women and after a while, I asked if it was ok if I pitched up my tent on their field for the night. It was not a problem and this was the beatuiful view that I had:

The next day was the first day that I didn’t really enjoy. I was cycling towards Knoxville and I was kind of stuck to one boring road which was near a very busy interstate road. The strong headwind didn’t make it much better. A lot of people advised me not to randomly pitch up my tent at someone’s property, since that is not very appreciated. I asked to several people if it was ok to pitch up my tent in their gigantic yards. A lot refused. They seemed to be afraid of me, or at least very careful. A women even locked her door while she refilled my bottle with some water. Eventually, I luckily found a young guy who said that it was no problem at all. I even had the luxury to use the wifi connection inside my tent, which allowed me to have a look at the potential next destination. I sent a message via warmshowers. Ben and Anne, living in Bristol, replied within an hour, saying that they were happy to host me tomorrow. I was really glad to know that I had a goal for the next day. That made the even stronger headwind bearable. Downtown Bristol was really enjoyable, it’s kind of old-fashioned and it was busier than normal, as they organize a NASCAR race this week.

Het ‘platte’ land

After meeting Ben and Anne, Ben enthusiastically told me about the history of the city. Apparently, Bristol has been really important in the development of country music. Everybody knows Nashville and its musical heritage, but the actual birthplace of country music is right here, in Bristol. They even have a museum about it, which Ben and Anne support. They received a lot of tickets for their support, and they gave one to me. Ben took me to the museum the next day, which was deserted, probably because of the summer weather. Later in the afternoon, we did a nice hike in a forest near their house. There is an owl in the garden of Anne and Ben, and Ben feeds the owl with some mice every now and then. I managed to capture a nice shot of the owl ‘catching’ the mouse.

Virginia on the left, Tennessee on the right
Anne en Ben
Ben vs. Uil

The next day, I left for my last 120 miles towards Knoxville. The weather was fantastic, so I broke the record of my longest distance so far (90 miles), because I knew tomorrow was gonna be rainy. That worked out perfectly, I was in Knoxville before the rain began to pour. Knoxville is, similar to Bristol, pretty old-fashioned and furthermore so much smaller than I expected.

English United States

The last part of the East Coast

The real winter seems to be finally over, I can almost state that spring has sprung. After paying a visit in Philadelphia and Washington D.C., I’m going to leave the East Coast and head towards the South-West. I have the first climb challenge ahead of me: The Blueridge Parkway. It will probably be peanuts compared to what awaits me in South-America, but a mountain is a mountain.

The airbnb location in Philadelphia was fine, I could easily walk to the city center. I had no idea what Philadelphia had to offer, I actually only knew it by name. I was really surprised whne I found it about the important role the city played in the US history and that it even was the capital for a decade. In the afternoon, I went to an exhibition called ‘money in motion’. It was about the history of the money in the USA and about The Banking System, pretty interesting! The tours through the Independence hall were already sold out for the day, so I had to come back for that tomorrow. I did visit the famous liberty bell, of which they don’t even know whether it actually rang when the independence was declared….

The Liberty bell

The next day was my only full day to spend in Philly, and I’ve spent it well. In half an hour, I was in the city again and immediately got myself a ticket for a tour through the Independence hall, although I had to wait for over an hour. In the meantime, I’ve seen the first bank of America, as well as the famous Carpenter hall. The tour through Independence hall was really impressive, it’s a strange idea that a group of bright people decided here to unite as colonists among each other (although in separate states/counties), apart from the United Kingdom. After this tour, I went to the Benjamin Franklin museum, the huge city hall and (inevitably) went to the Rocky Steps.

Independence Hall

I saw that Philly’s NBA team, the 76ers, played against the New-York Knicks tonight. Last minute, I decided to buy a ticket and I eventually printed it in a huge public library. I’m personally not a big fan of basketball, but I really enjoyed the experience of going to an NBA game. To me, it felt really American. The anthem beforehand, every second was used for commercial purposes and a lot of entertainment. Every inch around the stadium was filled with placed where you could buy food, but there were still lots of people that were carrying cola, candyflosses or popcorn to bring it directly to your seat. I could not believe my eyes!

The Wells Fargo Center, the stadium of the 76ers

The next morning, I started with the first of three cycling days which brought me to Washington D.C. I noticed that the suburbs of Philadelphia were in stark contrast with the historic city center, it did not look very pretty. After the end of the first day, I found a very nice place along the side of a road. The road was very quiet, with horses and carriages as the only exception. I later heard that those people were Amish, I didn’t even know about them. Relatively many Amish live here (in Pennsylvania) and they live like they used to live centuries ago. No smartphones, no computer, no tv, no cars, nothing of these technological advances.

Views on the quiet road

The next day, I deliberately chose to skip Baltimore, because a lot of people have told be that it is not a very nice city. My route towards Washington kind of went through a part of the city, and I quickly realized that I made the right decision. I stopped for only 2 minutes to buy an energy drink, when a guy approached me and asked me if I wanted to buy cocaine. I thanked him for his kind offer and quickly moved on. My perfectly mapped out route went via route 29, which would bring me right in the heart of D.C. I proudly made a picture of the sign right before the entrance of the route when I noticed that bikes were prohibited…. Shit! That meant a big detour. The original 50 miles turned into 70 miles, but I made it before it was dark. I met Robert, Claire and baby Elise. I was about to sleep here for two nights and another night at an Airbnb adres.

Claire, Elise and Robert

During Easter, I walked towards the city center. The National Mall was busier than I expected. I had a good timing to visit the city, because it was in the middle of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, a festival celebrate the friendship between the US and Japan. It’s also a good indicator that it’s becoming Spring! Similar to New-York, I was really surprised about the size of everything. I decided to buy a ticket to be able to use a city bike for three days, because I hadn’t cycled enough already. In the evening, I cycled to all the memorial monuments, because they’re open 24 hours per day. Very impressive monuments.

Everybody wants to take their picture with the blossom trees.

The George Washington monument with the Capitol in the background

The next day, I transported my stuff to the next address, a fine Airbnb adres which was like a hostel with bunker beds. If I would’ve gone to the city early in the morning, I would’ve had a good chance to spot Donald Trump during the annual white house easter egg roll, but I wasn’t that keen on seeing him. I skipped. Instead, I went to multiple museums, the Capitol, a gallery and a botanical garden. With my aviation background, I obviously went to the National Air and Space museum. The original aircraft that was used by the Wright brothers for the first flight is located right here. Only a century ago. Look where aviation is right now! That’s unimaginable, right? In the evening, I went to a Michigan bar to watch the March Madness finals in which Michigan took part. Unfortunately, Michigan didn’t have a chance to win, the bar was awfully quiet during the second half of the game.

The first aircraft (that flew)

And this is where my cycling plan ends. I knew that I was going to visit Boston, New-York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C., but that’s where my plan ends. Southern Argentina is still the dot on the horizon, but the road towards this horizon is pretty open from now on. In the morning, I decided about my plan for the coming week. I decided to cycle towards the begin of the Blueridge Parkway. It’s a beautiful and challenging cycling route. If I ever want to make it over the Andes mountains, I must get some climbing experience. It took me three extremely beautiful days to get to the beginning of the Blueridge Parkway.

With -6 degrees Celsius and some snow, one last shot of winter awaits me, but I am sure that I can survive that. Maybe I will wait an extra day before starting the route, because cycling on steep and snowy roads doesn’t seem like a clever idea to me.


We have got another nor’easter coming

I’m sorry for the delay! i’ve had a couple of long, pretty cold, days behind me with no possiblity to update my blog. in the meantime, I’m past Boston already and almost in New-York already. Hereby I present you my story of the last week. Some pictures take ages to load, by the way. Hope it’s a temporary issue.

In the morning, Douglas gave me a sightseeing tour through Portland and he showed me the most beautiful parts of the city. Portland is the biggest city of Maine and the biggest city that I’ve been to so far. It is the first city that’s actually alive despite the winter season, in my opinion. In a bicycle shop, I bought new tubes, because I had another flat tire (again, just before arriving at my destination). After fixing my tube, it was time to say goodbye.

After 70 kilometers, I had another flat tire…. Extremely frustrating. I didn’t feel like fixing it on the side of the road, so I decided to go inside the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge (what a mouthful). Over here, I fixed my fourth flat tire. After I just finished, a women arrived in the park for a quick hike, Janssen. It’s a common last name in the Netherlands, but she wasn’t Dutch. She gave me two frozen vegetarian burgers to prepare tonight. Nice! When I went to the public toilet of the park, I noticed how big and clean it was. I decided to sleep over there. It saves me a lot of time: pitching up and breaking down the tent. I felt like a criminal, as the park closes when it’s dark. Luckily, the park was so deserted that nobody spotted me. To reach the toilet, you had to walk through a thick layer of snow, so it wasn’t very surprising to stay unnoticed. Two vega-burgers and some energy bars completed my nutritious dinner.

Technical issues, with a beautiful public toilet in the background 🙂

With a refreshed mind, I started the next day full of energy (and with a new tube). I began my journey towards Salisbury, where I was about to sleep one night at Matthew’s place. After only one hour, I had flat tire number 5. This doesn’t make any sense. I decided to replace both the tube and the tire itself, should’ve done that 3 tubes earlier. The weather and view were astonishing, so that was a good compromise for my technical issues. I was looking for a shop to buy some postcards of Maine when I realized that I wasn’t in Maine anymore. Within 30 kilometers, I cycled via New Hampshire towards Masschusetts.

On the last possible moment, I took a picture of the flag of Maine and the US
Although it was only for a short distance, the boulevard of New Hampshire was beautiful

At the end of the afternoon, I met Matthew in Salisbury. He lives in a small but very cosy apartment near the beach. He introduced me to his girlfriend Monica and her son Ian, they both live in another apartment one floor below Matt. Matt took me out for dinner, together with Monica and Ian. The restaurant was very nice. When we returned at his apartment, a snowstorm started that was even heavier than the one I had a couple of days before. ‘We got another nor’easter coming’, is what they told me. During the night and day, it snowed and stormed heavily. About 1,5 foot of snow came down. Impossible to cycle in. I could stay as long as I wanted, said Matt. Because of the weather, we had a lazy day. A kind of Sunday or a kind of day when you’re sick. School had called Ian, he didn’t need to go to school. Despite the lazy day, we enjoyed ourselves with some games and a short walk on the beach. At the beach, you could see how high the pile of snow was:

Ian and I in the huge pile of snow

Matt, Monica, Ian and I could get along with each other very well and there was still a lot of snow the next day. 1+1 = 2. I stayed another day. I arranged accommodation in Boston today and we went out with the dogs again. I don’t know how Matt and Monica did it, but within the 3 days I know them, they really made me feel at home. I was really sad when I had to leave again, but it was time to move on.

Matt, Ian, dogs Pepper and Vader, and I
Monica and Ian

The route from Salisbury to Boston was not very comfortable, because I had to stop in front of 10000 traffic lights. The 75 kilometers consisted of connected towns. Salisbury, the place I stayed the last couple of days, is considered to be Northern Boston. As if the place I live(d) in the Netherlands, Schagen, is considered to be Northern Amsterdam. Unimaginable! The coming nights, I slept in Cambridge, west of downtown Boston. At my first address, I met Grace. She took me to Harvard University, because I really wanted to visit it. It was deserted because if the spring break. It’s cool to have been there, but it was (in my opnion) not very special. It was a collection of beautiful brick buildings, but nothing more than that. Mainly the output of the university is impressive.

Grace and I

The next day, I met Scott, another address of the warmshower community. I really like the concept of warmshowers, because it is more about sharing rather than your individual possessions. I took Scott out for dinner and we talked about his bicycle tour through the US. Interesting to hear how he experiences some things. In the afternoon, I went to the MIT museum, the Boston tea party boats and just walked the entire day through the city center.

De skyline of Boston

On Saturday, on St. Patricks’ day, I went to the city center early. Throughout the city, people were wearing green clothes because of this holiday. Michel from the Netherlands recommended me to walk the Freedom trail, so that’s what I’ve done. I had booked a guided tour. A guide told us enthusiastically about the history of the city with a lot of information about the American revolution. Very interesting. After the tour, I met Scott again in the city. We were about to go to the USS constitution, but eventually went to the Buner Hill Monument, where we walked all 300 steps to the top to get a nice view over the city.

The skyline, while being part of the skyline

Candy en Scott, with Scott’s bike trip through the US in the background

The coming days, it’s gonna be pretty cold with yet another nor’easter coming. I hope to arrive in New York on the 22nd of March. I’ll probably cheat the last part, as it’s much more convenient to do this by train. Forgive me!


Let us make America great again

Gary and Helen both had appointments on Sunday, so we said goodbye early in the morning. Not much later, I left their house, fully equipped, and went twoards the US border. About 2 minutes cycling… Like 150 feet before the border crossing, I realised that I forgot my helmet. Luckily, I was still able to return. When I got my helmet and returned to the US border for the second time, I parked my bicycle at the CBP office and went inside. A sullen customs officer greeted me and I gave him al my documents. As expected, he asked me a lot of question. I showed him my maps of the American Cycling Association, my vaccionation passport and told him that a lot of people could verify my story. I could see that his co-workers were kind of convinced a.nd made gestures to the man to let me in. He didn’t seem impressed. He asked me how I could support myself financially. I told him about my savings, but couldn’t proof it because there was not wi-fi in the building, and I didn’t bring any printed evidence. Obviously, they’re paranoid for potential hacks. Furthermore, the guy thought that my route was very unclear. It actually is unclear, because I don’t know yet where I’m going to cycle and where I will stay. They sent me back to Canada. I had to bring more evidence about my financial position and think of a more concrete route. Especially the financial thing was very important. Less than an hour later, I returned with some printed evidence. A young women greetedme this time. She looked much more relaxed than the other guy. I showed her my printed evidence of my savings and that was sufficient. They barely checked my baggage. Finally in the US! This has taken me almost half a day, so I couldn’t cycle a lot. I didn’t really care, at least I made it to the states. Obviously, the first thing you do when you enter the United States is going to a McDonald’s to get a hamburger, so that’s what I did. When I started cycling, I immediately noticed that Maine is much more open than New Brunswick or Nova Scotia. There are still a lot of trees, but it looks more spacious. At the end of the afternoon, I pitched up my tent in the middle of a random forest, part of the moosehorn national wildlife refuge.

I had the honor to see this sign three times!
Random Forest

The next day, I was planning to cycle only a short distance to Machias, but the wind was very beneficial so I just had to continue. Eventually, I cycled like of 90 kilometers without a lot of effort, with a couple of nice views of the blueberry fields. I ended up in Cherryfield, at an organic blueberry farm. I met Mark and Lisa here. Because of the winter, it wasn’t really crowded this time of the year. They told me that in the summer, up to 15 people would live in their house. Enthusiastically, they told me about their blueberries. Because there is a surplus of blueberries, a lot of small-scale farms go bankrupt. Only the large-scale companies survive. Mark and Lisa, however, are really successful with their organic blueberries. However, Mark told me he knows that market will be flooded as well. That’s the way that farmers are, he told me. Before the farming life, Mark used to be an academic. He used to develop scientific research projects for which he successfully granted subsidies. He even almost got his doctor’s degree in evolutionary biology, but then realized that this wasn’t the kind of job that suited him. He took a gap year and decided to become a blueberry farmer, together with Lisa, without any knowledge. Lisa showed my where I was going to sleep tonight and I could join them for dinner: wraps! After dinner, they told me about their obsession to live a healthy life. They’re both vegan, go to bed at 8 and go out of bed at 5 for an hour of yoga. Furthermore, they exercise every single day. They’re extremely dedicated! Interesting people. They predominantly have this lifestyle becuase it makes them feel good, but the fact that they don’t have access to good health care insurance was also one of the reasons. That’s very good and sad at the same time…

Mark en Lisa

While Lisa and Mark where already awake for three hours, I eventually wokeup at 8. They had already completed their yoga and they were preparing to run. I had to have breakfast alone, as they had this new experiment where they would only eat between 11 and 5. Don’t ask me why, but it must have something to do with living healthy. We said goodbye to each other and off I went. It’s still pretty strange that I meet all these interesting people for only one day, before I move on and probably never see then again. After 15 minutes of cycling, I got a flat tire. I didn’t matter to me that much, it was sunny and dry. Half an hour later, I was cycling again. I wanted to cycle to Belfast in two days, since it was going to snow pretty badly later this week. I cycled across a lot of Dunking Donut’s and decided to buy a donut at the store. I really had the intention to buy just one donut, but I ended up buying a box of them. Just too tempting… At the end of the afternoon, I asked to pitch up my tent in someone’s backyard. They proposed to sleep in their garage, so that’s what I’ve done. I noticed that there are more differences in Canada and the US than just the view. The garage, bigger than most houses in the Netherlands, were stacked with bulllets. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of bullets. Everywhere were you looked, bullets, it was insane!

The next morning, I heard that a heavy snow storm was starting at the end of the afternoon, so I had the entire day to cycle a very snort distance to Belfast. On the way to Belfast, a guy shouted to me that I should come to have a coffee. He offered me a sandwich and coffee at his gas station. He was impressed about my cycling plans and gave me some advice about potential bicycle routes. 15 minutes later, I left again. I wasn’t surprised about the fact that the maritime museum, that I wanted to visit, was closed. Maine is a vacation state and people have told me that there are a lot of people here that have two houses. One in maine and one in Florida. During the summer, they’re in Maine. In the winter, they’re in Florida. So Maine looks pretty deserted to me with all their closed shops. Luckily, the nature doesn’t have a keyhole.

Before it started to snow, I was already at my Airbnb address. I met Austin and Will, both creative and eccentric people, to name it that way. The smell of weed has become part of the house, you would smell it even when nobody was smoking. In the afternoon, I walked through Belfast. In my opinion, it looked pretty grey and dead, like most places in Maine that have their hibernation. After the snow storm, I decided to make the same walk. What a difference:

In the next two days, I cycled to Portland via Wiscasset. The route mainly consisted of the boring route 1 with a lot of traffic. I’m pretty much done with that. I met Douglasd Darby in Portland, a real cyclist. Ray, a friend of Douglas, joined and we drank a beer together. I was nearly drunk by the couple of Heineken’s. I costed me a lot of effore, but I eventually updated y blog. The next week, I’ll go towards Boston, where I’ll maybe stay for a couple of nights, depending on the weather and the things to see.