Part 8 of the solo cycle across America series from exactly ten years ago. (You can read from the start in Boston)
Ten years ago today I was a week into the cycle, yet still on the East Coast. Today’s excerpt is more unwieldy nonsense from the audio taped sections of the journal:
Friday the 9th of August. A week on from Boston. About 10.30 in the evening. In Princess Anne, Maryland. Watching television about bussing and de-segregation. And I’m mulling over tomorrow and Virginia Beach.
Haven’t had any luck with my contacts for Virginia Beach. It won’t be the end of the world but it might be important because it is the weekend and it is the ocean, and it is high season, and everybody tells me Virginia Beach will be full.
Today was another great great day. Just Maryland. Maryland of two halves really, lovely at first, more and more of the cornfields, and the Soya beans, and the spaces, and the trees in the distance, and maybe they’d come up. And beautiful houses that are dropped in amongst them.
But the last thirty miles was quite unkempt. You still had corn, and you still had Soya beans, but it was rough. Bushes everywhere, wildflowers, the trees, just unkempt everywhere. The houses were ramshackle, a lot of them were overgrown and just poor. A lot of Black villages and people living in mobile homes. Quite different than earlier in the day. Villages were certainly not too pretty.
The gardens of Maryland are full of kitsch and anything, absolutely anything goes. They have space and they put stuff anywhere in the garden. And I like it. A lot of them put statues of animals. Maybe they’re metal cut-outs; maybe they’re three-dimensional. They could be cows, dogs, cats, geese, decoys in this part of the world of water birds. Anything goes, even ghosts.
So I was going past the statue of a golden eagle, only a few feet away, a painted statue. And then it slowly opened out its wings and silently and gracefully took off. The wing span was about seven feet. I just watched it go up and up, and then join more of them. And then for the next few miles I saw several places where there was two or three just circling overhead. This one was just fantastic to watch though because I’d seen him so close up. It was amazing.
Birds. A lot of birds today. From little yellow Finches, and tons of Robins, and there was those Blackbirds that I was told me about, with the large splodge of orange, very striking, on the wing. There was lots of other song ones I’d no idea what they were. Some funny movements. Towards the end of the day a couple of beautiful Bluebirds. Not as big as Jays and they were very very blue.
About fifty miles after my eagle statue that wasn’t, I got a ferry across a river. One that holds two, maybe three, cars at most. A free ferry. Straight-across. It’s always good to jump on a ferry.
The Wichimeeko River I think. There was a load of Egrets or Herons or something. There was certainly plenty of Gulls. But I spotted something on a pole, which looked bigger than them, and different. It was dark and it had a white head. And it looked like a Bald Eagle.
And then bigger than that bird again, I saw two just like it but much bigger, up on a telegraph pole, in a nest, and they were making a racket. And these were Eagles. They were Bald Headed Eagles. And they were fantastic. There’s a couple of cross sections at the top of the pole so they built this nest which must have been four feet by two feet, or four feet by eighteen inches.
Went out earlier and bought beers and pizza, and juice. Drank a litre of Hawaiian Punch. Not doing that again. Disgusting. Then I wanted four cans of beer, but it’s cheaper to buy six and the girl in the shop insisted I not pay more to buy less.
Tired and sleepy. This is forty-eight dollars including tax, this motel. And it’s not particularly nice. And there’s no towels. And more importantly there’s no air-conditioning. So I’m kind of warm. Though I’m lucky because it’s not too bad outside. It cooled down around half two, three o’clock today, as it clouded over.
I don’t like Princess Anne really. It’s a bit devoid of things. Part of me suspects there’s more of a downtown about a mile up the road, and if that’s true well I’ll see it tomorrow. And it’ll be a bit of a shame. But I don’t think anywhere will be any cheaper than this. This is horrible.
Look at the Beach Forecast. 82 degrees, partly sunny. Yeah, the next couple of days are fine. They’re all talking about rain on Tuesday or something, so, ah that’s grand. I don’t even mind any rain. Rain was forecast for today and it never actually rained at all. A few drops hit me, the last two hours, but you could count them.
One house I went past had seven birdhouses in a row. And they were from two-storey to four-storey, and they were all white. So it was a bit like the Costa-del-Birdhouse.
The woman of the house from yesterday went off to Annapolis to the Police Department this morning. Talking to her yesterday, when I told her about my watermelon friend in Trenton, she said,
–Trenton? Wow! They tell us even, the police, not to go Trenton.
It’s supposed to be pretty bad there. So I told her what it was like for me. She teaches some kids in relation to crime and was worried about teaching them how to do the perfect crime, so instead focussed on the fact that no matter what you do, you always leave a bit of evidence. So she gave millions of examples.
I started this morning north of Ridgely. It’s a lovely town and at the first crossroads there wasn’t a soda machine and a telephone like every other crossroads town in this part of America, there was, okay a single telephone, but there was FOUR soda machines. And then I realised there was actually four crossroads. So there’s obviously a relationship there.
Then down to Denton on the 404, which is uncomfortably busy but there was a great big shoulder. A lot of trucks, which I’m getting used to, but they give you plenty of room, and anyway the shoulder is huge.
I don’t remember a lot about Denton. I just remember avoiding the by-pass deliberately and going over the river – which was the Choptauk River. And I was still on the 404 for a couple of miles out of town until I could turn off onto my 313, which is still somewhat busy because it’s taking people towards the 50. Which basically was all the way down to Federalsburg, when I turn off and go in.
I had lunch in there. I went into this place on a corner, and they had Macaroni Cheese – hot, which I stuck into a carton, and promptly ate all outside. Bought a sub that I ate later on. Bought a drink or two. Quite a few people said hello to me.
This stage, you’re getting into 75 – 85% Black. A lot of people are just nodding to me, and what have you, but people are greeting me which makes a difference.
After Federalsburg I’m still on the 313. I’m heading south. And I got a stitch the next six miles from literally just finishing my Macaroni and jumping on the bike and going. I just didn’t give it any chance at all. So I had to stop. And I stopped at El Dorado. This was, even calling it a crossroads is doing it a favour. It was a bend in the road really.
There was an Historic Plaque about Rehobeth and an arrow to it. About the Lee family of Virginia who patented in 17 whatever, and a Governor Lee is descended from them. And I have no idea what a Rehobeth was or what on earth they were talking about. And this happens quite a lot at the moment with plaques.
Speaking of plaques there’s one just outside here, pointing at the birthplace across the road –the road is US 13, - across there is the birthplace of one of the signers, I’ve forgotten his name, another signatory of the Declaration of Independence.
But enough of plaques. So I stopped in El Dorado because I was wrecked with a stitch. I had tried to stop once or twice to take photographs but nothing quite was there for the taking. I was trying to take just a generalised one of the cornfields and the trees and a house, and I almost did but then I didn’t.
Right on the corner at El Dorado is a ramshackle red painted wooden shack, which is a deli and a gas station. It’s very small. Only one of the two pumps worked. There’s three rough chairs outside. I sat in one. Got some iced tea, a can out of the machine. Didn’t go inside. People said hello to me here. It was funny. They all say hello to you sounding like Elvis.
One fella who’s six foot something and four foot wide, and bald, and he did his, How ya doin’ man? as he came out. So I told him how I was doing, pretty quickly.
Then three Black guys jumped out of a pick-up, and they’re coming over walking past my bike, and they see me sitting on the chair by the machine, the door in between. One of them walks straight over to me rather aggressively and repeatedly asks me if I was here last year. It took some job to persuade him that whatever happened last year it wasn’t me, I don’t do this every year.And I was glad because that cyclist was in trouble.
And so I told him where I came from today, and where I was going today, where I came from overall and where I’m going to overall, and I swore I wasn’t there last year. He went,
And when they came out, he says,
–Hey man, I hope you have a safe ride
Which is what most people wish me. Safety first and foremost. Luck, after that. Good Weather I think even comes before fun. There’s a lot of people wishing safety for me.
From El Dorado, down to Sharptown where I crossed the Nantichoke River. A nice crossing. A couple of girls in some kind of rubber dingys underneath the bridge. A nice little town on the right. A big fun fair there, though nothing happening. Nobody around.
Mardello Springs is where I hit the US 50. Straight across it towards Athol. Had some difficulty with the map because at this stage we’re on very minor roads. And they don’t show when I’m on it. And there’s several more roads, and twists and turns. And particularly if you know you want to go south. But the sun’s disappeared in behind the thick clouds so you’ve no idea where south is, and it’s pretty hard to guess where you’re going. So I had to ask a couple of people when this happened. And this happened twice.
After Quantico I turned left on a road with markings, having been on a lonely road with no markings or no nothing. And then I turned onto Upper Ferry Road, which was going to go to Upper Ferry – which was good to know, because I knew Upper Ferry was on the far side of the river so one way or another I was going to get across it. Indeed there was a tiny little ferry there which went across on a kind of cable. It just goes backwards and forwards. The maximum number is six adults because there’s only six lifebuoys or life things on board. That’s where I saw the Bald Eagles.
Six, seven miles later I hit the 13. And I could’ve crossed over to the 529 but I was kind of lonely, and wanted to stay on the big road with all its tons and tons of traffic. It was somehow comforting.
So I did, and I went maybe two miles down it. And then I turned off for downtown Princess Anne. And looking at the map I’m pretty certain I am a mile away from it. Unless I missed 362? I don’t know. Maybe I’m not. Maybe this is downtown. 81 miles cycled today.
Rang my aunt in Chester in Virginia. I should be there on Sunday night, two days. I don’t see any reason why not. And then I should have a good detailed look at all the maps, and see how I’m fairing for September the 7th in Kansas City. Hopefully everything’s still on course. I think it should be.
Read the Next Entry (#9) in My Bicycle Trip Across America
Read from the beginning of the Cycle Across America