April 14: Philadelphia

Submitted by Ben on Tue, 04/14/2015 - 08:37

[posted to the Wheeled Migration Yahoo Group on April 14, 2005]
What a beautiful week of weather! I don't know when I've ever experienced seven days of perfect bicycling weather in a row. Unfortunately I wasn't able to appreciate the first five because I was sick, but I was dimly aware that I would otherwise have been appreciative!

I was sick when I last wrote you, on Friday morning. (It bears mentioning because this was my first illness in nine months of traveling.) A cold that had been building in my throat moved into my nose Thursday night and kept me from sleeping, and I was glad to be leaving the hostel before I could infect everyone there. [I may have caught it at the hostel, which did not have great hygienic practices.]

Marisa had just finished her qualifying exams, so both of us slept until noon on Saturday! Then that afternoon we went to a Japanese-inspired street festival on Pennsylvania Avenue in honor of the cherry blossoms. We bought some mochi rolls that turned out to have beans in them, and I ate them anyway (cue ominous music).

On Sunday morning I went to see Rev. Rob Hardies speak at All Souls Church, and I must say he puts on quite a show -- the closest thing to a charismatic Unitarian minister I've ever seen. It helps that his congregation is so remarkably diverse -- if he asked them to speak in tongues, I bet they could converse in at least a dozen -- but his dynamism probably contributes to the diversity as well. His associate minister is popular as well; both of them actually got standing ovations on Sunday, even though she wasn't present -- it was announced that she had just gotten married in Massachusetts [historical note: Massachusetts had just legalized same-sex marriage, which the UUA strongly supported].

Anyhow, his sermon gave me a lot to think about, which is why when I started feeling wretched and despondent as I rode out of town I thought at first I was reacting to the themes of the sermon, rather than the previous evening's legumes. I did finally figure it out, but I had nothing to eat for dinner but lentil soup (which hadn't caused me problems in the past). Between that and the tail end of the cold, I wasn't a happy camper until after lunch on Tuesday!

I passed through Baltimore on Monday and have nothing interesting to say about it except that all the public libraries there are called Enoch Pratt.

I could tell the curse of the legume was wearing off Tuesday afternoon because when I found out Susquehanna State Park's campground was closed -- after riding all day to get there -- I just shrugged it off. I stopped for water at an adult day-care center, and the director, who was just leaving for the day, offered to let me camp on the grounds because "no one's here overnight anyway." Alas, I overslept in the morning, so I was still there when folks started arriving!

I had planned to cross Chesapeake Bay on US-40 and ride into Delaware, but when I got to the foot of the bridge in Havre de Grace, Maryland, I learned it was off-limits to bikes -- no exceptions. I was referred to the local florist, a man named Richard who has bicycled "all over" (mostly Utah) and makes it known on both sides of the bridge that he'll drive bicyclists across. He told me that Delaware is a horrific place to bicycle due to hostile motorists, and to make sure I didn't go that way he drove me most of the way to US-1, bound for Pennsylvania. So I didn't go to Delaware after all.

Instead I went on a tour of the Herrs Snack Food factory in Nottingham, PA! I saw lots of cool assembly-line equipment and learned how they put all their byproducts to useful purposes, but I wasn't allowed to take photos. The quality-control robots were especially cool, knocking green potato chips out of mid-air and detecting incorrect seasoning levels inside sealed bags. [2015 note: while eating my complimentary bag of chips after the tour, I bumped my scabbed right knee against the concrete picnic table and tore the scab off, causing a scar that I still have today. I guess I didn't feel like writing about it at the time!]

Even with only 30 miles to ride today, and even with a bicycle map of Philadelphia in hand, I still had a hard day's ride. People who print bicycle maps of hilly places without any topographical information should provide a tow-rope service on all the hills; that's what I think.

Anyhow, the latest in the series of beautiful days saw me as a guest in the home of Jay and Elsa, my new nephew's paternal grandparents, whom I had not previously met. I'll spend most of tomorrow on a bus to Pittsburgh, and by the end of the day I'll meet the new nephew himself! The bike and trailer, meanwhile, will rest in Jay and Elsa's garage.

Happy trails! --Ben