What crackheads can teach you about bicycle touring

I’m not one for omens, but if I were a superstitious jackass, yesterday’s 105-mile ride from Albany, NY to Ticonderoga would have me scared shitless about my trip.

A few things I learned today on my training ride, which can also just be called a bicycle ride:

1) crackheads don’t always have bike pumps, but when they do, they don’t have presta adaptors
2) rednecks love to make fun of spandex
3) a bug, if it gets into your mouth, will try to make the best of things by exploring your nasal cavity.
4) spraying gatorade in your eye doesn’t hurt as much as I thought. Though this has only been tested with “fierce grape” flavor. Also, “fierce grape” sounds like Lady Gaga and one of the Sunkist raisins had a child.

Now, normally I don’t ask crackheads for anything–and if I did, it would probably be crack-related advice, not bicycle advice–but when you end up with a flat tire in downtown Troy, NY crackheads are really your only choice in terms of an info desk.


View right before I headed into a godda, veritable forest of glass

I pulled off to the side of the road just in time to watch a drug deal go down across the street–and to realize that I’d forgotten my damn frame pump back at the house. I needed a bike shop. Don’t hate on me for being unprepared. This was the dress rehearsal. I wanted to know how far I could go, what tools I might need, and just how much of a forgetful idiot I could be. So in that sense, forgetting my frame pump was actually a ballin success.

When you’re in spandex in the hood your main goal is to make it seem like you did this on purpose. Which is sort of like showing up naked to a funeral and trying to make it seem that Fred would have wanted it this way.

The crackheads knew I didn’t belong, but were at least friendly neighborhood crackheads. First crackhead was sympathetic but unhelpful. Second crackhead offered me his bike pump, but then paused and said “ah, but you have Presta valves–I don’t have the adaptor.” He pointed me up the road to the hardware store.

On the way to the store, two women and a relatively well-dressed man who seemed to be trying to get started on his diabetes fell in step behind me. Mr. Diabetes decided he wanted to start something.

“Oh, look at me, walkin my bike down the street.”

Good observation. I ignored him.

“Wearing some spandex. Faggot.”

Decent observation, incorrect conclusion. I ignored him.

“Looking both ways to cross the street.”

Fuck you. Make fun of my flat tire. Make fun of my spandex. Dabble in homophobia. But mock my dedication to proper road safety? You have just crossed the town line into the pain town, and motherfucker, I’m the goddamn Mayor.

I turned around–ready to get in his face–“At least I can see my dick, asshole” on the tip of my tongue.

The thing about being my size of a person is that my mouth tends to be a hell of a lot bigger than my capacity for violence. Last time I used this line I got chased around downtown Manhattan by a cab driver. Almost got my ass beat that time, and I didn’t have a flat tire blocking my escape. I glared, caught the words in my mouth, and crossed the street. After looking both ways. I’m not an idiot.

Hardware store had the pump, but turns out my spare tire had an even bigger hole in it. Which is a sad, sad moment. I eventually sorted it out, and two and a half hours later was ready to get the fuck out of Troy and get the next 90 miles done.

Of note: Passed a Brazilian guy sitting helplessly on the side of the road. He was more than halfway from New York City to Montreal, and didn’t even know how to change a flat tire.

At least I was more prepared than him.

And finally, what has to be the least interesting historical marker in the world:


F–I’m bicycling across the country

I’m taking a bicycle from LA back to NY in about two months. Optimistically, 3,451 miles across from LA to Vegas to the Canyon. Colorado, Kansas, Texas, Arkansas, Memphis, Nashville, Louisville, Pittsburghville, back to New York. I’m excited. Well, I am and I’m not. This is plan C–after plan A, which was don’t get fired from your job, break up with your long-term girlfriend, shut down your social life, and plan B, which was find another job, stay in NY, pay rent, keep your friends.

New York has spit me out. It’s been chewing me for two years and its finally ground all the tasty bits out of me with it’s dirty concrete jaws and subway breath. Time for a change. New York is like a girl I was in love with when I was 18: She had a boyfriend who was a jerk to her and they were always on the verge of breaking up, and I thought if I was just nice enough and good enough she would come around to loving me–and I’ve been doing that with New York for two years, just begging, “if you only give me a shot I’ll show you how great I can be,” “Please, I’m so much better, I’d be so nice to you.” Now it’s time for me to break up with New York, go west, and sleep around with the rest of America.

Last time I finally moved on, my independence was rewarded with one sweaty, fumbling night with the former love of my life, light of my eyes. Not sure how that fits into the metaphor, but either way, New York and I are taking a break.

I don’t want to leave. I had a shitty apartment in brooklyn, but hey, at least it was my apartment. I was doing adult stuff. Now I’m just another whiny college grad going out on his bullshit spirit quest to discover himself, blog about it, and come back with tedious stories about that time he got really drunk with some townies with accents.

Unemployment’s a bitch, and with it comes a dangerously increasing ability to pay rent, and when even Americorps doesn’t offer you a job, you know it’s time to get out of the job market.

I am off: I need to find that reset button, to escape the November rain of my mid 20s. Ishmael took to the seas, Cato jumped on his sword, and I, well I put on spandex, and aim a bicycle wheel east.