Location: Arlington, VA
I made it home! I pedaled 1055 miles from Penobscot, Maine to home in Arlington, Virginia. I wanted to make it home last night but nightfall and a foggy rain caught up with me. After going 70 miles, with 40 left, I decided the better part of valor was to look for a suitable place to camp. In haste, I found a stretch of woods on the outskirts of Washington, DC and pitched my tent for the night without bothering to eat dinner. Thirty minutes after zipping up inside the tent a nearby deer snorted at my presence. It didn’t take it long to discover I was camping in its quarters. It probably had never seen a tent in its life. I figured it would be a while before I would hear the sound of snorting deer again.
Moisture collected on the leaves of the massive poplar and oak trees above me. Bits of mist coalesced into drops were shook from branches by wind and beat down on my tent all night long. Later in the evening, a thunderstorm rolled through. I was safe and dry inside the tent, but I wanted to be home. I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned on my inflated mattress. As 2 AM rolled past I tried listening to the radio. I could only pull in AM on my Walkman and listened to a news station from New York City. I wondered what bills came in the mail while I was away, what condition my apartment was in. Had it caught fire and not a soul bothered to notify me? Was my aquarium of fish doing okay? Silly irrational thoughts pranced through my head and made it difficult to sleep. I was especially close to home but wound up spending one last night on the damp floor of a “rain forest”.
I grew tired of the news on the radio and decided I could rest easier on a full stomach. I ate a whole can of Fruit Cocktail. Not satisfied — I ate a can of tuna. Doing so didn’t curb my hunger but made falling asleep easier.
I bought the best tent I could afford a few years back and it had withstood many a rainstorm before. Not a drop of rain got on me. I was a bit warm and felt the mugginess of the thunderstorm and fog.
I woke up at 7:30 in the morning quickly packed camp and slithered out of the woods onto the roadway. Not a soul noticed. I had once again effectively guerilla camped. I was forty miles from my apartment. It was drizzling and a light fog had settled in. I started to make my way into the gauntlet of Washington, DC. At one point I became outraged at the directions given on the Adventure Cycling route map. I was directed to ride on an extremely busy thoroughfare for several miles. The route seemed a bit uncharacteristic of the directions I was accustomed to on the trip, which for the most part had been extremely good and accurate. The maps kept me off the busiest roads and provided me a sense of security. I no longer felt that security, I was competing with loud dump trucks, 18 wheelers, and city buses for space on the roadway. There was no shoulder to move over onto nor was there a sidewalk. I was determined to get home so I clamped down and rode my bike with the heavy traffic into the city. I was relieved greatly to turn off that crazy road.
Later I made my way into the town of Bethesda, MD and was in very familiar territory. I found the Crescent bike trail, sighed relief that I no longer had to deal with automobiles on the trip. I could ride the rest of the way home completely on bike paths. An hour later I pulled up to the door of my building, fished out my keys from my panniers, opened my door and ended my 1000-mile adventure.
Reflecting on this trip I certainly feel like it was a tad bit more difficult than my previous trip to Colorado. The East Coast has more traffic and more towns to deal with. The East Coast almost always had humidity and I had to deal with more rain than when travelling in the Midwest.
I’d say it definitely was worth the experience. A vacation should let a person reflect and enjoy the experience. I did just that. When pedaling sometimes 80 miles per day, one has lots of time to think. Thoughts and conversations in your mind can get worked up and worked out, especially when pushing yourself up a mountain. To me, bike touring can be therapy for the soul and body. I’d do this trip again.