A few members of the Farm Sanctuary family decided to raise awareness and money for Chuck Pappas who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer. Casey, Jenn, and Zoe decided they would walk from Arlington, Virginia where the Taking Action For Animals conference was being held to Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen where the annual Farm Sanctuary Hoe Down was being held. They only had 6 days to cover just under 300 miles. Todd Denlinger joined the group on bike and I decided to do the same.
A side note about vegans. We take care of each other, it’s a family that spreads beyond personal beliefs and goals.
I decided to drive my car to the sanctuary a week before the ride and then ride from Brooklyn, NY to Arlington, Virginia where I would meet the rest of the Chuck 300 and ride from Arlington to Watkins Glen, NY.
My first day out was a mess. I didn’t even get over the bridge into Manhattan when a driver (another word for jerk) opened his door on me and knocked me to the road. Here I am with a 50 pound bike and 150 pounds of gear laying on the ground with less than 10 miles of a 600 mile trip underway. Adrenaline got me and the bike off the ground quickly and in the face of said driver. He pretended to reach into his waist band and I said you are going to shoot me for your own mistake? He began proclaiming that I had no lights as I showed him both of my lights which are some of the brightest lights made for bikes. He says I should not have been in the road. On and on... I get ready to ride off when i notice a back has broken off the rack and another is severely ripped. I tell him we need to straighten this out and he says he did nothing wrong. I sell out and call the cops. Now growing up disliking (for lack of a stronger word) police I know that calling them is going to waste time and lead to nothing, but I have an hour until the George Washington Bridge opens to bikes so lets begin.
Over an hour later the cops arrive in their embarrassing Nissan and of course don’t even get out of the car. They tell me no crime has been committed, it’s my word against his; although he admits he hit me, and that they can’t do anything because it is a civil matter. I was so shocked that these cops knew every letter of the law as if they were experienced lawyers. Wrong, they just didn’t want to get out of the aroma of doughnuts, coffee, and new Nissan smell. Did I say they were driving a Nissan. So all thoughts on cops once again confirmed and I’m off to cross the Williamsburg bridge into Manhattan.
Manhattan goes well. I chose to leave early to not fight traffic and to arrive at George Washington Bridge just in time for it to open. I received a few stares and glares but not a soul spoke to me. Then the George Washington Bridge.
I must admit, New Jersey, you surprised me. The first bike commuters from Jersey waved, said hello, and one guy eve gave me a thumbs up and yelled, “YEAH!”.
I make it about 50 miles through New Jersey when it becomes very overcast and windy. I decide to stop for a second, adjust my maps, and prepare for the storm. I don’t even have my bike against the wall when a police officer pulls up next to me and quickly gets out of his car and starts talking to me. He claims there has been a report of “suspicious” activity on a bike in the area. I know this is bullshit and he is hoping to catch the next drifter riding through Watchung, NJ for mass murder. I quickly produce identification and began asking him questions about the area. From my questions he lowers his attitude and begins to cooperate. (I love how as an adult punk rock kid I can reverse scenarios with psychology) He still runs all my info into the computer and comes back with no APB of a tall tattooed guy with too much bear on his bike pillaging his town. I get directions from him and off I go.
On my way once again. I’m now riding through narrow roads lined by trees and fields with very little human life in sight. Things are going well, when I feel my left leg drop to the ground. I look down and my left crank arm has fallen off. With the pedal and crank clipped to my shoe I stumble to the side of the road and lean my bike against a street side. A shirtless gentleman on a carbon Ferrari Colnago rides by and ask if I need help. I ask where the nearest bike shop is and he tells me about 4 miles away. My mind thinks, 4 miles on foot equals one hour, on a bike with a broken crank, maybe 20 minutes. We begin to chat and he tells me he has ridden through France, Burma, so on but never with gear. I’m listening to his stories, but trying to fix a crank at the same time. I lean the drive side crank arm against the street sign and with a large rock begin to hammer the other crank arm on. It’s loose, but I’m rolling again and head to High Gear Cyclery in Stirling, NJ. Each pedal rotation I check the cranks, occasionally clicking my heels like Dorothy to tighten them. Eventually I arrive at High Gear Cyclery and the place appears to be one of those new corporate shops where everyone is either; A) too stuck up to help, B) too dumb to help, or C) too dumb and stuck up to care that someone is in their presence in need of assistance. Not the case at High Gear. Before I am all the way through the automated door that EVERY bike shop should have I am greeted with, “Where are you from and where are you headed?” I look to the voice behind the counter and say, “Brooklyn and headed to DC.”
I begin to explain what happened and what I need and everyone in the shop takes time to help me and look over my bike. This is now one of the friendliest shops I have ever been in. Everyone is courteous, nice and willing to help. No luck with the crank bolt, but they send me to a hardware store just 2 miles down the road and finding out that I am vegan from our conversations they mention there is a health food store next door. I’m off to the hardware store where everyone is equally as helpful and nice as High Gear. A quick call to Matt Coplon at Profile Racing and I have the correct bolt and washer to get me further down the road.
The weather stays overcast with a few very light showers making for a nice ride. It becomes dark around Levittown, NJ and I see a choice spot for sleeping. I wait for the few cars on the road to pass and I run into the woods. I set the bike down and decide to not use the tent tonight. My milage for the first day was 129.31 with a top speed of 40.1 miles per hour which I clocked at 4:44 pm at my 100 mile mark. I’m pretty happy with those numbers. I set my mat and bag on the ground and open a jar of almond butter. I enjoy a few dates and almond butter then begin to sleep. My face is all that was exposed and a few bugs began to bite so I rub some garlic on my face and all was well.
I awake just before dawn and begin packing. My short trek from the road to the woods was all down hill so I walk a few bags to the road then make a second trip for the bike. I repack the bike and off to DC once more. My second day I am not feeling sore from the first day, just motivated. I roll on with nothing but beautiful sights and sounds along my trail.
I stop for a second at Washington’s Crossing for some quick photos and off to Philadelphia where I can get some food at Whole Foods.
At 5 pm on the second day a huge downpour begins with chunks of hail and wind. I quickly turn into a residential area that is heavily wooded and wait for cars to pass and jump a ditch into the woods. The ditch I jumped asked for a toll and took my cycle computer as payment. Now I have a dead phone battery and no computer which means I have no idea what time it is. My last glance at the computer said 193 miles and I recall a top speed of 33.3 miles per hour for the day. I find cover under some trees and set up my tent. I sleep until the rain stops and begin packing. I spend a few moments looking for the lost computer but I know I am wasting time so off to ride once again. Again I have no idea what time it is, all I know is the rain has stopped so I pedal on down US 1. By the mile markers I have ridden 20 miles when police stop me and ask what I am doing. I tell them the reason for the bike ride, so on and on, then I quickly ask what time it is. they tell me it is 3:20 AM. Just hearing the time wakes me a little and I chuckle. If I’m 20 miles into my day I must have started riding around 2:00 am. I ask if they need to see my identification and in unison they disagree. On says, “of course we will sire” the other states, “no you are free to go”. I laugh and give them my Identification. They tell me to stay off US 1 and give me an alternate route.
I begin to follow their alternate route in total darkness. I realize there is no moon in sight and stars are all I can see. As I make a turn I see a police car ahead of me and it makes that ohh so typical police U-turn. I wonder what I have done now when i recognize the officers as the ones who just stopped me. This time they decide to “detain” me. Now I am off the road they told me not to be on and I am going the route they directed me, so needless to say I am upset by this “detention”. Now I’m hanging out with my two new favorite people, Officers Contradict, wondering what the hell is going on. They don’t take my identification this time, they didn't do anything but tell me to wait were I am. An hour in oxford, PA goes by and I am free to leave, for what reasons I was not free I have no idea. I’m determined to make it to DC tonight so that I can sleep some before the walk/ride begins with the others.
Day three, Saturday, my last day alone on the ride/walk. Every sight from country side to city is beautiful. I arrive in Port Deposit to find that I cannot cross any of the bridges due to bike prohibition. I check the maps and ask some locals for advice. I am advised to ride East 20 miles and get onto US 1. This is the same US 1 that Officers Contradict told me not to ride on. So 20 miles out of my way I head back and cross US 1 to see that it has a bike route sign. Great knowledge of bike routes officers.
When traveling slow, life and beauty take on new meaning. It’s excitement and freedom to the fullest extent. I arrive in Baltimore and people begin asking about my tattoos, about where I am going and where I am from. I receive all kinds of positive responses from everyone along the route. Once I am through Baltimore I begin to push forward a little harder. I can now see The Washington Monument and Dead Kennedy’s “Stars and Stripes of Corruption” begins to play in my head just as it always has when entering DC. This time the song brings back fond memories of shows at the Safari Club and all the friends I once had in this crazy city. Once through DC
Once through DC I cross the Arlington Memorial Bridge and on to the Mount Vernon foot/bike path. This Bike path is amazing. runners, bike rides, walkers, all people being active and away from cars yet right in the middle of it all. Great views of DC and all the sights nature has to offer. I’m sold on DC, but would I ever move back here......
I arrive at the Taking Action for Animals conference just as it begins to rain. Dirty and smelly I walk downstairs to the banquet and receive a room key from David who is Farm Sanctuaries New York City Advocacy Organizer. David had some great shoes to fill with Jasmin becoming the National Advocacy Organizer and he is doing a great job! I take my bike to our room and begin to organize and rest. Bryce and Mike arrive to take me to Whole Foods for some food. I quickly get back to the room and pass out.
Up early Sunday morning and ready to meet everyone for the walk/ride to begin it’s 300 miles to Watkins Glen, NY.
PHOTO: Russ Mead