Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A golden compass

I've not written much about Ollie's and my own adventures in cycling for some time, it seems. Truthfully, each leg of the journey has presented some story-worthy challenges.

There was the ride from Philadelphia to Kutztown, PA, for example, which started out with me circling the city for approximately two hours before determining that the GPS must have been on the fritz, only to be approached on my second loop around City Hall by Hal, a local bike advocate and avid cyclist, who directed me toward a set of trails that would take me well beyond Valley Forge. Oh, people are so much better than computers. Or so I thought: the second leg of that same trip, once past the trail portion, had me quite literally circling and retracing steps (or tracks, I suppose) for sometimes 6 or 7 miles at a stretch, uphill both ways (I know it sounds impossible, but might I remind you that I was still in Penns-HILL-vania at that point) in my attempt to make my way to the Rodale Institute. Having given up on the GPS, I decided to rely on the locals. Bad call. Seriously, though, don't you people know the main roads going through your own town?? Sure, very few of the streets are labeled, but still.... Oh, I made it to Rodale, but only after fate stepped in and landed me, exhausted, pacing and muttering in front of Gary's house -- Gary, who had gone to school in Kutztown and whose Aunt Eileen worked at the Institute and kindly took me in, fed me, and set me up with not only a hot shower and a futon for the night, but a ride for Ollie and I across the final 12 (hilly) miles of the way there. Okay, no more maligning people.

Take the trip from Guilford to Meriden, CT, for instance: the printed google map directions could have been better used to line a hamster cage. Better by far were the directions given to me at the local bike shop, The Broken Spoke, by... curse my addled brain, I forgot the mechanic's name, but his directions were perfect. Somebody find and hug that man. For my travels between Meriden and New Haven, my friend Dan gave me turn-by-turn directions that were almost faultless and took me along the lovely Farmington Canal Trail, until I got to the portion of the trail that had not yet been built and discovered that I had neither a CT state map nor a New Haven detail map with me. I made my way into the city on pure instinct, but once there was sent by various locals in circles for miles and was lost for a solid hour. (Shoot, did I say I wasn't going to discredit human directions? Scratch that.) But I got to Yale's farm, too, eventually, after I reached Anastasia, who patiently talked me through the final few turns. I got quite lost on the way back to Meriden as, unable to find the trail entrance, and with nobody for miles along less-than-scenic-or-bike-friendly Dixwell Avenue having heard of the trail, I cut through someone's back yard and magically found myself back on track. (Thanks, God.) I got lost when I took a wrong turn just south of Meriden, too, but no need to go into detail: you get the picture.

I nearly forgot to mention that the Verizon Navigator GPS on the blackberry died about a week and a half ago and has yet to be fixed. I will say the customer service staff are nice, if not particularly knowledgeable, but even during my time at an Abbey -- how much more serene can a place BE, I ask you? -- I am unable to bring myself to sit on hold for 20 minutes at a time while the "your call is important to us, please stay on the line" is interspersed with musack looped again and again as I visibly age waiting for tech support to pick up. I have patience for many things, but food and negligent tech support are not among them. Unfortunately, I am still paying for the service in the meantime -- doh! Thank goodness the ABF tech team is more on top of things... Come to think of it, maybe they can figure out my GPS issues... Rudy? Tysen?

And so, dear readers, I think I may go old school and pick up regular state road maps -- they seem the most reliable -- to fill in the human and google map and GPS gaps. And perhaps I should install a compass on Ollie....(It's not like another couple of ounces is going to make much of a difference when I hit Vermont's mountains in a few weeks.)

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry


  1. GPS is (usually) great, but I don't think I could go on an extended bicycle trip without my my netbook and tethered RAZR2---that's right, no iPhone for me; I get the the same data plan as you Apple addicts for $50 less each month---but I still have no practical suggestion for how to keep everything charged up. That would also apply to my SLR camera, which needs to be charged daily (at least).

  2. trust your instincts ibti...the sense of direction is easy to find if you free your self to "hear" it.



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