Author Archive

This might be a little bit of a late notice, but our great friend Trudy, the brain behind the moniker acronym of “Team QAK” is having a welcome back party for us tonight at her apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. If you’re in the city and haven’t already gotten the email from her or from one of us and you want to come welcome us back, we want to see you.

And now that I’m finally back in front of a fast computer with photoshop all day long, I’ve been able to stitch together the panoramic photos I’ve been taking during the trip. Another great friend, Halston, loaned me her Canon G10, which is a fantastic camera that I wish I didn’t have to give back. It’s got a spiffy function that makes taking panoramic photos like this somewhat easier. You can click on them to view a larger image. They’re also up on my flickr account.


This was the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon, on the very first day of our trip. Looking at these photos again reminded me that I’d almost forgotten how many beautiful things we passed by and how long ago it really was.


This was between Malta, Idaho and Snowville, Utah. Flat.


On the way up & over the Rocky Mountains.


At the top of Logan Pass, where we crossed the Rocky Mountains. It was one of the most spectacular views of our trip, and it was absolutely freezing up there. The couple to the right side of the photo was huddled beneath a blanket.


Bear Lake, from the bottom. It’s the lake you can see in the photo above, from the top of the mountain.


The Needles, one of many things from our favorite state, South Dakota.


The Badlands. Also in South Dakota.

Between Waynesboro & Easton are several Pennsylvania locales I’ve heard a lot about but never really been to. Lancaster, for instance, is supposed to be the Amish capital of the world (even though the largest population of them is in Ohio). We didn’t come across any Amish until we were near Kutztown.

a bit blurry, but there's an amish girl back there who rode with us for about a mile near Kutztown. She was on a comfort bike with Time Trial bars

a bit blurry, but there's an amish girl back there who rode with us for about a mile near Kutztown

We did hit up the recommended “Lancaster Dispensary” where the bartender played Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in it’s entirety, making us nostalgic for our iPods, and the waitress invited us to pitch our tent in the sprawling 1/4 acre backyard of her historical landmark home.

This backyard extends all the way to the next street over. It's HUGE!

This Lancaster back yard extends all the way to the next street over. It's HUGE!

Out of place “on the wrong side of the tracks” next to tenement-style brick buildings, Susannah’s wood sided 1.5 floor bungalow’s property extends way back until the next block. As sleep crept closer, the arbitrary outbursts of her neighbors became less & less startling, and we slept like babies.

The next day, we stopped in Reading, where I’ve only been once before to buy some unstylish stonewashed jeans from the city’s famed discount outlet stores when I was a teenager. From there, I called Mike Fegley at the Allentown Brew Works to tell him I was going to be there in a matter of hours to say “hi”.

Allentown, Bethlehem & Easton make up the third largest metropolitan area in Pennsylvania behind Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The Billy Joel song is about that Allentown, but it was based more on Bethlehem, where the factories were being torn down and have recently been turned into sprawling casinos. Easton is famous for Crayola Crayons, Larry Holmes (who beat Muhammad Ali back in the early 80’s), and being the second place that the Declaration of Independence was read publicly.

Allentown doesn’t have all that much going for it, and Mike was disappointed in his attempts to attract the Bicycling Hall of Fame to the unused storefronts across from his brewery. Still, in spite of the perceived disinterest express from his community, we boldly encouraged him to continue the Tour De Brew – the only USCF sanctioned event that goes THROUGH an occupied building before continuing on to the streets. A while ago, I had screened a youtube video he had cobbled together of the race after my Mom had saved a clipping from the Morning Call to show me last Christmas. It’s open to amateurs, and if he does this event again (which runs concurrently with a beer fest), I’ve promised to come & drag some New Yorkers with me.

I was going to lead twoarmparty into Easton by the Lehigh River Canal bike path, but we were already a few beers deep and on the last 20 miles of an 85+ mile day, so I skipped the scenic & went for the direct, which brought us past two Blockbusters I used to work at, my High School & Middle School, a Laneco I got caught shoplifting at, the Dixie Cup factory, and some of the less lovely parts of downtown Easton. Then we rolled up on Pearly Baker’s where my Dad was waiting for us with several empty seabreezes in front of him. Apparently he thought we might get there quicker. Family & friends rolled up and we had a great time beginning a relaxing day in Easton. Quinn did a great job recapping that in the last post.

Jersey

Jersey


Someone else’s photo of the bridge we illegally rode over. There was no other way! The best part was how I got a flat tire at the very base, by running over a drainage grate. There are few things in life I’m afraid of. I am, afterall, fearless. But of those few things (Tornadoes, opening car doors, wet metal construction plates, and expansion joints on bridges), I pretty much ran into two of them crossing this bridge, because having a flat tire makes you just about as stable as riding over a wet metal plate. And yes, as Quinn mentioned, we stopped on the other side of the bridge to take that Jersey State sign photo (impressive sign, New Jersey!) and fix my flat. That took a good 15 minutes, and nobody did anything about it. So the moral of the story is IGNORE THE LAWS, KIDS! I wish I had known this when we were at the Crayola Factory the day before….

img_1761

HUGE state sign! Not very interesting...but HUGE!

HUGE state sign! Not very interesting...but HUGE!

We tried to enter our bikes under the category of “special interest” in the 4th of July car show in McConnellsburg, PA, figuring that we’d be a shoe-in for the top three spots, but the judges didn’t buy it.

bikes, cars, mountains

bikes, cars, mountains

Still, we got to browse the rows of beautiful cars we’d seen pass us all morning long on the way to Waynesboro, where we were going to stay at my friend Scott’s place. You may remember Scott from such previous posts as “Dang, I look good in a tux”.

This guy.

He’s on his honeymoon right now, but during his wedding last week, he gave me the keys to his house (with his new wife’s acknowledgement, I’ll have you know) so that we could crash, do laundry, watch fireworks, watch TV, and veg out along our way. The Buhrman’s also left a kitchen island full of snack food and Jim Beam which we blitzkrieged as soon as the door creaked open. Thanks again Scott & Liz. I hope we remembered to turn the toaster off. 🙂

Even when the weather doesn’t agree with us, it agrees with us. That’s what I was going to write about how the persistently poor Pennsylvania weather works in our favor when we’re pedaling up the biggest hills since the rockies, burning up inside, but cooled by the clouds and an intermittent sprinkle. The mountains out here have nothing on the Rockies. That’s also what I was going to write until we hit three big climbs in one day on the way to Waynesboro. 50 miles seems like a lot more when half of it is steeply uphill. Of course, the downhills are a blast, but like I said, sometimes the weather didn’t really agree with us.

On our first day of tackling Appalacia, a spritz here & there cooled us off. Then an extended shower kept extending until it poured on us during the entire climb over Laurel Pass into the Highlands. 2,600 feet in the sky is truly nothing for twoarmparty, but when you descend another 1,000 feet then go back up a few times, in the rain…that begins to suck.

.

.

.

.

So we stopped in Jennersville, a small town just past our first pass, and had some ice cream while we drip-dried. An older lady who we asked about camping said that her daughter was at Camp Sequanota up the street with her grandkids, and maybe we could set up under a pavilion there, or at least in an unused campsite. She made a few quick phone calls, and by the time Andy’s Sundae came out, we were hooked up with a place to pitch a tent at the camp, which happened to be a Lutheran summer camp. And this was family week.

We rode back up the road a bit to Camp Sequanota, and found our way to the main offices, where Linda, the woman’s daughter, came out to greet us and direct us where to go. Shortly afterwards, Pastor George came out, and as we all looked at the darkening skies above the mountains to our west, feeling mists of future downpours drift past our faces, our place to stay was negotiated. What was once a spot on the ground became a spot on the ground under a pavilion, then an unfinished, dusty cabin, then cabin six with twelve beds, electricity, and two bathrooms.

img_1726

dang...i forgot to rotate this image...but...you get the idea

dang...i forgot to rotate this image...but...you get the idea

“Why don’t you join us for dinner,” Pastor George asked. Twoarmparty never turns down an act of generosity. So we walk into the dining hall where teenage counselors are frantically setting dozens of tables, families are chasing around kids who have fallen ill with cabin fever (it’s been raining all of family week), and the staff poured pitchers of Kool-Aid. We stood around a table with Linda, Pastor George, a counselor and another couple while a camp leader lead the room (with more people in it than the entire population of Philip, South Dakota) in the “Johnny Appleseed” grace. It involved lots of hand motions and gutteral sounds that none of us understood and seemed somewhat cultish. But that’s probably just because we’re heathens. Nonetheless, Andy and I had some Kool-Aid and came back later for the puppet show. It was a delightful reinterpretation of classic 50’s songs set in a diner, based on the gospel of Mark, chapters 4, 5, and 6. Even the 18 year old counselor with tattoos, piercings, and a torn Misfits shirt who Andy said “That was me, when I was at Bible Camp” was getting into it. Hanging out with the Lutheran Family camp in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania was just like hanging out with the guys at Pactola lake, way back in the Black Hills of South Dakota, except this time, they were drunk on the love of God.

Brought to you by Pennsylvania, near the site of the crash of flight 93 on September 11th.

That airplane is awfully close to Jesus's head

That airplane is awfully close to Jesus's head

This is the same state that thinks hosting drinking parties for your teenage kids is a bad idea.

Preposterous!

Preposterous!

Our brief venture into West Virginia included such hilights as ... lunch.

Our brief venture into West Virginia included such highlights as ... lunch.

Eastern Ohio eased us into the brutality that awaits us over the next few days into Pennsylvania. FYI, if you’re ever traveling out of Columbus to the East, route 40 in Ohio has a wide, paved shoulder that is OFFICIALLY a bike lane. Go Ohio! We also now know, thanks to Andy’s Uncle, Lee witha K, that route 40 is one of the oldest commissioned roads in the nation, surveyed on the east coast by none other than George Washington himself. So thanks for those bike lanes, George Washington. We can’t say as much for Pennsylvania so far, having already rolled over the hills of route 19 into Pittsburgh with no shoulders & heavy traffic. Ohio: 1, Pennsylvania: 0.

On the other hand, Pittsburgh, the City of Champions and the Pirates, had the Mattress Factory – a modern art museum, and we took some neat pictures in one of their installations.
img_1718

img_1719

It is amusing to note here that there’s a pitch black exhibit in one of their rooms. Like, pitch black. Put your hands in front of your eyes, and you can’t tell the difference. Black black black. There’s a railing, some chairs, and some sort of big room, based on the way our voices echoed. When Andy leaned over the railing to try & figure out if there was anything out there, his passport & bundle of cash fell out of his shirt pocket and onto the floor which, by the sound of it, was well below our feet. Light never came on in that room.

Pittsburgh is where we managed to run into half of the riders from the Bicycle Film Festival 42Ride! Three of our friends from New York are on this northern half of their cross country tour, and it just so happened that they arrived in the Steel City earlier in the afternoon than we did. There’s a photo floating around in an iPhone somewhere between here and Indiana right now, and as soon as we get our hands on that, we’ll post it. It’s adorable. Swear to god. Ohio: 1, Pennsylvania: 2.

Now, we can’t forget that near the end of our journey through Ohio, we got some fantastic, unsolicited advice from a gas station patron at our final destination who had passed us twice during the day. “I hope you’re not taking route 40 tomorrow…it turns into an awful gravel road.” This was good advice, because we didn’t really know where we were going. At that point, route 40 and route 70 were the same, and route 70 is one of the most major interstates in the world. His advice took us along some well paved, quiet roads and back to route 40 once it was passable again. Also, this guy negotiated with the gas station owner so that we could camp on his property, as long as we kept out of sight. That gets at least 2 points. So, Ohio: 3, Pennsylvania: 2. This of course doesn’t take into account anything but the last few days of Ohio, so it’s a bit skewed.

Here’s a tip about cooking: we’re getting a bit more creative at it, after having eaten nothing but couscous while camping for a good month. This time, we got some elbow pasta, which cooks quickly, and a small jar of tomato paste. Toss the tomato paste into the water after the pasta is done and voila! Spaghetti Sauce! But wait, there’s more. Gas stations are full of ingredients you’d totally add to pasta sauce if you were making it from scratch. And I’m not talking Pop Tarts or potato chips. Beef Jerky. It’s good for a lot of things. Just look at the ingredients. If it’s got stuff you’d love in your spaghetti sauce, chop it up & toss it in while cooking.

In our idle hours over these past eleven days, I vowed not to let all of my 3,500+ miles of hard work come to naught as my body withered and weakened from disuse. An accumulated half-day’s worth of time at Dayton’s Pacchia cafe, shocking my muscles into jittery flexion from overdoses of caffiene was the first step. Thanks again to all the baristas and pastry chefs there who facilitated my fixation.

A second step was a return trip to the refreshingly bike-savvy town of Richmond, Indiana, our last stop before Dayton. My rainjacket had been misplaced at Chris Hardie’s place and seeing as there were six days to kill in the city where flight was born (the Wright Brothers began their aviation-destined entrepeneurial ventures with a bike shop in Dayton), I took off one morning on a 90-mile round trip to collect my coat. By 8:30 in the morning, I was on the road already once traveled, averaging a solid 22 miles per hour with a disparaging tailwind. Disparaging only because tailwinds work just one way. By 10:30 I had made it to Richmond in time to witness the celebratory parade in honor of their selection as an all-American city. Congratulations, Richmond! By 1:30, I was back in Dayton, 90 miles more not-atrophied, relishing in the celebratory accolades of the baristas & pastry chefs at Pacchia who thought I was nuts for riding so far by so early in the afternoon.

Later, Andy and Emily picked me up and we went hiking deep into the excruciating woods of Ohio to jump off waterfalls in Yellowsprings, kicking ferociously against the deadly undercurrent to reach salvation at the surface of the frigid waters below. Then we checked out a Birds of Prey sanctuary, where all these badass birds who’ve lost wings, legs or eyes are cared for. It was adorable and sad.

All of these activities were meticulously planned so that I could ride to Columbus in an indirect fashion along old railroad trails on a hot, humid day with headwinds. Furthermore, I logically started at noon so as to ensure I rode during the most oppressive parts of the day.

Twoarmparty was now officially split up. Quinn was in Syracuse, Andy was still in Dayton, and I was on my way to help one of my best friends get married in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. It wouldn’t be until Sunday (as I write this) that we’d be back together again.

During my flight to Philadelphia, I kicked the seat in front of me constantly for the entire duration of our 90-minute trip. It was ok because it wasn’t a very crowded flight. The people on the flight back to Columbus weren’t so lucky. Sorry about that, lady. Had to keep the legs in shape.

Once in the ill-nicknamed City of Brotherly Love (have you ever met many Philadelphians? They hate eachother. And everything) I demanded that Jon, my friend of 27 years, ferry me by motorcycle so that in my high-speed, two wheeled terror, I would try to crush his pelvis as I held on for deal life with my phenomenal thighs. Route 611 from his home in Furlong to the wedding in Stroudsburg was hilly, massively scenic, and full of blind curves Jon took at breakneck speed with me behind him. My legs were sore and his hips were so collapsed, he could barely dance. But not before we took our blushing groom-to-be out for a night on the town. Rampant chicanery ensued, I promise you that. Details will not be explained here. Let it be known that some members of the bridal party are not allowed in certain bars and may owe the city of Stroudsburg some money after the tickets are processed.

Getting back to dancing, it is now a well known fact that all Staneks love to dance and are great at it. Michelle (the little sister) has been a better dancer than you since she started studying at Miss Pat’s on Greenwood Avenue 20-mrrmmmphhh years ago. Patti (the mom) couldn’t be torn off the dance floor. Don (the dad) had hip replacements a few years ago which were apparently bionic. And I, of course, pledged to not stop shakin it all day and night long, singing “She’s a maniac” and running in place even when Scott (the groom) and I went hiking in Jacobsburg park three hours before his wedding. All of the following photos from the wedding are from my sister. Thanks, Michelle.


The groomsmen. From left: “Hutch”, Jon, “Silent” Ken (the best man), Scott (the groom), Joe, myself


OMG, I look good in a tux!


Me & Mom


The whole fam.


From left, Me, Jon, Scott, his bride Liz.

Through this intense, well planned training regimen, I feel quite ready (not to mention seriously anxious) to re-begin our trek tomorrow morning. It’ll be two long days to Pittsburgh, then some grueling days through Pennsylvania. Having flown over the state in less than a freakin’ hour, I’m psyched to do it the hard way, over the better part of a week. Easton, I’ll see you again just after the fourth of July!

We’re going to a wedding!

Dayum, do we clean up nicely.

Dayum, do we clean up nicely.

And the shoes! It's gotta be the shoes!

And the shoes! It's gotta be the shoes!

Quinn, getting all gussied up by a bridesmaid. The bride is in the photo, with her back to the camera.

Quinn, getting all gussied up by a bridesmaid. The bride is in the photo, with her back to the camera.

Brett Wayne Barker and Janell Kathleen Broering, congratulations!

img_1700