Goodbye New York, hello Massachusetts! I'm sitting in the Pittsfield, MA public library, belly full and muscles tired. One week into the trip, with 5 of those on the bike. I think that math works out ....
Because I'm at a library, no pictures for this entry, but they'll be coming.
Sometimes I start to feel really confident about my ability to make my home anywhere I am - pitch a tent and sleep peacefully every night. And some mornings I wake up to find that I spent the night in a nest of poison ivy. Like this morning! With daylight waning yesterday, I was just heading out of Hudson, NY, and thought I'd try "Fish and Game Rd" as a possible place to find a campsite. No public land, but there looked to be some stretches of forest. Near the end of it, I found a nice big patch of woods, and (when no one was driving by) I dove into the thicket with my bike and packs. Pushing through honeysuckle and rose bushes, I got to a beautiful little clearing under a humble cedar, and began unpacking. As I got settled in to sleep, i was treated to the songs of first one then two barred owls in stereo, for a good 20 minutes!! The only thing I had to worry about here, 40 yards off the road, was early-morning hunters stumbling across me. The thicket was dense enough to indicate that no one had been in there in at least a couple years. Slept great, then woke up noticing some 3-leafed yellow mittens. And then every other form of poison ivy ... definitely walked around in it barefoot, had all of my gear rolling around in it, etc ... so we'll see soon enough if i'm still immune!
So, to back up a bit .... I left Ithaca last Tuesday, October 8th. Some garlic planted, the gardens in decent shape, and handed off to a capable zen student for a time. Didn't get out the door in time to make my planned trip into Ithaca, so I just left straight from Danby. Got about 45 miles to the northeast, passing through stereotypical central new york landscape ... cows, corn, silos, barns, perfect autumn colors, hawks, even a blue heron that flew right across the road behind me to a creek. As it got late, and I realized that I was in fact quite tired from my longest ride in 3 years .. i checked out the map i had printed out. I was right in the middle of many patches of state forest land, with only a climb out of the valley to get me there. Climbing out of the valley is of course no small thing at the end of the day, and I even walked the steepest part as I watched the sun setting. But state forest is such comfortably welcoming land, the peace of mind is worth a little extra effort. A quiet and still night, to bed early and up with the sun. Which means a solid 10+ hours of sleep this time of year! Makes up the difference for what would be a less-than-restful sleep with only 1" of foam padding against the ground. First night was in the mid-30s, but plenty warm in my tent cocoon and sleeping bag.
Second day much of the same, 45-50 northeast through Georgetown area and Madison to get to Clinton. I reckon I had a lot of profound thoughts in the course of the ride. In fact I know i had a lot of profound thoughts in the course of that ride, but darned if i can remember them now!! Usually I'm good about keeping a journal on the road, but things were still pretty busy. I got into my hometown of Clinton, closed my long-dormant bank account, and cycled around the school for nostalgic purposes. Then I ran into Kathy Thompson who said she was "excited about tonight," meaning for the house concert that I thought was for sure the next day! I was so sure it was the next day, that I had invited some of my most anticipated guests to come on Thursday, not Wednesday. But my parents (who were hosting the concert), had invited most people for Wednesday, so I decided to forgo a trip to the neighbors' new goats, and head straight home to get ready to perform! That's the beauty of house concerts, though, it's so informal that it feels pretty fine to just play in whatever state your in. And after a second day of biking (and singing on the bike), I was in good shape to share music anyway! There would just have to be a double-header, with a second performance on Thursday.
It's so nice to perform in peoples' homes, and a notch higher to perform in the home you grew up in - not to mention on the piano you grew up playing, and for people who watched you grow up. A notable guest was my piano teacher from age 5-17, Kathy Austin. If I spend more than a moment thinking about it, I'm overwhelmed with gratitude for this woman who, through her patience, kindness, talent, creativity, and flexibility, gave more to me musically than any other individual. To learn from someone once a week for 12 years is a marvelous gift, and I'd be nothing of the musician I am without her. And now I'm getting tears on the library desk. So, anyway, nice to perform with Mrs Austin there, and to catch up with her a little.
After performing the CD release show in Ithaca in what resembles (if it isn't actually) a huge masonic temple room (CSMA), singing in a living room was a big change. I found I had to completely scale down my voice, and approach the performance with much more listening and calmness. No set list, but I got to sing also to my little niece Morgan, who I met for the first time that day!! Made sure to play enough piano to show Mrs Austin that I had made progress, enough banjo for everyone that had never heard me play, and also enough of the songs that my Mom likes.
Spent much of Thursday learning and notating the songs I would play at the wedding on Saturday. Then got a new iPhone. Oh dear ... i thought it would never happen! Then a second concert at the house. Fewer people but just as fun. Even had my sister listening live through skype, which was funny.
Packed up and hit the road early Friday, to be able to meet my brother Sean for a ride to the wedding. This was mostly along the Erie canal trail, after going through the city of Utica. I was last on the canal trail on the second-to-last day of my trip 3 years ago, and many of the spots seemed amazingly familiar! It's nice how flat it is, although the crushed gravel parts require a bit more muscle to get through than is ideal. It makes the paved climbs seem easy, actually! So, through the convenience of cellular devices, I met up with Sean a few miles before Amsterdam (about a 60-mile day). We continued on down to High Falls, NY in the Hudson valley, near where the wedding of his friend Matt Gale would be. I set up camp in the woods, and went to the wedding site for a late night rehearsal with the bride's brother on electric bass. Giant wedding tent full of boisterously playful Gale grandchildren (Matt is the youngest of 10 children, and the Gales lived across the street from where we grew up).
The wedding was held at a lovely orchard and organic vegetable farm with pristine upstate fall aesthetics. I played a few songs without then with bass before the ceremony, and finally "First Day of My Life" by Bright Eyes to open the ceremony with the groom's arrival. Which was delayed .. for about an entire repetition of the tune! But we made it work. Then "I'm Sticking With You" by the Velvet Underground as the flower girls entered, and "Fidelity" by Regina Spektor as the bridesmaids and bride entered. We were outside between gardens and under a large tree, by the way. Midway through the ceremony, the sun came out to perfectly anoint the marrying couple. Two beautiful readings, vows, etc, then "You Make My Dreams Come True" by Hall and Oates as a recessional, and "Man on Fire" by Edward Sharpe +co. as the whole wedding crew gathered for a picture. More wedding things happened which I won't take the time to expand on here .... I only have 9 minutes left!!! Anyway, thank you to Matt and Serena for letting me take part in the ceremony and celebrations!
Sunday I spent a minute to do some yoga by the creek in High Falls, and hit the local food co-op, where I met a very sweet family who lives part-time there and in the city and likes planting native edibles. The guy was a former? bicycle cop, and had this rad bike seat that supports both sides of your butt instead of a single piece to straddle. A brilliant idea!
Made it almost to Woodstock, stopped at a Tibet-supporting thrift store, and camped along Ontearo lake on a steep rocky hill! Went into Woodstock, which was pretty fun - it was a monday holiday, so there was a flea market going on and lots of people. Nice cafes, and a top-notch bike shop where they gave me green tea! Friendly people are the best, and there were tons of them in this particular town. Also met a guy at a Tibetan store (tibet is a theme 'round here) who is a musician and suggested that I play in Hudson which is the up-and-coming new music scene! He offered to sell some of my CDs after I had gifted him one.
3 minutes to go!
Um .... biked from Woodstock to ... oh, Catskill and Hudson NY - stopped into the place where I may play in the future, had a hard pear cider (and a tall glass of water!), and that brings us full circle to the poison-ivy location. This narrative has very little of my metaphorical and philosophical musings, but now I feel up-to-date, more or less. Met a nice Scottish couple on vacation here in Pittsfield, and ate Gluten-Free delights. Okay, 30 seconds. Gotta go! See ya out there! amherst tomorrow!!!