Painesville is not only painless, but has a good sense of humor. I arrived in this little down outside of Cleveland, along Lake Erie, having biked a solid 60 miles in scorching heat. Knocked on a few doors to ask for permission to camp, and one alert neighbor called the police.
The policeman arrived, smiling, and said, "So you are the biker!" He is bi-lingual, speaking Spanish with the locals and English to me. We had a great chat, as he checked my driver's license through his radio to confirm I am not a blacklisted Chinese hacker or a defecting CIA agent. He wished me well for the bike trip, and went back to his police car. Then he shouted through the window, "Are you on Facebook? I am going to friend you so I can follow your journey." I love it. He even looked me up on Facebook from the computer in his police car.
Who knew that you can do Facebook from the computer in a police car! What a good way to do background check =)
I am staying at the backyard of a Hispanic family, who has been very kind to me, letting me use the shower, the laundry, and called from grocery store to ask if I need anything.
And, sorry for the delay in updating the blog! Biking is a full time job -- it's hard labor, and it's like moving to a new home every day. Every morning, I leave a place as a friend of the family, and every evening, I am a stranger again. Or, another way to look at it: every evening, I come as a stranger to you; but in the morning, I leave as your friend. Yes, the trip is physically and mentally challenging, but I am rewarded ten times over, rejuvenated by people's kindness and generosity, and reminded of what it means to be human, to be alive. And I hope that in some ways, my presence in other people's life have brought them joy and reflections, too.
So here is a recount of the past few days.
On June 20th, I left the Cox Clan Farm well fed and rested. With the Cox boys below.
Headed to Buffalo, had another flat tire on the road. Good practice of patience. In the evening, tried to knock on doors in a suburb. Well, the suburbs are quite guarded and suspicious. I knocked on at least eight doors, and people more or less said no. Went a bit further, and a retired computer expert Michael let me camp in his backyard.
The next day, the 21st, did a round trip to Niagara Falls. Had another tire blow-put in the morning. Three in a roll. So I put in a new tube, and installed tire liner, which has serve well for the past four days.
The Niagara Falls is indeed magnificent. It would be even more striking if there were not so many tourists. For a while, I thought I was back in China, because I was surrounded by Chinese tourists =)
Back in Buffalo. Knocked on a few doors. Old gentleman Richard welcomed me into his home, and let me stay in the bed in the guest room. But he is quite forgetful, because he asked me at least 10 ten times where I am going. I said I am biking to San Fran. Every time, he threw his head back in a big laughter, and said, "You kids these days." And then, a few minutes later, he would ask me again.
On 22nd, the first day of real heat. I thought I am through the troubles when the rain stopped and the the land was no longer hilly. Now the new challenges are the heat and wind. Biked along Lake Erie. Saw wind turbines in the background.
Well, there's a reason why those turbines are facing West. That's where the wind is coming from, and where I am heading. Hard peddling.
While in Buffalo, saw many bikers on the road. It happened to be the annual Bike for Roswell event supporting cancer research. So my heavy luggage stood out from the thousands of bikers. The organizers of the event fed me breakfast, and had a good chat. Saw a lovely house:
Leaving Buffalo, saw deserted industrial areas, like ghost town.
Dystopian view and smells.
At noon, stopped at a Chinese restaurant along the lake for lunch. Great to chat in Chinese. The chef proudly tell me his son graduated from engineering school, and is making $63,000 as his new job. American dream still coming true for many. The boss of the restaurant insisted to not charge me for lunch. The good rice lasted a long time in my belly.
In the evening, went up to the drive way of the home of Jill and John, a school teacher and a contractor. They were such hospitable and warm people. Had one of the best evening eating and chatting, talked about growing up, schools, generations, and much more. Slept in a real bed. The next morning, they fed me eggs, and sent me on my way with kind gifts.
On 23rd, left the empire -- New York, the Empire State. Pennsylvania has no welcome sign. But there is this state-line church, and the change of road surface.
Finished listening to the first five books of the Old Testament. Very eye-opening. Spent many hours listening to the many ways that could get you stoned to death, or declared unclean by the priest. The books are encyclopedic, from tribal culture, ancient customs, laws, geography, infectious diseases control, etc. Another similarity between the Jewish people and Chinese: the obsession with documentation, with history. There are a lot more reflections and learning from the Old Testament, to be shared soon!
Ate McDonald's for lunch. The food left me feel disgusted for hours. Swore not to do it again =) In the evening, stayed in Fairview, PA, next to a field of grapes. An orange moon rose above the horizon.
Today, 24th, entered Ohio.
Ate at Subway in the town of Geneva for dinner. The two girls working there, Taylor and Tiffany (sorry if I misspelled the name!), were so kind they used their own wage to buy me a Subway gift card. A fellow customer asked me about the bike trip, and offered me a pair of bike gloves. Overwhelmed by the heart-warming kindness by all the people, all the "strangers" along the way. Nobody is a stranger, really.
And, the evening events were depicted at the beginning of this post.
Every evening, after unpacking, setting up tent, showering, cooking pasta, and washing my bike clothes, I was usually too exhausted to write or type. Reminded of generations of immigrants, who worked hard physical labor during the day, and return home to study and advance their mind at night.
So many people in the world are toiling much harder than me, and they don't have a choice. I chose to do this trip. It's a "luxurious suffering." I know I can go back to the world of comfort any time, whereas most hard working people could not. A humbling thought.
Here are a lot of chronological reports so far on this blog. Some themes are emerging, and brewing. The focus of the trip (Nature, Politics, Faiths) are also gathering more and more data points. More to come soon! Thank you all who are watching, and commenting. I read each and every comment, and are deeply grateful and inspired. Thank you all.