Right on, ride on

Ceci n'est pas une vélo

Bulgarians Don’t Like Peanut-butter

Posted by @teeheehee on July 12th, 2009

Happy (belated) Birthday, America!

Last year I hiked some of the Presidential Mountains in New Hampshire in recognition of our Declaration of Independence . This year I joined a group for camping and hiking in the Adirondacks, and later visited my parents for a couple of days to catch the fireworks at Boldt Castle in the 1000 Islands.

When I first heard of the plans for the camping trip began I was overjoyed. I grew up in the northern foothills of the Adirondack mountains in upstate New York. This is a familiar area to me and one that I missed many opportunities while growing up and living around.

It is impossible to grow up where I did without some degree of camping; however, my family tended to stop outdoor activities there and not participate in many of the other mountain-based experiences: hiking, rafting, skiing/snowboarding, snowmobiling, hunting, or cycling.

My experiences growing up with biking there ended when I was able to start driving a car. The nearest real grocery store was 10+ miles away, as was the nearest movie theater and bowling alley. The farthest I rode a bike back then was less than 10 miles in a single trip, and it might have been to get to the baseball field for practice during those questing couple of years where I tried every sport my school had to offer. (I stuck with soccer throughout high school, but even so I have never really been much into sports.) I only biked around town – in hindsight I see that I missed an opportunity to get ridiculously strong at hill climbing.

Camping and Hiking

The first part of my holiday trip included camping and a little hiking with about 13 other people consisting of 11 Bulgarians, an Englishman, and one other American. Our camp was nestled inbetween the tourist towns of Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, the latter town of which hosted two winter Olympics and still has two ski jump ramps jutting magnificently into the sky that elicit gasps of awe from those seeing them for the first time. I hitched a ride with two such awe-gasping Boston-based Bulgarians and after breaking into the Adirondacks from the highway I became fascinated with all of the brutal climbs there were.

I imagined myself outside the car riding those roads on a bike much lighter and faster than my current one, becoming exhausted and drawing heavy breaths while concentrating on the very basic principals of movement: left, right, left, right, left, right, move, my, feet, in, a, small, round, way. I realized that in my mind’s eye I wasn’t able to make it to the top of some of those climbs without stopping several times. I am not good with hills to begin with, Trapelo Road is a curse to me, and these hills took minutes to crest just one by car, and involved my ears popping more than once.

I have now a new big challenge. I dare not try to tie it to any arbitrary date like before, as I do not know how long it will take for me to become strong enough to meet this challenge. I want to be able to climb hills like those. In a little over two days there I saw only one person challenging those hills and I have no idea how he fared, but I was impressed by him for being there at all.

The hike itself was fluctuating moments of majestic wonder, followed by maligned rainfall, the accompanying traversal of mud-lands, and at least one moment of fright. I was very glad to do the hike, and was very glad the hike ended. I did pick up a bit of new knowledge though, it came the morning of the hike when I was preparing a simple peanut-butter and jelly sandwich and welcomed others to use my food to make their own: only the other American had one, and the Bulgarians were each of them flat-out disgusted by the offer of peanut-butter, accepting only the jelly and bread for their makings. Peanut-butter, even cashew butter… these things apparently do not appeal to my Eastern European friends – Nutella receives great acclaim but nearly all things peanut-based are scorned and denied. Having known a few Bulgarians for several years now I was supremely shocked, I guess I missed any previous chances at discovering this peanut-butter aversion and am now left wondering what other staples of growing up American are outright unappealing in other cultures. For that matter, what is universally accepted?

Home Again, Home Again

I broke from the camping crowd on July 4th to be picked up by my parents who live ~60 miles from where we were set up. The weather cleared up a bit during the day but went back to rain at night. We didn’t go to any of the fireworks displays in the area due to plans for seeing some the next night in the 1000 Islands area.

On Sunday we did a boat tour of the 1000 Islands area outside of Alexandria Bay (on the U.S. side) which ended by dropping us off on Heart Island where Boldt Castle stands. It had been roughly a decade or more since I had toured the Castle and there were significant improvements to the grounds and rooms inside. It still fascinated me to see signatures of defilers reaching back to 1929.

After returning to Alex Bay we hit some sushi for a late lunch, then we boarded a tour boat that repeated some of the content of the earlier tour while we waited for the sun to set and the fireworks from Boldt Castle to begin. I have been to several Boston 4th of July spectacles and I had to let them go forgotten as I watched this display – I’ll just say I was comforted that my main thing was to visit my parents and I got to do that with some added entertainment to boot.

All day Sunday and most of the day Monday were perfect days for riding. Sunday’s activities took the entire day, and alas, I had no bike for Monday as the two bikes my parents have (both appeared to be for my Mom) were completely out of commission. I felt a pang of loss, here was gorgeous weather and beautiful, lush landscape, and no way to ride around my old haunts with new perspective – I realized I had another challenge and that I would some day have to revisit my old, familiar places with my new velo-interest.

Itch to Scratch

Lately I’ve been flying to/from Boston and Saranac Lake to visit my parents. I returned to Boston on early morning Tuesday to a somewhat revitalized Boston where there wet spell had broken, but like a bad joke the rains returned when I did.

Blasted rain – if I hadn’t wiped my bike down, if I hadn’t been so overly concerned with getting dirty and wet before work, then when the dreariness started I wouldn’t have lost out on about a month’s worth of morning rides and weekend long rides. By yesterday nearly five weeks had passed since the last time I did more than 10 miles at a go and I could feel my legs aching to be put to real use. My morning rides had resumed but my greatest joys of late have come from the weekend jaunts as I started my turning-30 Countdown.

Finally, yesterday, I eased my way back into long rides with a midday jaunt to Concord and back. I wasn’t as well prepared as I has been in the past, but I simply could not let the chance escape! It was to the Minuteman Trail (where there are now significantly more people using it than there were two months ago,) through the wooded area with the hard-packed dirt trail, and finally into Concord center – then back the same way. I finished off with a sandwich at the Other Side (one of my favorite places,) before returning to my apartment and nursing my newly reddened shoulders.

To all of the other Boston bikers – cheers, and see you all out there with big smiles on! It’s starting to look like summer, finally, and I for one am going to make the most of it.

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