Reaching The Apex

[The story continues, starting on the West Virginia and Maryland border, the Potomac River.]

Antietam campground was peaceful when I woke, and I had my morning coffee on the shore of the Potomac. Once packed up I crossed back over into Shepardstown, WV for breakfast. The town was such a strange mix of old-world America and the progressive attitude of a college town. The town had a pivotal role in the Civil War, with nearby battlegrounds and cemeteries, along with the stone pillars of a bridge burned during the Confederate retreat. At the same time, 20-somethings with blue hair walked by and rainbow flags hung from local businesses.

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The Potomac River.

As I traveled northeast along Hwy 34 I took time to ride through the Antietam battlegrounds and see some of the memorials. It was reminiscent of Gettysburg, but to a smaller scale. The small towns I passed through all had that old-time feel. Coming from California, where an old building is from the 1950’s and a really old one is from the late 1800’s, these towns looked like a movie set to me. Every courthouse was an old-world cathedral, with memorials and historic markers everywhere.

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I entered Pennsylvania rather quickly but the only change was to the drivers, who are famously slow unless you are in a metro area. Since the weather kept trying to storm and it wasn’t warming up, I stopped early in a town called Huntingdon, PA. It was yet another amazing movie-set of a city, with an active prison that was originally built in 1889. The local cemetery sprawled over several hillsides and was largely occupied by people who had lived and tied in the 19th century. The town seemed like a museum of churches as well, with at least a dozen cathedral-like churches with their spires poking up over the red-brick buildings; even the post office looked more opulent than a courthouse.

Feeling road-weary, I stayed a 2nd night in Huntingdon, missing rain squalls but still hitting the road under larger gray clouds. The weather was clearly changed, usually not getting above the mid-60’s and the leaves changing more dramatically. I stopped for lunch in Belleville, PA, a largely Mennonite town. Since pop-culture only focuses on the Amish, it’s unusual to see people in traditional dress using  a weed-wacker or an iPad.

I grabbed lunch at “A Taste Of The Valley,” a small but busy shop run by a Mennonite family and serving excellent coffee and sandwiches, and with surprisingly fast and free wifi. I chatted with someone in the parking lot about pulling a trailer with a motorcycle, then carried on using some very narrow backroads. You could tell by the pavement that the carriage-to-car ratio was probably 50/50, because the off-center tracks of horse-drawn vehicles were clear, as well as enough fresh horse droppings to make me careful about where I aimed my wheels.

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Mennonite country for sure.

I ended the day on a spit of land called Pickerel Point, where an endless sunset and the stillness of the lake left me feeling like all was right in the world. Unfortunately I seemed to take that as an excuse to get blind-stinking-drunk and woke up feeling like nothing was right with the world: how quickly we can sabotage our own happiness.

I also noticed that the trailer lights had stopped working. All suited up for riding in the cold, it was not a fun task to troubleshoot the problem, and I quickly gave up. I found a nearby hotel and settled in for recovery sleep. leaving the day as a wasted one. In the early morning I was up and feeling better, but nothing could be done about the trailer lights. The system is not conventional, where wires lead to each light. Everything is computer controlled through a Controlled-Area-Network (CAN), where one wire sends pulses to a controller that determines what to do.

This means way fewer wires are needed, the fuse box is much smaller, and the overall installation is simple. It also means you can’t just take a multimeter and check if you are getting power to a wire. The added components in the trailer lighting system could not be tested, but the company that built the kit was extremely helpful over the phone and helped confirm my conclusion that a controller was probably malfunctioning.

They had a spare but I had nowhere to mail it to, so I endeavored to make it to Maine as planned, then visit their shop in Tennessee on my way back. I’d be riding in daylight, so I would just have to use hand-signals to stop inattentive drivers from plowing over me from behind. I hit the road and managed to roll my wheels through Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont. New York especially was amazing, with historical markers seemingly every few hundred feet.

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Indian villages, battles, sites of schoolhouses or old courthouses…something happened on every square-foot of this place. Things opened up a lot in Vermont though, as I was off backroads and onto flowing highway. I made it to Winhall Brook Campground and, although it was a cold night, I was warm in my sleeping bag and slept well. I grabbed a bicycle taillight that I would at least put on the bumper of the trailer, then made my way through the capitol of Concord, then up to Hampton, right on the border of Maine.

The entire trip was predicated on the idea that I’d go to Maine to get a lobster roll, because why not? Now I was here and it dawned on me I’m not even that into lobster. Of course I was going to get one though: this was Maine after all. This marks the turnaround point of my journey, so we’ll leave all that for the next installment. I was hoping to explore more of Maine, then cross into Canada since they finally dropped their paranoid COVID restrictions.

However, I was supposed to house-sit for my friends down in Mexico, and I was now on the complete opposite side of the country, so time began to take on meaning again. That, plus needing trailer lights if I was to continue wandering without stress, meant my course was finally going to be shaped by outside forces. UP NEXT: lobster rolls and an about-face to return to the American Southwest.

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3 thoughts on “Reaching The Apex

  1. Richard Nowels says:

    Two things came to mind while reading this. First were some words from a song, “… I woke up next morning feeling like my head was gone, and like my thick old tongue was licking something sick and wrong…”.
    And second, more music, but the photo of the pink house reminded me of Dylan’s “The Basement Tapes”, from “Big Pink”. I ran a lot of those songs through the ratty sound system of a tiny rental car while working on assignment in rural Pennsylvania several years ago. Music, motorcycles, old towns and two lane roads.

    Liked by 1 person

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