The plan was to leave at noon, but as always, while traveling, noon means 3:00, and to add to that that the bag wasn’t packed yet, it was 4:30. The bag eventually contained about 4 tshirts each, 8 pairs of socks 8 underwears, 2 bathing suites, extra pair of jeans and sneakers each. Some toiletry, laptop, GPS, cellular modem and cameras, chargers for all of the above, sketchbooks and paints and that’s about it. Very little for home, a lot when you have to carry it all into every restaurant you want to go in.
If this was one of those new age spiritual books, every reference to the road would mean something about life. Maybe this one does, but I have, but I have no idea what it is. First lesson on the road – Never leave in rush hour. Manhattan is all plugged traffic just stand still, we are already stressed about leaving so late. We just stand there, looking at spring sales in expensive fashion stores and wait. A police man right in front of us directing the traffic and probably making a bigger mess then necessary. Eventually, we can’t take it anymore, I get off the bike and take Ned’s helmet, he pushes the bike in the middle of the road, probably pissing off a whole bunch of people. After a block, we get on it again and wait till the next police man will let us through.
A woman on a larger Hearly smiles at us, her bike is purple and silver, she’s wearing a matching helmet and have 2 large side bags and a big striped handbag strapped to the language rack in banji cords. She say hi. Her license plates say “May” and have “California” written on them. “Are you out for the weekend?” She asks, Ned say that we are just starting a 2 weeks trip down the Appalachian Mountains and ask her if she’s from California. I’m trying to guess if she just came from there. She looks tough and tanned. “I’ve been in NY for 6 years now, but the insurance is cheaper, so the bike’s listed on my Dad” We pass her as we go through the Holland Tunnel.
Stopping for Gas
New Jersey is the opposite of Tel Aviv, it looks good from distance, but pretty ugly up close. Traffic is getting thinner and right after the toll. We are stopping in a gas station. It’s filled with cars. An old man stops with a smoking engine, his wife, a dyed blond in her 60’s looks strange all dressed up in a gas station, she yells at him as he’s trying to explain the problem to the gas station worker. Then she goes into the bathroom.
I look at the street, 5 of the 6 houses are up for sell or rent or the windows are blocked with wood. A bunch of kids, all probably the same age, but in that awkward age in which some of them look like scrawny boys and some are already as tall as a man sits on the stairs leading to one of the houses. They talk and every couple of seconds one start punching the other. They play, well, not really, they are just there with nothing better to do. A man walks a huge black dog, and I see a stork flying in the sky.
A policeman in uniforms comes over, he asks about our destination, I don’t feel like being friendly, but then he start talking about how he used to do the same trip to upstate New York every June for 6 years in a row.
CheeseQuake PKY (yes, it’s really a name of a place)
We ride and ride, the mind that at first is full of thought, ideas, fears and anxiety is starting to clear, I’m just looking at everything and it’s so beautiful. The sun, not quite setting yet, but the light, under the clouds is starting to get all golden. We pass through a forest and a river and a small perfectly shaped swamp. A white large bird in the air, then suddenly it ducks and dive straight into the water, just to come out a second later holding a fish in its beak. I see all that in a split second before the bike moves on.
All Seasons Diner
Eventually we stop, it’s 7:30 and we are both cold and hungry. It’s one of those horrid sprawl malls, with a Macy’s and an Appelbies and a JC Penny’s, on the other side of the street there’s a diner, but it takes us a while to find the right road to get to it. It’s very crowded inside, mostly, old people, it looks like every part was built or decorated in different time and nothing match. We sit next to a display of huge cakes. As we order, we turn on the computer. We open the map file online and add a couple of stops from the day, I pull out the SD card of the camera and slide it into the computer.
I love that feeling of being amazed with the immediacy of technology, of the fact that I can sit in some NJ diner and put photos and text on a map that people everywhere can see as I’m working on it. It feels like being amazed by the grandeur of nature, though instead of feeling connected to some primal past, I feel like I’m connected to a future. In both cases, the only way I can describe this feeling is “ It’s like in a movie” meaning it’s larger then my own life, I feel connected to something larger than me.
We order omelets which turn to be surprisingly good, and we plan the trip on the Hearly Davidson site, picking someone’s saved trail and changing the first destination point to our home. We sit there for about 2 hours.
In the bathroom, on the toilet paper holder someone wrote “This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time” and I feel sort of good to recognize it’s a Chuck Palinhuk quote and wonder how many other people have recognize that. And I’m thinking of living life to their fullest and how this trip is like that, just going and doing stuff and having a good story to tell. 2 women sitting in the next stalls are talking about a friend who pretended not to see them in the street because she just had a face lift. “If I ever get rich” one of them say “I’m getting my chin fixed, it just dropped over night, my DR. said he can’t do anything about it, because it’s cosmetic and the insurance doesn’t cover it, but he said that DR. Greco is the best. It just happened over night, I’m telling you, The DR. said it’s Gravity, I don’t care what it is, just fix it”.
We stop about an hour later, it’s already 10:00. The only place that’s open is Burger King in some strange food hall that looks the same way mental institutes looks in movies. Big neon lit open space with chairs set in line in front of a TV showing CNN. We have coffee and tea and look for a hotel on the GPS. We are close to a shoreline and the air outside is breezy. All the hotels have names like “pinebeach” and “del mar” and “waterfront”. We google them, Hooking the computer to an electricity outlet under a pay phone. CNN is talking about a person who was bitten by a shark. We check pictures of the room and prices, eventually we come across one that looks nice, we want to call and check if they have any rooms, but then Ned can’t find his phone, we look everywhere, and it’s nowhere. We left it at home. He feels stupid and I’m getting stressed, I don’t know why. I’m getting this mental image of us stuck somewhere and not able to call for help. CNN is talking about the Obama Campaign and about the prices of oil. We decide to get a hotel room and search for the phone and decide what to do later.
We ride and the road is dark and pretty. It’s one of those long long roads with a bunch of motels, car dealerships and restaurants on both sides. I’m taking pictures looking for where the most light is. I think about this:
During the day, on the road, nature overcomes, I shoot trees and fields and clouds, the beauty of nature trumps all and I try to avoid buildings and cars and get all the other stuff. But at night, the nature parts become gaps of darkness in the scenery, and manmade is the only thing I can shoot or see. I love that darkness of seeing a lake or the ocean at night, knowing that it’s there just because of the absence of any light. But I cannot capture that image in my camera or describe it in words, it’s like silence, like nothing, but beautiful.
We cross a bridge onto an island, it’s full of tiny houses and tiny motel, it’s probably very crowded in here in the summer, but it’s still the end of April now and almost all the motels are closed. Eventually we find an open one, the Sea Palace Inn It’s full of teenagers for some reason, something about prom night special. We take the elevator up. In the room next to us, 5 or 6 teenager lay down on 2 queen size beds and watch “Borat” on TV. Two of them smoke outside, on the balcony. The noises die down shortly after we enter the room.