“It only gets worse buddy” – Arrived in Washington

Hey everyone,

After about 530km or 39:28:09 hours of biking, I have arrived in Washington D.C. today – just as planned. It’s time for the first real blog-entry and I don’t really know how to do it. After the first day I could have written a book about my experiences, so I’ll just summarize the events of the first couple of days.

I was off to a rough start. The problem with my gear came up again just as I was about to start my tour. So my first stop was a bike shop in NYC, followed by two more shops in New Jersey. In NYC, Maria and Alex, a friend I had met in Barcelona as well, came to Central Park to see my departure. As I had mentioned previously, the Brooklyn Bridge wasn’t possible as a starting point. The first day was of course something special – I had been dreaming about this moment for the past 10 years and still can’t believe I’m actually doing it. I had planned everything and thought I was well-prepared. Just one thing was missing: food. I didn’t know that the route I am following completeley avoids cities/towns and highways – which also means supermarkets. It’s kind of ironic that getting something to eat was my biggest problem in the US on my first day. But it was pretty serious. It was up to 30 degrees Celsius (about 90 Fahrenheit) and my body really needed food! I was about to knock at somebody’s door to ask for any kind of food when out of nowhere a little table appeared on the side of the road with tomatoes on it. I had never been happier about 3 tomatoes for one dollar and the lady who was also buying tomatoes was a little confused when I ate all of them within a minute. Unfortunately that didn’t help too much and at the next steep hill I was looking at my map to figure out how much longer I would have to bike for the day. All of the sudden I hear a “you need help buddy?” and before I knew it Shawn, a cyclist who lived right at that hill, had invited me to eat some of his wife’s homemade cookies and fresh blueberries – they were delicious and this was a good start to the trip. The thing about such an adventure is that you can’t plan everything but it will work out somehow.

Regarding the landscape, I have to admit that I didn’t expect the first days to be so rough. I guess it’s always the same since I come from the flattest area in Germany (Europe/World) and am not used to hills and mountains. On the maps, they only show the big mountains but not every hill and believe me – there are a lot in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Every day, it’s a struggle to go up the short, steep climbs – some of them have a 13% climb and that’s almost impossible to deal with with all the weight on my bike. But I already have adjusted to it and am optimistic that I’ll be over these problems in the next few weeks – I have to since the first big mountains are coming up! The two things I’m a little worried about are my knees and my bike. My knees are causing the same problems as they did on my way to Barcelona – especially on the steep climbs I have pains that are hard to describe. But it has gotten a lot better and I hope it’ll be gone after my restday in Washington. And on my bike, a couple of things need to get adjusted that had been messed up on the flight – it shouldn’t be a big deal.

But yea, back to my route: I went down close to Philadelphia and on my way further down South I passed through the Amish region. It’s really crazy to see how these people still live the same way they have been living for centuries. On the road, modern cars are going 60 mph and you look to your left and right and all you see is people dressed like in the 1800s working on the field and riding horses.

One day this past week was especially hard: I had planned to ride 130km (about 80 miles) and the hills were brutal, it was hot and my knees were killing me. I had just thought about stopping at a different campground but continued and there was no turning back. I still had 40km to go (up and down hills as usual) and it was already 5pm. I didn’t pass a lot of people but one guy passed me in his pickup-truck while I was going uphill, rolled down his window, smiled and said “it only gets worse, buddy”. That was definitely not the motivation I needed but in the end I made it and got to see the beautiful sunset on the road just before I got to my destination.

Yesterday I passed through Baltimore and today I finally made it to Washington D.C. On a bike-trip I’m a pretty superficial tourist and just enjoy what I see. I don’t really go offroad and therefore cities are not that special. But since I have a day off tomorrow, I’ll go see Barack and the usual attractions.

Some notes/thoughts:
– The reactions of the cardrivers have always been positive so far. I was afraid of the way Americans would drive but so far everyone is really careful and noone has given me an angry look.
– As a cyclist, I am sort of an Alien on the streets. The reactions are sometimes funny (in a not-so-nice neighborhood in Baltimore 2 guys just looked at me and said “what the hell?”) but most of the time encouraging. Some people give thumbs up, and with some of them I have a short conversation while riding along their frontyard – “that’s seriously cool dude”, “congratulations” and “god bless you” are the most common words. People are also very helpful and stop and ask if I need help even if I’m just having a lunchbreak. All in all I feel good riding my bike here.

That was it for today. At first I wanted to do it day by day but it’s already a long text so I hope you got an impression of my first week here.

Next week, I will hit the Appalachian Mountains and it will be a big challenge. I just started planning the next 7 days and I’m looking forward to it!

2 last remarks:
– I’d like to thank the people that have hosted me during the first week. There really are no words to describe how thankful I am for everyone of them!
– 255€ have been donated so far. Thanks a lot and whoever hasn’t donated yet: it only takes 2 minutes, helps children and keeps me motivated ;).

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