Keep a look out! You never know when the next big adventure will come right by you!
To finish BikingtheUSA I motorcycled into New York, past Ground Zero and along Broadway to 1 New York Plaza. I finished the 11445th mile on day 47 since leaving New York for BikingtheUSA by coming to a final stop squeezed into a New York elevator. I left the bike in a basement service access and sailed out to the Statue of Liberty to celebrate:
It was very special to be at the Statue of Liberty, a symbol that means so much to so many. For me it was of course the End Point of BikingtheUSA but also the most demonstrative symbol of the country and people BikingtheUSA explored. I people-watched the other visitors there and wished I could hear all their stories but there will be more tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day and the next day. The story of BikingtheUSA is now another one. Now I had to get back home, catch up with Lucy, and write it all down!
Watch out for the book to follow!
I’ve been wondering how I will feel when I arrive back in New York. Whatever that will be I knew that I would certainly have an emotional time today. I had arranged to visit a lady who was my mum’s best friend when my family lived in NJ, and on the way I wanted to get that Rocky Balboa feeling on the steps of the Philadelphia museum of art.
I went through Baltimore to get to Philadelphia and had a really fab time riding there and coming through the city. The weather was gorgeous, sunny but realtively cool, and the route was busy and gave my that sense of the complexity and density for the end-point, New York, looming fast. I loved comining into Baltimore and seeing Giant ships docked and big industry dominating the area. I know that’s not what one tends to look for on a visit but I liked it for the character and scale it gave Baltimore. It was very impressive. The scale was unexpected, to me.
Coming into Philadelphia, to the museum of art, I noticed there was a modern city look to my surroundings. It was very tidy, pretty, yet also grand and impressive. I really took to Philadelphia even just by motorcycling into it!
The museum of art really took my breath away. It is a fabulous museum, not just for its content, but also for the building that it is, and for its setting. Phew I could have spent days there, and I already knew I would love to spend lots more time seeing the city as a whole. It really said ‘welcome, take a look around and see if you can resist staying!’. I managed to spend quite a lot of time outside the museum, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the relaxation, but also doing the Rocky Balboa bit and watching endless processions of young and old, local and visiting people running up the steps. It was very fun, and really lovely to see so many people having a fun time of it:
So I saw through midday in Philadelphia but was due to spend the night at the home of my mum’s friend. I got going again and spent hours and hours battling through thick thick traffic to Edison in New Jersey. I was certainly closing in on New York! It seemed that everyone that lived in the USA lived between Philadelphia and New York!
Finally in Edison I found my mum’s friend and had the enormous pleasure of meeting her, her husband and two of her daughters who used to babysit for me and my sisters when we were all under 6. Within minutes I was given a recipie hand-written by my mum that had been treasured all this time, I heard the daughters saying ‘he looks so like his mum’ and then spent the long evening hearing so much, so vividly about the days of my family’s lives over in New Jersey, when I was too young to remember any of it. It was absolutely fabulous. The most special thing was the insight into my mum, because she is not around any more to tell me anything I have not yet known about her. It was definitely one of the best experiences of my life. I must meet the family again and again and I hope so much I can be their host in the UK sometime.
I like to dive in at the deep end sometimes, provided I’m not diving into water, and rely on my wits to deal with anything that tries to thwart me. Today I dived into the Superpower home-city, Washington DC, without much planning, and hoped for the best. Afterall, I had hardly had any time to plan anyway!
First problem, parking… I simply aimed for The White House and expected to get as close as possible to it and then ride away from it, trying to pick out the closest parking place I could. As it happened as I arrived beside The White House I spotted what appeared to be parking specificially for motorbikes. I investigated, thinking it was too good to be true (surely it was for Police motorbike parking, or even FBI motorbike parking!?), and found I could indeed park safely there, for a mere 50cents/hour! Amazing! Right beside The White House! So, there my day in DC started. Off to a good start, too!
The rest of the day continued in the same manner. I felt completely welcome everywhere and found it very easy to get about and enjoy studying the sites that were literally everywhere. Really, I needed at least a week there, but perhaps even after a week one would know there was so much more to absorb there. Here are some photos from the day:
Today I left my new friend who was an old friend, with the promise that we would meet again. I only had to ride a short distance, into Washington DC but it was still long enough to muse over the feature of friendship. He had told me that when his mum told him I was moving away, he couldn’t really get it into his head what that meant. When he finally worked it out he was very upset! It seems maybe we were really special chums all those years ago. What I was musing over is how brilliantly we had got on together all these years later and how much I wish my friend, now new, once old, was once again a neighbour of mine! I will miss him now!
I went into DC to visit what is the largest office in the world, The Pentagon, and to spend some time soaking up DC life. I expected to find access near to The Pentagon very restricted but it wasn’t at all. I really wanted to go to the memorial to those killed at that site in the attack on 11 September 2001, and to try to get a measure of the scale of the event.
The memorial is right at the wall that was hit by the airplane. It represents everyone killed, individually, in ‘waves’ that present themselves to the wall in the direction of the impact. I thought it was a really excellent way to mark the passing of those who were taken:
The Pentagon is surrounded by everyday life – roads, shops, businesses etc. I could not come anywhere close to being able to imagine how what happened happened and what it was like, right there, right at that place. Other people would have been walking in the area at that moment, just as I was today, and couldn’t possibly have even begun to believe what they would see – the event being so so incredulous and exceptional, and utterly devastating in the most extraodrinary scale.
I am glad I visited the Pentagon and was able to see business as usual – people coming and going and ordinary life going on around, in the streets and in the malls. I could see city life as usual, ordinary city life, and it was a nice place to be.
Way back in the earlier days of BikingtheUSA Lucy and I met two Swedes who live and work in a special government capacity right here in DC. We met them while we were viewing the world’s largest cow! ‘Bigus Cowus’, we now call it! We have all travelled several thousand miles throughout the USA since and now it was time to meet and exchange all our stories of our travels! So, today was to finish with another dinner date in a very special situation. I made it there for the evening and had a fabulous time telling of how Lucy and I had managed since Bigus Cowus and I heard all about the other experiences of the similar journey to ours. We had great fun satisfying nagging curiosities we all had about each other’s respective experiences and methods! Talking out-loud about our journeys reminds oneself, dramatically, of just what one has seen and experienced. We can sense there is still a lot of ‘sinking-in’ to do! The best thing is that Lucy and I have new-found friends we will definitely meet again, and no-doubt meet in similar circumstances! Brilliant!
On June 17 2010 I was sent a message through facebook, from someone I did not know at all:
‘Hey there. As a kid in New Jersey, I had a friend named John Goldie. I stumbled on this picture at my Mom’s house. Any chance that’s you?’
Here’s the picture:
With the photo I came face-to-face with a rare sight of me when I was young, during a period of my life that passed by without it seeming to be able to be real. That’s because it was a period of only 3 years when I lived in the USA when I was very young and that I have not had any connection to in any way, ever since. That was well before the era of digital photography too, so I have next-to-nothing to look at to help me ‘picture’ my existence there. Suddenly I had a glimpse of myself and I had just heard from someone who I was a friend to, all that time ago. Amazing! I had to meet my ‘ol’ pal’ again, and BikingtheUSA was the facility to do that. Today was the day!
My old friend now lives in Virginia right near Washington DC and the plan for today was to ride right to his front door, all the way from Pittsburgh. Just as soon as I set off I remembered how much I love riding that motorbike! I had the benefit of cool weather to be really comfortable as I sped off along the busy and dense road network that fills this area of the USA, right through to New York. The ride set me in a very familiar situation. Like at home the air was cool, the sky was full of thousands of fluffy white clouds, the traffic was quite dense but fast flowing and was made up of European sized cars rather than the usual predominance of big pick-ups. I stopped at a ‘Service Plaza’ for a break and found it was just like a ‘Service Station’ back home. Across the USA I have found that ‘service’ provision on the road networks tend to be individually located fuel stations and franchise restaurants and many independent ‘Diners’. It was a lovely day riding to my old friend but I was feeling too much like BikingtheUSA was nearly finished, or at least that little more would excite and please me as much as every other day had so far. I was mighty wrong!
Meeting my friend and his family, in his own family home, having steak on the barbecue there and staying the night was absolutely fabulous. I had such a great time. It was just so lovely being with him and his family but even better I was even able to learn even more about what I had been experiencing and been curious about out here. Brilliant. Life’s surprises can be so utterly fantastic!
Again in Pittsburgh today, a mere 20C, and again it was a day I did not ride! I will go again tomorrow, down to Virginia so I can bet the heat-wave will return as I sleep tonight!
While the Olympics have been taking place this year back in GB I have managed to keep an eye on all the achievements and stories via America press and TV. I, like any Brit, have been totally thrilled by this giant feature in good-ol’ GB and have been overwhelmed with delight at the success the British competitors have had. The triple whammy for me has been seeing Americans also delighting in and praising the success of the games as a whole and of the GB participants. It pleases me right through to the core to see Americans so happy that the games are being so successful for GB as well as themselves. It is a tribute to this nation that that is so genuinly, positively and overtly expressed. Gosh I continually have such a lovely time here in the USA. Every day throws great welcome, encouragement and special treats at me. Fabulous, definitely in Olympic proportions.
I have just watched the closing ceremony of the Olympics (several hours after the actual London time) and have loved seeing that it was a relatively simple affair, hopefully taking the Olympic movement a step back from extraordinary overindulgence and the drive to be ‘bigger and better’ every time. Well done GB. Oh and how about Queen (the band) and John Lennon! Perfect! Spot on. I will remember this cermemony vividly forever. It is amazing what one can do in this world. What feels like Olympic proportions to me is the scale of the journey that BikingtheUSA has been, all upon a big yet tiny motorbike. Today Lenka, who is thoroughly part of big-scale American thinking, could not stop laughing at and teasing the small scale of the motorbike compared to what she knows has been the journey. I failed miserably to convince her that the bike in itself is a big machine because she insisted in posing by it, knowing her relatively large stature would help emphasis its littleness!
I cannot quite believe in the scale of the ride BikingtheUSA has been. Today, as I planned the final few days into New York, I made a print of the route so far:
That’s 10816 miles so far.
You can see there is a little part to link up: Pittsburgh to New York. That will be via The Pentagon, Washington DC and Philadelphia. I am super excited about what has yet to come, along with the idea of riding into New York, to right where BikingtheUSA started. I am missing so many moments of my experience so far, terribly. I remember them vividly. The arrival at the Golden Gate Bridge with Lucy, our ride through Death Valley and our climb up Mt Evans… Then there was the visit to the world’s largest cow and the visit to the South Fork Ranch! Nuts!