To Egg Harbor Township 80km
For the last 18 months I've been cycling in countries where English has been, at the best, a second language. To be able to understand all signage, overheard conversations, and every word someone speaks to you, is a wonderful experience. I found I was speaking slowly and in simple words, but didn't need to. These guys understand me..... exciting.
And I'm very excited to be here. The immigration was quick and seamless. My luggage was easy to find. The very helpful "red jackets" dotted around the terminal pointed out where I should be going, and very quickly, I found myself at the end of the Sky Train line, in a space big enough and out of the way of everyone, to be able to assemble my bike.
Kyle, my Warmshowers host, turned up and helped. He is a cycle tourer, surfer, snowboarder, who cooks breakfasts and lunches in a Utah ski area in the winter, and follows his passions in the summer. I was lucky enough to catch him at his parents apartment, in Queens, just before he flew to Hawaii to surf. Fantastic. He guided me there, feed me, gave me space to make minor adjustments to Fiona, planned a route for me to cycle out of New York, and then in the morning, cycled with me into Manhatten, to the ferry terminal, we had decided was my best option. Fantastic.
Cycling through Queens, across the East River, and down Second Avenue, was pretty amazing, and not having to navigate, just follow was awesome. Thanks heaps Kyle. On the ferry I meet a man who travels on it every day, from New Jersey. He was going to nap, but when we started to chat, his interest perked him up. "You're cycling to LA? Like LA, Los Angeles? In California? You've cycled from NZ? Around the world from NZ? Excuse me while I text my girlfriend and tell her." He points out land marks.... Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. He takes phone calls and tells his friends about me. As we leave the ferry, and everyone stares at Fiona, he tells them, "He's cycling to LA. He's cycled from NZ." He tells me he is my new biggest fan. Funny.
I'm hungry. I spot "The Girls Diner". $5 buys me a Breakfast Burrito and an OJ. Yummy. I think I'm going to put on weight. I'm cycling a bicycle friendly boardwalk. There are lots of people about. It's a warm, sunny Saturday, and there are preparations happening for a 1st of May Marathon. I stopped for and icecream. So many flavors. I stop at a supermarket. So much choice. And I understand all the signage, and am familiar with so much of the food. I'm so very much excited to be here. My face is aching from grinning all day.
I find a camp site, 50m from a very quiet road, in pine trees, on a bed of pine needles. The last few nights my sleep has been broken. Noisy hostels, bumpy trains, stressed about excess luggage, and my body reminding me about jet lag. Tonight I sleep 13 hours, uninterrupted. I wake to rain, eat breakfast in the tent, and pack everything up, before quickly squashing a very wet tent into a drybag. The road is very quiet, good advice Kyle. I see hawks, eagles, Canadian geese, turkeys and lots of Jays? I'm almost taken out by a couple of Deer that bound across the road in front of me. I'm soaking wet, and cold, but smiling. I stop at another Diner. The Eagles are playing on the radio, followed by Neil Diamond. "Vote for Donald Trump" stickers are plastered everywhere. Im in America. Omelet, toast, home fries, two x hot chocolate, and free internet, for $5, and no complaints about the puddle I left on the floor. I'm loving this.
My Warmshowers hosts, Rob, a retired cop, and Cindy, are heading away tomorrow in their "trailer" on vacation. Some of the family, including grandchildren are here. What a wonderful atmosphere to step into. Yep. I'm having fun.