In “Desert Solitaire”, Edward Abbey notes:
“A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles. Better to idle through one park in two weeks than try to race through a dozen in the same amount of time. Those who are familiar with both modes of travel know from experience that this is true; the rest have only to make the experiment to discover the same truth for themselves.”
Jose whips up some magical croissant French toast on his stove. Bacon too. He used to not-eat-pork back in the day; this a welcome addition. Also he’s single again, which is good; I tell him he looks happy. Also, is it French toast if you’re Puerto Rican? Borinqueno. Hmmmmm. Yummy, either way. Thanks my dude.
Out back of the crib, I’m basking in the Florida sun with my friend’s mini-schnauzers Tino and Choco. Soaking it in for one last afternoon. Wondering if hump day is officially recognized as part of Easter week yet. Bracing myself for the impending reinsertion into real life. I purchase two new bicycle tires online. Definitely gonna need a new back wheel too, the rim was starting to split.
Jose and I finish up some seafood lunch and now I’m waiting for the Amtrak. I hand my emptied bike up into the baggage cart and ask the agent to take special care. If Scorcese is directing, I probably slip the guy a $50 and insert some monotone bike snob narrative commentary over a still frame of the crispy Grant hitting his palm. Back in reality, I carrying my panniers onboard and taking my seat — waiting to get moving. Figuring out if there’s a comfortable position or two that I can contortion myself into over the next 18 hours up to NYC. Train yoga is probably gonna blow up next year. Those aren’t two pillows.
Suddenly, we are moving. This motherfucking train is on time, yo! To the minute, son. It’s weirdest because I feel like I’m in Japan it so Blackaliciously, clockwork. I expected Amtrak to fall short of the Japanese standard.
The train my be in schedule is not nearly as fast or fun as the bullet trains from Tokyo to Osaka. Or as enjoyable as John Candy and a Steve Martin. That standard is untouchable. I’m in the first seat, with no window on this overnight train and there is giant bright ass light over the door that is straight into my eyes. And the other passengers know the first two or three rows. It is bitched about. I have a mask over my mouth/nose and another over my eyes the entire night. I can only hope to emerge a beautiful and delicate butterfly and fly my way home. Everything is bumpy and loud and bright. I also feel like COVID ruined Amtrak too. I can’t even sit in the dining car. It used to be romantic, now it’s kinda rapey. My friend Tim is literally on his way down to Florida, he texts me back:
I’m tired of everyone calling me bro. Unless tour my sister or a firefighter I work with, I need to think of a snappy something to push back on that.
Come to think about it, my is our train service nationalized anyway? How is this open market. And if we’re gonna have one company propped up and subsidized by the money-printing government, shouldn’t it be the most bad ass shit kicking trains on earth? Like those ones that use magnets and move faster than bullet trains? Maybe trick out the interior with lavish little luxuries, beckoning back to what were the glory days of air travel in the late sixties. Upstairs lounges, gourmet meals, all that ball out shit. In my head this is all just makes sense and would probably pull customers away from planes in droves. In reality I know for all of his publicly professed love of Amtrak Biden is only slightly less of an idiot than the last guy. Damon would call for all these boomers to just die already.
After a ridiculously difficult evening, I’m in Moynihan Train Hall. It’s the new old Penn Station. Whatever idiot was in charge way back tore down the Beaux-Art architecture styled Penn Station and replaced it with utter garbage. So instead they took part of the beautiful Post Office across the street (more socialism!) and converted it into a new Amtrak station, and all in the same style as the original Penn Station. And the Post Office building was built by the same architects who built the original Penn. I don’t know if this qualifies as irony or more a sequel to Idiocracy, but at least they admitted this mistake that wasted tons of taxpayers dollars. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the New York Senator who the new transit facility is named after, is said to have observed, “Where else but in New York could you tear down a beautiful Beaux Arts building and find another one right across the street?”
I get on board the Empire Service line. Butt. This time I don’t hand the bike off, I bring it on. And take the front wheel off. Between the front and back racks, fenders and flared handlebars, it really doesn’t fit into Amtrak’s goofie one bike system. I’m appreciate of it being here at all though, so I do my best to make it work. Fortunately the Amtrak attendant is flexible enough to let common sense rule: I get it in however which way I can and secure everything better than it otherwise would have been, including a part of their rack system that I could not get to close. By the ghost of John Hughes, I’m confident that I care more about my bike than they do; it is certainly secured well enough to not be a safety hazard to anyone, nor get damaged in the bumps and jerks of this train. The train once again leaves right on time.
The arrival into downtown Buffalo is a smooth one. Buffalo’s downtown Exchange Street station has recently been renovated, but not to the tune of the NYC counterpart. Typical bitch state move. Buffalo Central Terminal would have been the best move for three or four reasons – I won’t get into it. It’s below freezing as I roll my bicycle off the train around 9pm. Behold! I have a convoy! Fellow Slow Roll Buffalo volunteers Drew Love and Jason-Lee are here on two wheels; we ride the final couple miles home together and spend the evening over beer and food. Chad and Candy join us later via car. Socializing is great. My bed is better. It’s a short hangout as I’m ready to pass out.
Well ain’t this place charming as well. Not bad for over 450 years of existing. Getting into the specifics, and this it is the oldest continuously-inhabited European-established settlement in the lower 48 states. Though if Puerto Rico were a state, San Juan would take the distinction. The various waves of both colonial control are apparent through different sections of St. Augustine. Spanish. French. British. Confederate. American. Typically, all sign of the original active inhabitants is all but erased, aside from their likely spirits still here.
Not quite on the Atlantic yet, I head out A1A after a fantastic cappuccino and some slow cruising the tiny downtown. Destination: the ocean, the beach and Jacksonville. While it appears that the Algerian-born Augustine of Hippo was a fine theologian, I’m not sure I can say the same for Jacksonville’s genocidal namesake. But hey, twenty dollar bill y’all.
I head over a causeway bridge and bang a left heading due north. Whew!! It feels like a whole new bike ride!! I misjudge the amount of public space there is and soon wish I had hit the facilities back in St Augustine. I finally find a small amount of public ocean access. I get my first sight of the Atlantic Ocean!
Made it. And damn do I gotta take a leak. I make up for not putting my feet in the actual Pacific back in San Diego by putting my whole body in the Atlantic. I pee in the ocean. I guess technically I pee in my pants in the ocean. Whatever. Natures salty bathroom!!
As I meander north, I’m realizing that this is gonna be the last day of the ride. It’s bittersweet. I’d love to keep rolling but I got shit to handle back home. I feel good though. Coast to coast feels compete and total. I book an Amtrak ticket out of Jacksonville for tomorrow and head up the beach toward a possible souvenir shop. The permanent type of souvenir. For myself.
I know I’m getting close because where there once was no traffic, there is now traffic. And not the kind that’s directed by Steven Soderbergh. Lots of it. Also lots of quality tattoo shops. I strike out on being a walk-in at two of them before a third can take me in a about 90 minutes. Word. Having bicycled 30 miles on a banana. I seek out sustenance. It comes in the form of some chargrilled garlic parm oysters. I been had been hoping for and wanting some of these since NOLA. They do not dissappoint. Nom. Nom. Nom.
I finish up and head over for the ink. It’s small and quick and simple. Just a permanent piece of art as a reminder. Afterward I link up with my old friend Jose. He used to live in Buffalo but now is down in Jax. He’s like one in a billion New York transplants in the Sunshine State. One billion. He tells me I look like I bum. I know I do. We feast on some Asian style street food. Jose is putting me up for the night so I throw my bike in his truck and we cruise in Jacksonville city. I grab a shower, do work laundry and feel great. I’m sitting on a couch watching TV for the first time in a long time. Then I’m in a bed in a bedroom for the first time in a long time, looking up at the coolest fan I’ve ever seen.