Day 43: This is life, the one you get, so go and have a ball.

Monday, August 14th. The group has split between Cumberland, MD and Haggerstown, MD.

As I mentioned yesterday, we are slept at a bicycle trailhead that heads to Washinton DC. What it lacks in water and other services that keep you alive it more than makes up for in freezing temperatures. After spending most of America sweating in morning heat, we love a good morning frost. We all felt very cozy in our sleeping bags so, once again, we made excellent excuses to stay warm and avoid cycling before 7am. Max got up and started kicking us all and playing loud music, but finally gave up and fell asleep in the car.

We’re all excited about today because it’s our last full day before riding into Baltimore!

David returned to us during the night: Ezra picked him up about 40 miles from where we camped. It’s good to have him back, but he’s a new man. He looks… healthy. I didn’t realize until now how skinny and dirty we all have become (and we haven’t showered in 4 days). I was sure we all had lost quite a bit of body fat in the past 6 weeks, but it’s truly apparent now as we gaze on David’s fat little kosher face.

We rode off one by one as we rolled out of bed and rendezvoused at a McDonalds a few miles down the road. Then 20 miles later disaster struck: our support car croaked on a hill. The car started lugging. Then the car started smoking. I shut it down and prepared to rescue all of my gear from a soon-to-be-flaming auto (everyone else can get their bags out later). Thankfully it was only hot transmission fluid and no real fire erupted. Unfortunately, the car is toast.

So we’ve been going this whole way thinking that we have Ezra’s AAA service to rescue us in moments like these. But it turns out it isn’t paid up and they won’t let him renew until 12pm. (We broke down about 9am.) So we set up camp in the road and waited it out. We’ve camped in more dangerous spots, so no biggie.

Max, Paddy, John and I got a makeshift came of Texas Hold’em going and David and Ezra made coffee. For poker chips we used all of the Multivitamins we hadn’t consumed on the trip. (You could buy-in with as many vitamins as you could eat at once.) We were really quite comfortable despite the traffic challenging our new home.

Oh, Max.

Now how the deuce are we going to make it to Baltimore (and home) without a support car? Various friends in Washington DC were called, but none answered. Rent a car? None of us are over 25. Hitchhike with 2 tons in luggage? Pass. Finally through vicarious use of someone’s Facebook.com account over the phone we picked up the phone number of Will DeVar. I recommend you say his name out-loud as you read this (it sounds like “willdivar”), as it’s a really pleasant experience. Sort of like “cellar doors”. Will-DiVar!

On top of Will being patient enough to drive 3 hours out to pick us up from a little hell-hole called Cumberland, he’s completely trashed on narcotics from an accident two days ago. He was painting the second story of a house and the ladder collapsed underneath him. On the way down his face slammed into a light on the side of the house. Sort of like Dennis Hopper at the end of Speed… Except Will miraculously survived.

Will, a fellow American at Oxford, agreed to pick us up tomorrow morning from Cumberland and take our stuff to Baltimore. So we planned it all out: John, Ezra, Max, and David would ride the final 140 miles to Baltimore tonight and tomorrow without car support and the gimps (Paddy and myself) would take care of finding a way of scrapping the support car, repacking everything for Will’s car, and investigating ways to get home for those relying on the car. Go team!

Once the support car was towed from our campsite-on-the-road back down to Cumberland, Paddy and I went to the local McDonald’s a block away from the mechanic shop. And we stayed at the McDonald’s for… 8 hours. 4pm until it closed at midnight. Honestly, there was nowhere else to go and we were in the worst part of town in the worst town in Maryland (says Will). Luckily they had pay-to-play Wifi access ($3 for 2 hours), so we kept what’s left of our sanity by booking flights and watching YouTube videos. Oh, and we calculated that today I consumed over 5500 calories at McDonald’s for $8 and Paddy consumed 4000 for $6 (he skipped our team breakfast at McD’s this morning). Just for reference, the average male needs about 1800-2300 calories a day.

I now know intimately why America has an obesity problem.

Everyone we talked to at the McDonald’s (and elsewhere) told us we were crazy to sleep outside in this part of town, especially since we’re 100 yards from a huge train depot. We knocked on a few doors but nobody would answer or agree to let us camp in their fenced-yards. The mechanic shop said we could sleep in the support car on the lot. It was extremely humid and hot in the car, so I moved outside after trying in vain for a few hours to reach unconsciousness. (Paddy wouldn’t roll down the windows for fear of being shived or strangled.)

As soon as I bed down between a red van and the support car, it started to sprinkle. I didn’t have a sleeping bag or any shelter, so I just lay there and let it happen. Whenever it would start to pour too hard, I’d stand up and sleep leaning again the car. When the rain would let up a bit and sprinkle again, I’d lay back down. It sounds horrible, but at this point we’re all so feral it just doesn’t matter anymore. I consider this a good night sleep compared to Hite, UT or most of Missouri. But still, I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me two months ago I’d be sleeping in an oily mechanic shop parking lot like a homeless drifter.

So how are the four cyclists fairing with their 140-mile night ride to Baltimore…?

They’re sleeping at a Quality Inn in Hagerstown, MD.

PS: Max got lost again today between where the car broke down and where the tow truck took it. We were worried since we didn’t have the support car to go find him. But all is well, so don’t worry, Mrs. Capener.

Today’s Numbers:

Miles cycled: 20+140
Flat tire tally: 40
Miles the car made it: 4700
Miles the car didn’t make it: 140
Sleeps to go for Jacob and Paddy: 0
Sleeps to go for John, Max, Ezra, and David: 1
Estimated cost to repair 1992 Mercury Sable: $1600-$2400
Cost for Jacob and Ezra to fly home to California instead of drive: $510
Tents that will be thrown away: 3
Days since Max has been lost: 0

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3 Responses to “Day 43: This is life, the one you get, so go and have a ball.”

  1. jude Says:

    Rescued by Jaffa! White knight rides in, ‘big’ guns blazing…the stuff of fairytales.

    Why are you carrying a digital photo of Brasenose Lane round America with you?

  2. griff Says:

    Umm. Hey. Glad you’re alive. Hope you guys will be alright for next term.

    About the car thing: it happened to us. We had a ’93 mercury sable which just gave out on us. There was a recal on the taurus from the same year, which have the same engine, but they didn’t do it on the sables. My mother spent hours on the phone about it to no avail. If you guys want any help on that, let me know.

  3. Team MADCAP Sailing »  Stranded in the French mountains Says:

    [...] p.s. today has been like a major case of deja-vu, the exact same proplems happened last year during our US Cycling Trip [...]

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