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Morris-Utica-Seneca-Peru–cycling across US

Traveling along the I & M Canal Trail; Photo: Todd Tracy For Odessey X — June 6, 2020

I woke up in Channahon State Park. I had had a most peaceful healing rest. I was in a great mood that morning. My wounds were doing well. The previous leg was long, from just over the border of Ohio in Indiana, Auburn to be exact, to all the way here, deep into Illinois. It was a great haul. But I had proved to myself that I had almost endless reserves. I was ready to hit the trail. I got a restful late start that morning.

Downtown Morris, Illinois June 6, 2020, Photo Todd Tracy

The trail was right there and I set out upon it. By 11am I was in the town of Morris. Morris is a great town. It has a great downtown. The stores weren’t sure if they were open or closed, because of the virus, but the people of Morris were out and about. Morris has a great courthouse with a town green. I got coffee and just chilled out. I charged up the stuff at the war memorial. I ran into very friendly people. Everybody was much friendlier than the people in my hometown, Westport, Connecticut. I was getting away from all that. Morris has a real downtown with real people. Morris felt like a real place. Walking around Westport, these days feels like an ad in a cheesy magazine. Westportors are the Petite Bourgeoisie of our modern age. Morris has none of these attitudes and is more beautiful than Westport.

Anyhoo… I started out again after coffee, feeling real good and just loving where I had arrived to. Then I was back on the I & M Canal Trail. It was really smooth for about an eighth of a mile then it just ended…

Okay, the bridge was out and I had to go all the way around.

I talked to an old guy, older than me, who said he had just come all the way. He said the conditions of the trail were pretty good. there was one spot where it was too rough for him so he had turned back and had just then come back to his car, on his bike.

I saw a sign that gave the mileage to a place called Buffalo Rock State Park, about 25 miles up the trail. Buffalo Rock State Park.

All in all, I was making great time on this trail. My breathing was even. I had lost some weight during the previous three weeks out on the road. My mental faculties were becoming sharpened. All the oxygen felt great. My muscles had started to recover from the initial shock of life on the road. I had enough money for food and coffee, ibuprofen and the necessities. I was developing a rhythm.

There were different cycles to the rhythm I was working on. The overarching cycle was that of the pandemic. My goal was to get away from the pandemic or to get away from people who were freaking out about it( basically the whole world). We can call this the virus cycle. I was not in control of this. It had been completely exploding, however, the mid-west had not yet experienced the full onslaught of its destruction. Most of the people I ran into were oblivious to it. Though, many people were just staying in their homes and not even venturing out except for toilet paper and stuff like that.

House in Peru, Illinois. Photo : Todd Tracy For Odyssey X — June 7, 2020

The next cycle was the news. Most of the people I talked to said they didn’t watch the news anymore. I wanted to escape the news. As a news junkie myself, current events were just too much for me to process. I found that by just not watching it was very much like it wasn’t happening, which was great. Before I had left Connecticut, I had spent two months glued to the tube, awaiting every nuanced piece of information, most of which turned out to be wrong. I was done with the news, not the local news that I worked for, they are great, but just the national news. The tone was starting to freak me out. So in this way, I was trying to transcend the news cycle by living outside as I traveled across the continent. I wanted to see what was really happening out there. I didn’t trust the networks to give it to me straight. I was dying to see America.

The next cycle that I was working on, we can all the earth cycle. I was in direct contact with large bodies of water, hills of every size and shape, foliage and greenery that continuously changed form as I moved from East to West. There was the cycle of the moon, that gave me the light at night, or not, to see the road. There was the cycle of the rains and the sun that I was ruled by. There was the cycle of the winds whose ebb and flow could stop me from achieving my goals at any moment. And in general, I was dealing with the general curvature of the earth, which one becomes aware of after about 8 or nine hundred miles of bicycling in one direction.

The next cycle was my sleep cycle. I couldn’t always find an appropriate place to set up the tent. There were times when I was just too tired to continue. There were times when my body needed the kind of recovery that only sleep can provide. Two times up to this point, I had a needed a motel room. Both of those episodes were not quite emergencies but pretty damn close to it. It was a great luxury to have as the ultimate fallback, to be able to get a room. I didn’t want to abuse the privilege but at the same time, I didn’t want to wear myself out too much that I couldn’t make good progress. My goal was progress, not someplace on the west coast.

Another cycle was my food cycle. When one travels by bicycle for extreme durations and achieving sometimes more than 100 miles per day, day after day, one becomes keenly aware of the food one eats. Caloric intake became very important because calories were the gas for my engine. I became aware that my body was rather like a motor, that needed gas. If I wanted my vehicle to go 100 miles on a given day I needed to feed the engine a certain amount of food. One thing I became aware of was Cliff Protein Bars. I could purchase them at Walmart for a reasonable price, they packed well and gave me energy along with the protein for muscles. I stayed away from sugar, pure sugar, aside from a snickers bar and a coke. I learned about Bang energy drinks with no sugar, no come down. Monster Energy drinks would be the kiss of death because you come down real hard off that. But Bang was different, it was brain food, along with caffeine. Caffeine was needed for alertness. Anytime I could get a turkey sandwich I always felt stronger for many hours afterward. After pizza, I felt sluggish. Bottom line I was eating anything I could get my hands on in order to have enough calories to continue.

Another important cycle was the mental cycle. The mode of travel itself helped to keep me focused. As long as I was making progress I felt good. If I stopped and started thinking about American Cities erupting in violence I became depressed, right away. The video of Gorge Floyd dying was depressing and the media was playing it over and over again. I am the kind of guy that thinks of my brain as similar to a computer. One programs one’s brain with the things one watches in the media. So, why would I want to program my brain with the idea that everybody is racist in America. I don’t believe that everybody is racist. I believe that there are some racists vibes here and there. In 2020, 350 cops were killed in the line of duty. In 2020, 12 unarmed black men were killed in police custody. There are 8 billion people on the planet. I am not going to focus on death. It’s just not what I need to be doing for my health. I like to think about all the lives that were saved by the police. I have decided to be optimistic in my outlook upon the world. The cycling adventure helped me to get away from the lockdown and the riots. Out in the middle of a cornfield, I had many things to think about to stay alive but COVID-19 wasn’t really one of them. Racism is another thing that I did not see on my trip unless I watched the news in my hotel room.

The people in the midwest are totally different than people from New York or LA. I had my office on Hollywood Boulevard and I had my office on Mainstreet Westport. I know the mentality of the coasts and I know the difference in the middle of the country. It was so refreshing to meet people who don’t watch the network news, they are not programmed by it. They are in tune with their families and their crops. They are more in tune with nature. The people on the coasts are more in tune with abstract social bullshit. INMYNSHOP

The trail, the I&M, basically ended at North Utica. I stepped out of a field and into another world.

It was at about 10pm on June 6th, 2020. I was super focused. I saw lights! People were outside, without masks, having drinks. There were bars. I walked my bike onto a Main Street-like area that was truly buzzing.

I found a working outlet on a light pole next to a picnic bench. A waitress came over, I asked for coffee. Nope, they didn’t have it. I asked if I could just sit there anyway. Yup, no problem. There was a market right across the street. I went in and got Starbucks in a can.

I sat back down. There was a couple at the bench next to mine. They seemed to be interested in me for some reason. I guess I was an anomaly. I had just walked out of a cornfield and into their world. I called my girlfriend to tell her I was safe. The conversation picked back up with the hip couple next to me. I told them my whole story in a short paragraph. They introduced me to the townies. I almost felt like a celeb. It was pretty cool, one, because this was the first time I met people who were out and about, casually, and two because they were nice to me and actually impressed that I had ridden my bike from Connecticut.

We talked about my long-term medium-term goal which was now Jackson Hole, Wyoming. They had just been there on vaca. Then they took off.

As I was leaving, to strike out into the night, about 30 minutes after my arrival, a lady came running out of a bar.

She was like, ” I own a golf club, and you can sleep there, set up your tent, or whatever. We don’t want you riding on the main road at night, it’s too dangerous.”

I was amazed that complete strangers were offering me a safe place to camp.

She gave me directions to Seneca’s Oak Ridge Golf Club. I was there in about ten minutes. I chatted with all my new friends from Utica, on Facebook, that night. i assured them that i felt safe and that I would get about 6am before the golfers arrived. I was told that the police were alerted to my presence.

This place is way swanky. I set up my tent right behind the clubhouse! I had a great night’s sleep and my body was able to recover from the strain of travel even more.

At 530 am I heard a golf cart zipping by the tent and knew it was time to get up. I had a great laugh with the patrons and club members as I emerged from the tent.  the assistant manager of the club brought me a coffee personally. I had been given the royal treatment. This was the warmest reception a traveler could ever have and for that I was grateful.