Mon Jul 7 09:41:21 EDT 2003

Slept Like the Dead -- Warren, PA

We made it into Mansfield early on the morning of the 4th. We asked around about a YMCA or similar, where we could get a shower, but to no avail. Mansfield is a small town. After some poking around, though, we found out there was a pool in town ("Best pool in the county. But that's not saying much."). We went there and gladly payed the $3.50 to use their showers, and even enjoyed swimming in the pool for a while.

We also caught the Fourth of July Parade that went through town. It was very typical of a small town parade. Lots of fancy/silly cars (there was one Ford Ambassador mounted on a 4x4 body), a bunch of local politicians, a few floats and the high school band. The high point was the karate dojo that marched and stopped to do punches and kicks periodically.

We had a nice slow lunch and washed our clothes at the laundromat. There we met a couple of interesting folks. The one guy told us to avoid Route 666 because "weird things happen there." He would just trail off and look distant if I asked him for details. Before he left he asked,

"You ever seen any UFOs?"
"Well, I have a feeling you'll see some on this trip of yours."
"Are there a lot of UFOs near the places we're going?"
"I just have a feeling this is going to be a big year for UFOs."
"Why's that?"
"I'm what you might call psychic."
"Yeah? What sort of things do you predict?"
"Well, I don't really predict things so much as I just see them. Like
you remember those plane crashes on September 11?"
"Well, I saw those before they happened. Like, when I saw on TV that a plane
had crashed into the World Trade Center, I just knew something was up. I saw
that there was going to be another crash."

The conversation continued in that vein. The other fellow we met there was an out-of-work carpenter, and really an nice, normal guy. But he had some great stories. He told this one:

"Around here there's a fellow, about fifty-five or so. Lives up in the hills, a little like a hermit. He don't have no electricity or telephone or anything. To get into town he has this old mule that he hitches up to a cart. He just hitches up the mule and bop gives it a tap and off it goes. The mule knows his way all the way into town. So usually what this guy will do is he takes his cart into town, goes to the bar and gets drunk. Then when he wants to go home, he goes out, gets in his cart, bop gives it a tap, then passes out. The mule knows his way and takes him all the way home. When he wakes up in the morning, he's in his front yard.

"Now, there used to be a bucket out front of the bar, and when you left you'd just pour out whatever was left of your beer there. And of course, the mule, standing out there all night, would sometimes get thirsty. So one day this old man comes out of the bar drunk, bop gives his mule a tap, and passes out. Some policeman along the way sees this wagon going up the road, weaving around a lot, so he goes and he wakes up the old man and gives him a DUI. The next day the old man was in court arguing with the judge. He said 'But Judge, how could this be DUI? I wasn't driving! My hands weren't even on the reins. The mule knows his way home, he was driving.' The judge replied 'Yeah, but the mule was wasted too!'"

He said their court was a little backwards, but honestly, could a court that was 100% right-way-up have dealt with a case like that?

There was a small carnival in town, we checked that out, and then around three my friend and former roommate Brandon showed up in town. We were within a couple hours of Ithaca, so I had given him a call and he hitchhiked down to meet us in Mansfield. It was great seeing him, we all had a great time together. We had a great dinner at the "Mark's Brother's Lounge." They had an unlimited salad bar, which we loved. Then we caught a "hootenanny" at the Ten West Cafe down the road, with some honestly good music under the stars. Then it was time for the fireworks. They were actually surprisingly good for such a small town, although they dragged on a little and the music looped three times while the fireworks were still going. We got very sick of hearing "Proud to Be in America" and "Be Kind to Your Web-Footed Friends."

We had tried earlier in the day to find some friendly person or church that would allow us to camp in their yard, but had no luck. So finally, when the time came to go to sleep, we snuck off into a quiet corner of the graveyard, lay out our sleeping bags (no tent, it was a beautiful night), and slept the soundest sleep we've had on this trip.

In the morning (July 5th) we all walked down to "Gramma's Kitchen" for breakfast which was highly recommended by the guy running the hootenanny. It was well worth the walk. Brandon and I had french toast with strawberries, which was amazing. Then we walked back to town and saw Brandon off to begin his long hitch back to Ithaca.

We rode on and passed through Galeton, where we stopped for lunch. Galeton was also having a carnival, for St. Bibiana's festival. Their carnival was a bit bigger and a lot crazier that the one in Mansfield. There was one guy near us who came up to talk to his friends. Then he stripped down to his boxers and tried to sneak over the fence to get in without paying the $2.00 admission. There were also monster trucks, a police helicopter, and belligerent men on Harleys. And some kids who kept setting off bottle rockets in our general direction.

Emily met this one fellow when she was waiting around for me who she says ranks among the craziest people she's ever met. He's also biking around, and he had a trailer, but it's full of the most random garbage. Mostly it looks like stuff he's picked up along the road. Not to throw out, but to keep. Evidently he has some camp in the area, and bikes all around, up and down. Says he bikes 10-12 hours a day. The less he bikes, he told us, the more crippled he gets. He says he has "half an ass." When Emily first met him, he was holding something in his left hand. Then he wanted to show her some piece of paper he'd found, so he stuck it in his mouth, and she saw that it was a butterly she'd picked up alongside the road.

We eventually passed him and camped near Coudersport in the yard of the Pure Carbon Company. The promised "uphill marathon" fortunately never materialized. As the sun went down, there was a light rain and it passed briefly behind some clouds, producing a spectacular double rainbow. I took it as a good omen. I mean, I would have, if I believed in such things.

When night fell, the field filled up with fireflies, enough that you could see several blinking at any time.

The next day (July 6th, yesterday), we climbed a big hill in the Allegheny National Forest, then stayed up high for most of the afternoon. It was absolutely beautiful riding. The sky was bright blue, with scattered puffy clouds. The sun was shining, but it was a little cooler due to our elevation. And the ride was mostly flat.

Towards evening, we descended towards Kinzua Dam on the Allegheny Reservoir, and found that suddenly the beautiful campsites we'd seen along the road all day were gone. Now that we were down in the valley, everything on either side of the road was steeply slanted. We wound up choosing a flat patch of grass next to an overlook/parking area. We knew it was a pretty poor spot, but we were pretty sure we would find any better. Sure enough, after dark a police officer came by with a flashlight and said "You can't camp here." We asked "What can we do officer? It's too dark to ride our bikes and there's noplace else to camp." "I don't know, but they don't want people camping on this side of the dam." Finally he suggested maybe if we went a little ways to the visitor's center down the road, it might not be a problem. So, frustrated and a little bit angry, we started packing up everything to walk our bikes in the dark to the visitor's center. Then he came back. He said "Actually, it's alright if you guys stay here." I guess he had talked to the lockmaster or whoever and they said not to worry about it. So that was nice. Even though we were still a little annoyed at having had to pack up.

Overnight it rained, hard.

This morning a park ranger came by and gave us the same trouble about "You can't camp here, it's prohibited." But we were glad to tell him this time "Terribly sorry, we'll be gone in half an hour." We set off. It's been a decent day so far, but it's started raining again.