Day 6: I wanted adventure, and I got it south of Philly

While I’m painfully aware of America’s crumbling infrastructure, I never really thought it would be something that would impact me on this tour. Oh, how I was mistaken.

I made it out of the hostel yesterday morning feeling great and ready for the road ahead. The bike felt lighter after sending the camera and daypack home, although I freely admit I could have been imagining it. The road out of the city had a lot of massive industrial operations, and little did I know it would be indicative of the rest of the day. I was riding along at a pretty good clip, which might have been my undoing: I was cruising down Lindburgh Avenue around 60th and hit a massive pothole in the road and BAM! My left front pannier went flying into the road. I went to grab it, and the hooks on it that attach to the front rack had completely broken off.

After quite a bit of expletives I started focusing on the problem at hand. I couldn’t really think of a good way to keep going without a fix, so I knew I had to pedal a half hour back into the city. I figured I had to buy a new set of front panniers. Then more expletives.

Remembering Trophy Bikes carried Orlieb, I gave them a call to see what my options were. The owner, Mike, said he had a bin full of spare parts that we could rummage through. I strapped my front pannier on my back like a messenger bag for the seven miles it took me to get to the shop. That was plenty – the strap was digging into my neck and I was ready to get it off. But I made it to the shop safe and with all my gear, which is the most important part of course.

We looked at the problem parts and he did some digging, and sure enough, he found some clips that would do the job. We replaced them, and all was well with the panniers. I breathed such a sigh of relief… Until I looked at my front wheel. That divot in the road did a number on it. I was able to true the wheel as best I could, but to say I was dubious about it is an understatement. I’m just going to trust the excellent components I built the wheels with and keep an eye on it till DC and if there are issues I’ll check out a shop in town.

Mike and I grabbed a photo in front of his shop, and I was on my way without a penny spent thanks to the Ortlieb warranty. I can’t thank Mike enough for his help and generosity. If you’re ever in Philly and need a bike or bike stuff, look no further than Trophy. They did right by me more than once and I’m now a fan for life.

I couldn’t resist another cheesesteak from Sonny’s before pedaling south. I stuffed it in my face, then pedaled back in the rain down the road that did in my wheel and pannier. I took a picture of the culprit but I’m not sure it does it justice:

Things started to feel on the up as I made it to John Heinz Wildlife Refuge, which was a gorgeous, marshy little respite from the pavement. 



It was a peaceful gravel path for a few miles, then it spit me back out onto a busy road, and I kept pedaling southwest through an industrial expanse of ugliness. I didn’t get into this tour to embrace negativity (much the opposite), but I rode through some pretty rundown places that were depressed and depressing. It never seemed to end, and the rain added insult to injury.


I eventually made it into Delaware with the rain soaking me to the bone. 

By the time I got to just north of Wilmington I decided I wasn’t ready to freecamp tonight. The rain was relentless and picking up, and I felt I was in too much of an urbanized (and sketchy) area to get away with it. I decided to look into AirBnB. What a miserable waste of time that was. I spent 45 minutes hoping to the universe to get responses, and then when I finally did get them from the three “hosts” I contacted, it was “room is not available”. I deleted the app and looked for hotels. Couldn’t find anything cheap though. So then it was back to Warmshowers. I hate doing Warmshowers last minute. If people are being kind enough to open their home I feel like the least I can do is give advance notice. But I felt cold, wet, and desperate. I contacted a host who said last minute was ok, but he was unavailable. He called another Warmshowers host and she and her husband were able to put me up for the night in Newark, DE.

I couldn’t resist a quick bite at this gem outside of Wilmington, but it’s the last of the pictures for ya. Time was an issue… 

Lauri and Brian offered me a bed for the night and had a pizza waiting for me when I got out of the shower, which was heavenly. We talked about their son’s ride across the country several years ago, Lauri’s extensive experience racing mountain bikes and cyclocross, and Brian’s work teaching biochemistry at the University of Delaware. They were excellent hosts, and yet again I’m humbled by the Warmshowers community.

Unfortunately, the rain has damaged my phone. It won’t hold a charge from my Dynamo, battery pack, or even a wall outlet overnight. It just charges to 5%, then nothing at all. I made my way to a Verizon dealer who directed me down the strip mall to a computer repair shop. I learned that my charging cable corroded and that the data port in my phone needed cleaning, which they’ve graciously done. I’m posting this now from the shop while my completely dead battery gets some life put back into it. I really hope this solves the problem. I have insurance on the phone, but without a fixed address it will be a challenge replacing the phone to say the least. Cross your fingers for me.

As soon as I’m on the road I’ll head down to somewhere north of Baltimore for the night before pulling into DC tomorrow night. Despite all these setbacks I’m still on schedule, which is important to me at this point strictly so I can make those Dead shows in Boulder in July. We’ll see how long I continue to feel that way.

-J

5 thoughts on “Day 6: I wanted adventure, and I got it south of Philly

  1. Adventure after adventure. No one ever said all adventures are fun. The important thing is to dance or work our way out of any bad ones. If I had known you were to sleep in Newark, I’d have sent you to my sister. She and her hubby live there.

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    1. Ah! I wish I knew! But I actually didn’t plan on stopping there. I had planned on a state park in Bear, DE, but the campground is closed for renovations. I thought I could just freecamp along the way but with the unexpected late exit out of Philadelphia, along with the rain, had me looking to rest my head indoors.

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    1. Thanks Leslie! I appreciate the kind words. And to say I’m enjoying this freedom is an understatement. It’s a lot of work and requires a singular focus, but it’s exactly what I signed up for and in just a week it’s already far exceeded my hopes and dreams. And as far as the Reds… Have they even won a game this year?

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