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June 4, 2006 11:51 PM

There have a been a few, thankfully rare, occasions where I have truly been terrified to the core of my being. Those occasions always lasted for a matter of seconds - almost being run over by a car, getting caught somewhere where I shouldn't be, etc. Tonight I experienced that exact same terror and fear for at least 5 minutes straight. It was unbelievable.


I'll elaborate more in a bit - but as far as most of today went, it was great. I woke up in the morning and packed everything (now dry since it had been airing out in the hotel). Then I loaded up my bike and headed over to MIT to see their campus. It was really cool. It almost makes me wish that I were more intelligent (or something). Regardless, I wandered around for a bit and then took off again. This time I was in search of Harvard's campus. I'm not entirely sure if I ever found it, but I saw some buildings with the word "Harvard" on them. My suspicion is that I was still too close to MIT to actually be on their campus. I could be wrong, though. Once I got tired of driving around looking for universities I began my journey south to New York.


The riding, for the most part, was fantastic. I started out along US-1 and shortly thereafter had an epiphany. That epiphany was that US-1 has stoplights every 2 blocks, and sucks to ride a motorcycle on. So, I hopped on I-95 instead and took that the rest of the way. Though it was an interstate, it wasn't that bad and did have some pretty nice scenery at times. I ended up driving through Rhode Island as well as Connecticut. When I made it towards the southern end of Connecticut I stopped at ***************************************************. It had a ********************* (which I was unable to locate) and also some choice areas that looked like they'd be good for pitching a tent. The catch was that the park closed at dusk, which was soon approaching. So I instead took off and continued searching for another camping area. I made it all the way into New York and then deciding that the closer I got to NYC the lesser the chance of finding a campsite, I turned around and headed back North. An hour or two later, unable to find any other place to camp, I returned to ***************. I entered via the bike path (hey, I'm on a bike :)) and then proceeded to an out of the way area. I pitched my tent and got everything else setup, leaving my saddle bags and travel pack on the back in the event that I should have to leave quickly (because of *************** or something). Little did I know I'd be leaving for an entirely different reason.

As I lay trying to fall asleep I heard some twigs cracking in the woods. Thinking that it was the park service or something and that I was screwed I waited for the flashlights. They never came. Instead, I heard deep, animal breathing noises and what may have qualified as growling. It was coming from more than one direction, and it was getting louder. Realizing that this was, as a considerable understatement, really really bad I got out of my tent half naked and without shoes on. I began shining my flashlight around until it fell upon two eyes that belonged to what appeared to be a large cat-sized animal (think lynx). I'm not sure what animals are native to Connecticut, but I'm certain this one was predatory and large. At that point the only thought in my head was "make noise or it's going to try to kill you." So I jumped back in my tent, grabbed my motorcycle key, and started up my bike. The animal backed away and out of sight. Unsure whether or not there were more, or even where the first animal had gone I took down my tent and packed my motorcycle in record time. The entire time that I was doing this I would pause and scan all around me with the flashlight to make sure nothing was trying to ambush me. Thankfully I got everything packed up and hopped on my motorcycle without incident. At that point (I hadn't been having any thoughts during the previous 3-5 minutes aside from "must get out now.") I had two more thoughts. The first was relief that I was getting out of there, the second was "I should drive over by where I saw it and try to figure out what it was. And then I had another thought "you're an idiot, Jeff." And so I immediately left.

Let me be clear: that ranks up near the top of most terrifying experiences in my entire life. I'm very happy that I'm alive, and as an added bonus just as I was passing through the intersection ********* I saw ************************************************************************************************************. Double bonus, I guess.

So thoroughly and completely awake at this point from pure adrenaline, I drove around for a while happy that I was on a road far away from whatever the hell that animal was. I hadn't eaten dinner, so I stopped at a Burger King and had some food. I again inquired about camping and possible motels. Nobody was really that helpful. So, the previous camping experience replaying constantly in my head, I decided to find a motel. I stopped at 6 or 7 places moving north along I-95 before I went back onto US-1 (US-1 and I-95 kind of zigzag back and forth over each other along the East Coast) and found the cheapest one so far for $50. I was tired, and I was pretty sure that I wasn't going to find anything cheaper (let's just say this one was, um, in "aging condition") so I checked in and went to sleep. The motel room smelled like decades of cigarette smoke, but the sheets and everything were clean. And so I drifted to sleep, still wondering what animal I'd encountered on that island and happy that I wasn't outside in a tent. Looking at the map after the fact, it appears as though I stayed right outside of **************************.

June 5, 2006 (June 6, 2006 at 6:30pm)


Today was a good day. The weather was pretty nice - sunny at times though the sky was mostly grey and no rain (aside from a few drops now and then). I woke up around 9am and packed up my stuff, checking out of the motel and headed to New York to see the Statue of Liberty. I should point out that yesterday I decided to stop following my printed directions for a while - since it was pretty easy to get from Boston to New York. As luck would have it where I chose to sleep was right near one of the roads in my printed directions. So, I hopped on US-15 (which is actually a series of pretty fun parkways) and road it all the way in to New York. I ended up on the western side of Manhattan Island for a bit - which was pretty cool as far as scenery and stuff, then I went through the Holland Tunnel into New Jersey and Jersey City. From there I arrived in Liberty State Park and paid for the boat ride to Ellis Island and Liberty Island. It was all very impressive. Sadly security was a little ridiculous and I wasn't able to go inside of the Statue (or even on its pedestal), but it was still a blast.


Having spent a good 4 hours there, I departed for Philadelphia where I hoped to see the Liberty Bell in all of its glory. Upon arrival I discovered that everything promptly shutdown at five in the afternoon, which wasn't really terribly unexpected. What was unexpected were the makeshift fences that had been put up all around the Liberty Bell building and Independence Hall. They were, for a lack of a better word, purely idiotic. I walked up to one of the security guards (also posted all over the place) and asked him why the fences were there. He looked at me and chuckled a little, saying something to the effect of "I honestly don't know." I laughed, a little uncomfortably, and walked away. Some of the security that our glorious government has implemented in places - albeit intrusive - makes some (mostly unjustifiable) sense. This was not one of those cases. The only even remotely sane reason that I could come up with for placing fences an additional 10 yards away from the buildings is to prevent terrorists with bombs. But then, though making sense at first, after more thought I realized that the hypothetical terrorist really wouldn't mind carrying an extra pound or two of explosives in his backpack to extend the blast radius past those extra 10 yards. And so I stood there, looking at Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell thinking to myself how it was almost mildly ironic that two American icons that stand for Liberty and Freedom found themselves in their current state.


The day was not a complete loss, however. As I rounded the corner on my way back from the Constitution Center (also closed - though it apparently houses a really good replica of the U.S. Constitution) I encountered a woman trying to coax a baby kitten out from under a construction fence. The animal was obviously a stray, but she was pretty sure she could find it a home and she was at least prepared to care for it for the next few days while she tried. However, she had to catch it first. It would come awfully close to the fence, but not close enough for anyone to grab. I lied on the concrete and reached under the fence, and after a little while for some weird reason the kitten decided that it liked me and came close enough for me to grab it. And so, the kitten successfully rescued, I continued on my way.

I finally reached Baltimore and, not before driving through some sketchy areas of town, found Michelle's apartment where I was able to finally take a break and rest for the night. Incidentally the remaining ride to Baltimore was still pretty scenic and interesting - I saw a lot of shipyards and harbors along the way. Some of them had almost unbelievably large ships under construction. All in all it was a good day.