Family Ride Across America to Nurture Kids

Daily Journal & Log
August  2012
SP=Starting Point - EP=Ending Point - DM=Daily Mileage - TM=Total Mileage

Day 108  8/01/12
SP : New Baltimore, MI
EP: Glencoe, Ontario Canada   
DM: 74  
TM: 7,188
Week 14      WM: 529  TM: 7,014     AVG. Per Day: 71.6-75.6 miles

Back in the land of the Crazy Canucks (they're not crazy and I have no idea what a Canuck is), but what a difference there is between
here in the Ontario Great Lakes region of Canada and that in the western province of British Columbia where I experienced the lonely
and  mountainous 'last frontier' lifestyle. Here it is very much like the Midwestern US but with that unique Canadian flair. What is that
flair? Well I believe it's that Canadian mixture of 25% European and 75% American mixture feel I get whenever here and which I have
written before. The roads are better and the countryside cleaner. There is less cheesy commerce, advertising and most everything just
feels more efficient. On the other hand taxes here are what makes for that greater efficiency. I shopped at the local grocery store today,
buying nothing but food, and when I looked at the receipt there was an additional 15% charge for taxes. Geez, we're talking about
unprepared food, not clothes or spirits. Personally I don't believe there should be any taxes on food, whether prepared or not. But that's
my own opinion. So the aura, or plain old 'feel', of government and rules and taxes is readily apparent here in our cousin nation to the
north. But that's their choice and to which they have much to be proud about.    
Anyways, camp tonight is in an old farm homestead with a still standing home and several out buildings,(
see picture 1 below) none of
which appear to have been occupied or used for quite some time. Vines are growing throughout all the structures and the area is totally
overgrown with native grasses and other vegetation. From my vantage point perched on top of this small knoll I can view the tranquil
picturesque fields of crops atop the gentle undulating topography of this rich land between lakes.(
see picture 2 below) And on all sides
of this abandoned homestead are corn and soybean fields, all looking much more healthy than those I encountered throughout the
Midwest of the US. The drought which has overtaken nearly 2/3 of the US doesn't seem to have effected this Great Lake region.
I decided to camp here because I knew from the looks of this place that nobody was living here and it was getting late in the day. After
all the years of doing this I can spot one of these PC's (potential camps) instantaneously. If it were raining or threatening to rain I would
have made camp inside one of the barns or garages but it is clear and dry so my preference is to camp outside where it is cooler.
Speaking of temps, things have cooled off so much over the last week since I started to approach this Great Lake region that even my
mood, believe it or not, has been improving. Adding to the comfort level of cooler temps is the wind which for several days has been
helping me out (of course my direction has been north and east) and the hills that I complained so much about throughout the Midwest
and Ohio River Valley have abated and for now it's nothing but flat rolling plains. So I guess riding conditions are pretty good for the
moment but I'm aware that New York and New England are on deck and my memories of those two sections of this great continent are
nothing but climbing and being wet.
My shower this evening was especially nice. The still warm rays from the setting sun warmed my wet body as I rinsed off all the days
additives (sweat, dirt, grime, and deet). It is so nice showering outdoors and the one thing I most enjoy at the end of the day. I use
natures shower mat of tall grasses and sometimes I squat and remain in the fetal position, looking out at the beautiful countryside, as
the warm, slowly dripping, cleansing waters work their baptismal magic over my entire body and in the process rejuvenating the spirit
and relaxing the mind . Mind, body, and spirit all seem to stay healthy and function in unison when on the same track and pointed in the
same direction. Of course we are only talking about a 3-4 liter shower so the current is like a trickle, but how invigorating it still is.
The full moon has just risen over the grayish eastern horizon(
see picture 3 below) as the soft setting sun slips below the opposite end of
the clear sky (to my back)
(see picture 4 below). To attempt to describe this incredible setting is beyond my capabilities as a writer,
sorry folks, but you must remember I am trained in life to make pizza, pasta and bread, not write. I do know that it is one of the most
spectacular evenings I have witnessed for a while, if ever on this never ending journey 'back home'. It is also cooler than it has been and
I have actually put on my old blue Walmart bought fleece pull over, with the fire ember holes all over it, I've been carrying since BC when I
had fires every night just to keep warm and the wind would inevitably blow the hot embers on me. I know there will come a time again on
this trip when nightly fires will become a custom and necessity again. Oh how I dread that time.
Today as I was pedaling the 20 or so miles out of Michigan to Marine City, where I took the enjoyable small ferry across the St Clair
see pictures 5 & 6 below) over to Canada.

I saw a fellow about in his mid 30's running and looking as if he were about to fall forward in exhaustion. He was lifting his feet much too
high and doing all kinds of weird things with his arms and upper torso.  Being the unabashed running coach I am, I couldn't help but give
him a little advice with his gait (he was jogging perhaps at a 10 minute pace). "Stay upright. Tuck your butt in. Keep your feet low to the
ground and run tall. Keep your back back" was my unsolicited advice to him. Nothing bothers me more than to see someone running in
an improper form. It almost makes my body hurt just looking at them. I don't think he minded my advice though as he thanked me as I
pedaled on past him.
Navigating my way on this flat land cluttered with farms and sandwiched between Lake Huron to the north and Lake Erie in the South is
unusual and a bit frustrating after coming from the Midwest where all the roads head directly north/south-east/west. Most the roads here
run northeast or southwest due to the layout of the land between the two great bodies of water on either side of it, my hunch being
because that was how the land was surveyed years ago to keep everything square and make the best use of it's inherent good farming
qualities. So the problem I am having now is how to try to keep a straight eastern heading in an area absent any roads going that
direction. I feel as if I'm taking a half step back for every one forward. If I were to draw a line directly from Lansing Michigan to Albany
New York it would be entirely due east (with a slight northward direction), but there are no roads here headed in that direction. Hence
the frustration.

Day 109  8/02/12
SP : Glencoe,Ontario Canada
EP: Jarvis, Ontario Canada  
DM: 100
TM: 7,288

Today is my 100th consecutive day riding and since the conditions were good (favorable winds, no hills, and comfortable temps) I
decided that only a century ride would do. And as you can see from the mileage log I succeeded though without much, in fact nothing at
all, over that distance. So now I have the distinctive pleasure, as well as lasting memory, to announce that I biked 100@100 on 50@50.
Yes, it's already been 100 days. It was April 25 when I pedaled out of downtown Skagway to begin this never ending bike trek. I
remember that day so well as John Alvey, my good buddy who had joined me for  the 5 day kayak from Echo Cove to Skagway and will
be forever a comrade in adventure, was taking pictures and video of me pedaling down main street on my heavily laden bike and
trailer. I had no less than 50 lbs of food at that time in anticipation of many long lonely stretches of highway without services or chances
to resupply. The food combined with all my cold weather gear and clothes were stuffed in to my bulging pannier and trailer bags and I
estimated at the time my whole rig, not including myself on it, weighing close to 150lbs. And the first 20 miles were up a steep 3500'
climb from sea level to White Pass where I left Alaska and entered British Columbia. All I can remember thinking to myself at that early
point of the journey is, "What the heck am I doing?" Hold on, there was one more thought that looking back on it now is pretty crazy and
humorous; I recall worrying if I had enough underwear. Of all the things with which my mind should have been occupied with at that
crucial point, why underwear? So I stopped in a downtown tourist shop (the only place in town that sold underwear) and bought a couple
extra pairs. How funny is that?  Worried about underwear when I was about to undertake a seven month grueling adventure in to lands I
had never been before and knew little about except by way of local hearsay, none of which was very reassuring,  but afterwards
discovered were blown way out of proportion; snow drifts 15' high, possibilities of severe late season storms, bears, wolves, lions,
territorial buffalo and the funniest of all, hostile Native Americans. Looking back now I guess the reason why I was so preoccupied with
having enough underwear is that the mind has some funny ways of masquerading what it fears, and perhaps the underwear was one
such way. It has been shown from the diaries of soldiers and other reports that when hunched down in trenches, huddled in an
amphibious assault vehicle, or hiding behind cover in preparation to enter combat, especially for the first time and not knowing if this
would be the day they met they're maker, that some infantrymen or marines actually get sleepy and even nod off and go to sleep. It's as
if the mind is overloaded and the only way to keep it and the accompanying emotions in check is to trip the circuit breaker and just go to
sleep. Incredible!  Perhaps my moment before I climbed out of the trench (left Skagway) and began the assault on the enemy (the
enemy being the 14,000 miles of bike travel that lay before me, especially the first few weeks in N BC), my mind was tripping the
analogous circuit breaker by diverting my attention from fear and the unknown of the task I was about to begin to the question of having
an adequate supply of underwear. IDK, maybe but maybe not. What I do know is that I still have one more pair that came in the 3 item
package and believe that though I could have, and probably should have, got rid of it long ago (or used it as a chain rag) I have not
because of my superstitious belief that anything that lasts this long should be held on to (even though I don't use it because it's the
uncomfortable skimpy type which I hate wearing but was all that was available that day).
Anyways enough about underwear, going in to battle and superstition, tonight's camp is a beauty (beauty defined of course by the
beholder). I am in another long ago abandoned garage(see picture 1 below) in back of a what appears to be a still livable home though
no one had for quite some time. Like the farm house last night where I camped on the tall grass amongst all the barns and outbuilding's,
I spotted this place right away and figured that this would be a good, dry camp for the night. This morning when I awoke and slowly
crawled out of my tent (every physical movement now a days is down slowly) was greeted with the fresh air and subtle morning soft light
of a new day. Unfortunately everything was covered with morning dew as if it had rained all night. The Great Lakes region has to be the
most humid place on the north American continent and the one place on the continent where the overused adage 'if you don't like the
weather here, wait around 20 minutes' holds true.  So for tonight my back-of the-mind goal was be under cover and dry as my hunch is,
and tomorrow morning I will know for sure, that tonight it is going to rain. How do I know that? Well I have no phone service here in
Canada so I can't go to my 'weather channel' app. and I have watched no TV (give me a break, I never watch TV even at home) nor
looked at any newspaper weather page, and no one I've spoke to today told me what was in the forecast. But my intuition, probably
from the wind today, and the feel I get from the air, is that there is rain coming, and soon. It is strange that when one separates from
'reality' and so to speak 'turns off', how in tune you become to the natural world.  And if my new found instinct is correct, then being in this
one time nicely built and maintained garage/shop will keep me dry and comfortable for the evening.
Today I stayed on Hwy 3 most the time. Again it was in the northeast direction but after thinking about it a while I believe there may be
no difference between traveling in a region where the roads head NE or straight due north and/or east. All this is still a conundrum to me
(there I go using that A Greenspan term again) but after being so long in the Midwest where all the roads head either north, south, east
or west it is mentally difficult to head in a direction in between, even when the goal is somewhere in between, if that makes any sense
(see yesterdays post).

Day 110  8/03/12
SP : Jarvis, Ontario Canada
EP: Alden, NY
DM: 86
TM: 7,374

I was just looking at my arm hairs and they have all turned bleached blond from all the sun. At the base of them are tiny granules of salt
left from the days perspiration and add to that an invisible layer of grime mainly composed of street dirt and micro carbon based
particles from vehicle emissions. Awe, the joy of what I do.
Well I am out of Canada, for better or worse, and what an abrupt reentry it was back in to the old US of A. I crossed the Niagara
River(see picture 1 below) from Fort Erie in Canada to E Buffalo in New York.  If you've never been to this region of the country all I can
say is that the differentiation between the West Side and it's brethren on the East Side is remarkable. The only comparison that comes
to mind is my afternoon jaunt in to E Berlin in 1983 as a young know it all 20 year old venturing out to see the world, but I'll get to that
momentarily. After two days in Canada where people and things are for the most part clean, orderly and typically middle class, I rode
across the old steel framed congested bridge spanning the fast flowing River of the Great Falls below and in to E Buffalo,(see pictures
2 & 3  below) where the traffic sat almost dead still and backed up no less than 2 miles because of US customs (glad I was on my bike).

Wow, what a blast to the senses was once across the bridge and through customs.(see picture 4 below) I had to keep reminding myself
that this was America and not a third world country? Buffalo is an old ghetto ridden rust belt city and in which nobody in their right mind
would ever admit living. Just across the bridge and headed east there are miles of neighborhoods filled with the poor and destitute who
I would bet are mostly surviving off government assistance, part time work, and no doubt the underground economy of illicit drug dealing
and other vice related activities. What an environment to be born in to and have to grow up. What slim chances are there of ever making
it out? Probably very little. Anyway the contrast coming over from Canada was unbelievable. I eventually managed to pedal through it all
and eventually make it to the western suburb of Cheektowaga and beyond that to where I am camped tonight in a knee high hay field
just west of the town of Alden and a half mile north of hwy 20, my intended route to Albany, capital #20 (sorry but I have to add this; To
20 on 20). I pedaled this highway twice before, the first time in 1989 when I was solo traversing for the first time across the country and
then again in 2008 on a tandem with my son Domenic, then only 10, and Jim. My only memories of it are all the long steep hills of
central New York, so my knees are already starting to ache as I think about what's to come.  So, I visited the Berlin Wall before its
demise, and someone, somewhere has a concrete souvenir with my hand written tag "Romano was here. Get rid of this wall", my
inscription on the dreaded barrier one chilly afternoon in October of 1983. And I remember that day well. My friend Dieter, who I had met
earlier in that coming of age self journey throughout W Europe and was then attending the University of W Berlin, had given me the
black marker pen to write my earliest political convictions upon the western face of the 10' concrete wall that was at the time as
symbolic as physically impenetrable in its presence. From that time on I learned to hate fences and barriers of any kind, no matter if
physical or virtual in nature. Anyways during that time it was possible to go over to E Berlin and visit the other side of the 'Iron Curtain'
but only if you exchanged a certain amount of W German Marks in to E German Marks and spent all of it there. I don't remember how
much it was anymore but it couldn't had been much otherwise I wouldn't have made the trek to the communist territory living on a budget
so small that my diet consisted of nothing but bread, cheese, salami and water, and not that much different to what I am living on now;
geez how times and people never really change. Anyways I remember taking the Underground to E Berlin and when climbing the last
steps out of the subway on to the streets of a world, which until that time very few had visited, and being instantly struck with the dank,
drab, boring appearance of everything, including the people. Compared especially to the nonstop glitzy W Berlin, the east side was
literally something out of an Orwellian 1984 setting. No commercial activity existed at all and the streets were practically void of any
traffic. Old grey decaying buildings were all I saw and I actually had a difficult time trying to find someplace and thing for which to spend
my little bit of money.  One particularly disturbing episode I remember vividly was standing on the sidewalk waiting for the green cross
light to cross a street totally void of any traffic whatsoever. I, being the Italo-Americano who hates to be told what to do, said screw it and
started to cross the near completely deserted street to the other side. When I approached about half way across I turned around and all
the other pedestrians (at least a dozen) were waiting patiently and in seeming awe to witness my bold action of crossing a street on a
red signal. When I reached the other side of the street and walked at least a half block onward I glanced back and there stood the E
German citizens still waiting for a green signal to cross a street, again totally absent of any vehicular traffic. I can only imagine their
shock and amazement at witnessing the audacious act by the bold Westerner. Wow, I thought to myself a little later on. If this is the
indoctrination of a police state upon its citizens then I want no part of that. And what a powerful lesson I learned in that minute or so of
benign rebellion, the political economy and the presence of too much government (at that time communism). If you can control people's
minds to the point that they can't think for themselves or make rational decisions on their own, then you have total power over them.
What a scary thought and one we need to protect from becoming no matter the cost nor consequences.  As Goldwater so eloquently
phrased it 50 years ago at the 1964 Republican Convention, "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice".
Anyways, the heat returned again today and along with it my irritability. Temps were in the mid 90's and of course humidity in the same
range. Just awful conditions in which to ride a bicycle and live in general. The cooling effects of the Great Lakes are behind me now so
now my hope is that New England will bring some relief, but that remains to be seen

Day 111  8/04/12
SP : Alden, NY
EP: Canandaigua, NY
DM: 63
TM: 7,437

There are 360' around the circumference of this home planet of ours we call earth (good name for the little blue and white ball orbiting
the sun, but I prefer 'Il Mondo' in Italian). When I started out from Juneau back in mid April I was at a position on Il Mondo of West 135'.
That means I was a little more than 1/3 from the starting point in Grenwich England, 0',  headed west around the circumference of the
globe (360/135= a little over 1/3). Tonight where I am camped in a crop field in mid state New York I am at 77' west meridian and
around 1/5 the distance around Il Mondo from that arbitrary starting point in Grenwich England. So, over  1/3 is roughly 35-40% and a
little under 1/5 is roughly 15-20%. Thus we can conjecture from all these rough calculations a net distance of 20% or 1/5 the
circumference of the globe that I have traveled from Juneau Alaska to my spot here tonight here in this quiet cornfield. Now if you are not
confused enough already, I'll throw this in as well and soon you will be scratching your head. Like I said the total circumference of the
globe is 360' and there are 60 nautical miles for every degree (at the equator) for a total of just under 22,000 nautical miles. A nautical
mile being 1.15 imperial miles makes the circumference of Il Mondo roughly 25,000 miles. So I have traveled about 1/5 or 5000 miles in
net gain around the circumference of the globe thus far....and I might add, on a bicycle.
Ok, sorry if I've confused and bored anybody with all this mathematical mumbo jumbo, but believe it or not these are things I think about
throughout the long tedious days pedaling. Today was as I had anticipated my first full day riding in New York; hot, muggy, windy and
hilly. Not an especially ideal day for riding or even being outdoors. My negative, totally unreasonable, internal dialogue resumed once
again after a short hiatus through Michigan and Ontario when the temps came down, the terrain flattened out and the wind was mostly at
my back. "Why are people so unfriendly here in NY? Why can't the civil engineers try to make a road flatter? Why are the wind gods
always against me? Who would ever want to live in such a horrible place? This sucks. I can't wait to be finished with this awful trip and
am never planning anything like it again" and so on go the little voices of my tired mind (I'm not talking about schizophrenic
hallucinations of paranoia here; I know what those are having grown up with a schizophrenic mother. Just normal fatigue induced
reactions of the mind). Sometimes I can almost view myself from an objective outer body view, kind of like an audience member
critiquing a stage play with myself as the lead actor. Weird, I know. But practically everyday now has become a mind play and difficult
obstacle to get through. I can't even think anymore about the finish, but rather when the next stop is to refuel and get my mind off the
exhausting conditions, tedious work and the annoying voices inside my head.  
But now on to my primo campsite. For most this would probably be nothing but a boring field of corn,weeds and bugs, and throughout
most my life I would have thought the same. But for me this evening it is  home and a beautiful one at that. Yes there is the standard corn
crop next to which I have decided to build my home (set up my tent)(see picture 1 below) and the usual flying and crawling insects
annoying me without mercy (kind of like kids), but also there is total quiet and peace and the feel of nature that I haven't had for a while.
The wind is blowing from the south and the highway I rode in on (hwy 20) is about a half mile north so I can hear virtually nothing from
that nor any unseen homes with the constantly barking dog or quad putt-sing around in the yard. For once I can listen to the wind blowing
through the tall crop field border line trees (I do believe wind is the instrument of natures meditative bell) and the birds caroling and
crickets chirping and, just a little while ago, the squawk from a loping deer hurdling over the native grasses upon awareness of my
presence. Yes there are deer all over foraging on their evening staple of beans in the soybean field(see picture 2 below) a football field
away to my front. There is also the ubiquitous tall white jelly fish shaped wildflowers that seem to thrive in this area.(see picture 3 below)
They aren't the star célèbre of the flower world but rather an ordinary middle class working stiff. But I still appreciate them for the
unconformity in color and form they bring to their relatively uniform surroundings.(see picture 4 below) The tall gently rolling hills that
surround my minuscule presence here further give that cherished sense of quiet seclusion, without any man made interference, I so
need to rejuice my tired worn out batteries. If I could only have this simple place and setting to camp every night then I'm certain of
maintaining the spirit needed to finish this never ending journey back home.
So, followers of Romano I have now added a new link just click on it below Where's Romano in the USA .  You will be able to see on the
map where he started his journey in Juneau, AK and follow him into every state from there on, up until the present. The map will be
updated daily and able to view at the end of each days blog. For a more detailed map of the cities and camps Romano has been too,
you can still go to the Navigation Bar and click on Where's Romano. Hope you enjoy this new addition.  

View Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 112  8/05/12
SP : Canandaigua, NY
EP: Skaneateles, NY
DM: 68
TM: 7,505

I had my most difficult time finding a camp for tonight than I have since the 50@50 journey began back in April. I have figured out the
reason being that New York is amongst the highest property tax states in the Union, and because of that there are few residences and
structures and vacant residential or commercial land not being used. Any property that is not owner occupied leased out to bring in the
needed income to pay for the exorbitant taxes the state and local municipalities exact on real property. When I hear about what
homeowners are forced to pay in taxes on average homes in these states back east I think two things; first how do they afford it and
second I am never complaining again what I have to pay on property taxes. So my theory is that with property taxed so high property
owners can't afford to let their investment sit idle and hence there are no vacant structures or lands on which to squat for a vagabond
(like me) passing through these parts. But being the persistent, persevering  individual I am eventually found a place to camp and it is a
nice one. I am perched on top of a high hill with crop fields in every direction and the usual lines of tall trees and thick green vegetation
separating the individual fields and covering my presence.(see pictures 1 & 2 below) How these fields were laid out is a mystery to me.
The best I can come up with is that when these were just small parts of much bigger land holdings that the heirs to the estates simply
sold off sections to neighbors and others just entering these parts when the actual deed owner passed on. So the whole just kept
getting smaller and smaller, much like we see in the west when big ranches get chopped up and sold off to others when the rancher
and/or their heirs succumb to the passing of life or decide it is a lot more profitable to sell to developers than to hold on to lands being
used in a not do lucrative trade. From my vantage point on top of this large knoll are views in every direction. I am far enough away from
any road to not be rattled by the noise of traffic, which I have to tolerate all day while riding, and my nightly concerto of the lead singing
native birds with background being provided from the tree top leaves and branches churning in the leftover afternoon winds. Back East
here green is everywhere, and for the simple reason that it rains a lot. This afternoon I was hit by a fast moving intense shower that left
me and everything damp. Two or three warm days may pass without precipitation but not much more. A few weeks without rain around
here is considered a drought where as in the southwest it takes a few months and even years for lack of normal precipitation to be
called a drought. It would be hard for me to get use to living in this kind of environment after spending most my life in the southwest. I can
appreciate the natural beauty of it all but still yearn for that in to which I grew up and am accustomed to living. I like to be dry, even if that
means grey, barren landscapes, long hot periods without rain and cracked hands and feet. I also enjoy high vistas of distant terrain
which are plentiful in the west but tricky to find here back east. Tonight's vista I had to work hard for; about a mile walking my bike on a
farming road skirting the plentiful crop fields. But I got that scenic overlook I was looking for and am now thankful to have matter
how much work it took to get it.  
The hills here in central New York have gotten vicious in their steepness. Some are at or near 20% grade and go on for over a mile. The
reward is a fast and fun decent down the backside but that return is not worth the hard investment it takes to get up to the top. These are
the relatively small mountains of the Appalachian chain that runs south/southwest from New England to the deep south. Sooner or later I
have to cross them going east and then again when I return west, which will probably be through Georgia.
New Yorkers are a different bunch, as most people already know. They remind me somewhat of Texans who always seem to have a
story bigger than life and never lack the proper vernacular to adequately relate those stories. Folks around here in the upper part of the
state are distinct in their personalities and behaviors as well. They have little of the down home friendliness and hospitality so typical of
the people in the Midwest, but aren't quite as stand offish and even rude as so many I've encountered in upper New England. They're
somewhat country, yet a little rock &roll like their fellow denizens of the state west of here in the Big Apple.
Earlier today I pedaled around the northern tips of the Finger lakes; Canandaigua Lake, Seneca Lake,(see pictures 3 & 4 below)
Cayuga Lake, Owasco Lake and Skaneateles Lake, all with towns at their northern shores and full of summer weekend vacationers
bathing, sunning, and relaxing on the green, shady and grassy areas surrounding them.  For a while I felt like being just a normal person
again and not on this never ending journey, just hanging out with my friends and family talking, laughing and having fun together like all
those people I saw today. I know that whenever I start feeling lonely like that it's time to get back on my bike and ride away from
whatever it is that is bringing on those feelings of isolation, in this case all the groups of people enjoying each others company, and it's
exactly what I did. Click on link below to see what town Romano camped in yesterday

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 113  8/06/12
SP : Skaneateles, NY
EP: Richfield Springs, NY
DM: 72
TM: 7,577

Hill, hills, and nothing but hills. This region of upstate New York is exactly as I remember it being when I pedaled through here 4 years
ago on a tandem bike with my youngest son Domenic, 14 at that time, and friend Jim. The deep valleys and lakes that make up so
much of the topography here are remnants of glacial movement during the last mini ice age roughly 12,000 years ago and they all lie in
a north-south alignment making my job of riding eastward very tiresome.  The road planners apparently don't believe in switchback
roads around here like out west so the climbs are just straight up and then straight down at very steep grades. This US route 20 which I
am following has fooled me twice now in to pedaling it because on the map it appears as a straight direct route eastward and usually
on a map a straight direct line means at least relatively flat terrain.  But not here. I spend on  average 10-15 minutes going up these
15-20% thigh and knee busting grades, at no more than 4mph (and sometimes even less, in which case I just get off and push my bike
up, like I did often in Alaska and again today) only to relax on the downside for a minute or two at speeds in excess of 40mph. Simple
math tells me that that is ten times the difference in speed and time between the ascent and decent.  It was here I remember four years
ago reaching speeds on the tandem the fastest which I have ever been on a bicycle; 50-60mph. I don't get going that fast now because
a regular bike is not as fast as a tandem going down hill. Fortunately though the day is overcast and cool because if it were hot and
muggy like a couple days ago this would be murder on me.
So today I believe was the coolest day I've had since Montana. The temp never got above the mid 80s and with the cool wind out of the
west it felt even cooler. It was, needless to say, very refreshing after weeks and even months of punishing heat and humidity, especially
last month when pedaling through Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska. Last night it cooled off enough for me to get a good nights sleep and I
am anticipating the same tonight. But though as refreshing a change this cool weather is for the time being it is still a stark reminder for
me that before this second part of 50@50 is complete there will be many cold days and evenings with which I will be forced to pedal,
camp and live through it. I look forward to those approaching cold fall days with as much uncertainty and dread as I did the cold journey
through Alaska and BC last spring. And they are coming rapidly as already I am noticing just about everyday the sun's lower trajectory in
the southern skies as well shorter daylight hours.
My camp tonight is, yet again, in a crop field but this time there is no corn around. I believe this field I have set up in is just for hay. Again
I'm situated on a hilltop and overlooking the beautiful green countryside(see pictures 1, 2, & 3 below) and only a couple football fields
away from my LSD at a grocery store called 'Food Choppers' where I bought an already cooked chicken and some salad stuff for this
evenings dinner.  If I were a little more remote I might think about making a fire for the evening since the temps have come down so far.
But I doubt I will feel comfortable making fires again until I'm in Texas or Oklahoma. By then it will be late September and a fire at night
will be greatly appreciated by this Arizona desert rat boy.
So, other than that scrawny little roasted chicken, this evenings dinner consisted of my usual romaine lettuce, tomato, onion, and olive
oil salad, and a sweet juicy peach (the best part) for dessert. The best fruit and veggies in these parts are found at the roadside stands.
I haven't tastes peaches like the ones I've been getting the last few weeks in years.
I was feeling so chilled a while ago that I have decided to come in to the tent a little early, the first time I can remember doing that in a
long time. It is so bizarre that only a couple nights ago I was so hot in this tent that I would have done anything to be in an air conditioned
room. Now I'm thinking about actually zipping up my down bag. It's not that it's really that cold, but rather that my body is so accustomed
to the heat. I doubt it's below 65' outside but listening to my complaining one might assume it is ready to snow.
Yesterday I was talking to a fellow along one of the Finger lakes and he was telling me that he had done some bicycle touring in the past
and couldn't wait to do more, that his plan was to leave his unhappy home and life and undertake what he referred to as a 'Harvest Trip'.
When I asked what a 'Harvest Trip' was he said it was traveling to wherever it was that had a harvest going on, work for a while, save
some money, and then head on to the next one. In other words, basically living on your bike.  I politely told him that sounded interesting
and good luck on his plan and then continued on pedaling down the road with my plan of completing this never ending journey of
traveling to all 50 states using only my own power. I thought to myself a little later that nothing about a 'Harvest Trip' sounded appealing
to me. I like to travel and engage in personal challenges but want to know there is a destination or finish to that journey on which I have
set out. A beginning and end point. I get tired after a while, as almost everyone whose been reading this diary well knows, and I love my
home and family, career, business and life in general. Certainly things aren't perfect in my life and I struggle like most everybody with
life's obstacles, but to be constantly on the road 'like a rolling stone' holds no romanticism for me. It's nice and even healthy to step out
of one's customary security box once in a while and in to the unknown primeval forest, to challenge ones self in mind, body and spirit
and in the process hopefully learn something. Such an outing is even made better if in the process you can help out others. But it's not
an escape hatch if ones life is not in proper order or lacking adequate happiness. If a permanent fix to a life of discontent is what is
sought, this kind of lifestyle is not the answer, at least for myself it is not.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 114  8/07/12
SP : Richfield Springs, NY
EP: Albany, NY
DM: 74
TM: 7,651

Today was a long day but I feel satisfied on how it went. Again I had to deal with the continuous climbing(see picture 1 below) but
managed to make it the nearly 70 miles to capital #20 in Albany and get a few miles out of the thick downtown area to where I am
camped this evening just outside the city proper.  When I awoke I didn't mess with my morning ritual of boiling coffee and daily ration of
hot cereal; why, when there was a McDonalds just a few hundred yards away?  Everything as usual was damp but with the added
discomfort of a chill in the air, the first I have felt in months. According to employee coffee break hearsay at the convenience store next
door to the McDonalds, the evenings temp got down in to the low 50's, and I believe it. I awoke with the sleeping bag bundled around
me. So I thought instead of lighting the stove and shivering while waiting for the coffee to boil (cowboy coffee doesn't brew, it boils and
the taste is, well, uniquely Cowboy) why not pack everything and push the bike the whole half mile and let McDonalds prepare my hot
cereal and coffee (of course their coffee is not Cowboy but it's still not too bad). Some people I know and have met ask if I frequent
Starbucks coffee houses on these trips and I honestly have to say I do not. And not because I don't like their expensive (though very
good) coffee. But rather I hate following trends, and Starbucks to me is a trendy establishment. "I'll have a vanilla decaf nonfat latte, hold
the whip cream, with a peppermint twist and an sprinkle of cinnamon". What?  I remember when all this specialty coffee thing began to
take off and I was actually at some swank expensive 'Northern Italian' (if it's Northern Italian than its not really Italian in my opinion,
maybe French but not Italian) and after dinner the waiter asked if I would care for a 'Latte'.  "A what?'' I asked him while thinking to
myself why in the heck would I want a glass of milk after dinner (latte in Italian means milk). My brother, who I was out to dinner with and
was the consummate trend follower,  leaned over and in my ear whispered "That means coffee, stupid". "Oh, ok. In that case sure, but
without the milk. A cafe' (with the hyphenated e' on the end where emphasis is needed) would be great". So began my distaste for
fashionable trends and since has gotten worse. Call it cynicism or old age, but if I want a cup of coffee all I like is one lump and if
possible, boiled as in Ala Cowboy.
So tonight's camp is another first, believe it or not. I am no less than a hundred yards from Interstate 787 which runs northbound along
the Hudson River.(see picture 2 below) I took a shower a little bit ago in plain view of hundreds of vehicles passing by but am certain
nobody saw me (not that anyone would want to see an old scrawny hobo soaping off). While looking at all the traffic speeding by at
70mph  by me standing naked only a hundred yards or so away I was reminded of the money incident a few days ago when hundreds of
cars had passed by hundreds of dollars all day long blowing around in the wind but took no notice of its existence. Out of sight, out of
mind. It also confirms my belief that most of us live in a box the interior of which is laid out like a maze with impenetrable walls, blindly
proceeding through life unaware of 99% of the happenings going on outside of the box, and as if the necessity of most what we believe
to be life's essentials while in our scramble to get through the box maze really matter in the grand scheme of things. It seems as if we
live in a prefabricated and preordained existence of our own doing, not Gods, oblivious to what is going on right next to us, until the day
comes when the doctor tells us we have cancer and six months to live. We don't live in the moment as most of natures (Gods) creatures
do. I guarantee the deer I heard shortly ago hissing and hopping about knew of my bizarre presence on their home turf. But I'm certain
not one of the hundreds of passing motorists took any notice of my naked white behind in clear visibility (and thankful for them).  Is there
another unseen dimension like all the 60's Sci-Fi TV shows and movies led us to believe there may exist? If so I wonder how does one
unlock it's mystery? 'The outer dimension', I think I remember that Outer Limits episode.
Anyways, I am set up in a small recently planted peach orchard. The  6' tall skinny saplings are still several years off from producing
what I'm certain will be, in this climate and soil, a juicy delicious tasting peach. To the south west I can actually see the tall, concrete
oblong shaped buildings that surround the french-gothic inspired and subsequently designed and constructed capital building of the
'Empire State'. Figures it takes a state as grand, bold, yet pugnacious in character as New York, and it's people of course, to design a
capital building that uniquely resembles and lies in a setting that no other capital could or would. I thought I was pedaling up to the
Louvre, Palace of Versailles, Buckingham Palace, or Il Duomo in Milano but not to a capital building(see picture 3 below) in a region of
the country that many would still consider the Midwest (sorry New York). But it was refreshing also to see a state capital building that
represents people who think 'out of the box'. Way to go New York.
I rolled on to the capital grounds around 3pm, did my usual short video clip

and then met the young, attractive, personable and professional reporter from a local paper, Aaron, who had contacted me earlier in the
day and wanted to do a story on 50@50, FRAANK and it's causes. Afterwards I headed up to Governors office so see if anyone was
around I could speak with but as has been the case now at most capitals I've been through no one is around this being the middle of
summer when state business is put on hold and legislatures are not in session. So I gave my information to the receptionist and headed
back out to begin the quest to pedal to state capital #21 in Montpelier, Vermont. I can now officially say that New England is on deck.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 115  8/08/12
SP : Albany, NY
EP: Manchester, VT
DM: 65
TM: 7,716
Week 15      WM: 537 TM: 7,551     AVG. Per Day: 71.6 miles

Made it. I'm in Vermont and thus New England.(see picture 1 below)  This to me is another one of those milestone/waypoints that once
reached are a reminder that ground is being taken, albeit very slowly. All I can say is what a difference it is between here and Kansas.
Finally after months of traveling through basically boring (ok, non sensory stimulating, [the midwest]) terrain, I have reached a
countryside with a sculptured and varied topography, trees everywhere, and surrounding landscapes with no human interference or
modification.(see picture 2 below)  I won't say it is mountainous here because where I come from out west the term 'mountains' is
different from that east of the Rocky Mountains. I guess I'll just refer to what is around here as 'mountanettes' which to me resembles the
foothills of the great mountains of the west.  But it is refreshing and spiritually rejuvenating for me after being so long in country absent
anything even remotely similar to view a tree covered mountainette and see nothing but green. At last, untouched nature. Unfortunately,
as is true in many parts of this country with beautiful scenery and public lands, there are few roads or inlets  to access these
undeveloped lands as gated and fenced private property lines keep one entrapped on the roadway.(see picture 3 below) How
frustrating is that? All I want is to abode with nature but in order to do that it is necessary to encroach upon someone else's land (not that
I haven't done it before or will continue to do so, albeit in a stealthy manner) and which I have done for this evenings camp. I am not very
far east of the historical town of Manchester Vt. I spotted a mountain bike trail off  state route Hwy 7 that I followed for about a mile back
and spotted a large grassy field.(see picture 4 below) Well, the secret to what I do is 'hiding' so a large freshly cut grassy field would not
do, so I slipped between the ring of thick trees surrounding the field and basically camouflaged myself. This little spot is ideal for my
needs. I can't be seen, rule #1, it is quiet and secluded, rule #2, and I am re-juicing my personal internal battery being alone and in
natures grasp, rule #3 if I plan to continue on with this never ending journey (time for a new acronym NEJ).  My only company is  a
paranoid, somewhat annoying, squeaky sounding squirrel running vertically up and down the tall alder tree behind me in an obvious
statement to my intruding presence on his turf, "Hey buddy, this is my home so don't even think about it!". I tried to get a picture of him,
or her, but he moved so rapidly that I, with my slow reactions nowadays, couldn't hit the shutter button soon enough. Anyways, it appears
he has quieted down now, my supposition being that he believes he made his unambiguous statement quite boldly to me. Or maybe he
has shut up because I shouted at him a little bit ago "Oh don't get your panties in a bind Rocky. I ain't no threat to you or your home. Go
find your friend Mr Bullwinkle and fly around the hood for a while".  I guess he took my advice.
The people of New England are a dichotomy of sorts. To me they are either very friendly or very rude and stand offish.  My guess it's
because they are inundated up here during the summer vacation months and tire of the continuous flow from travelers invading their
home, which is pretty typical of all getaway destinations. My hunch is that the people who are most unfriendly and unwelcoming are the
ones not originally from the area, transplants that want to come in and put up a so called 'virtual fence' around their adopted home.
They're the ones who use to put bumper stickers on their cars saying 'Welcome to ..., now go home' (you don't see those much
anymore). The friendly folks are generally the ones who have lived their entire lives, and perhaps even generations before them, in an
area or region of the country and like to welcome strangers and passerby's because they didn't come there to escape some other
place and they know the local economy and their personal livelihood depend on those visiting and the money that they bring in.
Whatever the reason for the abundance of unfriendly people in this region, I try my best to ignore the rude, crotchety ones and converse
and humor with those who are friendly and or helpful.
The other immediate observation I had of the area is the ubiquitous Subaru. They are everywhere and I thought to myself today this
should be called the Subaru capital of the world. Old ones, new ones, and even middle aged Subaru's fill the streets and driveways. My
guess is they must be a good all around car, especially for the region here with its snowy winters and tight curvy roads (in case
someone doesn't know Subaru's are compact all wheel drive cars).
I had a brief though weird encounter earlier today that, though quite simple in nature, I couldn't stop thinking about, probably because it
touched an inner nerve with me. A lady about my age was weeding her field on a quad with a heavy iron homemade grater being pulled
from behind, and her son was following up from behind with a power mower to mulch up what remained. Well just as I was passing by
the lady had made a turn too tight and the heavy instrument being pulled became tangled underneath the quad machine. I saw her stop
and attempt to free the heavy unmanageable entanglement of iron and machine and of course I decided to stop as well to see if I could
lend her a hand. As I approached her asking if she could use some assistance she immediately responded that she did not and that her
and her son could manage on their own and called for the young boy, by my estimate not much older than my daughter who is will turn
11 in September, to come help her fix the mess in to which she had gotten herself. Well, at first I considered turning around and leaving
but, being the perservering person I am I decided not to heed her negative response and to my offer my assistance anyway. I began to
evaluate and eventually mend the situation (the chain used to tie the improvised grading device had gotten entangled in the wheel weld)
with a few torcs and brute maneuverings well beyond what was possible of a small boy and a somewhat petite woman. All the while
though I could hear (and feel) the frustration and perhaps anger eminating from the ungrateful lady, some of which she was taking out on
her boy, Abraham who appeared tired, overwhelmed, flustered and no doubt a bit embarrassed. Once the instrument was freed the
lady gave me an obligated and customary, though not heartfelt, thank you and I turned to walk away back to my bike. Before leaving
though I asked the young boy how old he was and he said 11, just what I had figured. Wow, I thought to myself a little later as I reflected
on the bizarre encounter, he's the same age as my little girl and out here in this heat (it was mid 90's today) helping his mother turn a
field. What an honorable thing for such a young man to be doing. But then, like I so often do, I began to examine the chance meeting
further. Responding to my inquiry if it were just she and her boy to do all this hard manual labor, the lady said that she had a 14 year old
daughter but that she was 'useless' and wouldn't help so yes, just the two of them. So it became apparent to me that the husband/father
or significant other was not around (for whatever reason) and that now she was left alone to do all the work on this sizable working farm.
She didn't want my assistance at first because that would apparently be taken as a 'madam in distress' call and unacceptable if she
were the head of this farm. Or she could have been one of these women who believe the only purpose for men in life is for procreation
(and even that as a polliwog donor and without the physical intimacy) and hence her immediate rejection to my offer of assistance with
other motive but to be helpful. Having traveled through New England on several other occasions I know there is no shortage of ladies as
such living here (I also realize that there are many Neanderthal Vintage thinking men in the world as well).  I hold no judgment
whatsoever on what one believes nor how they manifest those behaviors as long as they don't interfere with mine or society. After all
this is America, a nation built on tolerance and diversity. The problem I see in the country today is not that there are too many diverse
believers, but rather their propensity to force those beliefs upon others. Sorry but I can't, and see no reason to, change how I was
raised. If I see a woman, or anybody, who looks as if they could use some assistance I feel compelled to offer my services. Once, not
too long ago, I opened the door for a lady (who shall be kept nameless) at the post office in my hometown of Cornville. She stepped
back and remarked to me that we were not living in the 19th century anymore and she wasn't wearing a long dress and hair bonnet and
had no need for me to open the door for her. I was stunned by her statement and the only lame and somewhat sarcastic comeback I
could think of was, "It's not the 19th century? Really? When did it end?".  Afterwards when I told my wife Patrice she said I should have
let the door slam in her
But none of this really matters as how this lady in the field was depending on her young son to be the 'man in charge' and take over the
responsibility left by whomever was the absent husband/father or keeper of physical affairs. I'm not presuming a woman cannot manage
hard physical labor in a demanding environment, after all they do bear children and tend to physical tasks just as well as most men, but
why force your boy at such a young age to be helping you when he was in apparent physical and emotional discomfort. This is where I
was bothered by that brief unappreciated, though unsolicited, encounter today. The lady in my opinion should not have been pressuring
this young boy to perform work and carry out responsibility for that which only someone much older should have been doing. Like I said
the poor kid was obviously bothered and embarrassed by everything and I felt for him. This hits home for me because I was forced at a
very young age, younger than even Abraham, to help and care for my dependent mother and forced to grow up reluctantly and
prematurely. I could feel for Abraham out there on that hot dirty, bug ridden field, being the obedient young man and caring for his needy
mother, though care for my mother was in a different form. It wasn't fair I believe he be put in that situation, especially at that young age.
It's my belief that most the time we either put too much pressure or not enough on our kids to grow up and perform to standards for
which most kids aren't yet fully prepared. I guess like everything else in life there is some near perfect balance in being the right parent.
But there are no 'Parenting 101' classes that I am aware of and we learn by doing and generally using our own parents as models. I
know my own childhood years consisted of either too much responsibility or not enough and looking back now realize all the similar
mistakes I made in raising my own kids. I sometimes lament about things I did wrong or would have done differently if I had had the
chance to do over again, at least with my three boys, (I still have my daughter and naturally am much different interacting with her). I
know there are as many methods of parenting as there are parents and no two are exactly the same. I also suppose it is natural we as
parents try to raise our kids in a manner that either reflects, or is opposite, of that which we were raised. But kids still need to be kids.
They need to make all the mistakes we made and afterwards, hopefully, learn from them. And they don't need to be made in to
responsible adults before they've had a chance to be a kid. Now that doesn't mean they shouldn't learn responsibility nor be held
accountable when they do make the wrong choices, and certainly there are a lot of kids who do lack such. But to force your child to
clean a field in the dead heat of summer, when most kids at that age are in swimming pools, playing ball and building forts with their
friends, is a bit unreasonable. Now of course all this is conjecture on my part and perhaps Abraham was in trouble for some reason or
other and that was his punishment. But I reckon not. I guess I'm unplugged now.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 116  8/09/12
SP : Manchester, VT
EP: Bethel, VT
DM: 61
TM: 7,777

Looking at the total mileage up to today I see I have reached a lucky numerical sequence. Now only if I were in Vegas. What a great day
for riding. It was warm by New England standards with temps in the 90's (perfect for me and not even registering a bleep on the heat
monitor of what I've come through to get here) but since then has cooled down considerably and now it is raining. I have found cover for
the evening on the backyard deck of a large, completely white unoccupied home with a large unattached garage  to one side of it.(see
picture 1 below) This property is for sale as there is a sign in the front yard and I can see someone, probably the owner, has been fixing
up the place to try and make it sellable in a tough selling market. This place is probably another victim of the real estate boondoggle
that overtook most the nation several years back and in which the economy and most people are still struggling to shake off from its
deep, lasting consequences (myself included). I feel certain we eventually will as America always does. The country has been through
trials much deeper and more complicated than what we are currently going through and each time come out more prosperous and,
more importantly, with a deeper understanding of who we are and our role in the world. It just takes time to rebuild what was lost due to
the collapse of an extremely overinflated real estate market. As far as I know, unless you were born in to wealth (or win the lottery) there
is only one process that leads to building wealth the honest way whether an individual, private company or the nation as a whole; work,
save and invest, hopefully wisely. A little luck is always beneficial as well. The Chinese have and are doing really well by following that
process; they work very hard, save like nobody else, and are now investing madly all over the world and at home the trillions in foreign
currency they saved. Americans use to do that and in fact still do work hard (we work more now as a nation than we ever have). But the
other two parts of the process, saving and investing have been sorely lacking for a long time. Part of it is due to the fact middle class
jobs don't pay like they use to and thus the growing gap between the haves and have nots. But that's not all. This economic slowdown
was well overdue and in actuality a good thing as it is reminding us once again that there is always a hangover Sunday morning after
the Saturday night bash. As a nation we overspent and under saved. There is blame for the financial crisis to go in every which
direction, but the lions share rests with the major Wall Street banks and their government servants who basically set the table, prepared
the meal, and then sat and looked on as the fat cats gorged themselves to death (or what should have been death) on the bountiful fixins
(huge profits). And then we all know what happened then as Americans were told to swallow a bitter pill and watch as those near death
fat cats were given a heavy dose of Rolaids (massive and mostly unaccountable government bailouts). There was too much cheap and
easy money for too long which ultimately led to the real estate boom. But everyone, from the poor welfare mom to the rich Wall Street
CEO partied on way too late Saturday night and now it is Sunday morning and we need to sober up, take a couple aspirin, and get
ready for Monday morning.
Anyways I could go on forever with this as economics was my main discipline in college and I find it a fascinating topic to study, though
most people do not. So on to something else. I had my first real sustained climb since leaving the Rocky mountains back in Montana a
long, long time ago.(see picture 2 below) I suppose it was about 1500' climbing in total and I summited, at just over 2000', Sherburne
Pass in the Green Mountain range here in S Vermont. On the backside I rejoiced with cool wind blowing over my body and taking in the
beautiful mountain and valley vistas in the distant.(see picture 3 below) Clear, fast running streams and rivers crossed under the
highway every few miles(see pictures 4,5 & 6 below) and shade from the abundance of overhanging roadside trees kept the sun from
delivering a constant beat on my already way over sunned back and shoulders. Since entering Vermont I have pedaled through
countless old, historical and quaint towns with well preserved structures. They, the communities, have figured out how to deliberately, yet
delicately, hold on to their uniqueness and tradition, all the while allowing for seemingly adequate growth on the outskirts of each sizable
town. This is how it should be done in my opinion, especially in a region dependent on tourism, and Vermont should be a role model on
how to do it. Progress is essential and good, but we always need to preserve our past and remember from where we came without
which we become unattached or untethered, lost at sea and adrift, doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past and unappreciative of
who we are and what we have. I think that is the most important thing that being a lover of history has taught me; the importance of
knowing ones past so as to try avoid future mistakes as well as that sense of belonging, whether as an indivitual, a family member, a
citizen of a particular nation, or even a denizen of the vast cosmos (astronomy has always been a passion of mine).
Anyways, Vermont has been good to me and the needed medicinal elixir to lift up a tired worn out spirit after weeks of physical and
mentally demanding conditions. I feel better now than I have felt in months. How long this spiritual revival will endure is anybody's guess.
But for the time being I am celebrating and feel good; cha cha cha.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 117  8/10/12
SP : Bethel, VT
EP: Danville, VT
DM: 64
TM: 7,841

It's hard getting going on this because I'm just so tired and a little depressed which I suppose is due to the weather and lousy
accommodations for the evening.  It started to rain this afternoon as I was leaving MontPelier, capital # 21 and really hasn't let up since,
and right now is coming down good.

I have found shelter for the night in 10'x15', lightly milled wood framed shed.(see picture 1 below) There is a bunch of stuff of in this little
enclosure, some of which I have no idea what it is. One of the items which I have been trying to figure out looks like a gin still but I have
no way of knowing for sure having never seen one yet. It is a stainless steel table with long sections and vented with a flue for the fire
which obviously is used in the process for making whatever it is that is made in here. It may even be a molasses boiler or used to finish
maple syrup.  And then there are some homemade wire mesh racks on which is a lot of garlic drying out (the fresh smell of which is
appreciated), a few old tools and some buckets. There is only a few square feet in here for me to make sit and make my presence and
I'm still not sure how I'm going lay out and sleep. But still being as tight and uncomfortable a situation this is, it is still better than being
cooped up in my little tent which would have been the case if I hadn't found this place. I am less than a football field away from busy Hwy
2 which is, as far as I can tell, the only highway running eastbound from Montpelier toward the next capital in Augusta Maine.  The hills
have been continual and I would do anything to have a flat ride day and give my knees a little break. I doubt that will come for quite a
while though as most of this section of the country is hilly and also, unfortunately for me, rainy.
Anyways, I made it in to the capital of Vermont today

and was struck by how small the town of MontPelier was. It is the smallest capital town in the nation with a population of less than 8000.
In fact the biggest city here in the state is Burlington and it is the least populous of 'largest cities belonging to a state' with a population
only around 40,000. Wow, that's less than Flagstaff. The state building was the typical dome shaped structure (the top was painted gold
like several other capital buildings) however with beautiful natural colored granite walls and steps leading up to the entrance with large,
tall Greek/Roman columns in the portico.(see picture 2 below) Like the state and its citizens it represents, the building is a reflection
and well done in that matter.
The town of Montpelier was busy and congested and I couldn't wait to get out of there, even though there were things I needed to
purchase before leaving. I decided to press my luck on a further town and since have regretted my decision  Vermont is small, rural, and
not overly commercial and the people I believe like it that way and do so by keeping large franchised commerce to a minimum. There
are few fast food restaurants and if you find a Walmart or like kind store it's usually on the very outskirts of town, most likely so it won't
put existent stores out of business because of their lower pricing strategies. The problem I'm having is there at the big box stores I
come to depend on and can't find at most of these smaller stores, most of which are basically convenience stores. No big deal though, I
shall survive without my favorite coffee or cereal.
This state is the prettiest one I've been to yet. It is small; 6th and 2nd smallest in terms of land size and population respectively. There
are only about 2/3 million citizens living here and ten Vermonts can be put in to an area the size of my home state, Arizona.  The state
use be the western half of New Hampshire but broke away during the revolutionary war to become it's own republic (other than the
original 13 colonies, only Texas, Hawaii, and W Florida were independent republics before reaching statehood). Republican
independence lasted only a few years though when in 1791 it was admitted in to the union as the 14th and first state to join the union
outside of the original 13.  It's nickname, the Green Mountain State, comes from the southern mountain (mountainette) range and the
militia the Green Mountain Boys that formed to gain independence from it's eastern neighbors.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 118  8/11/12
SP : Danville, VT
EP: Gorham, NH
DM: 66
TM: 7,907

For the first time I can remember I am camped legally, meaning I am not on someone else's property.  I am at the junction where the AT
(Appalachian Trail) intersects US route 2 and a few miles east of my LSD for the day in Gorham. This is publicly owned national forest
so no one, not even President Obama, has the authority to make me leave.
Public lands are exactly as their name implies; public lands. We all as Americans own them and thus are granted the right to use them
along with, of course, the obligation to maintain them in as perfectly natural a state as possible. Anything less than perfect is a
dereliction of that responsibility. In my opinion, too much of America was granted, sold and homesteaded off in it's early formative years
as a nation before the formation of a  movement to conserve and protect what was left. Fortunately a great president, arguably one of
the best and brightest (the exception being perhaps Lincoln and two or three of the founding fathers [Adams, Jefferson and Madison]),
came along at the opportune time in the early 20th century and understood the need to protect that which was left of the dwindling
publicly held lands. Of course I'm referring to Teddy Roosevelt, under whose administration was dedicated the first national park
(Yellowstone) and the birth of the US Dept. of Interior which oversees all public lands in America. Every president since TR (the older
cousin of the 2nd Roosevelt, FDR, who led the country through the Great Depression and WWII and for over three presidential terms)
has felt an obligation to protect America's shrinking public lands which are a lasting legacy to our children and grandchildren. I believe
we need more public lands, as well as to inform our fellow citizens how to respect and preserve the ones we have. Places like where I
am camped this evening, underneath a canopy of incredibly dense pine, ash, and maple trees that provide a complete covering from
the intermittent rain that has been falling down from the grey skies all day.
My hope someday would be to see the public (perhaps a consortium of government, private enterprise and individuals) buy back some
of what the federal and state governments of this great nation let go in its haste to take hold of and settle a continent. A few times on this
trip, mostly in the Midwest where there are almost no public lands, I came across small areas of nature preserves that appeared to be
donated by bequeathing individuals or purchased by the state from once private hands. They were like tiny oasis's in massive deserts
of developed crop fields, teaming with wildlife as well as providing light impact usage to folks living in the local area.
Too much, in fact most of the scenic and prized lands and waterways of the continent are in private hands and inaccessible. So the
public is forced to crowd in to what little is left in order to enjoy the great natural beauty we have in America. Last week I pedaled across
the Finger lakes in central NY and was saddened to see that with the exception of a few very small areas of public access, practically
the entire shoreline of every lake was in private hands and fenced off. The overly crowded public areas were chalk full of folks starving
for the outdoors and nature rather than sitting in their box homes, in front of their box entertainment (the Boob Tube) watching mind
numbing and ridiculous shows or, worse yet, 24/7 news outlets hosted by polemic personalities with hyperbolic dialogue in order to
brainwash their viewers most of whom are incapable of thinking out of their boxed in minds .  The last time I went through Yellowstone
and Yosemite they were so jam packed with tourists I couldn't wait to get out.  I know those are extreme examples and there are still a
lot of beautiful public lands, especially out west, but many of those are inaccessible, except on foot which is a good thing as too many of
us don't know how to use and appreciate something without destroying it, and often unknowingly. Kids should be taught early on how to
respect the outdoors and live in it with minimal impact, ('leaving no trace'), perhaps with some environmental studies curriculum in
school. Then perhaps we wouldn't have the need, and thus the cost, for so much policing and public management of those lands.
Nothing bothers me more than going to a national or state park and seeing and feeling the over presence of law enforcement. And
property owners who own land in areas that border areas of public lands need to be more tolerant of those who are visiting or passing
through rather than putting up so much needless fencing and other physical barriers to keep everybody out, including naturally migrating
animals. I own land that borders the forest service and am perfectly fine with people passing through my property (as long as they're not
on loud OHV's). I realize that that is part of the unwritten agreement of my choice to live next to pubic lands. (There is a flimsy barb wire
fence the Ranchers put up, not by my choice, to keep their open range cattle from wandering away but does no good anyways as the
giant beasts just walk right over and through it. If it were my decision I would take it completely down). Most fencing is also very
disruptive and even deadly for wildlife. I don't know how many dead deer and other animals I've seen on the roadway this trip because
of roadside fencing that forces them to backtrack and thus get in the way of traffic. Just a couple weeks ago I had to witness just such a
scene when a baby fawn was struck and killed by a passing truck unable to avoid it when it suddenly changed direction because of
another useless fence in it's path of direction. It's sad and needless because most fencing has no purpose whatsoever except for giving
a false sense of security to its owner.
My first inclination as I began my search for camp a little earlier was another porch of an unoccupied home, abandoned garage or
unused barn. But when I came by here and noticed the thick tree covering, and on public land, I thought I had hit the jackpot. Natures,
rather than man's, rain covered canopy for tonight. Honestly, if I were a little further from the highway and out of it's corridor of sound
waves,  I couldn't ask for a better place to camp tonight. There is a small brook just down the embankment to the west and the sounds of
the gurgling waters flooding past the boulders, large rocks and stones and then  carrying their therapeutic message to my tired spirit is,
for me at this point in this NEJ (never ending journey) purely symphonic and gold plated. The skies are dark and I have the feel similar to
being in the pacific northwest where it rains nearly constant at certain times of the year. I'm betting I sleep better tonight than I have in
Around noon today I pedaled in to New Hampshire from Vermont and didn't even notice. My wife Patrice who I was talking with on the
phone (I have earphones that allow me to ride and talk at the same time) had to inform me from 3000 miles away that I had just entered
the Granite State. I will only be here briefly as I pass through it on the way to Augusta Maine, capital #22 of the SPT. This is the really the
first time I've had to pass through a state to get to another one thus far on the journey (I briefly touched Illinois for a couple miles on my
way in to Iowa at Dubuque). I will pick up Concord NH after Maine in a few days. The change from Vermont to it's eastern  brother was
noticeable to me. New Hampshire is not as developed as Vermont so far what I've seen and the feel I get is it is also less pretentious in
appearance, kind of like how the Verde Valley is to Sedona, Boulder to Denver and San Francisco to the South Bay. The quaint little
touristy towns have given way to more practical service development. The people also seem to be more friendly and 'normal', or rather,
less idealistic or dreamy. I'm not sure really how to describe the difference between here and Vermont but am certain there is. I do know
the state motto is 'Live free or die' as is imprinted on the their vehicle license plates.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 119  8/12/12
SP : Gorham, NH
EP: Bear Pond, ME
DM: 64
TM: 7,971

Finally an evening I don't have to be concerned with rain. Rain is good and I love it when at home, but when on the road, especially
camping, it is a pain in the backside. Today I was thinking about something that up until now I have neglected to write about, and that is
the appreciation I have for those of you who have kept in contact with me throughout this NEJ up until now. I really, really appreciate your
emails and messages of support. To know that I have someone who is following my travels and understands and, more important, lends
support to my efforts is the single most crucial aspect to success of this or any lengthy endeavor. I know who you are and you know I
know who you are.  So thanks again . For all others that may be taking some type of satisfaction from hearing about my trials, exploits,
mistakes, irritable moods and so on along this journey, please contact me in some form or other to let me know if you're out there. A
contribution to the FRAANK causes is not required. I just want to hear from you for my own sake. I love people, believe it or not, even
though I grumble all the time about them (I think that is just part of aging). I enjoy hearing their stories and being a part of their lives. Don't
worry, I'm not a freekazoid (I love that term) out trying to stalk innocent people. Just ask anyone who knows me (well not everyone).  I
think I'm just like everybody else, in search of answers about life, albeit in an unorthodox manner.
Anyways, this evenings camp is in a clear cut area(see picture 1 below) I'm assuming was destined to be a road when complete,
probably another wildcat housing development gone bust. It is about 50' in width and goes for about quarter mile off route 219 about a
couple miles east of Bear Pond and just north of Pleasant Pond. Obviously with all these bodies of water around me I am dealing with
the annoyance of bugs, but they really aren't that bad, at least compared to other times and places I've experienced over the years of
being outdoors at this time of year.  
Well I entered Maine today and like the change from Vermont to New Hampshire, this state is even a little more country and less rock n'
roll (or rather jazz) than the Granite State. I like it such because being the country bumpkin boy I naturally am, feel more at home. Folks
are around here are very friendly, almost like in Alaska, Montana, and the most the Midwest.
Well just as I was relaxing in preparation for an evening free of rainfall, the skies have grown darker and I feel the pressure dropping.
Yes I can feel it when the barometer pressure starts dropping and rain approaching. I'm not sure how, maybe some inner ear thing, but I
would bet soon it is going to rain. I better stop the writing for now and get ready for another evening of rain. Geez, all it does is rain
around here.
So I'm in my tent now and figured I would tap out a few more words on this instrument before retiring in to what I'm sure will be a deep
slumber tonight. One observation I've had of Maine so far are all the Golden Retrievers and labs that people have for dogs. I hardly ever
see any other dogs than them.(see pictures 2 & 3 below) I started taking pictures of some of dogs I see to send to my daughter who just
adores all animals, but especially dogs. The other thing about Maine I found out today while talking with a fellow outside a store where I
wanted to buy me a drink after hearing about my travels is that western Maine is the most mineral rich region of the country, thus the
abundance of mining in the Pine Tree state.
I'll try to dig up some more facts about the state tomorrow as I head in to the capital in Augusta, #22 of 50. For now it's lights out and
eyelids shut.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 120  8/13/12
SP : Bear Pond, ME
EP: New Glocester, ME
DM: 67
TM: 8,038

This evenings camp is nothing special. I am less than a football field east of US Route 202 and about 5 miles south of Lewiston, Maine
which was a congested stretched out little town of which it take me forever to get through. The traffic was backed up for miles in the
town itself and as I passed over the beautiful Lewiston Falls.(see picture 1 below) I just raced by all the standing cars on my old hobo
looking buggy pulling bike and I could just feel all the frustrated people sitting in their hot vehicles wallowing in envy at me (or at least
that's what I was imagining). Anyways, this campsite is another apparent wildcat subdivision gone bankrupt and which are  proving to
be pretty good campsites for the 50@50 SPT. There is unfortunately a lot of traffic noise from Hwy 202 and a barking dog not too far
away (dogs always know my presence no matter how quiet I am), but all in all it's not too bad. Now yesterday at this time I wrote that I
was content believing that no rain was coming for the evening, and within minutes of saying that a light storm moved in. And this evening
again it appears to be a dry one. Hallelujah, an evening without rain, if I'm lucky. If someone else were around I would sing a song and
dance around my bike, but seeing as I have no audience but the mosquitoes, I think I will just be content sitting on my old dilapidated
Coleman camp stool and peck out a few more words. I'll let you know tomorrow if the streak of consecutive days raining continues on
So the FRAANK promotional highlight of the day, indeed the month (and perhaps the trip), was my meeting today with the Governor of
Maine Paul Lepage and his Sr. Health policy advisor Katrin Teel.(see picture 2 below)

It was the first time (and possibly the only time, with the exception being Gov Parnell in Alaska) that I felt I had the full, undivided and
100% attention of my listeners. Gov Lepage(see pictures 3 & 4 below) is a former biker and due to several past encounters with
motorists decided to give up the recreational sport. Hopefully he will take it back up in the future as we need more people who recreate
as such in political office. I also believe that is the reason I was granted such an unusual meeting in terms of timing (I basically called
this morning asking for the meeting) and duration which must have been at least 20 minutes. In that period of time I was able to fully
describe what it was doing, answer questions, and most importantly explain why I was undertaking this NEJ (never ending journey). I
explained the dual purpose of the FRAANK causes (the awareness campaign dealing with childhood obesity and the fundraising
aspect [which is most important for me]). They both, the governor, his very friendly and personable staff member Katrin, (as well as the
photographer who was a young interesting fella with some humorous comebacks to my trip narrative) and myself were seated in the
state executive office at the wooden conference table long enough to seat an entire football team.  There were at least two dozen whole
body enveloping comfortable chairs upon which I plunked down my tired old scrawny frame of bones and dark, dried out mosquito
ravaged skin. If left alone in that room I could have took at least a three hour nap on that chair (and believe me the thought crossed my
mind while seated there). Anyone who knows me knows that when I am in discourse with them I give them my full undivided attention, or
I say excuse me, finish what I'm doing, and than go back to listening. It's the reason I can't talk and work at the same time. I also desire
reciprocation of such. I can't speak to someone who is not giving me their 100% attention. And today I had at least 20 minutes of
undivided attention, and appreciate it very much. For any of you from the Getaway State here whom I've met over the last few days and
may be reading this, thank you for all your hospitality and helpfulness of which I truly appreciate and never will forget. And, as I
discovered today, your current chief executive and his staff are not only good representatives of your state but just plain good caring
people whose benign interests for the state of Maine, and people in general, were on unmistakeable display. Governor Lepage and Ms
Katrin; thank you very much, not just for the respect you gave me but also for the concern you showed for the FRAANK causes as well
as it's beneficiaries and volunteers for whom I represent. This morning as I pedaled in to the town of Winthrop, about 10 miles west of
Augusta, I met and had breakfast with Stewart Smith, a citizen of the Pine Tree State here in the far northeast of this gigantic nation. He
graciously offered to buy my breakfast and I, as usual, thankfully accepted. Stewart and I had many interesting topics to discuss and
relate with to each other ranging from my adventures along the 50@50 trail to the majesty and grandness of Alaska, and even the
reasons why lobster prices are so down so much this year for the fisherman here in Maine.  But the most important thing we talked
about was the sad plight in America today of so many children being grossly overweight, mostly due to bad diet and lack of exercise.
Being a long time fisherman, Stewart said that he remembered well when the dams and lakes and rivers around the area here in south
central Maine were chalk full of kids fishing, but that anymore it was rare for him to see any kids out there. We both came to the
conclusion that indoor video games today have taken the place of being outdoors and getting the exercise needed to be physically and
mentally healthy. It's a sad commentary on America's youth today and one I hope to see reversed in the not too distant future before the
negative health effects really begin to adversely impact the lives of so many as well as the added pressure it will place on an already
overburdened medical system.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 121   8/14/12
SP : New Glocester, ME
EP: Stafford, NH
DM: 79
TM: 8,117

Well I'm back in the 'Be free or die' state. Yes a little ways back I crossed the border from Maine in to this nearly land locked state of
which we in the rest of country only know by as an early political primary state New Hampshire.(see picture 1 below) My camp tonight,
thankfully, is not on another housing boom gone bust development clearing, but rather next to a power line clearing that Jim and I are
quite accustomed to camping nearby, and which I have already camped several times this trip. Actually, I am not situated beneath the
lines themselves in the clearing, but rather underneath and within the tree line which parallels the power lines. I chose to camp here
because I've found out over the years that the trees give you protection not only from sun and rain, but from the humidity which will  dead
certain create conditions over the night equal to and even worse than rain. Trees and natural vegetation are like an added rainfly for
your tent and everything else. They take the above ground moisture and use it to nurture themselves along with the their offspring and
younger saplings that cling on to their elders through sharing root systems. It all benefits me as this dry arizona desert rat gets to stay a
little drier than if he were out in the clear cut area.
This dense forest in which I am camped reminds me a bit of the forest Snow White(see picture 2 below) finds herself when all the sights
and sounds are so frightening to her until she realizes that all the inhabitants were really her friends and there to help her. I can hear
raccoons, owls, deer darting through the bushes, something climbing in the trees (possums?) all around me. But the sound that
overtakes everything else is the nerve wrecking hummm of hundreds of mosquitos hovering just outside my thin mesh tent wall. It took till
mid August but the bug problem has finally arrived.
Not much in the mood for writing this evening so I think I'll just head in to my tent to avoid all these bugs and try to go to sleep early.
Tomorrow is Concord, #23.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 122   8/15/12
SP : Stafford, NH
EP: Tyngsborough, MA
DM: 71
TM: 8,188
Week 16      WM: 466  TM: 8,017     AVG. Per Day: 64.1-67 miles

I am at camp next to an old abandoned restaurant just across the border into Massachusetts(see picture 1 below) near a town called
TyngsboroughToday was a long tiring day, and I'm not sure why because nothing unusual from prior days happened to make it seem
so.  I'm thinking it's because I am feeling so tired and worn out with everything, it makes the day a long gruel to get through. I've had well
intentioned people ask why I don't take a day or two off to rest. My reply is that a day or two would do no good and may even make
matters worse. I am beyond the point of a day or two; I need at the very minimum a week or two, and preferably a month or two. That is
how wasted I feel at the present, 90% of which is in my mind (though I am experiencing some acute pain in both my knees, probably
from all the hills for over a week now since central NY). But the mind is everything, or nearly everything as far as I've found. I remember
my days as a triathlete when I would start training for the upcoming racing season in February for all the big summer races and by June,
or the latest July, being burned out and with a waning spirit to compete, just as all the big races were coming on. It seems the mind
(forget about the body) has a relatively small window it can perform at its maximum, and after which performance declines significantly.
Even when the body is at its peak, the mind shuts down and says "I need rest, and a lot of it" (perhaps it's the body speaking to the
mind). It's bizarre. How can the mind trump this body of mine, and that I've spent years honing, in to submission?  IDK, but it does.  It
always does this, but I'm privy to its tactics by now and will not allow it to win this battle. Just as when in N Dakota after the bees had
attacked me for my wanting nothing more than water and afterwards my screaming out in the middle of the endless dead vacant grassy
plains in a 'mad man' frame of mind and manner (day 60). Or the many occasions on this journey when I have cursed the wind for not
allowing me easy passage through its lands. Who am I to think that easy passage is a given? No way, no how. Perhaps part of the
reason I am feeling so let down this afternoon/evening is all the traffic and congestion I've had to deal with today as I enter this busy east
coast corridor. This stuff really saps my energy and brings down my spirit. Of course the continuous rainfall and humidity is starting to
wear on me as well. I think it has rained now at least part of the day and or night for at least a week straight. But I believe I can trump all
these negative feelings if I know my goal to raise funds and awareness towards the FRAANK causes is furthered towards its goal. It's
all that has and still does matter to me on this never ending journey.
Anyways, enough of me and my blues. Folks, I really like New Hampshire. I like its spirit and I like its physical characteristics with the
many open spaces and natural beauty. Of all the New England states this is the best as far as I'm concerned (even though nothing
productive was arranged officially with the state chief executive as I passed through there this morning). But NH has the spirit that most
states and it's people can only envy. There is no other state in the country that would put on its license plates 'Live Free, or Die'. There is
no sales tax here and as far as I have seen the least amount of law enforcement than in any other state, which says a lot in my opinion.
Most the people I've encountered seem to be regular old working folks who struggle like all of us with life's challenges and by nature are
independent and want to be left alone. I believe New Hampshire is an early political primary state because the citizenry here in this
small region are representative of America and its founding ideals.
I visited capital #23 today in Concord

and tomorrow will arrive in Boston for #24. I rested my bike against a statue of Daniel Webster directly in front of the granite steps
leading to the entrance and asked a grounds keeper to take shot of me in front of it.(see picture 2 below) The Concord capital was
marvelous. History rang out for me at every turn from the fact that it is nearly 200 years old to the actual civil war battle flags on display at
the entrance.(see picture 3 below) One thing most interesting to me was a painted mural of  Pickett's Charge at the battle of Gettysburg
150 years ago. It was painted about 20 years after the actual battle and replicates the field and scene of mass carnage and killing
about as well as any painting or sketch I've ever seen. Concord is also the first capital since I believe S Dakota where I was not forced
to be screened by security personnel and flushed through a metal detector. There was one security guard near the entrance with whom I
had a long friendly conversation. When I told him my plans to row to Hawaii next year he informed me that his uncle had been on the first
two man team to fly a plane from Oakland CA to Hawaii in 1927.Click on the link below to read the newspaper article written years ago.

While we were speaking I also met a couple from Washington state who were traveling also to all 50 US capitals, except taking a year
to do it and in a comfortable RV. Just by happenstance we were both at our 23rd capital. They had started before I did as well, in
March, and we were tied. Of course they have been taking their leisure time visiting friends, family and golfing while I've been frantically
pedaling like a madman non stop to finish the first 49 before the cold late fall and early winter sets in. Their names are Ron and Kathy
and their blog can be found at

Where's Romano in the U.S.A.

Day 123   8/16/12
SP : Tyngsborough, MA
EP: Dedham, MA
DM: 50
TM: 8,238

Another long tedious day spent navigating the congested urban and suburban streets of greater metropolitan Boston. I was feeling
again frustrated and irritable, just wanting to get to where I had to go and with little or no interference. Unfortunately with scores of traffic
signals, constant stream of vehicles flying by with little or no concern as to my presence, and a matrix of intertwining busy streets, roads
and backways the option to have a non interfering day of casual travel was nil.
But I made it out of the thick of things and now I am camped probably about 15-20 miles south of  downtown Boston just off of Hwy 1
and in back of a warehouse in a relatively quiet wooded area with tall grass and average height trees enveloping my presence. This
being an 'urban camp' there are naturally homes nearby and on occasion I can hear someone talking in their backyard or yelling for their
dog. The sounds from the highway are like distant white noise and I don't anticipate any problem sleeping from it.
So, I awoke this morning with the unnerving sight of at least a dozen long legged spiders directly above my head on the tent mesh fabric.

I watched them for about 10 minutes as it was still mostly dark outside and raining quite hard. They were doing some flamingo type
dance on the right above my head and for a while I was taken out of my dreaded reality (I hate mornings before coffee). The only reason
I can think why there were so many spiders is because they were seeking shelter from the rain which had been coming down all night
and had found a way to seep in through my tent walls getting most everything wet. What a terrible feeling it is for a dry arizona desert rat
to wake up and know that most all your stuff is either soaking wet or damp. On the east coast it rains a lot in summer and that's why it is
so green. In Arizona we don't get nearly as much rain and I've seen more of it here the last couple weeks than I usually do in a year at
home. Eventually it slowed down as I bored of the arachnid  show so I finally exited my tent and began my morning ritual of boiling water
for coffee and some hot cereal and trying to figure out how to pack with most everything wet. Eventually I did by tying everything already
wet on the outside of my trailer and got rolling. The rain really lightened up and continued only for a little while longer as the clouds gave
way to a beautiful day, finally.
The highlight of the day, if one can call it that, was my arrival to capital #24 along the 50@50 SPT, Boston Massachusetts. Lucky for me
there have been few state capitals that are located in major metropolitan areas as was this one. Really the only other two I can think of
were St Paul and Indianapolis. Most capitals are meant to be centrally located in a state so as to make it equal for state legislators
traveling from their districts to meet. I like that concept as it is democratic and equal in it's message as well as being practical. Boston,
though being center as far as north and south, is on the eastern side of the state so representatives from the west are forced to
commute a long ways.
Anyways, nothing special about the Massachusetts capital building; another gold domed structure like so many others except this one
was swallowed up by all the surrounding high rise buildings.(see picture 1 below) One thing I did take special notice of was the large
granite and bronze statue of renowned civil war stature Gen. Hooker on his horse next to which I parked my bike when I went in to the
capital.(see picture 2 below) I doubt many people ever take notice of the statue of the person in front of buildings but I certainly did and I
have a copy of his portrait in the kitchen at the restaurant. Hooker was the commanding general of the Union Army of the Potomoc
during their infamous romping at the Battle of Chancellorsville where Stonewall Jackson basically rolled up the Union lines and set them
on a humiliating skeddadle. Unfortunately for the confederacy though Stonewall was mortally wounded as nighttime approached by
friendly fire and Lee, with out his legendary lieutenant, subsequently decided to invade the north for the final time, ending up itself in the
carnage at Gettysburg, the high tide of the Confederacy. Many historians believe, and I as well, that if Lee had had his trusted lieutenant
at Gettysburg the outcome would have possibly been much different and the South may have indeed won its independence making us
two separate countries today.  Good thing for the country it didn't.
I did go to the governors office to see if they had any information on my arrival or the flag I had sent to them back in February to be
signed by the governor. I received a negative on both inquiries. It's so strange the way some governors offices are so organized and
helpful while others like Mass or NY are the opposite. The area around the capital was incredibly busy with double decker buses for
tourists and hundreds of people in every which direction. When I think of the difference between it and quiet Juneau it is remarkable,
speaking of which, how much I miss those quiet long days biking in BC. I consider this to be one of the most challenging parts of the
50@50 journey, getting through these close congested areas of urban nightmare. For someone from the open remote regions of the
western US this is really a shock to the senses. I've been back here numerous times so I was somewhat preparing myself mentally for
what was to come. But I would pity anyone from the open west traveling by bike through here for the first time.
After my brief stop at the capital building I rode on to the REI to exchange my tent for another hopefully waterproof unlike the one I had
picked up at the Indianapolis store a few weeks to replace the first one I had lost back in Topeka. It's all pretty frustrating and when you
already feel tired and burned out with only thoughts of finishing this never ending journey, having to replace tents every few weeks just
adds to my chagrin.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 124   8/17/12
SP : Dedham, MA
EP: Foxboro, MA
DM: 19
TM: 8,257

I awoke about an hour after falling asleep last night feeling terrible, as if my stomach was in my throat and aching all over. The only thing
I could think was it was a delayed effect from my lunch in Somerville on the northern outskirts of Boston where I had stuffed up on heavy
ribs and other goodies at a local restaurant. Well all those rich goodies I devoured weren't seeming so good last night as I tossed and
turned and moaned to relieve the pressure building in my esophagus. Having had food poisoning several times before I know there can
be a delayed reaction for up to 24 hours after consumption of the culprit and the symptoms can mimic very close to those of the
stomach flu. Several times I went outside and, standing on hands and knees on the wet cool grass, head hung over and looking at the
ground, I tried to make myself throw up, but it just wouldn't come (to throw up is very difficult for me and I hate doing it). I did that a half
dozen times throughout the night each time feeling a little better afterwards (probably the fresh air outside of the tent) only to wake up
again a few minutes later feeling the same. Now this morning I feel like I have a bad hangover and I am aching all over. My energy is so
low I'm having trouble moving and whatever toxic food I ate yesterday it is now manifesting itself through the bottom end. At least it's
passing through which I'm thankful for.  I doubt I will be eating anymore ribs for quite some time.
It's about 10am now and I just can't get moving today.

My legs have no strength and all I can think about is how I long to be home and resting on my own sofa in the living room. Right now I am
laying on the side of the road under the shade of a big Oak tree as it is really warm under the sun. I've only managed to pedal a mere 5
miles all morning. I'm considering getting a room for the day and just resting on the bed and watching TV, something I haven't done in
ages. I know this is giving in to my mind and allowing it to be in control of the situation rather than my spirit. My body has joined forces
for now with my mind and the two together have taken over the initiative here. I'm not sure what to do; perhaps find a quiet shady park
and grab a little rest for now. I haven't taken a day off since April and the beginning of this trip but am really feeling the necessity of such
now. For only the 2nd time all trip I took a couple ibuprofen, but they don't seem to be doing much good.
Now it's a little after 11 and I just cannot get going. I'm looking in to other options because it is apparent I  am not going to make it very
far today. I have found a Starbucks and am relaxing in a comfortable chair and charging my phone. The wind is from the south so it is
working against me as that is my direction of travel to Providence RI, about 25 miles distant and as usual through heavy traffic, the last
thing I want to ride in today.
So it's 1 pm and I'm already at camp. Not since back in mid April have I had even a partial day off. 115 days straight averaging 6 hours
pedaling and over 70 miles per day, and the emotions I feel right now are mixed. It's difficult to explain how I feel; partly relieved to be off
the bike and finally fully resting yet coupled with a sense of guilt and failure that I gave in to the powers at play; mainly my suffering body
and worn out mind. I know I am capable of going on further today but circumstances being what they are feel the prudent and wise thing
to do is get some rest this afternoon and hopefully a good nights sleep tonight, and then head out first thing in the morning for
Providence and then on to Hartford. If I had continued to try and pedal in to Providence, which is only about 20 miles south of my
location here in the Gilbert Hills state forest, I would not have arrived before 3 or later and then facing a headwind and feeling puny,
would have been forced to ride out of the busy downtown, at rush hour, in order to find somewhere to camp well beyond the city limits.
Hwy. 1 is about a half mile west of my location here and Gillette Field, where the New England patriots football team play, is about a
mile and half north on Hwy 1. I am tucked in a heavily wooded area with abundant tall Ash and Elm trees providing the perfect canopy
from the days intense sun. The forest ground is littered with leaves, branches and twigs from the trees providing the perfect bed for me
to sleep on tonight. It is quiet except for the distant sound coming from the highway which resembles somewhat the relaxing sound a
small brook. Other than that there is the sound of the tree tops moving about in the wind and the occasional chorus of the cicada bugs.
This is just the relaxing atmosphere I was so in need after 2 days of heavy traffic and city congestion, and a terrible 12 hours or so of
intense illness.
When I arrived here I set up my tent to escape the bugs and took a powerfully restful sleep. It was one of those naps that I couldn't fully
awaken from right away though I knew I didn't want to sleep too long seeing as I would probably go to sleep early tonight. This was the
first nap I have had since I left home four months ago and how good it felt. I'm feeling a bit better now though still somewhat puny and
weak. I had some yogurt with fruit at the Starbucks I stopped at earlier to rest and charge my phone battery and now I'm at least capable
of thinking of food without feeling the urge to throw up like last night and this morning.  My hope is tomorrow I will have most my energy
return so I can continue on with 50@50, as I so want to finish and be home again.
I decided to call the restaurant where I had eaten and explained to the office manager what happened, not wanting anyone to go through
what I did. I also told her that I was in the restaurant business and understood how negatively something like this could effect an
establishment if word were to get out. She was very understanding and apologetic and took my contact info promising to discuss it over
with the restaurant manager and would definitely take the charge off my credit card. I told I wasn't expecting that, that my only reason for
calling was to give her a heads up, but yes the reverse charge would be appreciated.
Around 5 I left my camp here and rode a couple miles back up Hwy 1 to see if I could find anything to eat, not necessarily because I was
hungry but thinking I would stand a better chance of recovering by tomorrow if I ate something tonight. There were a lot of stores around
the football complex, but none of the grocery type I was looking for. So I found a frozen yogurt place and had an ice cream while
recharging my phone battery (a never ending task). I watched some of the other guests all enjoying their snack and chatting about this
or that with each other. Although I've basically been in loner mode for a long time now, I was kind of hoping to have a conversation with
someone for once, probably due to the fact of this illness. I don't like going in to public places much these days because they do remind
me how much I miss family and friends. It's better to keep to myself and the project at hand rather than being around too many others. I
guess in that sense I'm probably not a very good spokesman for the FRAANK causes because if I were I would be trying to sell them
every opportunity I get.
Anyways, after the ice cream I stopped at a Dunken Donuts (they are everywhere here) on the way back to camp and bought a roast
beef sandwich for dinner that I had to somewhat force down. I sure am hoping to feel better in the morning.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 125   8/18/12
SP : Foxboro, MA
EP: Dayville, CT
DM: 60
TM: 8,317

It started raining again at some time during the night and now it is after 8am and still coming down good. I've ridden about 7-8 miles so
far and am now at a grocery store in N Attleboro having some coffee and a muffin. I still feel somewhat weak and mentally out of it, like
the day after a marathon, though not nearly as bad as yesterday morning. Good thing though is the southerly wind from yesterday has
abated, of course after bringing in tow all this rain. It seems as if all it ever does here is rain or be hot and muggy.
I had to get up several times last night to go to the bathroom, whatever little I ate yesterday seeming to find no impediment to exiting my
body. No need to go in to further detail regarding that, but hopefully what ever it is that is responsible for making me sick will pass
through me, and fast, as this exhausted feeling is not very conducive to my goal of biking 70 miles per day and finishing this arduous
journey before the fall snows entrap me somewhere in the Rockies or Sierra Nevada's.
Camp tonight is in another garage,though tonight I was granted full and legal access by its owner. After a near entire day of pedaling
through nonstop rain and aggravating traffic  it feels good to have cover, real shower, and good company for the evening.  Originally I
was going to camp in a wooded area near a boat launch along state Hwy 101 (the Hartford Pike) a few miles west of interstate 395 and
along the Quinebog river in the little town of Killingly. I went to a nearby house to ask for some water and the resident/owner, Dave, and I
got to talking for a bit. He offered his yard for me to camp for the evening and being pretty soaked still from head to toe after the long
days ride through the rain I heartily accepted. I made my bed for the night in his backhoe opened ended garage on a tall pile of fresh
wood shavings by just stretching my tarp and sleeping pad on top of the natural cozy box spring.(see picture 1 below) It looks to be the
most comfortable bed since leaving home four months ago. It is cool this evening after the storm finally blew out earlier this afternoon
and the skies have cleared. Dave and his wife Sue(see picture 2 below) invited me for a dinner of hamburgers and delicious french
fries, but not before cleaning up and taking a relaxing warm shower. They had an big, old, and loveable bull dog, Monster,(see pictures
3 & 4 below) that was the most personable funny dog I have seen in some time and he loved to have his butt scratched which he kept
inviting me to do so, and he had the tendency to lay in every which way he felt most comfortable. We watched an old movie together
with Kirk Douglas and Walter Matthau and talked about various topics before my eyes started growing real heavy from the long day, as
well as the last several difficult days. I excused myself and made my way for my cozy bed on the wood chip pile. Thank you very much
Dave and Sue and I hope to repay you some day for your kind, warm hospitality and for the donation you made to FRAANK. It was just
what the doctor ordered for me after a very difficult last few days.
Today I made it to Rhode Island, state #25(see picture 5 below) and to it's capital in Providence.(see picture 6 below)

Somehow I managed to bike over, unknowingly and unplanned, the highest point in the smallest state of the union,(see picture 7 below)
a whole 800' above sea level. And no, I didn't suffer from any symptoms of altitude sickness. I also rode out of Rhode Island and in to
Connecticut, state #26.(see picture 8 below) This was the first time, and probably the last, I was able to ride in to and out of a state in a
single day.  I also felt better than yesterday but still had some residual effects from the food poisoning on thursday. I'm thinking now that
the worst is done and that tomorrow I should be pretty much back to normal, at least that's my hope. There is still a lot of riding to do, like
close to 6000 miles more, so I really need to be healthy and get going as time is passing away rapidly. There are less than two weeks
left in August and five weeks till the first day of fall and, most importantly, two mountain passes to get through hopefully before the first
snows arrive.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 126   8/19/12
SP : Dayville, CT
EP: Hartford, CT
DM: 49
TM: 8,366

I often have folks ask me, "Where do you camp?" and my reply is always the same; anywhere. With GPS I can pretty much camp
anywhere, and do it in relatively nice, quiet and safe locations, even in or near major urban centers like this evening. If you can plug in
my gps coordinates on to your map you will see I am no more than a few miles south of downtown Hartford Connecticut in a municipal
compost and road material yard, sandwiched between cemeteries on either side that stretch for at least a mile in both directions. It may
seem strange and somewhat creepy to most, but I like to camp in cemeteries as they are, for obvious reasons, pretty quiet. And it is
totally quiet here except for the beautiful sounds of nature; crickets, birds, and the buzz from an occasional curious bee or two. Once in
a while there is a faint, non obtrusive roar of a loud motorcycle from highway 15 (the Berlin Turnpike) not more than a half mile east. But
all in all I feel comfortable, safe, and very relaxed here. And it's all due to gps. I had my LSTD (Last Stop of The Day) around 5pm after
passing by capital #26(see picture 1 below) of the 50@50 SPT (Self Powered Tour) here in Hartford around 4pm.

This was the latest I had arrived to a state capital building up to now, with the exception perhaps of Albany NY, and I was concerned
about getting out of the thick of things in order to find a suitable place to camp, like this. And here I am; camp on day # 126. I am
somewhat hidden behind an old asphalt paving machine that looks like it hasn't been used for years, just in the unlikely scenario the
local PD make a round through here at midnight on a Sunday. But yes, it is possible to camp almost anywhere with 21st century
technology (just don't pass on the secret to too many others before the authorities become privy to our tactics and chase us
Anyways, as you can probably tell I am feeling much better today after a couple days of misery. The toxic poisoning I picked up in
Boston from eating ribs and the accompanying side dishes I believe has mostly passed from my internal digestive system and as a
result my strength and spirit are returning to normal levels. Thank goodness!  That was an awfully difficult couple days I just went through
and what with the rainy, damp weather my natural inclination was to cry, catch a flight home, or be done somehow with this never ending
journey (or some combination thereof).
Today was yet again a very fortunate day for me. It started off early (by the way, I slept like a baby last night in the backhoe garage on
the bed of sweet smelling wood chips), around 6am and the rain was finally gone as the sun was appearing to assert it's dominate role
for earthly life, which is how an Arizonan sees the natural happenings of things. Then around 10am I was climbing a long steep hill
(central Connecticut is just like central NY; nothing but hills) and my rear tire popped like a large ballon from under me deflating my tire
instantaneously. Upon simple observation I noticed that the sidewall of my tire had given way, an apparent  tire defect, so I sat on the
roadside for a moment thinking about what the next course of action would be as I was without a spare tire (this is unusual to happen for
bikers. Flats are common and we carry tubes and patches to mend those but very rarely do tires give out like this, especially a new one
like this (I had bought it only a couple weeks ago a little north of Detroit). My first thought was to call an acquaintance I had been
introduced to recently from the Hartford area, Al, who was the brother of a sweet dear friend of mine back in the hood of Cornville
Loretta Grondin. Caring, professional, and well regarded in our local community, Loretta has taught all four of my children over the years
and when the name Ms Grondin is mentioned in my household there always follows a moment and word or two of deep gratitude. Well,
if the seed doesn't fall far the tree, then most seeds must be pretty similar. Such must be the case as without a moments hesitation, Al
insisted he come out and aid this unknown 'Monsieur in distress' call and before I knew it he was pulling up in his sleek red Honda (only
the second time my being in an automobile since leaving Juneau back in April) ready to take me to the nearest bike shop and help me
get back out on the road. Wow, that was fast! In the few moments between my call and his arrival I was actually thinking of attempting an
old technique I've used over the years for busted out tires (the ol' 'boot with a roadside discarded aluminum can and some duct tape)
and actually did when he drove up. With Al's advice I decided that the most prudent decision would be to find an open bike shop (not an
easy task it being a Sunday and most bike shops being closed) and get new tires, and thus the action we committed to doing. On a
Sunday, this wonderful person whom I had never met before and knew only through another, drove me at least 40 miles round trip all the
way to an REI in E Hartford (that was where I had bought the tire a couple weeks back and knew I could get it exchanged for a different
tire as well as it being the only bike shop open on a Sunday).  Unbelievable! How many times can this continue to keep happening to
me? How can I possibly repay all the generous and selfless acts of kindness that have been handed to me lately by individuals who
don't even know me? IDK.  Al, thank you so much.  I can't put in to words what you did for me today and how much it meant to me, a
person you had never met. And on a Sunday no less. All I can say is there is the biggest, most tastiest dish of lasagna waiting for you
pipping hot at Vince's when the next time you're in the 'Hood' (lingo for Cornville of course). Anyways, as if that bit of 'luck' was not
enough, along with Al comes a box sent from the teachers and children of Oak Creek School (our local school in the 'Greater' Cornville
community), filled with beautiful, warm hand written letters, games, colored drawings, brownies, and healthy snacks. The chocolate
brownies were prepared by the one of the most thoughtful, professional and good hearted school teachers (and part time brownie
maker) I have ever known in my brief half century of existence here on mondo terrestiale, Catherine Griefenberg. Like Mrs Grondin, Mrs
Griefenberg is and has been for years a school teacher favorite of mine, my kids and hundreds of other pupils and their parents. I feel
personally so fortunate to have had such wonderful people as the two of them in mine and my kids life. How do I ever repay such acts of
kindness? Again, IDK. One thing I do know is I will have a few pleasurable, and probably very amusing, upcoming nights in my tent
reading all the beautifully written, well thought out and personable cards and pictures from so many fantastic treasured children. What
would the world be to us with out such wondrous kids? Empty and meaningless I believe. Sometimes I think most everything we do in
life, directly or unknowing, is for children. And for good reason. They not only are our future but they bring us happiness that no other
material object or synthetic high can come close to. They bring us self fulfillment without which we feel alone, untethered, lacking in
existential purpose.
To all Oak Creek students, thanks to all of you who spent the time writing and drawing for my benefit. I haven't felt as good as I feel now
in weeks and perhaps months and I owe it to you. Expect me back soon and in the meantime don't forget to listen to your teacher at
school, obey your parents when you get home (also give them a big hug and an 'I love you'), do your homework, and then go outside
and have fun playing. Most important; give yourself time to dream, and make those dreams big. Believe in yourself. Don't ever listen to
anyone tell you can't do or be your dreams, but if you do, then prove them wrong. Because nobody can take away your dreams or tell
you can't do something. Hopes and dreams are yours for as long as you keep them and they are meaningful to you in life, even if you
feel they are all you have. And lastly, for all you basketball players who plan on playing this season, be honing your skills now as I plan on
having that whistle back in my mouth this year and ready to sound off if I see you take more than three steps without dribbling.  Take
care and I love you all.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 127   8/20/12
SP : Hartford, CT
EP: Hawleyville, CT
DM: 58
TM: 8,424

I can't recall a day with so much climbing as today since central NY, though everyday here in New England has had its fair share of hills
for my tired legs to push up and through.

It seems I'm either going up or coming down, kind of like a roller coaster except without the fun of sitting next to your friends or loved
ones in a little track bound car. No, there's not too much fun in any respect here in Amusement Land Connecticut. I think this has been
my least favorite state thus far, including Iowa and Kansas where it was so hot I could feel the blood vessels in my head thumping like,
well Thumper's foot. The people here in southern New England are not, in general, that friendly. In fact, up to this point, I think I had less
encounters with rude and hostile people throughout the whole four month long journey pedaling through nearly 30 states and two
Canadian provinces than I did just today.  Most people here seem very preoccupied with something or other (who knows what) and as a
result are incommunicado and thus unfriendly. They seem to be overly wrapped up in their orderly, important lives to take notice of
anything else outside of their simple little existence (maze box). I believe this is the first day along the SPT when someone did not
inquire, not even once, about my trip. And I passed by and or encountered literally hundreds, if not thousands, of people today.  It was
strange, and somewhat disheartening,  because I felt myself after a while becoming like them. I stopped waving to motorists or folks I
would see on the street. I started to become grouchy and irritable (Yes, even more so than lately) like the few with whom I did make
contact. I stopped making eye contact with people or if I did wouldn't smile or utter a friendly greeting like 'hello' or 'how are you'. I've had
people curse me for being on the road, run off the road, hit in the head with an empty plastic bottle (I had to laugh at that one because
whomever it was that threw it made a pretty good shot), thrown out of laundromat's (if there's time later I'll explain that one), and
overcharged for products. Now most the time we talk about whether a region has friendly people or not we mean that for every 10 we
encounter there is probably 1 or 2 who are not. But I would have to honestly say that here in southern New England, and I'm not
expecting things to change as I get in to New York and New Jersey, that for every person I came across that was friendly, there was at
least one, if not outright belligerent, certainly unapproachable. And like I said, the worrisome part is I feel myself becoming like them. I
can't wait to get out of this region of the country, including the upcoming states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and
even N Virginia. From past experience traveling through out this great land of ours, I'm not expecting the people to change until I'm deep
in the South, and even then it won't be nearly like Alaska, Montana, or the Midwest. One good thing I will admit though is that most the
roads have adequate shoulder space for me to pedal through, and for that I am very grateful considering the amount of traffic. But I'm
not sure how many times I repeated over to myself why anyone would choose to live here. I was expecting this region from S New
England to well south of N Virginia to be one of the most challenging of the SPT in terms of dealing with the amount, as well as type of,
people and it is meeting all my expectations.  
Anyways, my plan for now is to pass north of the most congested area of the country, save perhaps the LA corridor, through New York
and New Jersey and make my crossing of the Hudson River just north of Peekskill, NY. From there I will head toward Trenton missing
most of the NY-Philadelphia chaos. If I could ride the interstate here it would make things so much simpler, easier, and safer for me. But
unfortunately bikes are not allowed and, for the reasons above mentioned, I cannot understand.
So tonight's camp is one I haven't had for a while, and if it were raining, like it does so much here, would be a diamond in the rye. This is
an old dilapidated office, or living quarters, adjoining a garage which is in back of what appears to be a row of small apartments or
even one long house.(see picture 1 below) I am right along US route 6 just south of Interstate 84 and perhaps 3 or 4 miles southwest of
the town of Hawleyville (through which I did not pass). The highway is a half a football field away and with the sad state of condition of
this structure it seems like the passing vehicles are practically coming right through my living quarters. Oh well, I have a dry roof over my
head (well, mostly over as part of the roof is caving in and a big tree coming through) and most important peace and solitude. The smell
is musty mixed with the enjoyable odors of wet earth from all the rain. It appears one collapsing interior wall had exposed some
asbestos leading me to understand the reason for condemnation of this otherwise well built and at one time seemingly well maintained  
piece of property. My bed for the evening, which I have already prepared, consists of a couple of solid core finely finished interior doors
I found in the garage and resting on top of two unused rolls of torch down fiberglass roofing material. I'm high enough off the the cracked
linoleum floor so Topolino  (Italian for Mickey Mouse) cannot try and come bed down with me for the evening. So I'm content as can be
A couple days ago when I was leaving Dave and Sue's home where I had slept on an unbelievably comfortable bed of fresh wood
chips, I had stopped at a clean, well built and managed coffee/donut store for my usual morning donut, or two, fix. This is also my
moment to edit the previous days journal which I peck out the night before, as well as allow my phone battery to recharge (my phone is
my journal pad and just about everything else for me, with of course a few exceptions). Anyways, before I left the shop I slipped in to
their restroom to relieve myself, during which I glanced to my left and noticed a poster of a beautiful scene of a lone kayaker in the
middle of a breathtaking glass surfaced lake surrounded by islands of rock and topped with pine trees. There was a quote on the
bottom which I read while in the act of evacuating my bladder (Yes, it takes a while for me these days), and of which at that time I didn't
really take much notice (must have had too much on my mind just like all the people I complain about here). Later on while riding the hills
here in New England I started to think about what I had read and how it really resonated with me at this time in my life and especially
with what I am doing. I looked up the shop on my phone from the google directory and called them to ask if someone would be kind
enough (yes, I have also come across some of the nicest folks of the journey here in Connecticut) to take a picture of the poster,
specifically the inscription on the bottom, and send it to me. And they did. It deals with character and here is what it said:

"The Essence of Character-
Your true character is revealed by the clarity of your convictions, the choices you make and the promises you keep. Hold strongly to your
principals and refuse to follow the currents of convenience. What you say and do defines who you are, and who you are

Well I suppose some may say 'well, good advice for a teenager'. But I doubt most teens, even 20 or 30 something's, can even begin to
understand the depth of what is meant in those words by whomever wrote them. 'Clarity of convictions' or refusing to follow 'the currents
of convenience'.  'Who you are forever.' These are lines that can't be fully grasped by most teenagers at a heart felt level. Even
most adults I believe can't appreciate the eternal wisdom in them. Anyways, I thought it was interesting and when I get home plan on
finding that poster to hang up in the Mens bathroom at Vince's (ladies, if you think I'm being Neanderthal than please tell me and I'll
order a second for the ladies room).

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 128   8/21/12
SP : Hawleyville, CT
EP: Mahwah, NJ
DM: 79
TM: 8,503

Around 1pm today I made the crossing of the Hudson River across the Bear Mountain Bridge(see pictures 1 & 2 below) a few miles
north of Peekskill and thus brought a formal end to the 50@50 SPT through New England. This is a pretty big milestone for me and the
tour as now I am roughly 60% complete in terms of mileage and time and psychologically on my way back home. Though Augusta
Maine may not have been in physical terms farther from Cornville Arizona than Jakes Junction Alaska, at least I know now that with New
England behind me every mile (for the most part) is one more mile closer to home, even though there still remains 5000 of them to
pedal.  A couple days ago a well meaning friend told me I had 'broken the back of the journey' since surpassing the half way point and
coming through that the difficult time I had last week. But I'm not so sure, and for two reasons; first there still remains a long ways to go,
and second it implies that I am in total control of this never ending journey for which I neither desire nor feel prepared for the
responsibility that such a task would require. If one can call that faith in some intervention of a higher power, consciousness or presence
of divinity than so be it as I feel more comfortable when my ego is in check and being a bit god fearing. Fear, I believe, can be a good
and bad thing because by triggering the old fight or flight response it either forces us to freeze your resorces in preparation for that
which we must battle or flee the challenge all together. But if we choose to take on the adversary, the worst thing is to allow fear to be an
immobilizing factor; better to surrender and give up the fight in the hope for another day.
Now on deck are the Mid Atlantic states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and of course DC. Then it's on to the South.
I break up these regions of the country because it helps me mentally to know waypoints, or spots on the trail that keep me focused and
on track to my final destination, which for this 2nd part of the 50@50 SPT is Phoenix Arizona. I have visualizations sometimes while
riding of that last pedal stroke before coasting, gently touching my brakes and then removing my feet from the pedal clips for the last
time and placing them on the ground, straddling the top tube of my bike for a moment or two before dismounting this two wheeled
companion that up until now has served me with the distinction reserved only for a longtime trustworthy animate object.  That's it! Done!
No more biking, at least for now (I still have to pedal to the west coast for the row next year).  Oh how wonderful it will be to get off my
bike for that last time and not worry about getting my 70 miles in, battling with traffic or where I will camp for the night. To hug my wife
and kids and then to just sit in an automobile and allow a fossil fuel powered internal combustion engine to take me home. Home, sweet
home!  But for now I am only 60% complete and can't get too caught up in such fantasies. I must stay focused as any precarious
moment, of which I encounter dozens every day, could be my last. I want to take that last pedal stroke, but for now I have to keep it in the
back of my mind, perhaps in my tent while laying on my sleeping pad or at my morning donut stop when I edit the prior days blog.
I entered New York from Connecticut just before Brewster NY along US route 6. NY is only the third state I've had to cross to get to
another capital (the others being Illinois very briefly and New Hampshire), this one being New Jersey. It is also the first time I've entered
a state for the 2nd time after already visiting its capital (Albany). I had to cross over Bear Mountain after crossing the Hudson River and
at that point was only a few miles south of the US military academy at West Point (somewhere I've longed to visit for quite a while). The
Bear Mountain Bridge is near the tiny hamlet of Fort Montgomery, ancestor of the original fort built by the Continental army during the
revolutionary war to keep the Brits from taking control of the Hudson and thus splitting the new rebellious nation in half. The
revolutionaries stretched a large chain across the river there to try to keep the British from ascending the strategic waterway. It failed  in
its purpose as the Brits simply bombarded the fort from ships with their big guns, as was met with a similar fate a second fort a little
further north at West Point.
Tonight's camp is in a forest carpeted with thick underbrush and high canopy trees. Ramapo college here in northern New Jersey is a
couple miles north and the river responsible for it's naming is only a few yards away. I believe this is land owned by the local municipality
as there is a water pump housed in an above ground concrete structure close by and the area was fenced off (I just scooted right
around the loose, lazy impediment to entrance). I feel good here and hope to have a well rested deep sleep tonight. I have fallen behind
nearly 100 miles from my scheduled 500 mile weekly average after last weeks tough New England terrain, wet weather and food based
illness. My hope is to make it up over the next couple weeks.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 129   8/22/12
SP : Mahwah, NJ
EP: Morrisville, PA
DM: 90
TM: 8,593
Week 17      WM: 386 TM: 8,403     AVG. Per Day: 55.1-70.6 miles

As can be told from the amount of mileage I rode today I have left the hills and mountainettes of New England. Hallelujah!  But only fools
rush to quick judgement and I have no desire to be labeled as such, at least yet. Pennsylvania is on deck and this evening I plan to rest
my tired body within the boundaries of her domain. Tomorrow I will begin the first day of my assault upon the Keystone states capital
house in Harrisburg and I'm certain that the dreaded hills I have cursed a million times thus far will be waiting for me in anticipation to
see if they will be the forbidding obstacle to break my will or at least cause me enough grief to hate life for a while. Again I will be
traveling in an east-west direction, against the grain in a region where the hills run north/east-southwest. This is the same predicament
I've found myself in for a while now and been frustrated by the inability to find a direct route to my destination. If you have been reading
this blog you'll know that this actually started in Ontario when first my frustration began at the lack of roads that went N-S-E-W and rather
were all oriented in NE-SW-SE-NW direction. It drives me crazy as all I want to do is go west from my current location but there are no
roads that travel in that direction, thus I am forced to do the Texas Two Step again; a half step back for every one forward. For someone
from the West or Midwest it is very disorienting as well as nerve wrecking. In Ontario the layout of roads was due to the fact that the
'land between the lakes' was surveyed as such to make sense of the direction of the land between major waters and to accommodate
the farmer. Here though in Pennsylvania, I suppose, it is due to the Appalachian mountainettes that run NE-SW.  I know tomorrow I am
in for a heck of a day and that mileage will probably be considerably less. If it were just possible to ride the interstate freeway it would
make this trek through here so much faster, easier and even safer than negotiating all these small congested roads that go in every
which direction. The good thing I'm hoping though is that after I do reach Harrisburg my direction will change to SE as I head to Dover,
Delaware, meaning the strange road layout will have a negligible effect.
I made it to capital # 27 in Trenton New Jersey late this afternoon.

I wasn't planning on making it that far today but it's just the way things worked out, and I'm glad of it. Now tomorrow morning  I can just
start pedaling westward toward Harrisburg without spending time and energy getting through the capital of Garden State. The building
was less than spectacular, in fact I had a really hard time trying to find it amongst all the other old buildings and structures that
surrounded it. It is practically on the Delaware River that divides the state from Pennsylvania(see picture 1 below) and only a few miles
down that river from the hamlet of Washington's Crossing, the site of the most revered river crossing in American history. Next door to
the capital was the old barracks house where the British and their paid mercenary soldiers of Germanic decent, the Hessians, where
housed after capture by Washington's forces in the mid winter raid of 1777.
Tonight's camp is only a few miles west of the Delaware River which I crossed today

and the Pennsylvania border town of Morrisville in a small forested area and next to a tiny flowing brook. Homes are, as usual,
surrounding me in all directions but I remain out of sight of them and it is peaceful and relatively quiet underneath the high canopied
trees and light underbrush. A couple fawn deer(see picture 2 below) were foraging through the tall grass on the opposite side of the
brook just before sunset a little while ago and stopped just long enough to pose for a picture, then hopped on off in to the thick brush
surrounding this little open area.
Today my goal was simply to ride a lot and make up some lost time and mileage from last week, and as such I succeeded. I was in the
saddle over 7 hours and made up 20 miles. Tomorrow I expect to do the same and I won't reach Harrisburg until Friday.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 130  8/23/12
SP : Morrisville, PA
EP: Morgantown, PA
DM: 73
TM: 8,666

Jimmy Buffet wrote a song entitled 'Changes in latitude, changes in attitude' and it came to mind as I ventured westward towards south
central Pennsylvania today and began encountering people far friendlier than those along the busy eastern Atlantic corridor. Perhaps he
should have worded it 'changes in longitude, changes in attitude', as my disposition and outlook has improved greatly since a couple
days ago. I've figured out it is not so much the region of the country responsible for the behaviors of people toward others as it is the
physical make up of that region (urban, suburban, or rural). It seems the less crowded and more open or rural the country, the friendlier
are it's occupants. I don't believe people were meant to be bottled up in close quarters, constantly surrounded by others and
bombarded with mass marketing by the engines of commerce. It makes us in to lonely and isolated zombies disconnected from life and
most it's going-ons, even though constantly surrounded by people and happenings. Most city people aren't even aware of their
entrapping because everyone else around them is the same; it's just life as they are accustomed to knowing it. Nature and open spaces
of country bring us back to our real self, allowing us to breath a huge sigh of relief and become centered and back in the moment. At
least it does for me. If forced to live in a city I would make sure there were a lot of parks and open spaces around me in order to
maintain some sense of sanity. Today I was talking with a fellow at a McDonald's I stopped at to fill up my water bottles and he asked
me the question I've been asked a million times already; where do you sleep/camp. When I told him he said "No, that camping stuff ain't
for me. I'm scared of those creatures out there in the wild." I replied that for me there was only one of Gods creatures that I fear and
that's the 'two legged variety.' At any rate, it does feel nice to be out in the country  now and at least for a while away from all that hustle
and bustle to the east. I know I'll have to return soon here but for now this break is appreciated.
Which brings me to my location for the evening. I am in another cornfield.(see picture 1 below) I haven't camped in one of these for
weeks, since leaving the Midwest I believe. And the corn here is looking a lot better than that which I saw in the Midwest over a month
ago. This corn is tall and healthy looking with long ears attached to the thick stalks and long, wide green hanging leaves below a
Christmas tree like star ornament topping its peak. Contrasting this to the dry stunted stuff I saw in the Midwest is almost laughable. But
here there has been rain, and a lot of it. The ground here is moist and rich, probably has been all summer, quite different from the dry
cracked earth a thousand miles to the west. An added feature about tonight's camp is I can hear the clopping from the horses hooves
along the highway just a football field away to the north from the Amish carriages passing by.

It is almost as relaxing a melodic sound as the whistle of a far off passing train or the operatic song of a mourning dove delivered at
sunset, but not as quite. By the way, it is Hwy 23 that I have been following since this afternoon and I plan to stay with until Harrisburg.
I stopped at a local pizzeria today in a town titled none other than Phoenixville. One finds few franchised pizza establishments here
(Pizza Hut, Caesar's, Domino's) and for the probable reason that they would not be patronized what with all the small, independently
owned real-tasting pizza shops on practically every corner. Alfredo's (see picture 2 below)was a typical east coast pizza place that had
everything from the delectable Italian pie to sandwiches, subs (grinders out here) and all very reasonably priced. In fact the prices were
so low I can't quite figure out how a profit was being made. I paid less than $8 for a large 16" pizza and coke. And it was good, like
most pizza back east here. Well I'm not complaining and all the people who were working in there were friendly. I told them I would blog
about their establishment tonight so I'm keeping my promise. Great job to all those at Alfredo's in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.  
Practically all day I was encountering friendly folks wanting to find out about my adventure and once in a while offering me free goodies
as was the case when I stopped in the midst of a long climb out of the 'Phoenixville Valley' (that name is funny for me being from
Arizona). A friendly lady with her three young children(see picture 3 below) were on the side of the road huddling together to avoid the
hot mid afternoon sun under a large umbrella and backed against an older cargo van. They were selling a small assortment of fruits
(mainly delicious peaches and apples) and a few vegetables. I only wanted and asked for one peach and an apple and she gave them
to me while offering more to me if I wanted, of course free of charge. I feel guilty when others give me something for nothing (a serious
fault of mine) so I handed her kids a couple bucks and told them to buy a few pieces of gum, not knowing how much a piece of gum is
today (it was a penny when I was little, and darn was it good). We talked about this and that for a few minutes, she mentioning that
school started for her kids the day after labor day, which is how I remember it as a kid, and was quite surprised to hear that my daughter
was already back to school and had been for a couple weeks already. Her gesture of generosity and friendly disposition was a needed
antidote to the last few days I had had in southern Connetticut and eastern Pennsylvania.
I also rode on the beautiful Schuylkill River bike path,(see pictures 4, 5 & 6 below) a converted railroad bed, for about 10 miles and
terminated, for me, at Valley Forge, sight of the dreadful 1777-78 winter camp of Gen. Washington's weary Continental Army where
hundreds died of starvation, disease, and exposure to the cruel winter elements. Along the way I was greeted with smiles and waves
from happy recreating bikers and walkers while pedaling underneath the giant canopy of tall green trees lining the smooth asphalt
topped trail. One group of club bikers(see picture 7 below) stopped to chat for a while and when I told them about my journey asked to
take a picture and get the website address from me. Of course I was honored with their interest in my travels and causes and willingly
My LSTD (Last Stop of The Day) was in Morgantown and just out of town I stopped at a small home on the side of the road, which I
didn't find out till a little later was a newly opened consignment store.(see picture 8 below) I had seen a couple of preteen boys (my
favorite age with kids as they are old enough to do all the fun things like biking and hiking, yet still young enough to be appreciative of
doing them with you) moving some furniture around in the back yard. I asked if they knew of any water spigots around the house with
which I could fill my bottles for the evenings shower at camp, coming up shortly it being almost 6pm. Their mother came out of a back
storage shed and told me there were no working outdoor faucets but that one of her boys would feel obliged to fill my bottles from the
bathtub, which one did while the other fetched me, without asking me or his mother, a cold bottle of drinking water. I don't know many
kids today who would have done such a thing without being asked to and I was immediately impressed with his caring initiative.
Thomas, Jack, their mother Melynda and I talked for about 20 minutes about my journey and her just opening the new shop, in front of
which we took a picture(see picture 9 below) before I moved on down the road to find the evenings camp. And once again for the day I
pedaled on down the road, inspired by the kindness of complete strangers, to continue on with this journey in a more positive frame of
mind, and also to be reminded that all it takes are simple acts of friendliness, even if just a smile and brief eye contact, to help others
along their journey in whatever form it may take.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 131   8/24/12
SP : Morgantown, PA
EP: Middletown, PA
DM: 72
TM: 8,738

Tonight's camp ranks amongst the best thus far on the 50@50 SPT. I am on top of a small rocky outcropping on the bend of a tiny clear
flowing brook that within only a few hundred feet empties in to the Swatara creek(see picture 1 below) (a sizeable river by western
standards) which in itself meets up with the Susquehanna River only a mile or so to the south. I am perhaps a couple hundred yards
south of  state hwy 230 (Harrisburg Pike) and just off a recently harvested field of some type of crop, or perhaps just straw. High
canopied trees line this little brook and thus provide ample shade for this tired old sun drenched biker from the still intense August rays
of afternoon sun here in south central Pennsylvania. The highway is again far enough away that only a distant growl and rumble from its
passing trucks, cars and motorcycles can be heard, most of which is drowned out by the loud shrill droning noise from the overhead
cicada bugs. There is just a hint of background chorus from the waters sliding past a group of small rocks a few feet away, and one in
which I'm sure as the night grows and the loud overbearing sounds of daytime abate, will increase in intensity ever so much and
allowing me a relaxing sound to fall in to deep slumber.
So, capital #28, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania was tagged today and with it the last of the states to visit north of the old Mason/Dixon line
separating north and south, antebellum slave states from non slavery 150 years ago.

The capital building, inside and out, and its surrounding government structures were enormous, grandly adorned and meticulously
decorated.(see picture 2 below) My first impression as I arrived was similar to that of when visiting the Vatican in Rome. There were
fountains, piazzas, cobblestone walkways and statues everywhere depicting the 'keystone' role Pennsylvania has played throughout the
history of the nation. As had been the case with the last several capitals, I got there late in the day and was in a hurry to get out of the
downtown area ASAP. I spoke for a few moments with the governor's receptionist (the governor was on vacation, of all places, Alaska
on a kayaking adventure) and explained to her my mission/challenge and a left a FRAANK brochure to give to the Governor when he
returns. We took a quick picture together(see picture 3 below) and I was off on my way to Dover Delaware, #29. The town of Harrisburg
and its old rusty industrial sister city to the south, Steelton (a town that seemed was right out of the movie The Deer Hunter) were less
than impressive, though basically all I did was ride in and ride out as fast I could, not taking any time to actually visit anything else
(modus operandi for most capital cities on this trip) .  
About 40 miles southwest of Harrisburg is the town of Gettysburg, site of the most bloody, and decisive battle on American soil, and
arguably, in the history of all mankind. The battle of Gettysburg was fought on the first three days of July 1863  and on the 4th both sides
paused to lick their wounds and take council on how to proceed. The evening of the 4th, under cover of darkness, Confederate
commanding General Robert E Lee pulled out his Army of N Virginia and retreated back to Virginia.  Over 150,000 Americans faced
each other in the three day carnage and 50,000 of them became casualties of the battle, the most ever of any American military
engagement. Historians refer to the battle as the 'high tide of the Confederacy' on those blood bathed fields, ridges and hills near the
tiny crossroads town of Gettysburg. The pivotal point of the war was the battle of Gettysburg and the fate of America as we know it
today may have been quite well in the balance had circumstances been slightly different and General Lee been able to breach the
Union defenses, opening a path all the way to Washington DC and thus forcing Lincoln to negotiate terms with the rebellious breakaway
Southern nation. Any American who does not study the civil war and understand its causes and implications, does not understand
America, its ideals and the people who represent them; you and I. Lincoln's 270 word address there a few months after the battle to
commemorate the dead and dedicate the cemetery for them was the ultimate summation of this great nation of ours, the war fought for
it's survival and the people who were engaged in it. I believe all school kids should put to memory those 270 words.
I have been to the battlefield on two different occasions and thoroughly enjoyed and enriched myself both times. The first time I spent
two days there visiting all the sights and museums and, of course, camping on the battlefield (please no one tell the park service). My
camp was in a tall grouping of trees just aside the field where Gen Pickett led, with Lee's profound doubt but permission, the most
incredible march in to battle by a force of nearly 15,000 gray and butternut clad infantryman. Against insurmountable odds they
marched, in Napoleon era rank and file, across a cornfield and up a ridge and in to a hailstorm of cannon and small arms fire coming
from the formidable Union lines atop Seminary Ridge nearly a mile away. Oh but to had been a robin then, perched high in the trees,
and to had witnessed such an incredible spectacle. Yes, what a grand yet remorseful sight it must have been seeing brother against
brother slaughter each other for a cause in which both sides believed that they, and the God they thought was on their side, was in the
right and carrying on the ideals of the American founding fathers. Pickett's Charge, I recommend you look it up on Wikipedia, if short on
time, and if not read one of the many books that have been written of the battle and on the war itself if you have any interest in this
integral piece of US history. My recommendation is the three volume anthology by Shelby Foote, a thorough account of the entire war
narrated by one of the wars most empirical writers and storytellers.

Day 132   8/25/12
SP : Middletown, PA
EP: North East, MD
DM: 72
TM: 8,810

This evening I bed down beneath the grey Maryland skies. Yes I made it to the Old Line State today(see picture 1 below) and the skies
have been overcast all day. I am just over the border from Pennsylvania about 15 miles a mile or so north of North East MD which is at
the very northern end of the Chesapeake Bay.  Hwy  272 is only about half a football field west of my camp tonight which is a dense
forest with abundant vegetation and tall trees to provide some cover if it decides to rain this evening. A Holiday  Inn is across the road
from me and it was looking mighty tempting as I pushed my bike through the roadside brush, tall grass and vines in this hidden forest.
Whether or not I 'Should have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express' is mute now as I battle with the ants, spiders, mosquitoes and other flying
The nickname for this borderline north-south state was reportedly given to it by Gen. George Washington himself as he often referred to
the courageous Marylanders of the Continental Army during the revolutionary war when they would 'hold the line or be damned'. I think
that is pretty neat as not many states can claim to have a nickname given to them from no other than the father of our nation. Maryland is
also the birthplace of my wonderful and most special mother,  who by happenstance, just turned 89 today. Back in BC I wrote a little
history of Mom, Audrey, and rather than writing another one over again, I will simply copy/paste what I wrote then at the end of this days
So, I am so glad to be out of Pennsylvania and all those continuously nasty, steep hills. Today all I did was climb one hill after another,
and facing a southeasterly wind of 10-15 mph. Fortunately though I believe for now that I have left the 'Mountainettes' as I head south
down in to the Chesapeake Bay / DC region, and they will not be sorely missed. I am so tired right now that all I can think about is lying
my head down on my pillow sack of clothes and my 1/2" air pad and going to sleep. But it is still too early and other nightly rituals remain
like finishing this diary, showering, and eating the egg salad sandwich I bought for dinner back a couple towns ago. My pre-dinner treat
is a bag of pretzels and dessert a hostess apple pie. Hard to get excited about any of this anymore. I know I've said this before, and will
probably say it again, but I am so tired of this never ending journey. I long so deeply right now to be home with my loving and caring wife,
beautiful kids, trustworthy friends, old sensitive golden lab dog, funny fat cat, old raggedy couch, blown out but comfy slippers, hard bed,
house in need of a million repairs and shoe-string run family business. I'm sorry if this is beginning to sound like a broken record, but it's
how I am feeling and writing about it helps, especially during the evening when I'm alone and there's no one with whom to talk (except
this annoying spider that won't leave me alone and keeps trying to crawl up my leg). But to think I still have 5000 more miles to pedal is
almost too much to process right now without going in to a negative state of mind, even with that mind as tempered as it now after being
months alone on the road.
Anyways, camp tonight is in a beautiful green treed forest with a high canopy of branches and leaves to shelter me from the impending
rain storm I know is coming. I have complete solitude and peace of mind here. The one setback, and it is a big one is Hwy 272, the
highway I've been taking for most the day, is less than a football field away and the loud sound from passing vehicles is driving me
'pazzo'.  Oh well, perfection is only a fabrication of an imperfect mind. I will adapt to the obtrusive loud sound of passing vehicles
(perhaps with earplugs) as my mind ventures off in to the next idealistic scenario, like lying on my own bed in my own home.  
Anyways, the evenings are getting shorter and I will close for now to get on with my evenings rituals. The following is what I wrote about
my mother on May 16, day 31. I had been thinking about her a lot that day and figured I would put a few of my thoughts down on to paper
(or in this case electronic file). Here is what I wrote:

"Been thinking about my mother all day. She's 89 in August and her health is, typically for a 90 year old, not so good. I don't get around
to seeing her much anymore (she lives in Sacramento with my brother Rico) and I'm not sure how I will react when it comes her time to
go. I wish I could talk to her again in a meaningful conversation (she has pretty severe dementia), it has been a while. For all her
setbacks and faults (who doesn't have a bunch?) she was kind, generous, thoughtful, and obsessively honest. She once drove a 20
year old Dodge Dart (at night often sleeping in the back seat in rest areas because she couldn't afford to get a room, thus making it
pretty clear from whom I picked up my infatuation with the hobo lifestyle) clear across country to Georgia (I can just picture her driving
Interstate 10 through hot, muggy Texas with the windows rolled down and having the time of her life while singing to Dean Martin and Jo
Stafford on the 8-track stereo my brother had installed). Her primary purpose for such an epic trip alone and in such style; to settle up a
$40/40 year old unpaid dentist bill she had made when living there briefly in her early 20's. The dentist was long gone dead so she
made his son (I can't imagine what must he must have been thinking) take the $40 his place (Honest AB, initials of her maiden name
Audrey Bolton, was her nickname as a kid). She was simply an amazing lady in general. Tough as barb wire yet with a hidden softness
that, sad to say, only a child of hers knows intimately. Born from stout German ancestry (my father was Italian) she went through so much
in her life, like so many of her generation; the depression, WW II, a relatively early passing of her only real parent (and friend/confidant
for that matter); her mother (Her father had abandoned her and her mother before she was born).  After the passing of her mother she
went Hollywood looking to break in to show business as a singer (she had a wonderful voice and how many fond memories I have
listening to her sing along to all the 45's on the old Magnavox). She gave birth to and raised almost single handedly five big energetic
strong headed boys instilling in them the values she felt (and I today as well) important. She endured for many years in a disfunctionate
and sometimes abusive marriage (mainly for the children and financial reasons) to a husband who indulged in many of life's vices and
came from a different culture. Unfortunately she was born with genetic abnormalities that would not manifest their symptoms until later in
life, and eventually force her to the psychiatric ward of the State hospital (I was only six at the time and remember vividly visiting her
there). How hard it must have been for her at that time knowing she had five school age children needing her yet unable to be there for
them and, worse yet, knowing that there was nobody to look out after them (Pop was miles away running the business and going
through difficult times himself. Had something similar happened today I'm sure we all [my brothers and I] would have been taken away
and put in foster care). She lived through so much (I talk like she's already gone but anybody with a parent living with Alzheimer's or
severe dementia knows what I mean).  I remember her responding to me when I was a young smart mouth punk of the infamous
teenage years and knew everything there was to know about life, "Wait till you walk a mile in my shoes son and then tell me you have
the answer". Mom, after all I've seen and experienced in life I don't think I've walked a few feet compared to what you have gone through.
I also remember once a long time ago when I was in college (we were living in a small one bedroom apartment in the Bay Area at the
time) and taking her backpacking to Pt Reyes St Park north of San Francisco. We hiked several miles in toward the cold foggy, but
gorgeous, coastline and had a cold dinner (there were no fires allowed in the park) eating something out of a bag . I pitched the $10
drugstore tent I had at the time and we lied awake for hours as she recounted the things she had done and seen in her lifetime. The next
day we hiked down to the coast and looked at the sea lions, and spent another cold damp night out in my cheap little tent, before
heading  back out the next day and on home. She had such a good time on that short outing and it meant so much to her. She talked
about it for years wanting, I know now, to do it again. I never thought at that time (I was still young and self conscious about myself and
what others might think about my going backpacking with my mother alone "What's wrong Can't find anyone else to go with but your
mother") that that little excursion would now mean so much to me as well and only wish I could do it once more. I guess a lot of things
that happen in life (and people we meet or know for that matter) are like that. It's sometimes difficult to grasp the meaning or
significance of an event, or person, till much later on in life, and often when it's too late. But I'm thankful for the times I did have with her,
having had known people who lost or never having had a mother around growing up with whom to spend such meaningful experiences.
I'm a believer that no one in life will know you better than your parents (assuming they were around to raise you), not even your spouse
or partner of many years, as they remember you when you were naked, not just in the literal sense, but without all our masks and
defenses we throw up around ourselves as we go bumping and bouncing our way through life. Mom once told me I had a lot of
perseverance, and I hope she was right as I believe a lot of resolve is what's going to be needed to finish this thing I've set out to do.
Mom, be well and I can't wait to see you when I get to Sacramento, my last land based capital."

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 133  8/26/12
SP : North East, MD
EP: Centreville, MD
DM: 90
TM: 8,900

Unless you've ever ridden a bike through the pouring rain and been soaked through to the bone, then you have no idea how nice it is to
have dry cover when you're done riding , no matter how rudimentary, or as is the case this evening, despicable. I have a phone weather
app that if I had taken the time to look at probably would have seen the incoming storm that is now flooding everything in its path and
thus had found cover for this evening earlier and far nicer than where I am in tonight. So where am I tonight? Well let me start off by
saying that very few people I know would accommodate themselves in a place like this, no matter how inclement the weather. I am in the
backside of an old abandoned home on the east side of Perlee rd, a few miles south of  my  LSTD in Centreville and perhaps  a few
football fields north of US route 301 which leads to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. No one has lived or probably been in this old house for
some time (small rodents and insects excluded) and it is completely full with padded benches like those in a church and a few dusty old
pieces of furniture and beds. Practically every square inch of this place has little junk strewn about and like I said I am in the back end of
it where I believe was at one time the kitchen, though there are no appliances left and only a few pots and dishes left scattered about.
This place is ugly and dirty. I have set up walk paths from cardboard boxes so my wet feet don't have to touch the floor as it is covered
with dirt, insulation from the disintegrating ceiling, a few discarded pots, pans and dishes, and worst of all rodent droppings throughout
every square inch of the floor. But at least I am dry and out of this terribly wet stormy weather that is passing through the Eastern Shore
of Maryland here. And I am alone and it is relatively quiet except for the slight sound of passing traffic from the highway. I feel somewhat
embarrassed admitting these awful conditions in which I plan to abode for the evening, but I have sworn in this diary to tell it like it is, no
matter what others may think. By now, if anybody is reading this, you should know that I am no pansy.  I don't need or want a fancy hotel
with a decorative room, sweet smelling aromas, fancy soaps and fan-folded towels in the bathroom, doilies under every lamp, a big
screen TV, and a king size bed with pillow top mattress, white down comforter and six puffy layered pillows. That kind of stuff is what my
wife likes. Why I don't even need a Motel 6. I am in search of adventure and in whatever form it takes. I'll bet you one in a million that
Capt's Merriwether Lewis and William Clark would have thought they had died and gone to heaven if they had found even a ratted old
structure as this when in Oregon in the fall and winter of 2005 when they were forced to quarter in a drafty log cabin, Ft Clatsop near
modern day Astoria Oregon, and when all it did was rain and snow in the bitter cold of the American NW. Nope, this dirty old dive will do
me just fine for the evening and I bet I will sleep better tonight listening to the raindrops falling on the broken windows and collapsing
roof than 90% of adults. So you may be saying to yourself about now "Oh sure, you're just too cheap to pay for a room for the night", and
that may be partly true.  But life is about using your wits and resourcefulness at times to survive it's challenges. Most of us never have a
chance to hone those god given tools of survival and thus become lazy and take for granted the ease and comfort of modern life. I
believe that is partly why I feel compelled to embark on adventures such as 50@50; to step out of my comfort zone and sharpen those
essential skills of survival and in the process of doing so, live my life to the fullest and in the moment. Finding this rat hole and being
here tonight is definitely a testament to that purpose.
Anyways, today's ride was the first I can remember (probably Ontario) where I didn't have to climb much, in fact hardly at all.  This strip
of land here sandwiched between the Atlantic ocean on its east side and the Chesapeake Bay to the west is dead pan flat, just what the
Doc ordered for my tired knees. And I made good time pedaling in to capital #29 of Dover Delaware(see picture 1 below) even though
battling a SE wind of 15mph. Dover is small, just like the state it which it resides, and the capital is in a compound like area with all the
red brick government buildings close together and encircling a central park.(see picture 2 below) Wesley College is only a few blocks
away from the capital and small tourist shop lined Main Street downtown area.  Being a Sunday no one was around and so I just did my
usual video as I rode up to unpretentious legislative house where the legislators had assigned parking spots right in front, first I've ever
seen that in a capital but then we're talking about a state smaller than many western US counties.

So my plan for tomorrow is to pedal as close as possible to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge which spans the Chesapeake Bay over to
Annapolis, capital #30. Unfortunately bicycles are not allowed to ride over the bridge so regretfully I will have to search for alternative
means for getting across to the other side. There are 3 options; first I could try to ride anyway and risk being caught and fined (I've also
been told there is no bike lane so that would make it very dangerous as well), two I could call for a shuttle to take me across (I called and
they are around $40), or three pedal to the last entrance before the highway crosses the bay and ask for a pick-up truck to haul me
across. Option one is not even under consideration and two is pretty expensive. So I think I'll try to find someone willing to get me
across, and if unsuccessful call the shuttle company. There is one other option; I could pedal north back to where I was yesterday at the
head of the bay and then circle around and through Baltimore, but that would take an entire day and frustrating city riding to do and I'm
not even going to consider that. Besides the short half mile ferry crossing of the St Clair river from Michigan in to Ontario, this is the only
time I will have had to use non-self powered alternative modes of transportation to advance myself for 50@50. If I had known about this
crossing beforehand and/or had more time I could make arrangements to have my bike and trailer transported to the other side of the
bay and rented a kayak to do the 5 mile or so crossing.  But unfortunately at this point it would be too logistically difficult, time
consuming, and mentally depleting to arrange for such.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 134  8/27/12
SP : Centreville, MD
EP: Washington, DC
DM: 61
TM: 8,961

So I made it across the Chesapeake Bay with relative ease by pedaling to the last freeway ramp before the crossing the bay itself and
was picked up after only about 10 minutes hitch hiking by a very nice understanding fellow driving a pick up truck, Rodger Tarr, a
veteran of the armed services who had participated in the failed attempt to free the hostages taken by the Iranians in 1979 after the
revolution there and subsequent takeover of our embassy.

He recounted to me the very interesting and real account of what had actually  happened during the mission and I was completely
entertained during the short 5 mile/5 minute fossil fuel powered ride across the bay, only the second time I have been forced to
temporarily relinquish from my goal to travel completely under my own power to all 50 US capitals (the first time was the half mile ferry
ride across the St Clair River from Michigan in to Ontario).
After making the memorable Bay crossing I was only minutes away from visiting capital # 30 along the 50@50 SPT in Annapolis
Maryland.(see pictures 1 below) I pedaled in around 11 am and at first thought I had arrived but was actually at a domed church in the
walled compound of the US Naval Academy. The security guard had a good chuckle on my clumsy mistaken behalf and directed me to
the actual capital just up the red cobblestone road and past old store fronts where scenes of Mel Gibson's movie The Patriot had been

I managed to attain the Maryland state flag I had sent to the Governor and signed by him and after the protocol short self video of my
arrival on bike, set out for DC, 30+ miles SW.
So the ride today was nothing but hills, heat, cars, and traffic signals. I made it to our nations capital about 5pm and tonight am staying
at the home of friend and fellow biker/rafter Dr. Jerry Gallucci and his lovely wife Connie.(see pictures 2 & 3 below)  After showering,
giving all my dirty smelly clothes to Jerry to wash for me, and having the most delicious martini and tasty hors d'oeuvres, I started to feel
somewhat human again after months on the road and an especially difficult day biking from last nights stay in the despicable old run
down house and when compared to where I am staying tonight it is like comparing night to day.I first met Jerry on a raft trip organized by
my brother Pasquale on the Colorado River through the wild but unbelieveably scenic Cataract Canyon of S Utah a few years back. The
two of them had come to know each other during my brothers epic first ever raft journey, from source to sea, of the African Blue Nile
River and which later he authored the book 'Mystery of the Nile' and was the lead protagonist and co-producer of the fascinating IMAX
movie with the same title. At the time of Pasquale's decent of the longest river in the world Jerry was Chargee d'affaires for the US
government in the capital of Sudan in Khartoum and had helped my brother with some expediting of visas to pass through the E African
country. Anyways, Jerry had been on a boat going through some of the biggest rapids along the western river's course from the Rocky
Mountains to Baja California (actually no water arrives anymore to the sea as it is all used by the time it even reaches Mexico) that had
flipped and sent him swimming through 10' crashing waves. Fortunately the experienced longtime boatman and good friend of mine,
Gary Hall,  was able to retrieve Jerry and the other passengers from the foaming white water before they reached even bigger waves.
All turned out fine and left us with much to discuss for the rest of the trip along with a lasting memory for all those that took the icy dip that
day.  Jerry is retired today having had spent a successful career working for the State Department and United Nations on assignment in
numerous areas of the world including Africa, S America, Kosovo, and E Timur. He has enough  stories of his experiences abroad and
working for government to keep an audience enthralled for hours and I keep after him to write his book so he can share some of what
he has seen and learned throughout his illustrious life.  
Connie, his wife, who also works for the federal government and is also well traveled and learned, prepared us an excellent dinner of
tasty wild salmon, lightly mashed potatoes, sweet corn on the cob, and a fresh crispy salad. I haven't had a more relaxing and enjoyable
evening with such wonderful company (and real bed in which to lay my tired bones down for a restful sleep) . Thank you so much Jerry
and Connie and I hope to repay your hospitality when on your next visit to Arizona.  

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 135  8/28/12
SP : Washington, DC
EP: Fredricksburg, VA
DM: 62
TM: 9,023

It's been two days since I've had a chance to really journal and how nice it is to come back to my BSF (Best Special Friend [I learn this
stuff from my daughter]). Yesterday I biked all day through some pretty difficult conditions to get to DC and spend what had been
probably the most enjoyable evening thus far on 50@50, over 130 days on the road. But I'll get to that later when I update yesterday's
journal posting. For now I will focus on today's events here in N Virginia.(see picture 1 below) Yes I passed in to the Old Dominion State
this morning after crossing over the Potomac River on the Arlington Memorial Bridge, what my friend, Jerry Galucci referred to as the
14th St bridge.

I'm not sure what the proper name for it is, but I do know that the northern terminus was at the Jefferson Memorial,(see picture 2 below)  
where I managed to get a quick shot while riding by, and it was very close to the Reagan National Airport and the Pentagon. Anyways,
as I was saying my friend Jerry had accompanied me on the early part of the ride today through Washington DC

where we passed by and made several stops for photos at some of the many statues and sights that commemorate the rich history of
this great nations capital, including the Winston Churchill statue at the British embassy(see picture 3 below) (he has one foot on British
grounds and the other in the US to signify his dual nationality [his mother was American]), Naval Observatory, White House, the Mall,
Smithsonian,(see pictures 4, 5 & 6  below) and finally the Ulysses S Grant statue in front of the US Capital.(see picture 7 below) Once
across the Potomac and in to N Virginia we rode along the MT Vernon bike trail for a few miles when Jerry decided that enough biking
fun had been had for the day and decided to head back to his beautiful little home NW of the downtown DC and across the street from
the prestigious American University along Massachusetts Avenue.

I continued on for a couple miles along the bike path before deciding that my goal of reaching Richmond by tomorrow would be faster if
I jumped on to Hwy 1 which runs pretty much parallel to Interstate 95 heading southbound. Let me say that todays ride on Hwy 1 was not
the most enjoyable relaxing day I've had along the 50@50 trail, but it  did get me to the point I am at tonight in relative ease (meaning
there were still endless hills and ceaseless traffic with accompanying frustration of riding through traffic signals, but it was not as bad as
some sections I came through in New England, especially around Boston. N Virginia is very busy. It is not the lazy, slow going deep
south that it likes to pretend it is. That part of the South I won't hit till I believe south of Raleigh. But already I have noticed a difference in
the motorists and the few casual encounters with store clerks and people I meet in the street or at the local market. Things are starting
to slow down already and the people and their demeanor as well.
But I have a lot of time over the next few weeks to describe my observations of the people and culture of the South. For now, seeing as
how it is getting late and I don't have much time, I want to explain where I am camped for this 134th day on the road of the 50@50 SPT. I
am alongside a tiny clear flowing brook that is slowly meandering its way through a narrow draw lined on either side with tall elm and
oak trees(see picture 8 below) and within a football field distance to its confluence with the Rappahannock River, the longest
free-flowing river on the East Coast, running over 180 miles from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay.  Warner
Rapids(see picture 9 below) (named after Sen. John Warner who championed the cause for the removal of the last remaining dam
along the river [Embrey Dam] is a half mile downriver and I am secluded and peaceful with the exception of the loud rumble (more white
noise than annoying) of freeway traffic from Interstate 95 less than a half mile away. There is a bike/walk path that follows the river a
couple hundred feet downstream of my location and on which I found this appropriate spot for the evenings camp. The town of
Fredricksburg is only a couple miles east and I had my LSTD (Last Stop of The Day) there earlier around 5pm. I have been to
Fredricksburg on several other occasions to visit the many Civil War battle field here and in the surrounding area including
Chancellorsville, the Wilderness, Manassas, and many others within a short drive away. A lot of American blood was spilled in and
around these hills and valleys of N Central Virginia during the four year carnage that threatened to divide the country in to two half's and
pitted brother against brother in the deadly conflict. Though the major battles of Antietam (Sharpsburg to the Confederates) and
Gettysburg (Maryland and Pennsylvania respectively) get most of the attention, more lives and limbs were lost in N Virginia than in any
other region in which the war raged in its awful fury, especially during Grants Overland campaign of 1864. I could and would love to go
on forever discussing the battles that took place in and around this area, but due to time, and darkness setting in will have to put it off for
another moment. For now it is shower, dinner, and bed time.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 136  8/29/12
SP : Fredricksburg, VA
EP: Chesterfield, VA
DM: 67
TM: 9,090
Week 18      WM: 520 TM: 8,923    AVG. Per Day: 70.8-74.3 miles

For the second time now on 50@50 I've been forced to mend my old creaking camp stool as last night the stitches from my last mend
back somewhere in the Midwest started to give way. I'm hoping this old Coleman gal hangs on a bit longer as I've grown quite
accustomed to parking my behind on her stretchy fabric while perching my feet atop my trailer and pecking out the few words of the
days highlights each evening. This is the second Coleman camp stool I've acquired over the years and for which I've grown to have a
somewhat strange fondness. The last one I had bought in Montana at least a decade ago while on another bike trip and it hung with me
until the end of the baseball trip two years ago when it finally gave out for the last time just before visiting the San Francisco Giants late
in the trip. I took it to the ballpark and left it there as a pseudo burial.
I'm not sure what I'm going to do with this old gal when she reaches the point that I am unable to fix her up one more time. I guess it
depends on where she heaves her last sigh of breath. One thing for sure though; she will be afforded an appropriate burial as her
earlier ancestor and with all the distinguished honors befitting of a comrade in trial. Of course I will need a replacement, and I'm not
always that tolerant or accepting of newcomers trying to take the place of someone, or thing, I have grown accustom to which and have
a strong attachment, but I will adapt. When the time arrives to toss Ms Coleman in to the heap bin, it will be a sad day.
Anyways, I feel good and positive this evening. I am camped in a nice spot, albeit an urban camp, and I feel as if I have reached a
definite milestone of 50@50 by arriving in one piece and close to being on schedule as the journey continues on further down in to the
South. From the baseball trip I remember there being an abundance of pine tree forests in the South and tonight I am in one of such.
There are highways, homes, commercial structures (even a shopping strip mall), and unknown large amounts of Virginians living in
every which direction within a square mile of my modest secluded camp here underneath ash, elm, and teenage sized pine trees.(see
picture 1 below) This was obviously one of those forests planted a couple decades ago to revegetate a barren crop field that no longer
held value. These are all over the south and they make great camping areas, even in congested suburban areas like this place. For the
local folks they provide open spaces to hike, hunt, or simply be islands of non developed nature in oceans of human congestion. A few
minutes ago I heard the call of a deer to its peers and the birds and small critters (squirrels, rabbits, skunks, and possums) have a
home in an otherwise barren and inhabitable landscape for them. As well, these reconstituted pine tree forests provide a camp area for
this old tired hobo who enjoys being on their clean, soft pine needle carpet. So my hats off to the South and their attempt to bring back
something that at one time use to be King of the landscape and which should eventually pay off economically when these pine forests
reach maturity and the trees are harvested for lumber.
Anyways, I reached the capital of Virginia today in Richmond, #31 on the list of 50.

The building was built in 1788 and was the former capital of the Southern Confederacy. Thomas Jefferson actually helped to design it
and it's front portico with giant pillars faces south and, before all the modern structures obstructed it's view, overlooked the James River.
There is a large circular bronze plate at the foot of the front steps with the inscription 'Sic Semper Tyrannus' (Thus Always to Tyrants),
Virginia's state motto and thought to be the words shouted by John Wilkes Booth to the audience at Fords Theater after shooting
Lincoln and landing awkwardly on the stage and breaking his ankle in the fall from the presidents booth. The capitals exterior is
completely white and statues of Washington, Jackson, Jefferson, and other popular Virginians surround its grounds.(see pictures 2 & 3
below) The capital was already closed and I didn't have to get a state flag as it had already been sent back to me with the governors
signature. So it being late in the day, 4pm, I set out pedaling southbound across the James River and towards the next capital on the
50@50 trail, Raleigh NC which I hope to reach the day after tomorrow.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 137  8/30/12
SP :Chesterfield, VA
EP: Keysville, VA
DM: 74
TM: 9,164

Tonight's camp is in another, nearly extinct, King Tobacco/Cotton field (though I still do pass by an occasional tobacco field),(see
picture 1 below) now replaced by a pine tree forest marbled with a few broad leaf deciduous trees and even a scattering of young
cypress. But unlike last night's urban setting this camp is far away from major population centers and hence the noise level is a fraction
the decibel strength. I am about half way between Richmond and Raleigh and just a few miles south of Keysville, on the east side of US
route 360/15. North Carolina is only about 20 miles south as that darn fast moving proverbial crow flies, as well as the Roanoke River
with it's dammed lakes about the same distance and direction away. My goal earlier in the day was to exit the Old Dominion here,
self-proclaimed birthplace of America (it is the birthplace of 8 US presidents including 4 of the first 5 [Adams, #2, being the lone
renegade], and head down in to the Tarheel State tonight, but the wind began to kick up in the afternoon and my forward progress
began to take on a sloths pace. The Old North State is from where my biological grandfather was born, including generations of
ancestry before him, and resided minus the few years in Maryland where the poor uneducated and irresponsible rambler met and
impregnated my grandmother twice before ditching the scene and heading back home. I still have family in northern North Carolina, and
very close to my location here this evening, but they are estranged people to me. Through my own efforts I have met several of them in
years past and on more than one occasion. And though it was somewhat rewarding for me to had met those with whom I shared a
similar genetic sequence in my DNA, I did not feel any sense of belonging or kinship to them. One thing rewarding for my efforts though
was the discovery through research at the state archives in Raleigh that my Great, Great Grandfather (James Bolton) had at the age of
38 been conscripted in to the Confederate army in 1863 and had actually been at Appomattox Courthouse two years later when on
April 9 of that year, and under the general command of Robert E
Lee, he was mustered out of service during the surrender of the Army of N. Virginia to US Grant and the US army, thus ending the War
Between the States and Mr Bolton's personal contribution to the 'Losing Cause' of the long ago defunct southern experiment of a
government sanctioned economy based on slave labor, one in which human freedom, rights and dignity where relegated to that not
much more than a beast of burden, and what US Grant later called the 'the worst cause for which to fight and die' he had ever seen or
heard of. So technically I am a 'Son of a Confederate Veteran', a distinction for which I'm not sure whether or not I want to proudly
proclaim. Anyways, James's  grandson, Talmadge (my grandfather), basically abandoned my grandmother, Marie, and two very young
kids, one of which was my mother who hadn't even been born when he had up and split. How can a man, or woman, bring children in to
this world and not feel at least an inkling to see them nor have some type of self obligation to help and support them in this long difficult
life (actions, I guess, always speak louder than words with regards to a persons character, and Mr Bolton's spoke louder than most).
Anyways, Mom grew up not knowing her father and for a child to never had met the person who donated the essential ingredient for
their existence has got to be a difficult thing in which to grow up, even if the parent is nothing but that; a donor. It's got to be better to
have had known the pain of making someone's tarnished acquaintance than never having had known them at all, especially when that
person is a parent. As a result of never knowing, or even seen her father,  Mom found it difficult in her life to put her complete trust in
another and lived with a constant fear of being abandoned. When she was old enough, I believe around 16, she unwillingly and
regretfully quit school before completing the 10th grade, of which she never got over the stigma of being a high school 'dropout' and in
her late 50's took part time classes at night to earn her high school diploma with the help from a government run program begun under
the Carter presidency (I remember well how proud she felt of herself when she finished those classes and was awarded her diploma).
Anyways, she went to work to help out her mother financially who was having physical ailments and was unable to work much herself.
When she was 18 she had saved a little money and went down to N Carolina, very close to where I am now, to try and find the 'Pezzo di
Cornuto' father who had abandoned her before birth and the caring woman who had given birth to his two children, and when she
arrived the Figlio d' Putana' got wind of Moms presence and, believing she was coming to get money from him, took off out the back
door before she could see him. Can you imagine that?  Your only daughter whom you have never seen comes to visit you after a lifetime
of absence and you run away because you think she is after your money (not that he probably had much anyways)?  What kind of
person would think and behave as such?  Certainly nobody I would want to claim as being part of my family, even if we do share a
common gene pool. Anyways my Mother never in her lifetime got over the guilt and anguish of being abandoned, before birth, by her
father and that reprehensible scene she experienced years later when she tried to find him.
So, I'm trying to think what the highlight, or lowlight, of the day was and it is kind of difficult. It was either the breakfast joint I went in to in
Amelia where I walked out of, the redneck buffet in Burkeville, or the fella trying to sell me rotten old Chesapeake crabs; and I
choose...the breakfast joint in Amelia. This town was originally named Amelia Courthouse and is along the 'Lee's Retreat' route from
Richmond to Appomattox Court House where the official surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia took place April 9, 1865. I have
been here on a couple other occasions on bike, and auto (with my brother Mario), tours when visiting the fabulous history of that era
gere in this historical region of the country. This time though I was just passing through quickly, and when I decided to stop at the only
place in town that served any type of food, Hatchers Diner. There was only one other patron in the place when I sat down and the waiter,
dressed in white (I'm still not sure if he was the cook also), asked if I would like coffee. My response, as is usual, was no thank you, that I
had already had coffee earlier in the morning and all I would like was a glass of water. He returned a moment later and while I was
chatting with the other single client placed a plastic bottle of fancy water in front of me with a glass of ice next to it. I asked him if there
was any plain tap water rather than bottled and he replied that it would cost me the same for tap water because the ice in the glass cost
money. What, I thought to myself?  Ice in a glass cost as much money as the plastic bottle of water?  Well, technically he has a point as
it does take money to run and maintain an ice machine as well as the dishwasher machine to wash it afterwards as well as the
employee operating it.  But what restaurant planet is this guy living on? When a customer asks for a glass of water, no matter where in
this country, you are given a glass of ice water without it being in a bottle unless you specifically ask for the bottled water. So after his
insulting diatribe to me about costs for my simple request for regular tap water, I instinctively got up, pushed in my chair and told him I
would go elsewhere for breakfast (there were a few choice words I wanted to include in my statement but felt compelled not to use so
as not to disturb the other customer just then starting to eat). I know, not a very interesting story, but about the best I can come up with on
a very uninteresting day spent pedaling through hot, muggy S Virginia.
So just finished a very warm, soothing shower and two thoughts came to mind while the refreshing water spilled over my body; first, pine
needles make the perfect ground cover when camping and second, lately I've been seeing the tree leaves starting to fall when the wind
kicks up, reminding me that the first day of autumn is only three weeks away. What a stunning sight yet sober reminder it is watching
these bountiful trees covered with colorful and uniquely shaped leaves starting to fall in circular patterns to the ground, all the while
knowing there are still 5000 more miles to pedal before I reach home. I'm reminded somewhat of what Captains Lewis & Clark and the
entire crew of the Voyage of Discovery must have thought and felt when they witnessed the first leaves falling of early September 1804
and the realization setting in that their original plan of discovering the source of the Missouri and the NW Passage, and returning back
in one year, was not going to be realized and that they would be forced to spend a terribly long and brutally cold N Dakota winter with
the Mandan Indians. It is strange, and a little unsettling, passing an entire spring, summer and fall on the trail and knowing that home is
still far off with winter rapidly approaching. Hopefully I will be reach home before that point.
Tonight I've decided to camp without the protection of my tent. It is a beautiful moonlit evening and, at least up to now, dry. But we'll see
how that goes as the night progresses. This place has a way of getting very humid once the sun sets and the temp cools. The pine
needle forest floor here is infested with long legged peanut-sized spiders crawling over everything in their path, including me.(see
picture 2 below) A few discovered the little empty bowl from which I had eaten my dinner consisting of last nights left over pasta with
Wendy's chili and now are caught inside, unable to escape from the deep interior and accompanied by a throng of hostile ants.(see
picture 3 below) Think I'll just leave them all in there together tonight and see if they can survive each others company in close
confines...'Battle of the Chili Bowl Insects'. Sounds like a sci-fi thriller.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 138  8/31/12
SP :Keysville, VA
EP: Creedmoor, NC
DM: 76
TM: 9,240

My plans had been to reach the capital of N Carolina this afternoon but because of southerly winds and a route which added a few extra
miles I was unable to pedal myself in to Raleigh. Not to fret much as I am only about 20 miles north of the capital city and should arrive
early tomorrow morning allowing me plenty of time to begin the 200 mile trek to capital #33 in Columbia, S. Carolina. Tonight's camp is
in Falls Lake State Park which lies on the northern end of its namesake reservoir. All this is made possible by the damming of the
Neuse River and  titled none other than Falls Dam, an earthen structure only 300' above sea level and completed in 1981 (somewhat
late in the BLM dam approving years). Anyways, this area I have set up in is marvelous: there are huge tall pine trees (not like the little
guys just planted in which I spent the last couple nights) commingling with other adolescent aged coniferous trees and the usual forest
blanketing of clean leaves, tree twigs, native grasses and pine cones and needles. The adjective 'clean' cannot be emphasized enough
here. No one, it appears, has been here in years. In fact, the only trace of human presence is this long ago abandoned forestry road on
which I am set up and a few old pop top Pepsi cans buried beneath the dense settled forest debris. In fact I feel so secluded and alone
that, at the moment I sit here pecking out these few words (and I don't mean to insult anybody) I am totally in the buff because my internal
temp is still high from the days heat and high humidity, and those tight spandex shorts with the padded behind us bikers wear are so hot
that I feel the need to cool every inch of my body. Yes, even my bottom.
Anyways, I am about a half mile west of Hwy 50 so the sound of traffic is not too overly burdensome and there is a small vegetation lined
pond close by from which I fetched some cloudy, green tinted water in to my two 2 liter plastic bottles for a shower this evening. For
some reason though, and I can't figure out why, there are none of the usual friendly critters making their presence known to me, except
of course the spiders, ants and the darn annoying cicada bugs buzzing in the treetops. Believe it or not, I actually gain a sense of
comfort from hearing and seeing the squirrels, chipmunks, snakes and  lizards (which are absent in these parts of the country), birds
(especially the mourning doves), deer, raccoons, possums, skunks, and a whole host of other forest varmint of which I am accustom to
their company. Perhaps they are waiting for the opportune time to announce their arrival and in the process startle me silly, like while I
am showering or in  dead sleep in my tent.
So today was probably the hottest day I can remember for some time. The mercury had to be hovering in the low to mid 90's with a
humidity level equal to that in terms of percentage. It was doggone miserable, rivaling that I pedaled through back in the Midwest in
early July, and about which I subsequently complained constantly. The difference though between today and a couple months ago is my
realization now that these conditions are probably only for a few days, or even weeks, before the onset of fall takes hold, and I'm not
relishing that thought much yet at the moment. I can deal with these unpleasant conditions for a while but the cold mid to late fall
conditions, that I know await me before the close of this first 49 states, has me a bit concerned. Time is everything right now. In fact I am
in a race now against time to finish before the onslaught of the unpredictable fall months comes in to full force.  So a few hot, muggy
days at this juncture mean little to me.
Not much in the way of interesting happenings today except a lot of pedaling. I guess the highlight would be my arrival in the Tarheel
State, #32 on the list of 50.(see picture 1 below) The only other notable thing that occurred today was when an elderly lady sitting in her
car saw me ride up to a Wendy's restaurant and wanted me to take a dollar for something to drink. I'm guessing she felt pity on me
biking in the awful conditions of the day and I must not have looked that good when I pulled up to the front of the store. Anyways, I
accepted her kind offer of assistance and bought a chocolate malt with it, which sure felt refreshing going down my hot, dry throat. I'm
not sure how many ATFG (Awww, that feels good) moments I had today entering air conditioned stores and restaurants, sometimes just
to escape the heat, but I'm sure there were quite a few. Several weeks ago I honestly believed this stifling hot, sticky weather was all but
left behind for the remainder of this journey, but now am wondering if it might not get worse as I approach the deeper south, especially

Where's Romano in the U.S.A
September 2012
SP=Starting Point - EP=Ending Point - DM=Daily Mileage - TM=Total Mileage

Day 139   9/01/12
SP : Creedmoor, NC
EP: Sanford, NC  
DM:  79
TM:  9,319

I'm stopped for a bite to eat at a Taco Bell, not because I'm really hungry (nor really dig Taco Bell) but rather to take a break from the miserably
hot and humid conditions outside. Most of these fast food chains also have fountain machines which make it easy to fill my water bottles with
cold ice water for the next push on the bike. After a month of cooler temps in New England and the northern Atlantic States, this weather is
really taking a toll on me, both mentally and physically, in my attempt to get through this NEJ (never ending journey). The heat was present first
thing this morning before the sun ever rose as I pushed my bike from the still dark forest out to the highway. Immediately I felt that hot clammy
feeling from the near 90+% humidity here, even though the temp was probably only in the mid 70's. It is partially cloudy now outside and
threatening to rain (which it probably will later) but when the sun does comes out from behind the skies cover it feels as if an intense heat lamp
(like the ceiling ones in those cheesy old motel bathrooms) has just been turned on above my head causing the blood vessels around my
temple region to pound like a bass foot pedal drum. All the while sweat pours out of every pore of my skin, dribbling down my face, arms, back
and legs and tickling my skin as if there were an ant or spider climbing about my extremities and backside, just like every evening at camp,
and in turn causing me to instinctively swat at the dripping beads.  If none of this sounds the least bit enjoyable, then you are absolutely correct.
But being this far along in the 50@50 journey, in fact roughly about 2/3 complete, I don't feel the need to vent as much about these miserable
conditions, especially seeing as how today is the first day of September and I know cooler temps are soon on their way (I am already starting
to notice the leaves changing color)(
see picture 1 below). One thing I will add to my days of 'Heat and Roses' is that once I grabbed for my cell
phone while I was riding to check my gps location and it just slipped right out of my wet hand, crashing on to the road underneath me and the
bike. Remind you that it is in an Otter Box so no damage occurred to the phone but telling nonetheless in that my hands were so sweaty I
couldn't even hold on to it with its non slip cover. There is one good thing about today and that is I rode into Capital #32 Raleigh, NC(
picture 2 below)
and it has only taken me 9,262 miles to get here.

Unfortunately, being a Saturday I was not able to meet with the Governor so I made a brief stop and then headed on my way towards
Columbia, S.C. Capital #33 which is about 200 miles away.
So tonight's camp is another beautiful little pine tree mixed with broad leaf deciduous trees and all with vines climbing over and around their
branches and trunks. Just a football field or so north is US route 421 which I took from Lillington and the town of Sanford is not even a mile
away.  I can hear light traffic whizz by but all in all I am in Paradiso, even with the thought on the back of my mind of that big dark ugly looking
snake I saw dead on the road about a half mile before camp here(see picture 3 below) (I am definitely sleeping in my tent tonight). No one is
around as I sit here on the aging Ms Coleman, in the buff, while caroling birds provide background serenades. Unfortunately a pungent
distasteful odor from my sandals, or feet, permeates the still moist air around me and I'm not sure how to remedy this new found dilemma. I
know what the cause is; on and off thunder showers most the day coupled with near 100% humidity and 90' temps resulting in constantly wet
feet. But I cannot find a solution. If anyone out there in Internet Land has a clue on how to take care of smelly sandals (or feet), besides cutting
them off, can you please let me know.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 140   9/02/12
SP : Sanford, NC
EP: Cheraw, SC  
DM:  88
TM:  9,407

I take back everything I said about not feeling the need to complain about the heat and humidity down in these southern reaches of the United
States. I haven't been this miserable since pedaling through Nebraska and Kansas when the temps were daily in the 100's. Today's temp
according to the digital signs in front of banks showed that it was in the high 90's, but I know it was hotter than that out on the road with no cover
and the heat radiating off the black pavement and on to my overheated body.

I do think it dried out a bit though (perhaps only 70% humidity versus the usual 90+ percentile) and it is probably why the mercury soared. The
'feels like' index on my weather app had it at 108', so I guess it can be taken for what it's worth. It was just Plain Jane hot today, but as I sit here
now on ol' crumbling Ms Coleman pecking out these few words it is starting to cool a bit and the southerly wind that has been causing me such
grief while pedaling through out the day as I head south feels pretty good right now blowing over my tired, dirty and sweat drenched body. I got
a first hand look today how humid things really are here when I stopped for lunch in an air conditioned restaurant (Burger King today; yes, really
living it up) and for the time I was in there my skin and clothing actually dried out leaving behind the residual body perspiration in the form of tiny
granules of salt.(see picture 1 below) Of course the moment I went outside again and began to ride the visible manifestation of my loss of
bodily fluids was lost once again through the saturation of skin and fabric from renewed perspiration. This place is hot, and it's even
September now. I can't even imagine how uncomfortable it must be around here in July. How these folks were able to tolerate such a wretched
summer climate before the advent of air conditioning is something worthy only of conjecture. All I know is that right now I would do anything to
be in a cool, climate controlled environment with a cold drink in hand and, I might as well go all the way, some company with which to converse.
That says a lot coming from someone who normally likes to be outdoors alone in nature.
Anyways, I did make it to state #33 today; South Carolina, the Palmetto State.(see picture 2 below) If you've ever wondered what the heck a
Palmetto is, it's a little palm tree that grows abundantly down here in the deep south (in Italian any word that ends with an 'etto [a]' means little or
cute. These stunted palm trees grow mainly in the southern part of the state where the climate is even warmer than here (ugh, and I'm headed
that way) and do really well because their roots don't have to go down very deep as the water table is so close to the surface. As well there are
pine trees everywhere down here and it is one reason I love bike touring here because the pine forests provide excellent camping anywhere.
Logging is a big industry here and is sustainable because these coniferous trees, compared to their brethren out west, grow rapidly and can
be mature for harvesting in as little as 30-40 years, versus double the time out west where the water table is much deeper and climate far drier.
Camp tonight is in yet another forested area almost exclusively of pine though I'm not sure of the species. They resemble what we know of in
the Southwest as the Ponderosa Pine but I doubt they are as their cones(see picture 3 below) are far larger and bark more fine than that of
their western cousin. The other thing noticeable about tonight's camp, and that I've taken notice of all day, is the presence of white, beach-type
sand everywhere.(see picture 4 below) This sand I remember from past trips down in to the Deep South (I consider S Carolina the Deep
South) and it becomes more prevalent the further south one ventures, especially in to the peninsula of  S Florida. Seeing all this sand makes
me just want to put on my flip-flops, step on a pop-top, and stroll on down to Margheritaville. But  any sign of that little mexican umbrella
refreshment stand is not to be had here in S Carolina, at least today as it is Sunday, the Sabbath, a day when even root beer cannot be sold
(and I was very thirsty this afternoon). And I thought sales were only restrictive in Canada and Minnesota. Anyways, the town of Cheraw (home
town of jazz great Dizzy Gillespie) is only a few miles north on Hwy 1.
So it's about 9pm and I am in my tent sweating and feeling about as uncomfortable I've felt for a long time, probably since that hot night at the
green house back in some state, I think W Virginia or Ohio. I can't go outside because there are way too many bugs and ants and it is
threatening to rain so I have to keep the rain fly on which only makes it hotter in here. I wish it would rain to cool things off a bit. I don't know how
I am going to get any sleep tonight. It is utterly horrible inside this tent and I can't wait to get out of here tomorrow morning, though there is no
guarantee tomorrow night will be any better. Geez these southern states are so very brutal this time of year.
It's the following morning about 6am now and I had a terrible night due not only to the awful conditions inside my tent but also from the
ceaseless parade of tiny biting ants crawling all over my body. Obviously I am camped atop a colony of field ants, the real tiny variety that find it
necessary to venture on and in to everything. They found a way in to my tent, through the junction of two zippers, and all night I could feel them
crawling and biting me. Yes they actually bite. It feels like a tiny prick and then begins to itch moments later. Everytime I would succeed in
getting my mind off the heat and begin to fall asleep I would feel another ant on me doing his thing. Combined with the hot air in the tent I felt
like getting up, packing my stuff and getting out of there at 3 in the morning, but forced myself to endure the suffering for a couple more hours.
For gods sake I don't feel like going through this anymore. Another night tonight like last night and I think I'll go crazy. I didn't think it being
September that there would be these awful conditions down here, but obviously I was wrong. My resolve to continue is being tested once again
as all I thought about last night, while I should have been sleeping, was finishing this journey that just seems to go on and on without end.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 141   9/03/12
SP : Cheraw, SC
EP: Lugoff,SC
DM:  61
TM:  9,468

It cooled off a lot today and thank goodness as another day like yesterday might have done me in. That's how fragile I'm starting to feel these
days. One would figure the longer I go in to this thing the more crusty or jaded I become to adverse situations and conditions, and to some
extent it is true. But the days, weeks and months on the road, nonstop, have taken a pretty hefty toll on my normally tempered will and seriously
dented my defensible armor and ability to parry against obstacles like severe weather and colonies of attacking ants.  I decided on a semi
early camp tonight seeing as how I slept so little last night fending off the blitzkrieg of hostile piss ants and tolerating the nylon steam room bath
for bedding quarters (my tent). I feel much better this evening as the temp is way down from all the thunderstorms today and I made sure there
wasn't an ant anywhere within sight of  where I plan to pitch my tent. What a horrible night I had last night so tonight I am expecting a restful
sleep, not only because I am tired, but also because there is an operable train track only about a football field away (I always sleep well next to
trains and one just passed a little while ago with 3 engines and at least 50 cars in tow) and I am less than half a football field from a cell phone
tower with its humming sounds (white noise to me), probably from the power generation needed to send the countless amounts of digital data
on to another tower and eventually to the recipient. There is nobody around and as usual at my campsites I feel secure and secluded. I have
made my camp atop a clean bed of pine needles and an assortment of leaves mainly from oak trees which seem to thrive in this
neighborhood. There is a chain link fence with 3 barb wire lines on top and close by (probably private property) and upon which my plan later is
to sling my shower bag to have my nightly ritual baptism (I don't mean to offend or make sacrilege of anyone's faiths, but my shower at night is
like being 'born again' and water and Irish Spring soap are the sources of the blessed event).  
So, where am I?  Well besides being next to a cell phone tower and train tracks, I am located only a few miles south of the strangely named
town of Lugoff and perhaps 25 miles north of my main goal tomorrow; Columbia SC, capital #33 on the list of 50 US state capitals. Wow, 33!  
After tomorrow I am officially on the last third of this 'NEJ' (never ending joirney). And this last third I'm certain will provide me (it already has)
with as much  challenge as did the preceding 2/3, and probably more so. I've said it before and I'll say it again as it occupies so much of my
thoughts throughout each day, there are 2 major mountain ranges I will need to pass through before early winter obstructs my path to complete
this endeavor; the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada's as well as several smaller ones including the Wasatch Mountains (actually part of the
Rocky Mtn chain) on the eastern front of Salt Lake City. So time is of the essence and every day is a race against it.
Today was my first full day in this hotbed state of rebellion. South Carolina was the first state to sign the Declaration of independence,
spearheaded the efforts of Nullification in 1832 and was the site where the opening salvo of the Civil War was fired at Fort Sumpter on April
12, 1861. The latter two acts of rebellion were put down by two of America's most reputable warriors; Andrew Jackson and W. Tecumseh
Sherman. Their brutality in method of trade when combatting belligerents, 'No Quarter Given' earned them both laurels for their success in
battle and notable spots in US military history, not to mention landing one as our 7th president and on the front side of a $20 bill. Neither one of
them would I have wanted to be on their bad side.
Though this state has a history of rebellious reactionaries, little sign of that political restlessness remains today. It is probably one of reddest of
the political red (conservative republican) in the union today and often is at the forefront of politically controversial happenings. But for the most
part the people I encounter are polite and friendly and don't wear their beliefs, political or otherwise, on their sleeve for everyone else to see.
And I have had no bottles thrown nor obscenities shouted at me by passing motorists as in Connecticut. One thing I've been noticing the
deeper in to the South I travel is the unhurried pace of its citizenry. Folks here just don't seem to fret as much with getting things done as in the
northern latitudes. My guess is the culture is as such because the hot clammy weather necessitates slower, more relaxed movement and the
settlement of the south was more influenced by the French and Spanish with their Mediterranean traits rather than the predominantly British
and Northern European characteristics of time obsession and industriousness in the northern US states. It's kind of neat and funny in one
sense but somewhat frustrating in another. Today I had bought a sandwich at a Piggly-Wiggly grocery store (that name cracks me up) and
when I opened the wrapper to eat it was shocked that there was no visible bread, just a stack of meat and cheese. When I took it back in the
store to get a refund I had to wait at least 10 minutes to get someone's help as they were doing something else and felt no need to hurry and
finish what they were doing to assist me with my needs, no matter how frustrated I became. When someone eventually did, a middle age fellow
(apparently the store manager) with a 70's style disco hairdo (probably a rug) and a bushy Tom Selleck mustache, he was very considerate
and apologetic but still took forever to process my refund. Two things I told myself upon leaving the store; 1) I need to slow down from my hectic
always on the go pace I've had for so long now, at least while I peddle through the South here and 2) I'm never shopping at another Piggly
Wiggly supermarket.
Anyways, I finally saw today the first of , what are surely to be many to come, Palmetto trees of the deep South and I took a picture of them.(see
picture 1 below) They look like their taller cousins of which are abundant in the Hollywood, CA area where my family lived for many years in the
50's and 60's, but are just shorter in stature.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 142   9/04/12
SP : Lugoff, SC
EP: Batesburg, SC
DM:  55
TM:  9,523

Decided to make another early camp tonight, not because I was tired like last night and approaching a major city (Columbia SC), but because
it appeared a little while ago that thunder showers  were heading my direction. I passed by an older abandoned home with several outbuildings
and in one of which, a large carport with a back room for storage, I've made bivouac for the evening. There was quite a bit of debris cluttering
this 10'x15' concrete floored enclosed area but I found a broom and swept everything in to the corners and made a clean livable place (at least
for one desperate night) from what was only dirt and refuse before. I also found a comfortable old lounge chair and a 60's style foot stool
picture 1 below) upon which to rest my tired body and feet without putting another evenings stress upon  old tired Ms Coleman. The most
important thing is that I don't have to worry as I thought, as my weather app showed (60% chance), intense thunderstorms flooding down from
the heavens, something no one in their right mind would want to be out in, even with a good tent. I've seen how torrential these storms can be
back east here and don't want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. As a result I cut my biking day about an hour short to hedge on the
side of caution; 'Discretion is the better part of valor' or so they say. But now after having done and said all this the skies appear to be clearing
and I can actually see glimpses of sunlight peeking through the cloud cover and, at least up until now, not a drop of rain has fallen. Oh well, I'm
just reminded that there are no guarantees in life nor the decisions we make throughout that lifetime.
So the highlight of the day was the arrival and subsequent precipitous departure from capital #33 along the 50@50 journey; Columbia S.

I didn't get in until about 11am even though there were only 24 miles to pedal from last nights camp next to the cell phone tower and train
tracks. I slept in a little (6:15) and by the time I started rolling (7:30) and then made my morning stop for donuts, phone recharge and journal
edit, I had fallen behind and never really made it up as my mileage shows. There had also been the persistent headwind out of the SW slowing
me down. Not to fret though as earlier in the week I had some bigger mileage days and with Atlanta Georgia nearly 200 miles to the west I
should have some open riding days ahead without a lot of interruptions, like state capitals and cities in which they lie. I still ended up reaching
my weekly goal of 500 miles and am only a half mile under my overall average goal of 71.4 miles per day throughout the entire middle biking
leg of this 3 part journey (the first leg was the short bike and kayak to Skagway Alaska and the last will be the 3 month row next year to Hawaii).
So nothing really much to report on the capital building of S Carolina. It was the typical granite stone structure with giant pillars in the front
portico facing north.(see picture 2 below) The Governor, Lt Governor nor anyone on their staffs were in the building so I had a fun interesting
conversation with the courteous and knowledgable lady at the gift shop and another state house employee(see picture 3 below) (both non
native Southerner's from New York). They were interested in hearing about my travels and we spent nearly a half hour discussing little tid bits of
information about this and that. We took a picture together and I bought a state flag since the one I sent the governor was never returned (nor
any correspondence received for that matter) then I went down to my bike and duct tapped my newest flag on to the fiberglass flagstaff
attached to the rear of the trailer. I always feel so good, and a bit proud, when I can hang another flag from the back of my bike. They are a
physical manifestation of where I have been and reminders that I am making progress along this NEJ to all 50 state capitals. Sometimes I can't
stop looking at them in my eyeglass mirror and still wondering if I will achieve my goal of attaining all 50 of them. A lot more mileage and
will-depleting trials, I'm sure, await the answer to that question and it remains, as is most everything in life, shrouded in complete mystery.
Today I discovered what the state motto of this one time rebellious state is; "Dum Spiro Spero" (While I breath, I hope)(see picture 4 below). I
can't think of words more applicable to a state that has been crushed to nearly it's final breath for hoping too much, and on more than one
occasion.  No one lives, at least very long, without the ability to breath and what would life be without hope. Dum Spiro, Spero. A bit of latin,
and S Carolina, I will never forget. And I haven't been to a US state yet where so many of its citizens and businesses have on display the
beautiful  dark blue state flag of South Carolina with its recognizable picture of the Palmetto tree and waxing crescent moon.(see picture 5
below) I also discovered today, as I pedaled up to the Palmetto state capital (If you look carefully on the YouTube you should be able to see it)
that the confederate flag is in full display (albeit in the back of a confederate soldier memorial) right in front of the state capital.(see picture 6
below) There wasn't even an American flag anywhere in sight (above, below, or next to it). I am not a raging liberal thinker, nor do I believe that
the flag that stood for the division of this great American experiment is an inherent insignia of hatred (though unfortunately it has been hijacked
for those purposes for decades now). And when I use to partake in Civil War reenacting I would don only grey. But to have it in the very front of
the state capital building, or any official state location, is something a little less than what I would call desirable or understanding. For too many,
notably African Americans, the confederate flag represents an era of unspeakable living conditions and nothing but hatred and bigotry.  I
believe along the lines of one of the foremost civil war historians of our time James McPherson (his book 'Battle Cry for Freedom' won
numerous awards and is a short, but detailed, account of the of Civil War) when he says that the confederate flag should be celebrated and on
display, but at museums, cemeteries, civil war reenactments and other cultural events. Not in the front of state capitals or other official public
buildings. What most people don't know is that the flag that we acquaint with the Confederacy (the Bars and Stars) was not the national flag for
the new southern republic for which slavery was to be the institution upon which it's society and economy were based. It was the battle flag
around which southern soldiers rallied when in battle. But there is no hiding the fact that today the confederate battle flag was and still is the
symbol used by ignorant racial bigots and mongrels of hatred to whom the American ideals of equality, freedom and dignified God given
human rights mean nothing and whose sole aim for display of it is to advance their cause of white supremacy, prejudice, and lasting ignorance.
So why display the flag in clear visibility in the front of the official building of state government? Doesn't make a lot of sense to me. But there
must be enough political and their constituent support to keep it on the capital grounds. My solution would be if a southern state wants to
represent its history and heritage with a confederate flag why not hoist the national confederate flag so as not be acquainted with the
malefactors of hatred and their usage of the battle flag.
I have small rice grain size welts all over my body from the shellacking I took a couple evenings ago when I camped on the ant colony and
struggled all night with the hostile invading little buggers. My feet, legs, hands, arms, neck and torso look like I have some type of incurable skin
disease and I can't stop itching them in search of relief.  That night was without a doubt the worst night spent out here on the 50@50 trail. My
advice to anyone camping in these neck of the woods is to scout the location of your site very well because out here ants (and the other native
creatures) rule and you, just drool (which is what I find myself doing at this particular moment as I fight the urge to itch nearly every
square inch of my body)
So today I broke my vow of never going to another Piggly Wiggly market(see picture 7 below) again after yesterdays ludicrous experience at
the one in Camden, S. Carolina. This store, in Lake Murray, was just about the complete opposite of the one yesterday. There was everything
one would expect from a local grocery store minus the Disco Dan manager (Oh how I wish I had snapped a picture of that guy). It tells me that
these stores are obviously franchised and independently owned.  This was the first store I have ever been to that had a 33 gallon drum filled
with ice and cold bottles of water at the entrance, complimentary of the store itself. What a thoughtful gesture to its clients during these hot dog
days of late 2012 summer. Whoever thought of that should be congratulated, promoted and given a nice raise in the process. It is gestures as
these, even if you don't want what is offered, that really make a difference.
I was thinking of some of the ways to describe how humid and sticky it is here in South. Here are a few; it is so humid that I can't reach in to my
pocket to get something without turning it inside out when I pull my hand out. It is so humid that my clothes are wetter in the morning when I put
them on than they were when I took them off the evening before. It is so humid I have curls developing on the ends of my usually straight hair. It
is so humid that putrid smells linger in the stagnant air forever anywhere near my bags and clothes. I'll try to think of some others as the day
goes on but you can probably catch my drift; it is hot and sticky here.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 143   9/05/12
SP : Batesburg, SC
EP: Lincolnton, GA
DM:  68
TM:  9,591
Week 19      WM: 500  TM: 9,423     AVG. Per Day: 70.8 - 71.4 miles

I've got a few minutes here while I wait for my clothes to finish washing at the local laundromat here on the west end of McCormick SC. This
dirty run down place is about the most disgusting laundromat I've ever been to, but I need to get my clothes done pretty bad as its been since
DC when they were last washed, over a week ago, and are starting to smell pretty rancid what with all the heat and humidity lately. If this place
were anywhere but a backwater place like here it would most assuredly be shut down by public sanitation officials for posing a potential health
hazard. There are about a dozen machines of which only 3 are not broken down. The floor drains are overflowing with what I suspect, or at least
hope, is the water draining from the one machine being operating at the moment, mine. The bathroom smells so bad I had to cover my nose
when I went in there to use it as the toilet is clogged with excrement all around and inside it and the floor drain in there is backing up as well.
Usually I use the opportunity while doing clothes to shave and clean up but not a chance here. The floors are completely covered with dirt and
trash and the ceiling is falling down in areas. The stench in here is awful and made worse by the heat as their is no fan to circulate the air much
yet air conditioning. There is an old couch but I don't trust sitting on it for fear of something jumping out of it and biting me (and I'm the guy who
sleeps in abandoned garages on occasion when the weather necessitates it). I guess I need go on no further regarding the condition of this
'wonderfully' kept up establishment except to reiterate, 'Only in the South'.  In some ways being down here and in certain areas is almost akin to
being in another country, like a second world one in the Caribbean, S America or even India. It seems parts of the South never fully recovered
after the Civil War and remain stuck in the traditions and behaviors of years past as well as many levels below economic parity with the rest of
the country. Most the people don't seem to mind though and I doubt would change anything if it meant being more like their fellow countryman in
the North and West. As well  most Southerner's are as friendly and helpful as can be and to me it's nice being somewhere unique than most
every where else.
Well it's been 'on my mind' for a while and tonight my mind, and body, are resting underneath its skies. Yes I reached the Peach State,
Georgia,(see picture 1 below) today in the early afternoon shortly after leaving McCormick SC and officially after crossing the Savannah River
which is actually Clark's Hill Lake which is the reservoir formed from the dam with the same title (if any of that makes any sense then my hats
off to you).

Who Clark was I have no clue. The great 18th century American explorer was from Virginia (I rode by his hometown a few days ago) so I doubt
it is named after him. I can't Wikipedia check it out now as I have limited service so if someone reading this can do it for me I would be much
Anyways camp for this evening is about 10 miles from SC along US route hwy 378 and maybe 5 miles SW of Lincolnton where I had my LSTD.
I am situated inside an 8'x8' metal exterior shed that adjoins an old time steel cargo ice trailer and about the same dimensions as the
shed.(see picture 2 below) I decided to set up here this evening because my concern was again, like last night, severe thunder showers but as
I sit here now pecking out these words, sitting  upon Ol' Miss Coleman, I'm frustrated once again, like last night, to see the skies clearing and
the chance of any rain negligible. I would much prefer to be back deep in the forest somewhere instead of this confined, crudely built old
lean-to. There is a main trailer/home 50' feet away which looks like it hasn't been inhabited for some time and someone obviously comes out
here periodically to maintain things. I wish I didn't have to call this place camp tonight but I am still somewhat uneasy about the weather after
witnessing some of the monstrous downpours that occur from time to time back here and want to make sure I have adequate cover in case
something similar occurs again.
I really don't want to bore anyone, and am not looking for any sympathy (after all I chose to do this) but I am so tired of this journey right now I
feel like screaming out loud and stomping my feet like a child having a temper tantrum if only I could be sure it would help how I'm feeling at the
moment and someone living close by (which there are) wouldn't here me and discover my vagabond presence in their neighborhood. Often at
this time in the evening I get to feeling like this, and as I've said before, with no one being around to talk with my only relief is writing about it.
This trip has been so long, tedious, and difficult at times that words cannot fully explain quite the frame of mind I am in, even if I were endowed
with that written ability to fully convey that mindset. So I won't go on any further but to say that my will to finish is strong even though lasting
doubts still linger on in the back of my mind.
I was thinking today that Georgia will be the last of the original 13 colony states along the 50@50 journey. And after I reach Atlanta and then
head south to pick up Tallahassee Florida, the southern Atlantic states will be in the complete and in the book and I can head on to the next
region; the mid-southern trans-Appalachian and Mississippi River states of Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Then
all that will remain is Austin Texas and Oklahoma City before heading west to Santa Fe NM and north up to Denver and Cheyenne. That's
where I'm afraid things may difficult as I will be in higher elevations as fall begins approaching in full strength. Anything goes at that point, even
snow, as the journey progresses westward across the Rockies and the Great Salt Lake basin and in to the Sierra Nevada's and finally
California.  But progress is being made even though I'm far away from home and there is nothing more I can do than stay focused and in
rhythm  each day on achieving my daily mileage, staying positive and keeping the end goal in sight; Phoenix Arizona.
I had a few guests pop in unexpectedly this evening and offer me a bit of company, whether desired on my part or not. Georgie the name I gave
her seeing as how I just entered the state with that title), a knee high tall puppy with colorful spots on her back,(see picture 3 below) a tail that
wags as if powered electronically, and a friendly if somewhat disobedient disposition, ventured by from some nearby home apparently hearing
my presence (dogs always know when I'm nearby). I fed her a granola bar and a few pretzels I had been carrying around for a week and now I
don't think she is going anywhere until I'm gone, and then I fear she may follow me. I don't mind her presence though as I have someone to talk
with and she loves to be petted (what dog doesn't).  The other unannounced visitor was one I would have preferred had not show up to the
party; a 2" long black scorpion(see picture 4 below) crawled out from underneath the ice truck and right between my legs, stopping long
enough to scout the stranger, me, on his stomping grounds. I quickly put my sandals back on and got a shot of him using my headlamp to
brighten the image as it was too dark in the metal shed. He was kind of benignly creepy and though I didn't fear him, decided immediately that
the tent was going to go up and I was sleeping in it. There wasn't enough room inside the shed so I set it up outside and in front. I was actually
thinking of putting the tent up even before the 6 legged poisonous creature showed up as the mosquitos were getting a little bothersome and
nothing will keep me up at night worse than a skeeter buzzing around my ears.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 144   9/06/12
SP : Lincolnton, GA
EP: Rutledge, GA
DM:  74
TM:  9,665

Tonight's camp is another forested area of primarily young adolescent sized pine trees but also mixed with a few sycamore saplings and
another variety with long, thin 3-4 inch leaves, the species of which is unknown to me (I need a book on the 'trees of the South'). US route 278
which parallels  Interstate 20 a few miles to the north is only about football field south of my camp here tonight in this dense little forest. As usual
I can hear the occasional passing car, barking dog and the roar of an ATV from a nearby residence, but for the most part I feel secluded,
relaxed and peaceful, even with the ever present grasshoppers spiders, and large ants,  (see pictures 1 & 2 below) (they aren't hostile like the
little guys) and other insects crawling over my feet and up and around my legs on occasion. The ground here, though covered with what I desire
(a thick blanket of pine needles and other clean natural forest litter), is damp from which, I'm suspecting, is leftover moisture from the remnants
of Hurricane Isaac that passed through these parts a few days ago. Good thing I was further north in the Carolina's when Isaac passed by as
my hunch is that a lot of rain was brought in from that strong frontal system. It was all over the news, and even my being unplugged at these
times was still made aware of its presence.
I just finished my shower and the nicest 'outdoors' one I've had in quite some time. I only had to heat up lightly a liter of the 3 liter total for which I
need to have such a cleansing of ecstasy. The air temp at this moment is splendid; probably high 70's, though the air itself is still very humid.
The optimistic side of me wants to believe that the worst of the heat is behind me for this journey; but on the cautious end of the personal belief
spectrum there remains that repetitious voice saying "don't get too giddy yet", as there still is Florida awaiting my arrival with its potentially
awful conditions, even in the north western panhandle where it's capital Tallahassee lies (thank goodness they did not put their capital in
Orlando, or worse yet, Miami). But my gut level feeling is that the worst of the heat and rain is behind me and now I can start enjoying the more
mellow days and cooler evenings of fall. My fear is that an early winter will emerge before I cross the mountains awaiting me to the west of this
incredibly expansive North American continent, causing unspeakable harness and delays. But for now I will keep that little voice from becoming
anything more than whisper.
My LSTD today was in Rutledge GA and is just a few miles east of my camp this evening. In November of 1864 the left wing of W.T. Sherman's
Army, some of which were referred to as 'Sherman's Bummers' due to their less than ethical and professional nature and behaviors throughout
the campaign, came through these parts on its dreadful 'March to the Sea', literally laying to waste everything in it's path, all the way from
Atlanta to Savannah over 200 miles distant. This total war strategy was termed a 'Scorched Earth' policy as anything and everything was to be
burned or destroyed, military and civilian. Sherman's stated intent was to make 'Georgia howl' as it was his belief that along with depriving the
southern armies with much needed food, supplies, and munitions from this region, if these deeper sections of the South saw the bloodshed,
deprivation, and carnage that the northern sections had (namely Virginia, Tennessee, Maryland, and Pennsylvania) then the will of the rebellion
would be broke once and for all and the long 4 year war might finally come to a close. Looking back in hindsight, most historians believe it was
probably a good call on the part of one of America's most renowned generals (Grant, who coauthored the policy, was in complete support) and
similar in aspect to Truman's decision to drop the 'Bomb' not only once, but twice on civilization centers of Japan at the end of WWII (good
arguments can be made on both sides of that decision).'Shock and Awe' might be a similar modern day term for Sherman's Scorched Earth.
But up until that time Sherman's campaign of destruction targeting civilian property and lives was an act of barbarity almost unknown in the
history of 'civilized' warfare. He was, in that sense, ahead of his time (today we might acquaint terrorists hijacking commercial jetliners to use
as missiles and flown in to civilian occupied buildings as another form of this Total War stratagem).  Sherman had actually lived for a time in
Louisiana and taught at a military academy there so he was acquainted with the southern people, their traditions and diehard spirit. No doubt
that his decision to enact war upon the people themselves was due to his knowledge of such. And it was also he who coined the phrase 'War
is Hell', though in slightly different terms.  But still, one has to wonder, what with the war winding down at the time and the outcome apparent
(Lee, the Confederate capital in  Richmond, and the Army of N Virginia were surrounded by Grant and his armies in a winter long siege in and
around Petersburg VA), why he would have chosen to make such unconscionable  destruction upon so many innocent citizens, most of which
were living in destitute conditions anyway. The war was all but over at that point, it was just a matter of time and what the conditions of
surrender were to be.  Even Gen. Lee himself had said during the 1864 Overland Campaign that if the war becomes a siege upon the
confederate capital, then all is lost.
So over and around these hills and grounds through which I pedaled today, and will continue through tomorrow, lie the ashes and destruction of
Sherman's infamous 'March to the Sea'. I've never been through here before and feel privileged to be traveling through not just an historical
region of the country, but one so beautiful. The mornings are especially nice, not only because they are cool, but with the morning dew hanging
over the low lying areas and around the many grassy fields(see picture 3 below) and plains it makes for  a relaxed and picturesque pastoral
scene. No wonder Georgia is always on one's mind.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 145   9/07/12
SP : Rutledge, GA
EP: Lovejoy, GA
DM:  75
TM:  9,740

Tonight's camp is by no means the best, especially to the eye, but it is functional and relatively secluded and peaceful. I am about a football
field west of US hwys 41/19 and state hwy 3 heading south toward Florida. I am situated at the SW end of a large treeless grassy field near
two large red shipping containers being stored and a few piles of bricks.(see picture 1 below) My hunch is that this field was slated for
development before the bottom dropped out of the real estate market a few years back, sending the economy and most people's lives in to a
tailspin, and from which we still have to recover. These two red box containers probably hold needed equipment or supplies for that
development. A quarter mile to the south is a residential development that I'm certain was the last of that Boom era before bust. And as far as
I'm concerned, thank goodness it did go bust. What an entire scam that whole real estate boondoggle was. Too much cheap easy money for
too long is my best summation for that greed based growth.  Many of us were fooled in to believing we were richer than we were and thus way
over spent. The ones who weren't fooled by the all 'get rich quick' hyperbole are hanging on ok now. Good for them and its unfortunate they also
have to pay for the greed and stupidity of others. For all of the those who got caught up way too much in that decade long bash, well let's just
hope we learned a valuable lesson from all this. There is no way, at least morally or legally, to get rich quick. As far as I know the only way to
become financially set in this life is through work, saving, and proper investment. Of course a little bit of luck goes a long way and as Bonnie
Raitt sings; 'It's in the luck of the draw, baby, the natural law. Forget those movies you saw'. But most of us, even in dire times, continue "
keep the flame burning in which to write our fire in the sky" because what choice do we have?  We will get through these relatively modest
difficult times, whether it's Obama or Romney or somebody else because the presiding president and most the hucksters in Congress, no
matter how much they would like you to believe otherwise, have little to do with our economic prosperity much yet our happiness and fulfillment
in life. I believe they are basically marionettes in a two buck play. Who holds the real strings? Well who knows and why should we really care?  
'Live free or die', as the New Hampshire state motto states.
Time to get off this sour subject. So the highlight of the day was unquestionably my visit to state capital #34 along the 50@50 SPT; Atlanta

There was no formal nor informal meeting with the governor as he was not in the office but I did get answers to questions and some
appreciated attention from his staff in 'constituency affairs' to provide me with a little boost and needed wind for my sails. The friendly ladies
working the office were interested not only in my arrival but in helping me to promote the 50@50 FRAANK causes, and for that effort on their
part I feel good. Thanks ladies.(see picture 2 below)
I don't even remember much about the capital except that it was the usual gold domed Greek/Roman Acropolis/Forum structure, the security
was very tight (they even looked at my drivers license), and a life size statue of Jimmy Carter in a corner of the grounds.(see picture 3 below) I
had forgotten that our 39th president resides here in Georgia. It sure seems like a long time ago when he was president and he got a pretty
raw deal from his presidential years, though he probably does deserve a large share of much of that misfortune.
Atlanta was easier to get in to and out of than most major metropolitan areas, one thing I remember from the baseball trip two years ago.
Drivers are mostly relaxed and forgiving of my two wheeled presence blocking their avenue of travel and the roads are not too congregated
with traffic and signals. Turner Field is just south of the capital and was the sight of the 2000 Olympics.(see pictures 4 & 5 below) The day was
warm but not overly hot; from most the bank signs I believe it never got over 95'. Most important though is that the air dried out somewhat so
the infamous 'misery' index was not too high. How strange it was for me to pedal through a major metropolitan city twice in as many years. It
was mid April 2010 when I ventured through these parts along the MLB biking tour to all 30 major league parks in one season, and seeing one
game along the way. My how things were different then as it was spring still and the climate was still cool, in fact I would need to huddle over my
stove to keep warm in the mornings and wear multiple layers of clothing to keep warm. But today I was sweating like a pig (no deference to
pigs, in fact I believe they are our closest living genetically coded beings other than the primate) and the thought of even a thin shirt over my
torso was out of the question.
So now it is on to Florida and its capital city Tallahassee. I'm expecting it to take me at least three days to pedal the 200+ miles with this
prevailing southerly wind that keeps pushing me backwards. I'm looking forward to turning my bike around and heading north once I reach
Tallahassee, though after Nashville I will simply have to head south again. I'm going to feel probably like a yo-yo after I finish with these southern
states, but there's no way to avoid it if the goal is to reach all 50 US state capitals.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 146   9/08/12
SP : Lovejoy, GA
EP: Butler, GA
DM:  74
TM:  9,814

tonight's camp, though a little close to US route 19 (the highway I've been following all day) is a nice one. Only occasionally does a vehicle pass
so the noise is not much of an issue, and tomorrow morning it will be quick and easy getting going. This highway has been four lanes the entire
way since leaving Atlanta and for at least the most part today, void of much traffic. At one point today I decided to shoot some video so I could
remember later on how nice this section has been; light traffic and pretty scenery, even with all the central Georgian hills, heat and humidity.

At one point today when the nearly consistent southerly wind turned westward a bit and my direction shifted a little to the east making for a
temporary tailwind, I thought I was pedaling in a hot steam room on a stationary bike. It only lasted about 15 minutes but in that time the heat
was unbelievable. The only thing that keeps me going, to keep going. When you stop riding out here the hot thick air envelops you like
a tight mummy style sleeping bag, making you feel almost claustrophobic and ready to burst at the seams. And when the wind is coming from
behind (normally a good thing when riding a bike) and your speed is roughly equivalent to the windspeed at your back, guess what?  No need
for explanation. Sweat was literally pouring off my body and I thought my head was going to explode at any moment. Most the time it is only hills
when these episodes of Dante's inferno occur, but occasionally they happen when I stop without the cover of a rooftop or shade of a tree and
the sun beats down and heat envelops me like that emanating from a pizza oven in July. Truly miserable. But this evening things are so much
more pleasant I feel like celebrating and dancing, if there was just someone or thing around, except these darn ants, with which to do so. The
late afternoon showers have passed on and the cooler temps brought with them are in command now. There still is a light cool breeze from the
west and it feels sooooo good! I'm so looking forward to having a restful nights sleep without interruption from heat induced awakenings.  
This afternoon as I rolled in to Butler, my LSTD, I stopped at a roadside fruit and veggie vendor (the produce is always better than what is sold
at the grocery markets). The proprietor loaded me up with tomatoes and peaches of which I look forward to devouring over the next day or so
and he also threw in a bag of boiled peanuts. Now I remember when going through the south two years ago on the baseball trip and seeing
many roadside vendors of 'Hot Boiled Peanuts' that the sound of such turned me off. But just a few moments ago I started having some of what
the vendor gave me today and they are great. The only problem I am having is trying to figure out how  to get the wet nut out of the shell. If
anybody our there has experience eating these simple delicacies, please let me know because I plan on having on a lot more of these.
Anyways, will probably cut the blog short for tonight as I got in a little late and the days are getting shorter.
Not much to report on today but the usual hot weather. Will try to write more tomorrow.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 147   9/09/12
SP : Butler, GA
EP: Pelham, GA
DM:  107
TM:  9,211

I knew from the outset when I started riding this morning this was going to be a nice high mileage day. First of all it was the coolest morning I
can remember since probably leaving Montana or the Dakota's  and that's not saying it was cold.

But it was much cooler than the last couple of months. I did wear my vest for the first few miles and the fresh, cool, dry morning air felt wonderful
(I also used my sleeping bag last night for the first time in a while). I immediately noticed that the wind was not present and within an hour or two
it became apparent that it was actually from behind me and giving me hope that this might be the day for which I had been waiting weeks for, in
fact months. Really, not since leaving the Dakotas have I experienced a true day-long tailwind without hills or city traffic to interfere with my
riding. Yes I did have some casual tailwind days in New York, Great Lakes region, and New England but the effect of those winds was mostly
negated by all the climbing over hills. And since leaving Augusta Maine I have had more or less headwinds every day, which was not to be
unexpected as I have said before the prevailing winds on this continent come from the south, west, or some combination there within. That
doesn't mean that in every region of these immense lands of the America's there is a wind coming all the time from the south or west. Just that
most the time, in the absence of weather disturbances and in most regions, the wind comes from a southwesterly direction, especially in the
western half or west of the Rocky Mountains.
So one glance at todays mileage tells the story. I made up over half a day from that which I lost back in Massachusetts when I had food
poisoning and fell over 100 miles behind my planned schedule, and as I said earlier, have been thinking about this day for months. I know I may
be getting redundant here but wind means everything when you are traveling on a bicycle. Of course I stayed in the saddle today for over 7
hours as it is my knowledge that days like these don't happen often and belief that when they do, to not take full advantage of them is thumbing
your nose at the generous gift given by the wind gods. Now I know all this may sound pretty strange to the ordinary person, but it's not to me
and probably most other long distance cyclists.
So tonight's camp is a first, for sure on this trip and perhaps ever for me. I am on the edge of a sandy soiled cotton field in southern
Georgia.(see picture 1 below) The soil here is much different from that in the Midwest or really the rest of the country. It definitely reflects the
fact that I'm near Florida and the Gulf Coast. Sand is the main component of this earth and it is relatively fine in texture and of varying shades
and colors. The remnants of hurricane Isaac still are visible, primarily because the ground is still wet from the shellacking this area got from the
rain last week and I am expecting a damp night even though no rain is in the forecast and skies are clear. The ridges in the sand lines are
composed of delicate stalagmite looking formations that resemble miniature Mono lake Tufa's.(see picture 2 below)  They are cute and remind
me of an urban skyline when looking at them from the side and on their level. The cotton plants range in height from 1'-4' and look somewhat
like the soybean plants that grow all over the Midwest. They have broad deep green leaves and soft pink colored flowers blooming all over and
from which I'm assuming the cotton bulbs eventually emerge.(see pictures 3 & 4 below) They are far more appealing to the eye when
compared with the other ubiquitous field crops across the nation .
This evening I noticed a new type of insect that must be native only to these lower latitudes here. It looks like a small roach but flies. Could it be
a flying roach?  I'm not sure as I've never seen one before but I do know roaches thrive in moist tropical climates like here in southern Alabama.
They don't seem too bothersome but I'm keeping my tent zippered up tight as I don't relish the thought of them or any other of the multitude of
species insects that are wondering around at this moment outside this light mesh/nylon protection of mine. I couldn't even imagine sleeping
outside here without any protection. The little biting ants that have been causing me so much grief and pain for a couple weeks now are here
again and attacked my feet while I showered tonight.  My feet are now covered with small itching and irritating welts. At least tonight my tent is
not on the colony residence like the night last week when I had them getting in to my tent all night and biting me. It's funny how after visiting and
living in so many different regions and eco-zones of the country how intimate one gets to know the surroundings, from the grandest spectacles
to it's most minute inhabitants.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 148   9/10/12
SP : Pelham, GA
EP: Havana, FL
DM:  72
TM:  9,993

I'm stopped for my FSTD at a Burger King in Cairo GA for a bite to eat and the morning ritual of phone recharge and journal edit. I got an early
start this morning, just after 6am, when it was still mostly dark except for the soft light of the waning crescent moon half way up on its trajectory
across the southern sky and the red orange hues from the emerging sunrise on the eastern horizon.(see pictures 1, 2, & 3 below)  The morning
dew hung low and heavy over the cotton fields, grassy marshes, and the many small bodies of water, mostly ponds, scattered throughout this
low lying southern region of the country. I love pedaling at this time in the morning as it is cool, windless, quiet with little traffic, and the dramatic
views of the fore mentioned are so splendid it's difficult to find the words to describe them.(see pictures 4 & 5 below) Even the smells from the
moist intense air are alive and awaken the senses to memories long ago forgotten. While riding at this early hour I wear a reflective vest and
blinking red light on the back of my head as well as a blinking headlamp on my forehead. I also have my mirror attached to my glasses so as to
take notice in the case of an inattentive motorist from behind that doesn't see all the reflection (hopefully texting in the morning is something in
which not even a teenager would indulge). As of yet there have been no close calls but if there had been I might look like one of the many
armadillos squashed on the side of the road so I must be pretty visible out there. This is my plan for the next two months as I attempt to finish
the last 4000 miles of this journey; to get an early start before dawn (full daylight is not till well after 7am) and try to arrive to camp a little earlier
as the days shorten. I figure it is better to be riding in the morning when it's dark rather then the late afternoon or early evening when tired
motorists are anxious to get home from work or worse yet, have been drinking. Finding and setting up camp is also much easier with some
daylight left rather than in the dark.
This morning my plan is to get in to Tallahassee before noon (it's another 30 miles south) and then to turn my bike around nearly 180 degrees
to the north west and start the trek up to Nashville, clipping briefly the SE corner of Georgia and  tagging Montgomery Alabama, capital #36, on
the way there. In about 10 miles I will reach the border of the Sunshine State, Florida,(see picture 6 below) and at that point Georgia will be, at
least for the remainder of this journey, always in the 'back' of my mind. Ive really enjoyed my stay here, as was the case two years ago when I
passed through on the baseball trip. People are friendly, roads are generally in good shape, and the countryside is beautiful, with the
exception, on occasion, of overfilled trash bin piles bringing the resemblance of a third world country and perhaps being the result of a striking
trash man.
So I've made it to camp and a decent functional one it is. I am about two football fields west of US route 27 and a few miles north of the town of
Havana, FL and only a few football field north of a lumber mill on which I believe I am on the company property (though well hidden). The hum
from the plant is mixed with the passing traffic from the highway and all of that is sprinkled with the delicate sounds of nature including a few
unseen squawking ravens, daytime crickets chirping, and an occasional serenade of a passing robin.  There is a small pond a few yards away
and which causes me a bit of concern in that soon it may be the source of countless mosquitoes.
I made it to the capital of Florida around 2pm(see picture 7 below) and made my perfunctory presence at the Governors office where I went
through the usual shlemeel with the security guards and after that receptionist at the governors office. Of course nobody of 'importance' was
around and I didn't have time to wait for the standard 'big state' (Florida is a pretty big state) protocol of signing in and filling out forms just to
speak to some staffer. So I just asked the receptionist if she would give me the little state flag in the pencil holder on her desk and I would be
gone before she could whistle the first two bars of  Dixie . The courteous, but not very efficient, lady seemed relieved that that was all I really
wanted and if she gave me the dumb little piece of fabric that I would be on my way, and out of her way. "Yes, here please take it. I'm sorry the
governor can't sign it for you but if you leave me your address I'm sure we can get a signed one to you". "Ok, thank you very much. You've been
very helpful" (Not!), was my reply as I dashed for the door to continue on with this NEJ as there was still at least 20 miles more to bike in the
day. Florida is done and in the books.( Got my video of my arrival in to the capital of Tallahassee and state flag of Florida

so now I can continue on to state capital #36; Montgomery Alabama. That's about all this trip has boiled down to me anymore. I have no
interest anymore of meeting with anyone or trying to sell my cause. That's not a good thing for the fundraising aspect but all I want to do is finish
this journey before the storms begin coming in from the northwestern regions of this continent and submersing me in large quantities of snow
or cold rain. I want this first 49 state capital trek to end without failure of reaching my final goal; Phoenix Arizona, still over 4000 miles distant.
Anyways I have to admit how much improved my disposition has become since the high temps have dropped below the 90's and the air dried
out somewhat. Add to that relatively flat terrain and the absence of a headwind and therein lies all the ingredients for a content state of mind. I
am actually waving to pedestrians on the street again, smiling and making casually fun small talk with the folks I meet throughout the day, and
find myself in a generally positive state of mind. The unbearable environmental conditions have been so extreme and for so long that I thought
that the Dr Jekyll side of my personage had taken over for good. I knew there was a more benevolent side to my personality, and all it took was
a waning of these difficult weather/riding conditions I've had to endure over the last several months. I'm just hoping this moderate weather and
terrain will continue for a while until the cold weather begins to become a negative factor and my persona, once again, begins to deteriorate. I
am still not to the 75% completion mark yet for this journey and with two months, 4000 miles, and two major mountain ranges awaiting me, to
be the least bit complacent at this point in the journey is foolish and even worse, dangerous. Just a few miles before camp here tonight was an
accident involving a motorcycle and SUV (not much a mystery who came out on the top end of that one). Not much was left at the scene when I
rode by except the investigators doing their job and lots of yellow caution tape surrounding a mangled motorcycle lying on its side and
underneath the SUV that had a sizable dent on it's side. The scene brought a stark reminder to myself of the fragility of what I am doing. So to
lead myself at this brief refreshing moment to believe that the worst is behind me is pure folly of the minds workings. I have not 'broken the
back' of anything as of yet, nor do expect to at any point along this journey. I must remain humble and continually remind myself that my control
is limited while at the same time trying to cover all my bases and staying in the moment with full concentration on the task before me. Someone
else, I hope, is taking responsibility for all else. All I can strive for now is safe passage to my final destination. As Gerard D'Alboville so
eloquently states in his book when retelling his first hand account of the remarkable venture of the first crossing by an ocean rower of Northern
Pacific ocean; "the N Pacific is, and can never be, conquered. It may, on occasion allow you relatively safe passage across its huge expanses.
But never completely with peace of mind".
Just after passing by the accident and before arriving to camp I made a stop at a roadside fruit/vegetable stand being 'manned' by five ladies
about my age.(see picture 8 below) I stopped to get my daily fix of hot boiled peanuts, HBP, and ended up staying about 15 minutes talking
with them, a couple of them saying they had seen reports of my arrival in to the area from a local paper. They were all friendly and insisted I
take a huge bag of nuts along with me free of charge in exchange for a picture all together. So here it is ladies. Thanks for your warm
hospitality and gracious gift of HBP. I am officially a HBP addict nowadays.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 149   9/11/12
SP : Havana, FL
EP: Enterprise, AL
DM:  108
TM:  10,101

Today is the end of the 20th consecutive week biking everyday. That's 140 straight days averaging over 70 miles per day. My longest was 149
back in Montana and least mileage day, just a few weeks ago, of 19 when suffering from a bout of food poisoning I picked up in Boston.
Through it all I've been able to maintain my planned weekly average of 500 miles per week. That's 20 straight 500 mile weeks. I reached four
personal milestones today: first I went over the 10,000 total mile point since leaving the capital steps in Juneau Alaska on April 18;(see picture
1 below) two, I eclipsed the 10,000 mile biking point since leaving Skagway Alaska one week after departing from Juneau; three I broke my
previous mileage record for most miles in a single bike journey, 9,967, set two years ago on the MLB bike tour, and four, I gained an hour
today when entering Alabama,(see picture 2 below) the first time gain of the journey after losing four hours from Alaska. Before yesterday I had
been in the eastern time zone since entering W Virginia, I believe, two months ago. I guess one could call this a day of firsts. But alas, there is
another first. Tonight I am camped for the first time in a drive- in movie theater.(see picture 3 below) That's right, the place where you may have
had your first date or were able to take the whole family out to a show for under $10 (that is assuming you hid a kid or two under the back seat
or had them stuffed in the trunk). From my vantage point tonight sitting on Ol' Ms Coleman (perhaps for the last time as tomorrow I receive a
package from back home with my replacement chair) I can actually see the screen which is still in relatively good condition compared to
everything else here. The entire parking area has been overtaken by pine trees, grass, and thorny underbrush and through which I was forced
to meticulously plan my route to get where I've set up camp tonight which is on left field side of the screen. How memorable it would be if a
movie came on at some point tonight and I could relax watching it while enjoying my last evening straddling Ol' crumbling Ms Coleman. I haven't
seen a movie for ages and relish just the thought of seeing a good one. Anyways I spotted this place as I was leaving my LSTD (Walmart), just
a few football fields to the south in the town of Enterprise. I was very tired after a long, warm day biking over a hundred miles and took
advantage of the opportunity afforded me (opportunists are survivors, just like rats, ravens and Romulans).  I actually was suppose to be farther
to the east this evening but took the wrong route when leaving the congested town of Dothan and where to it seemed every road in the state of
Alabama led. Little wonder why I got lost as the route signs here can get a little overbearing.(see picture 4 below) But at least I made it to the
36th state along the 50@50 SPT, the great state of Alabama, the Yellowhammer state (a name which goes back to the Civil War). I entered
the Heart of Dixie here after crossing the Chattahoochee River at the SE corner of the state.(see picture 5 below)
Today 9/11, a day which will live forever in infamy for the nation, is also my son's 19th birthday.  Domenic Brinton Scaturro, my third and
youngest son, was born on this day in 1993. Entering the world after only 35 weeks from conception, he spent the first few weeks of life in the
neo-natal unit at the Flagstaff regional hospital. His premature birth left him with no adverse health effects and in fact has excelled at any sport
in which he participated. Tall, strong, handsome, social and with a dynamic personality, he has no problem attracting the fancy of the opposite
gender and is usually center of attention with his jester type antics whenever around groups of others. He has joined me on several trans
American bike trips in past years including the 2004 Lewis & Clark 3,200 mile 200th anniversary tour at the age of only 10 (he was so little
then I had to put 2x4 blocks of wood on his pedals so his feet could reach the bottom of the pedal stroke) and in 2008 the 3,800 mile coast to
coast Northern states tour at age 14. Both trips we did together on a tandem and were for me the most rewarding trips I have ever done. He
hardly ever complained on either journey and I'm hoping he has some memories of both that will last a lifetime. Just newly graduated from high
school he is currently exploring what his next step in life will be while helping out in the family business. I'm proud of Domenic and all he's
accomplished and thankful to have such a thoughtful, considerate, generous and respectful young man as my son. Happy birthday Nico. I'll see
you in a few weeks and your birthday present is in the mail (just make sure the yard is cleaned up and you have a job before I get back home).

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 150   9/12/12
SP : Enterprise, AL
EP: Prattville, AL
DM:  100
TM:  10,201
Week 20    WM: 578  TM: 10,001     AVG. Per Day: 80.2-82.5 miles

Tonight's camp is just a few miles north of the Alabama town of Prattville where earlier I had met the daughter, Jenny, of FRAANK volunteer,
friend and one time teacher (now retired) of my children Carrie Heisley. Jenny had brought me a care package sent from back home
containing my long anticipated camp stool to replace the crumbling Ms Coleman and some goodies including Carrie's delicious homemade
granola and a large container of Nutella and french bread. The granola I had for dinner but unfortunately I had to send the camp stool back
home because it is the wrong one so it looks like Ms Coleman will have to be left in service until I can find a replacement for the ol' gal. I met
Jenny at a local Winn-Dixie grocery store (there like the Safeway of the South) where I had been buying dinner stuff as Prattville was my LSTD
for the day. There was enough day left for me, I had figured, to try and gain an extra 10-15 miles on my way to Nashville but unfortunately just
out of town I had two flat tires so was forced to make camp nearby where I repaired them. Now I am in an expansive green forest and have no
idea who my neighbors are other than at least one of them has a dog that is aware of my presence here tonight (dogs always know).
Today was my third century ride (100 miles or more) in four days. I'm trying to figure out now if I've ever ridden this many miles in a four day
stretch thus far on the 50@50 SPT. I don't think so unless it happened in Montana or Oregon. This is almost too much of a good thing as I
wouldn't be pedaling this many miles without the aid of a beneficial wind, but my knees and backside are both getting a little tender. As is
typical is this part of the country the wind is coming from mostly from the south, and today with an SE angle, and I am using it for all it is worth
with my northerly direction .
I arrived at my 36th Capital in Montgomery, AL around 3pm after riding over 80 miles,

and had probably the most hasty visit of all the capitals thus far. The building was simple but stately and beautiful,(see pictures 1 & 2 below)
unfortunately I was just not in the mood nor of possession of time to spend much of it there. My brief visit was simply the boilerplate video and
snapshot in front of the building (done, as usual, by a friendly passerby) and I was on my way out of there. I had no intention of going inside and
trying to find the governor nor anybody on his staff. I already had the signed state flag attached to flagstaff on the rear of my trailer so it was
easy in, easy out. Now it's on to Nashville.
All this brings up a point I've been wanting to elaborate on further but, as has been the problem for most this journey, constraints, unable to
because of so little time. There simply is no excess time these days for anything. I ride, write, eat, sleep, and try to be merry. It seems that from
the moment I get up in the morning and start the water for coffee and cereal my day is on constant overdrive. I am totally obsessed with
completing this journey and believe that in order to do so I can't lose any time. I would love to spend more time writing and speaking with
people I encounter throughout the day, as well as selling the FRAANK causes to possible donors. But time is just not available. Already
September is nearly half way through and I'm still 4000 miles from reaching Phoenix.  
Time is of essence right now and every moment precious if I am to pass through two major mountain passes before late fall's unpredictable
weather impedes my progress.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 151   9/13/12
SP : Prattville, AL
EP: Gardendale, AL
DM:  95
TM:  10,296

I'm finally to camp and another long day it has been. I got an early start again this morning before daybreak and had yet another opportunity to
enjoy the beautiful colorful sunrise
.(see pictures 1 & 2 below) This spot I'm at tonight is completely covered with wild growing vines and though
quite unique, not one of my favorites. The vines are climbing over and about, in and out of everything.(see picture 3 below) I had to hack out
enough space to put up my tent,(see picture 4 below) and myself, on this little, long ago used and spider web blocked(see picture 5 below)
road upon which I plan to spend this evening. It took me a long time to find this spot as I'm basically in the northern burbs of Birmingham. It's
been a long time since I had to spend more than a second thought to finding camp, but tonight it was three and perhaps even four of them. As
can be seen from the days mileage I had nearly another century ride today, the fourth in five days of riding. This is a good thing in some
aspects, but not in others. I have caught up with my planned goal of 71.4 miles per day (500 miles a week) and am even in surplus territory, but
I am pooped.  I feel mentally dogged and physically wasted. I also feel spent out on spirit and the mental stamina is at a near all time low. As
was the case back in the Midwest, I find myself getting reckless with my riding again, taking for granted happenings on the road that may, or
may not, turn out as expected. All this is starting to seem like a bad dream again. I can't put in to words how hard it is to wake up every morning
now, lying on my 1/2" air filled sleeping pad, and convince myself that I must do again what I've done now over 150 straight times without any
break. I am so tired of this life. I find myself at this moment just wanting to cry (no, I can't admit to that) and getting some of this fatigue and
anguish of the moment off my mind and out of my spirit (if you're reading this than I didn't do my usual job of editing the depressing stuff I write
about practically every night). I get emails, texts, and phone calls everyday from friends and family and I don't have the time or spirit to respond.
All that preoccupies my mind these days while riding is finishing this NEJ. I have many thoughts occupying my mind throughout the still hot long
days riding, but as I've said before there simply is no time to write about them. I am dirty, probably smelly (even though I shower every night),
and have a look, I'm certain, that says "I'm know I appear to be from another world, excuse the unorthodox appearance".
Anyways, I made it through Alabama's largest city, Birmingham, this afternoon and it wasn't as congested as I was anticipating. I had moments
recalling when I was here a few years ago for a marathon, one of which were the many steep hills surrounding this central city in the Heart of
Dixie. Birmingham was also center stage during the civil rights movement in the 50's & 60's. It's a neat city and one worth the visit, even if for
nothing more than to see its numerous historical sights.
Other than pedaling through Birmingham the only noteworthy thing of the day I can recall is being pulled over on I-65 by a policeman in
Calera.(see picture 6 below) Alabama is the first state since Montana I've ridden on the interstate, not from lack of wanting to, but because
signs are at every entrance prohibiting the usage of bicycles on them. Here there were no such signs so I figured that it was ok to ride them,
and I did (I actually got about 50 of my miles on the fast freeway). When the policeman told me that only motorized traffic was allowed my reply
was that it was not posted anywhere, so how was I to know. I also explained to him my belief that riding interstate freeways in rural sections of
the country is not only far faster and easier for bikers but it is also safer as there is a large 10' visible shoulder with a rumble strip between
traffic and myself. He acknowledged my point and stated that he didn't disagree with me, but that the law was the law and I would have to get
off at the next exit. Totally understandable and I did get off at the next exit, but I still can't understand, if it is illegal for bikes on the freeway, why
there are no signs stating such. Maybe it's because there are so few bikers here in Alabama, especially ones like me traveling long distances,
that this issue doesn't even warrant the cost of putting up such signs. Or, could the policeman possibly have been wrong? After all he was a
municipal officer and not a state highway trooper. Nonetheless I think I'll stay off the freeways for the time being, or at least until I reach Texas
where I know I can ride them legally. A fat ticket for riding on the freeway would not make my already crummy mood any better.
One thing I have been noticing more here in Alabama than any where in the South, in fact the whole country, is the ubiquity of churches and
religiously inspired and publicly displayed annunciations.(see picture 7 below) As well as the Heart of Dixie, Alabama must credit itself as the
Buckle of the Bible Belt. Most I see are of protestant denomination and some municipalities, I believe, have zoned areas exclusively for
churches, and very expansive ones at that. The structures themselves are enormous, finely constructed and elaborately finished. The business
of saving souls must be doing pretty well here in these parts and I would assume an atheist probably sticks out like a drag queen at a fashion

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 152   9/14/12
SP : Gardendale, AL
EP: Decatur, AL
DM:  73
TM:  10,369

This morning it's not just cool,  but chilly. This is the first morning I can remember getting out of my tent, putting on my fleece pullover and
actually wishing I had some pants and not just shorts. I've been wearing just shorts since N Dakota but I think it might be time to purchase
something warmer. It's probably only in the 50's but my being so use to the heat and for so long it feels colder. The air is also very damp.
Everything is wet because I am out in the open, even though surrounded by a sea of vines. One of the reasons I prefer to camp in forested
areas is that morning dew like this here is unable to penetrate the blanket of trees surrounding and other forest vegetation, as well as making it
warmer in the morning. But when I found this spot last night I was desperate as it was getting late and as usual I was tired. Tonight I will look for
someplace more enclosed.
Last night I was awoken numerous times by the sound of what at first I believed to be small arms fire. I figured out after the 3rd or fourth time of
being startled out of a deep slumber that the popping noise was due to the large grapefruit size seeds from these monstrous vine covered
trees cracking upon contact with the ground. After realizing that my camp was not in a shooing range, I slept much better.
So now I'm at camp #152 (minus the handful of nights spent with friends or acquaintances I have met along the way. And a nice one it is even
though there are an abundance of harmless tiny flying insects here to welcome me. I am on the north shore of Wheeler Lake
(see pictures 1 & 2
) just across the bridge coming from Decatur AL. My exact location is about a mile east of US route 31/72 and a couple miles west of
interstate 65. This place is a wildlife refuge and I, being the wildest of all, feel the fit here just perfect. It is actually very beautiful, despite all the
bugs, and the climatic conditions are primo. I had to hack out a small area to set up camp at lake level from all the vines and tree branches and
clear out the piles of drift wood and other debris strewn about when the lake water level was a bit higher (probably in spring). But I am secluded
and, with the exception of the distant highway sounds of loud trucks and motorcycles, it is quiet. A few moments ago I could hear water fowl
splashing in the water to my front a few feet from my spot seated atop Ol' Crumbling Ms Coleman (how many more afternoons and mornings
she allows me to park my behind on her is anybody's guess). So, I guess one could say I'm doing better than last evening so I won't go on
about how much I miss home or want this NEJ to end. If only every evening could be like this one....
There is something that's been on my mind for some time and which I've been meaning to write about but due to the usual time limitations have
been unable, and that concerns the topic of bicycle touring. I have folks all the time inquire about what I do and how I do it or what my advice is
on this or that concerning long distance bicycle traveling. My usual response is it depends on what you're really looking for and at what level of
comfort you are accustom to living, as well how much money you afford to spend. Do you want an extended months long escape or just a few
days to refresh the batteries? Can you go for days, even weeks on end without a hotel room and camping in sometimes primitive conditions or
must you have the security and comfort of a motel room? Do you enjoy having company or prefer solitude? Now I'm not one usually for giving
much advice because as I see it; wise men don't need it and fools won't heed it. But for this subject I'll take exception. From all my years doing
this (25+) I figure there are basically four classifications for those in this sport/recreation we call bicycle touring or cyclo-traveling, or just about
any name you can pin upon it as there are several out there. They rank in my opinion according to comfort level and cost and generally vary
according to age for most folks. How I will describe them is from level 1 (most comfortable, most costly and age irrelevant) to level 4 (least
comfortable, least costly and age relevant). I also must introduce a new acronym, LDC (long distance cycling) as that is the most descriptive
term I can find for this recreational sport of adventure cycling. The four levels from I-IV I have termed the Pansies, City Boys, Cowboys, and
Radicals. I also plan to list Hollywood actors I think best represent that particular level (be forewarned my vernacular may be a bit apolitical, but
as I figure it one must always be who they are and if you can't laugh at yourself, then try eating more fiber.
The first level of LDC, the Pansy, is as the name applies; comfortable enough  even for a pansy. And the Hollywood actor I think best fits this
class is Warren Beatty. Pretty boy Warren didn't quite fit the role as rough and tumble Clyde Barrow in his 60's hit Bonnie & Clyde and for
some reason I just don't see him as a tough guy. I think his role in the movie Shampoo best fits his Hollywood persona and is why I think if he
were in to LDC, a Pansy would be the class best fit for his personality. Pansies are basically the ones who want to experience bike traveling
but without any hassles and in as much comfort as possible, no matter what the cost, and though they range in all ages and genders, generally
mature folks and ladies prefer this method of LDC. Pansies generally sign up for a weekend, or sometimes week long, cycling trip complete
with sag support (vehicles that tote your belongings and other essentials) and all they do is ride on a planned route with periodic set-up break
stations filled with cold drinks and lots of healthy snacks. They enjoy the beautiful scenery and carry nothing on their bike except perhaps a
water bottle and camera. If they're a real Pansy and get tired, or it rains, they have the option of putting their bike, and themselves, in the sag
wagon for the duration of the ride . If you have a mechanical or flat tire the ride organizers are usually there with the spare equipment and tools
and on some tours even the paid personnel to do the repair job. Generally Pansies sleep in clean, comfy hotels or B&B's and if camping is
required it is on safe public grounds such as a school or city parks and with showers provided.  Meals are usually fully prepared multi-coursed
dinners and some of the more fancy ones even have entertainment. Everything has been planned before time and all that really is required is
arranging your flight if needed and perhaps, if you would prefer, a shared room or solo accommodation. I do know this class of bike touring
does not come cheap and costs can range as high as several hundred dollars per day depending on your level of comfort and what is
provided, thus making Pansy LDC the most costly. I've never done one of these tours but have friends who do and have nothing but good
things to say about them. Perhaps one day I will try out being a Pansy but up to now class I LDC holds no appeal to me, not because of the
cost factor so much, but because my aim has always been to have an adventurous escape and the planning and comfort of this type of touring
negates that. My motto is 'If it ain't an adventure, then why do it?'  Also, perhaps, I figure I am still too young to be a Pansy.  
It's getting late and I need to take care of business before it gets to late and dark sets in so I will continue on with the other classes tomorrow.
For now it's off to the 'bag' shower, one pot slop dinner, and nylon tent accommodations. Buona Notte.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 153   9/15/12
SP : Decatur, AL
EP: Chapel Hill, TN
DM:  74
TM:  10,443

Similar to two nights ago I was again awoke from my much needed restful sleep, but this time not by falling grapefruit size tree seeds that
sounded like .22 caliber shells being fired next around my tent. Last night it was Alabaman Armadillos rummaging through and around my
camp for most the night.  Armadillo, meaning 'the little armored one' were once coined the term by hungry unemployed Texans who hunted
them for food as 'Hoovers Hogs' in reference to the 31st president and his role in bringing about the Great Depression. I prefer the name
'Panzerschwein (german for 'armored pig') used by the newly emigrated Germans to E Texas in the 1920's to the bountiful varmint. A
Panzershwein, rather than a chicken, in the pot was more the norm during those difficult times, at least in Texas.
When I first heard their frolicking around I thought they were raccoons who are my  most frequent visitor in the midnight hours. With those
vermin I just shine my headlamp out at them and when I see the reflection in their eyes throw a rock or stick toward their direction and they
skeddadle for the duration of the evening. Not so with the Panzerschwein. These prehistoric looking dinosaurs (a triceratops comes to mind)
whose heads are tiny compared to the relatively large size of their football shaped torso, are quite stubborn when they know good fixins are
within reach for the takin. Being nocturnal, like most the other scavenging creatures out here, I've never actually seen one alive and moving
about (the only ones I see resemble burnt, cracked pancakes along the side of the road). So after using the same tactics I do with the pesky
raccoons, they initially reacted by scurrying away for cover behind some trees and forest debris, only to reemerge again moments later with
renewed resolve in their search for goodies from my stash of food in the bags on my bike. Again I shooed them off, and again they returned.
This charade went on for hours until I finally gave up and let them do their thing, sandwiching my head and ears with my pillow sack in a futile
attempt to ignore their presence. Eventually 5am came around and when I crawled out of my tent to inspect the damage was surprised to find
they hadn't really made to much of a mess except for a small scattering of some refuse I had left in a plastic bag. But I am feeling a little
lackluster this morning from missing my beauty sleep, even after two heavily caffeinated cups of coffee.
Camp tonight is a nice one, though nothing too special. I am in the Henry Horton State Park about 10 miles north of Lewisburg Tennessee just
a few miles south of Chapel Hill. Hwy. 31 is a football field and a half west of my location and I am in a forested area with tall trees and tons of
talkative birds. All is good here and tranquil with the exception of the usual traffic background noise to which I seem to be getting accustom,
albeit reluctantly.
Again today, for the second time in three days, just shortly after I pedaled into State #37(see picture 1 below) I was pulled over on Interstate 65
for allegedly breaking the law.(see picture 2 below)  In fact I was breaking the law, but a useless and ignorant one it is. This time it was by a
Tennessee State Trooper and being friendly as friendly can be (especially seeing as how he has the authority to give me a hefty citation) he
agreed with me, as did the last law officer, in my reasoning that there was no good reason for prohibiting cyclists from using the interstate
freeways along rural stretches of the country. But the law is the law and once again I was forced to exit the fast, easy, and safe passageway to
my destination (Nashville) and take the longer, more difficult 'back roads' to my destination.  
So, before it gets too late, on to classification #2 of LDC. The second level is what I term the 'City Boy' and the Hollywood actor I think best fits
class is Paul Newman. With his piercing blue eyes and suave, cool demeanor what woman could resist his charm or guy envy his style. But he
also had a bold, rugged and daring side to his performances in such roles as The Hustler and Cool Hand Luke and is why I think he is the best
example of a City Boy. City Boys is the class when someone interested in LDC must start making the investment for equipment to survive a
few nights out on their own and without the support of a sag vehicle that a Pansy has. This is the level where many first introduce themselves in
to the recreational sport of LDC and thus begin the purchasing of needed supplies and equipment to sustain themselves out on the road day
after day as their trips usually endure for weeks and even months. Expensive bikes specially built and equipped for multi day journeys, tents,
sleeping bags, stoves (if they plan on cooking) and a host of other equipment is needed at this level. It's at this level where one decides that the
recreational sport of cyclo touring is something they would like to pursue further, perhaps as lifetime recreation, or drop out of it all together and
I've seen many City Boys over the years invest a lot of money to attempt this form of LDC only to realize shortly afterwards that it was not what
they thought it would be. Thus City Boys can be, and often are, 'One and Outers' meaning they make the investment, do one trip, and then sell
or give everything away and go on to the next exciting, or non exciting, thing in life. My good buddy and bike traveling partner Jim Bostwick
attained his first touring bike completely rigged for only $300 from one such heavily invested yet discouraged bike traveler, way back on his
first tour in 2004 on the 200th anniversary tour of the Lewis & Clark expedition.  I term them City Boys because even though they are roughing it
compared to most other travelers, they still prefer to live with most the creature comforts that go with life as they know it when traveling or at
home; comfy hotel rooms with normal showers every other night, eating at nice restaurants (they rarely cook), camping mostly mostly restricted
to campgrounds, have nicely tuned and state of the art equipment and gear, and maintaining a civilized disposition, especially when amongst
others, that announces the temporal limits of what they are doing. The like to get dirty, but not filthy. There seldom is dirt under their finger nails
and hair never shaggy or greasy. Their trips seldom last more than a few weeks, perhaps at the longest a month or two if trying to cross the
US. At one time, many moons ago, I use to be in to class II LDC. I eventually realized that what I was searching for was a grander escape from
life as usual, one that, in a sense, shocked me out of that dreadful coma of normal life, and class II LDC was fully filling that need. So, on to
Class III of LDC; the 'Cowboy''. But it's late for now so again I will put it off till tomorrow.  For now Buona Notte

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 154   9/16/12
SP : Chapel Hill, TN
EP: White Bluff, TN
DM:  69
TM:  10,512

I slept well last night, but only till 3:30 when I awoke, had to go to the bathroom and then couldn't go back to sleep. After tossing and turning for
almost an hour and listening to the strange sounds outside my nylon shelter, I decided to make an early start of it on the days ride in to and out
of the capital of Tennessee; Nashville, #37 on the list of 50 US capitals I've set out to reach on this 50@50 SPT. I made good time riding in the
cool, still wind morning air and deserted roads making 30 miles until my FSTD at a Kroegers supermarket for my morning donut and blog edit
while simultaneously charging my phone. The best place in grocery stores I've found to do this is on one of their electric powered scooter/carts
that elder and disabled folks use while shopping. Usually there are wall outlets nearby them for their own charge and I can sit down and relax
out of the way of most everybody (the one exception being the shopping cart person who sometimes I enter in to with a friendly conversation.
Sometimes I get funny looks from the employees and customers but I heed little notice as my mind is finishing up the previous days journal and
a million miles away from reality.
I made it to the capital around 1:30 and didn't stay long as it is a Sunday and no one was around as well as the building was under renovation
and fenced completely off for visitors.(see pictures 1 & 2 below)

On the ride up to the capital building (capital buildings are, without exception, built on the highest ground of the surrounding area) I passed by
all the popular eateries and tourist attractions in the country music capital and home of the Grand Ol' Opry. They were all busy with swank
cosmopolitan clientele and loud music was blaring from every which direction. All I could think about at the time was getting to the capital
building as fast as I could, and then getting out as soon as I could. Of course my exit from capital #37 ended up taking more than two hours
negotiating the many congested roads, traffic signals and steep hills of West Nashville.
Camp tonight is a nice one. It is heavily forested and the highway is far enough away that the traffic should not cause me a fit. Of course I am on
private property but from where I entered on the north side of US route 70 there were no 'private property' signs and no one is within shouting
distance (though I do hear a dog barking somewhere in the distance). For all I know, hidden from my immediate view, there could be a home
next door, which happens quite often to me in these heavily forested areas of the country.
So, I've been thinking all day about the Class III of LDC and for me this is the one most unique and challenging when all factors are considered.
Originally I was considering titling this class the 'Dukes' and the City Boys the 'Luke's so then I could make a sharp battle of contrast between
the Lukes vs. the Dukes (the two classes that, in my opinion, really represent the recreational sport of cyclo touring). But I decided on the
Cowboys and City Boys so as not to make the Pansies and Radicals feel left out of the conversation.
This is the class I believe myself to partake in and in which this 50@50 journey has being carried out. I decided to term this one the Cowboy
and my Hollywood idol, or best representative, The Duke (John Wayne). To be a class III LDC enthusiast you must have some experience first
at cycling and outdoor living and then the personality and will to carry on with what most people would consider insanity. Cowboys are
independent and don't like being fenced in, whether literally or in the figurative sense. I can't ever imagine a director or producer giving John
Wayne a script and telling him how to interpret his character. The Duke was, without exception, Hollywood's most type casted character. He
was who he was, and it showed through most the characters he portrayed.  I believe that was why he was so successful in his movie making
career. Cowboy LDC is similar to the Duke in that usually there are no rules or guidelines to bike traveling. The Cowboy makes them up on his
own. Or in other words, he creates his own character within a given set of guidelines. They aren't concerned about being pretty, always clean,
dressed in the proper attire, riding according to custom, nor what others think of them as are City Boys and Pansies. After all, in their mind they
are out on the range, at least if not in on this physical plain, for certain on another. They like to make their own rules and not bother others, as
long they themselves are left alone.  Cowboys are in a class with very little company and in fact, other than myself, friend and summer biking
companion Jim Bostwick and fellow baseball trip colleague Darren O'donnell, I can only recall meeting a handful of others over the years in this
class of LDC. They cook for themselves, take showers outside, sleep in sometimes primitive conditions and generally live life in and beside
the margins pretending that they are alone and in a different dimension where no human living in the 'real' world takes notice. They can travel
for months, even years if time permitted, and most the time do not have immediate families and careers (this is where Jim and I differ from
most Cowboys). In other words they are pretty much foot loose and fancy free. They have stories of the road that could entertain audiences for
hours but, being reclusive in nature, refrain from so doing because in general they prefer to listen then speak. They are more comfortable alone
and with nature (out on the fenceless range) than around others (especially in crowded conditions) because they can be themselves in the
knowledge that natures being and God's laws always trump those of man. They don't like following maps or pre scouted routes and would
rather allow the contours of the rolling plains and hills and wind direction decide their path. They can get dirty, and even filthy, for a spell. But
Cowboys prefer, if and when possible, to clean up as is their belief 'cleanliness is next to godliness'. Some are religious and some aren't, and
some are somewhere in between. But all cowboys find their sense of spirituality in being alone and acting out according to their's and God's
plan. Again, they define their own script.
Once you enter this phase or class of LDC it is hard to regress, so to speak, to a City Boy or especially a Pansy. Cowboy LDC is very
affordable, but as can be imagined, lacking the usual comforts it can be a challenge as age increases. I'm almost 50 and often wonder how
much longer I will be able to proceed traveling in this mode. But for now it seems to be working out alright, no matter how much I may cry and
complain about the difficulty of life out here.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 155   9/17/12
SP : White Bluff, TN
EP: Bruceton, TN
DM:  65
TM:  10,577

It started raining early last night and kept coming down all night. Now it is 7am, still raining, and I am huddled in my tent having coffee and trying
to figure when the most opportune moment is to pack up and hit the soggy road. If I had known this stuff was coming I would have found cover
yesterday afternoon on my search for camp. But seeing as how I haven't had any wet weather really since that monster storm back on the
Eastern Shore of Maryland, the day before crossing the Chesapeake Bay and riding in to DC, I've become a little complaisant with the weather
I dislike mornings like these even though I've experienced so many of them. There is something disconcerting about packing all your
belongings in a saturated state and hitting the road. Perhaps it's because I'm an Arizonan desert rat that prefers my things, and myself, to be
dry. Nonetheless, at some point here I'm going to have to bite the bullet and jump in to the wet excitement as the day is progressing rapidly and
I have 70+ soggy miles to ride today with a forecast calling for 100% chance of showers all day and in to the evening. The focus for mornings
as these is trying to keep the essential stuff (sleeping bag, clothes and important documents) dry while you frantically go about packing
everything else which can be dried out later. In the diaries of Capt. Lewis he often tells of the frustration the Voyage of Discovery had keeping
their essentials dry, especially in the event of a tipping of the canoes, and of course they were without ziplock baggies and dry bags for
equipment storage. Coping with rain and being wet is a problematic and unpleasant issue with which outdoor explorers have always had to
endure. I really can't complain much about the rain on this journey as even though I've had a good dousing or two from the wet stuff, especially
in New England, it could have been much worse. As anyone from the eastern half of the country knows it rains all the time back here. One good
thing about this rain is I slept like a baby last night getting over nine much needed restful hours of sleep and feel much better than yesterday.
As expected it was a wet and uncomfortable day and aside from brief periodic lapses in rainfall, I was forced to ride all day long in it . It wasn't
too bad though as this storm, which blew in from the South, was not cold. I don't mind riding in the rain so much when it's warmer and don't get
chilled. When it hits the point that I start getting cold, then it is miserable and the search for comfort takes on a high priority. But though riding in
warm rain is not too bothersome, to camp in it is, so my priority for the evening was too find cover, and so here I am. Camp tonight is under the
overhang of an extremely cluttered and trash filled garage adjoining an abandoned home also filled with junk and garbage. There are several
really old outbuildings whose fate are most certainly complete tear or burn down.  No one apparently has lived here for quite some time and the
home itself is so littered with old belongings (mostly books, magazines, and clothes) that it is not possible to walk through it without stepping
over those aforementioned items. In short it is despicable inside the house and so I have taken shelter under this garage overhang for the
evening. It could be whoever lived here last was a hoarder and since then unscrupulous elements of society have been through here and torn
up what was remained. I simply cleaned up a little area to set up my tent with the aid of a small artificial Christmas tree I found in the home. I'm
thankful to have some type of cover for the evening but can't get my mind off why this place was left in such an apparently hurried condition. Did
the last occupant pass on and have no heirs?  I'm certain that something in the legal system is keeping this one time nice home from being
cleaned up and given a little TLC.
Anyways, I'm starting to cook again because the temps have come down so much and I'm so sick of eating prepackaged and pre-made food
for dinner.  Throughout this journey I have tried to be consistent in eating healthy dinners with salads and lots of fruit. But when the weather
turned hot beginning in Minnesota I have been neglecting the self engineered healthy meals for easy and fast stuff bought from convienience
stores and fast food joints. Now I am beginning to prepare meals more suited to my liking and health like pasta.(see picture 1 below) And it
appears that a tiny slithery snake(see picture 2 below) likes my cooking as he has come out from the wet tall grass surrounding my camp spot,
probably to see if there's any extra. I appreciate his friendliness but would rather dine alone this evening so I scooped him up with a piece of
cardboard and put him back out in the grass.
After passing a yard elaborately decorated for Halloween,(see picture 3 below) I was reminded today once again that the summer is coming to
a fast close and fall, with much cooler temps, will soon be here. And earlier today while having lunch at Subway the tv weather forecast was
already calling for snow in the higher elevations of Colorado. Wow, it's still summer! Guess it's time to really get pedaling.
Sometimes I think you can learn a lot about an area or region of the country just by taking notice of some local advertisements and ways they
acknowledge the locals. I can't think of too many supermarkets in the country who would advertise onions, beans, and potatoes(see picture 4
below) to try and get customers in the door except for around these rural parts where folks probably eat a lot of soup (it might also be a sign of
the bad economic times). And one community I rode through acknowledged it's young athletes by posting cardboard replicas of the jerseys of
it's young school athletes.(see pictures 5 & 6 below) Of course there is always the ubiquitous church signs with their often pointed, sometimes
slanted quotes of proclaimed axioms, whether religious or political.(see picture 7 below) Sorry I didn't get around to finishing up on LDC(long
distance cycling) but will continue in tomorrows blog the last and final Level Class IV the Radicals.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 156   9/18/12
SP : Bruceton, TN
EP: Whiteville, TN
DM:  94
TM:  10,671

Again I awoke early, around 2:30, and after rolling a 360 on my sleeping pad (I told myself no more than one complete turn) and listening to the
little sounds outside my tent, this time busy mice scrabbling through the garbage in the garage,

I decided to get an early start and was on the road by 4:30. After about two hours and 25 miles riding I stopped for my FSTD at a little
store/gas station/eatery to grab a quick bite to eat, the only place for such in the tiny town of Leach TN and where the locals all congregate to
chat about the crops, weather, what's in the news and have a cup of coffee. While doing my customary phone charge and journal edit I
overheard the TV in the corner of the store blaring out the headline news. The reporter was in complete hysterics over the unlawful release in a
French paper of photos of a topless Kate, the bride of prince Harry, 2nd in line to inherit the British throne and the youngest of Princess
Diana's two boys. All I wanted to do was unplug the Dreaded Idiot Box and have some quiet while writing, but unfortunately there were a few
Good Ol' Boys sitting around the long table at which I was also seated watching the tabloid report so figured it would be a bit presumptuous on
my part. But I thought to myself, is this the best media news has to report on?  How very sad and I was reminded once again how fortunate I
feel to be away from all that, unplugged from the 24/7 brainwash mechanism. I hate to use this maxim because it is very loaded, but it just fits
so well the paradigm; Opiate of the Masses. That's about all this type of reporting boils down to; keep people's minds fixated on meaningless
stuff like this and they will forget all else that really matters to them. With all that there is to learn, do and experience in a lifetime, how can one
allow their precious moments here to be swallowed up focusing on the 'atrocity' of whether or not it is legal or moral to publicly display the
breasts of a member of the royal family. Unbelievable. Perhaps I've been out here too long but this stuff is so utterly ridiculous that I don't know
why I am spending the time even writing about it. Oh wait, I remember why. My good friend and comrade in adventure John Alvey said
something to me today that afterwards made me laugh, and then think a bit. He said, "Hey RowManOh (that's what he has nicknamed me),
maybe if you take off your clothes and bike in to every capital naked, you may get the publicity that Kate has gotten from the paparazzi and
perhaps the fundraising thing will finally take off". Pretty funny stuff (nothing less from my good friend John Alvey) but sad nonetheless. We live
in a society that incestuously markets products and services that most people don't need and could really give a damn if it even existed or not,
much yet possessed. The outlets they use to channel their message is the mass media and the format involves most the time sex and violence,
because those tap in to our lower recesses of our consciousness and thus can be easily manipulated. Sex and violence sell. I can't seem to
get even a local two bit newspaper, radio station, or politician to acknowledge or do a story on my journey and it's causes, but Lady Kate takes
off her bikini top and it's all over the news. It just don't figure, does it? I'm not jealous of Kate (after all she is prettier than I and quite possibly the
Queen of England in waiting) as I am reminded once again how dysfunctional the society is we live in. Democracy, freedom and our beloved
American Constitution, for all it's virtues and undeniable attributes, does have its setbacks. One of those I believe at times is the abuse of our
First Amendment right of freedom of the press. One look at a 24/7 news hour, or worse yet the 5:00 news, and you are reminded of this abuse
of right. What ever happened to decent institutional standards of reporting?  Good, informative and responsible reporting is more and more
becoming a thing of the past and in the process, I'm afraid, endanger of losing the very entity from which it gains it's support, the public.
The beauty of what I am doing was reinforced today when I rode by what I believe was the most relevant and introspective of all the neon church
signs, up to this point, I have pedaled by. I was on a decent so it must have been pertinent for me to stop and get a shot.(see picture 1 below)
Anyways, I have so much to write about and so little time in which to do it. Tonight's camp is a nice one; just a football and a half north of US
route 64 and approximately evenly between the E Tennessee towns of Whiteville and Somerville. Memphis is about 50 miles west and where I
will make the first of three Mississippi River crossings in the next week or so as I head in to Arkansas and then back east to the state of it's
namesake, and then for the last time from Baton Rouge Louisiana. There is a cotton field(see picture 2 below) a few yards to my west and I am
situated within a dense forested area so as to avoid the immense morning dew I'm sure will be enveloping most this area in the morning.
Today the wind picked up from the north and blew out all the residual storm rain and clouds, but I am certain that over the night, with as damp
as everything is, that tomorrow morning the fog will be enveloping everything. All these trees and foliage will help me stay warmer and
somewhat dry as they provide a natural blanket against the elements.
It was a beautiful day with temps not even reaching the 80's and the cool wind from the north not impeding my progress as I was heading SW

owards Memphis. But I couldn't help being reminded again that fall is in the air. The deep green of the trees has turned somewhat reddish(see
picture 3 below) and I am starting to see more and more leaves falling from their heights. Also the cotton fields are all almost purple in hue
meaning that harvest time for the one time 'King' is rapidly approaching. I don't know why, because the cooler temps feel so good, but I get
butterfly's in my innards when I feel and see all this, even though I know I will adapt to the changing season.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 157   9/19/12
SP : Whiteville, TN
EP: Forrest City, AR
DM:  82
TM:  10,753
Week 21    WM: 570  TM: 10,571    AVG. Per Day: 79.3 - 81.4 miles

A very chilly morning. This is the first time I can remember huddling over my stove to keep warm since probably Alaska. I did sleep well though
last night and didn't get up till after 5. Now I'm just finishing my 2nd cup of coffee after having a delicious bowl of hot cereal with my favorite
mixed nuts (walnuts and almonds) and some assorted dry fruit. I am also enjoying the heat from the small warm blue flame from my gas stove
as it rises over my bare, chilled legs and then even further up to my hands and fingers while pecking out these few words. A bit of respite
before proceeding with the rest of the morning ritual of breaking down my tent and packing my meager supply of essential equipment in to my
old trailer bag and hitting the road once again for the 157 day of this journey, 148 of which have been strung together consecutively biking an
average of 71+ miles per day.
Today was a gorgeous day with temps around 80 and clear blue sky's in every direction. I pedaled in to and out of Memphis and stopping only
once at a Chinese buffet for lunch. The city itself is spread out in every direction and for miles. By accident I pedaled by Forrest Park named in
recognition of famed Civil War general Nathan Bedford Forrest who was from the Memphis area. There was nothing special about the park
itself, in fact it looked rather run down and neglected. But there was a large bronze statue of the General, on an even larger granite base and
next to which I asked a young lady hanging out with her skateboarding friends to take a picture of me.(see picture 1 below) The 50@50 motto
is 'Be Like Gump' in reference to the Tom Hanks character in the movie Forrest Gump. In the beginning of the movie Forrest's mother claims
that she named her son after the general, so I found it a little funny that I unknowingly ride by this park on the 50@50 'Be Like Gump' SPT.  
Anyways,  Gen. Forrest lays claim to many fascinating stories during his service in the War Between the States as well as to the short lived
Southern Confederacy, but none more interesting than during the Battle of Fallen Timbers (I believe that was the name of the battle but I'm not
positive). If my memory doesn't fail me and I can recollect the facts as best possible, Gen. Forrest initiated a charge against the enemy,
complete with saber drawn and Rebel Yell for effect, but for some reason not one of his mounted cavalrymen followed him. So here is one
man, alone with sword in hand and yelling as loud as possible, charging toward an entire company of Union Calvary. Well I suppose most
along the Yank lines were a bit mesmerized by the intrepid General and watched in awe as he rode his horse through their lines. Not even a
shot was fired at him. Finally realizing that he had no reinforcements, not even a 2nd in  command, Bedford Forrest decided it was probably
time to do a 180 and high tail it back to behind friendly lines. Which is what he did but not before having his horse shot from under him (rumor
has it he had over half a dozen of his mounts shot from under him during the war, but he was never captured once). The ever thinking and
courageous Forrest, who would have rather died than been taken prisoner (he managed to escape Ft Donelson earlier in the war and Gen
Grant's now famous 'Unconditional Surrender' order) somehow came to his feet, bludgeoned with his sword an unsuspecting Yank on
horseback, lifted his body to don as cover from enemy fire, and escape back to his command with only superficial wounds. This is stuff only
found in teenage adventure novels from authors with imaginations as grandiose as their young readers. But it is true! An unbelievable story
involving a larger than life person in a war for the ages. Shelby Foote said there were two geniuses to emerge from the war that tore a nation
apart; Abraham Lincoln and Nathan Bedford Forrest. While interviewing the General's granddaughter while writing his spectacular three
volume narrative of the Civil War, he relates a telling story of the kin of one of the most remarkable people of the war and the South in general.
She was in possession of the actual saber her grandfather had used at that battle and he asked if he could hold it in hand for a moment (for a
civil war buff to hold in hand something as revered as that must have been a complete honor). Anyways, he related to the generals
granddaughter his belief of the two geniuses to emerge from that long bloody conflict, and she responded with gratitude to his assessment of
her grandfather but that in their household they didn't like to mention the name of the other fellow. Words that could come only from a true
Anyways, Nathan Bedford Forrest. If you ever have the desire to learn about the of the life of this uniquely American character, I highly suggest
you grab a copy of his biography, or better yet, read Foote's 3 volume narrative of the entire conflict, a war that defined not only a country, it's
inhabitants and their beliefs, but quite literally the societies of billions of people even to this day. One caveat though I must make; Forrest had
his dark side, as most individuals do. He was a slave trader before the war, which is how he earned his wealth (he was very well off compared
to most Southerner's at that time), and he was one of the founders of an early organization of southern whites after the war that was a
predecessor of the KKK.
Anyways, camp tonight. I am in another treed forest, so as to avoid the evening dampness which I know is coming, several football fields north
of interstate 40, about 15 miles or so east of the city of Forrest City AR. There is long ago discarded fencing of all sorts, including barb wire,
making it somewhat of a tripping mine field. This is not my greatest camp. There is also a small lake only feet nearby which naturally means
this is a mosquito haven, possibly the worst yet in terms of the annoying blood suckers as of yet along 50@50 journey.
Lastly, I crossed the Mississippi River today from Memphis in to The Natural State, Arkansas,(see picture 2 below) #38 of the 50@50.

It was a pretty exhilarating ride across the bridge as I could feel it swaying from all the weight of the passing traffic. What a strange unsettling
feeling that was.
My first impression of Arkansas; flat. I haven't had such flat terrain since I left Ontario back months ago.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 158   9/20/12
SP : Forrest City, AR
EP: Hazen, AR
DM:  71
TM:  10,824

I stumbled out of my tent this morning feeling overwhelming fatigued after a hard days night, or rather a hard ground night. I thought I had
cleared all the barb wire from the ground before setting my tent up last night but I missed a small piece and it ended up poking a hole in to, and
thus deflating, my air sleeping pad. So I kept waking up throughout the night with the uncomfortable feeling of knowing that I was sleeping on
the hard bare ground with all it's sticks and rocks poking me in the back. Now I know I brag about not being a Pansy but the cold hard ground is
tough for even an old salty Cowboy. Anyways, I eventually made it through the night and around 4:30 clambered out of my tent and decided that
the first priority of the day was to fix the pad so as not to have another night like this one. I found the hole by blowing it back up and taking it
down to the pond next to camp and submersing it under the green water, and once found began attempting to repair it with the Therma-Rest
repair kit I have had for years stashed in my tool bag. Unfortunately though the adhesive had dried out so I tried using my stash of Krazy Glue
along with one of the patches from the repair kit and that seems to have worked fine though I won't know for sure until tonight when I inflate it
and try to catch up on the missed sleep from last night. Hopefully the custom patch job will be successful because there are no stores anywhere
around here for me to replace it and it is one the essential pieces of equipment I can't do without. Anyways, by the time I got to pedaling it was
just after 6 and shortly after the sun started to rise from behind me and what a beautiful one it was on this flat open terrain.(see picture 1 below)
It was as if a deep glossy orange, red ball was being yanked up out of the low lying crop fields surrounding this area by some invisible line
attached to the top of it.
The wind returned today, and not from the direction for which I would have hoped. After my 6am start this morning I was anticipating getting
very close to Little Rock, but around 8am I found out that it was not to be as the wind direction was from the SW at around 10-15 mph, and
exactly the direction of my heading towards Little Rock. I managed somehow to pedal my average for the trip (71), but that was out of pure
obstinacy of mind.  Now I am camped in a tall grove of Oak and Elm trees(see picture 2 below) and directly next to a hunters platform. US Hwy
70 is perhaps two football fields south of me and the tiny town of Hazen about a mile west. I am feeling extraordinarily tired this evening I
believe from the lack of sleep I got last night due to the barb wire induced airless sleeping pad on which I slept. Sometimes while riding during
the day I wonder for how long I can continue on living like this and if I will be successful in achieving my goal of reaching all 50 US state
capitals. The overwhelming thought going through my mind is if the first 49 are this difficult, what is it going to take to reach #50 somewhere in
the mid-Pacific around 21' N latitude. I'm not quite sure but what I do know is the thought of finishing this first 49 and pedaling my dependable
VBF (very best friend) bicycle in to the Arizona capital is a thought, though still quite remote, starting to emerge as a reality and even though I'm
well aware of the difficult path awaiting me to that arrival.
This region of Arkansas is about as flat as flat can be. There is also low lying water just about everywhere, and along with that of course come
all the bugs. This has been the worse place for the nasty skeeters all year. I tried some of Deet-free repellent but it didn't work very well so I've
been forced to go back to regular Deet. I got the kind that is on little wipes and I cover my whole body and even shirt as they can pierce their
blood sucking hypodermic prick through thin clothing. Other than being flat this area also seems quite depressed economically. I can't count
the number of abandoned and run down structures, both residential and commercial, I find everywhere. A lot of the people I meet don't seem to
be very well off neither, and the few I with whom I have spoke with or had interactions did not seem very educated, polite, or even friendly for
that matter. Many just seem to be beaten down by life and lacking any real social skills. Perhaps it's the highway on which I am traveling (US
70) or just the region here in this Mississippi River delta, and once I reach the capital people and things will change.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 159   9/21/12
SP : Hazen, AR
EP: Redfield, AR
DM:  76
TM:  10,900

Got another early start this morning about 5:00, two hours before sunrise,

and by 10 was in the capital of Arkansas in Little Rock.

I came in from North Little Rock, an old industrial city on the north side of the Arkansas River,(see picture 1 below) across from which lies Little
Rock. With as much low, soft and water laden ground around this area

I was surprised to see a few high rise buildings, as I would have thought nothing could be built around here that wasn't on pontoons. But that's
this delta region here of the Mississippi River. I can only imagine how miserably hot, humid and buggy this region must be in the middle of
summer, and before the eradication of deadly insect borne diseases such as Yellow Fever and Malaria, must have been an awfully dangerous
place as well.
Anyways I met with a Liason of Arkansas Governor Beebe, Kevin Hunt, in the front of the capital and we had a casual friendly conversation for
nearly a half hour. I explained to him what I was doing and about the FRAANK causes and beneficiaries while the Governors photographer,
Kirk, took numerous photos of us using the beautiful granite structure capital building as a back drop.(see pictures 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, & 7 below)  
Kevin was a polite, amiable fellow in his mid 30's and showed considerable interest in my travels as well genuine concern for the FRAANK
causes. He told me he had lived for several years while a young teen in Sierra Vista Arizona living with his uncle who was stationed at Ft
Huachuca, and how much those years had impacted him even to this day. He recounted one story of his shock at seeing hispanics for the first
time in his life having had only known folks of either the white or black race (he being of African American decent) growing up in rural
Arkansas. He also related the moment when he first stepped off the bus in Arizona (imagine that trip for a young man; taking a bus all the way
from Arkansas to Arizona) and, having never felt the hot dry air of the American SW (he probably arrived in Phoenix or Tucson in the middle of
summer), could not catch his breath and started to hyperventilate. His Uncle, who had come to pick him up at the bus station, told him to relax
and take deep breaths and soon it will pass away, which it did. Quite an introduction to my home state he had. He said he had also discovered
during those years what real Mexican food was like having before only known it from eating at Taco Bell. I told him that I too had lived in Sierra
Vista as a young teen and it turns out we had went to the same school there (Buena HS) though at different times, I being over 10 years older.
Small funny world this is at times. Anyways he brought me a small state flag signed by Gov Beebe (the governor was giving a speech this
morning) to transport on my bike flagstaff(see pictures 8, 9, & 10 below) for the remainder of trip. We shook hands, promised to stay in touch,
and he went back to work and I mounted my bike and headed SE for capital #39 in Jackson Mississippi. I can't thank enough friends and
FRAANK volunteers Rick & Carrie Heisley for all their work in arranging the meeting and notification of local media, as well as moral support
to me throughout this NEJ (never ending journey).
So, camp tonight is on an abandoned little once paved road, though with trees and other vegetation growing through it cracks now. I am
adjacent to State route 365, which I've been following southbound since leaving Little Rock this morning, and the small town of Redfield, where
I did clothes a little earlier and had my LSTD, is only about a mile north. I never really gained that much mileage this afternoon because again
the wind picked up sharply around late morning and slowed my pace down to a crawl.  365, the old north-south highway, basically runs parallel
to interstate 530 but a few miles east and, like has happened to most the small towns around here and most the country after the building of a
major bypass freeway,  made in to practically a deserted ghost town like entity of the original town. Except for an occasional gas station or the
omnipresent Family Dollar stores, there is nothing of service to the passing tourist, because there are no tourists that pass through here. That's
the downside traveling older side roads. The rewarding part to passing through an area that is rarely seen by passing tourists or outsiders is
the way life is lived, and has been lived for years and even generations. Today I was biking along and rolled past and elderly lady sitting on her
covered front porch of a modest home that looked to be many decades, if not a century or more, since being built. I only had time to catch a
quick glance but it appeared she was mending or making something by hand from some type of large ball of fabric at her feet. She was of
African American decent and had covering her head one of those, for lack of a better term, Aunt Jemima bandanna head coverings. It was a
scene that I know I had seen before, probably in an old glass plated Daguerreotype photo from the civil war era when many African American
slaves sat on the porch of their homes creating, as she was, some textile garment. She probably learned what she was doing from her mother
or other family member when she was a young lady. Good chance the home in which she was seated and doing her handiwork was the only
home she had ever lived. How many generations of ancestry did that lady probably have from this area? Certainly her great grandparents, if
not her grandparents were born in to a life of slavery. Why would she ever want to leave this place where she probably feels a sense of
belonging and roots and where all her ancestry are buried. There is something about belonging to a community, town, state, or country from
where had come your ancestry. It gives one a sense of security that a nomad or anyone who ventures off far to create a new life cannot
replicate in their new home, no matter how beneficial the new one.  Anyways, it's pretty neat pedaling through areas and seeing people that I
believe are real and not made to look real simply to attract one to patronize a commercial establishment.
So I've neglected explaining the 4th level or class of LCD for a few days, primarily because I've been biking so many miles and just haven't had
the time. The highest level of LCD (or lowest depending on your own take on this) is what I term the Radical. And the Hollywood actor I believe
best represents this type is Blondie or Clint Eastwood for his all time role as the good guy in one of my  spaghetti western favorites; 'The Good,
the Bad, & The Ugly'. What a brilliant movie that one was. I know of only one person who has seen this classic movie more often, and
appreciate more deeply, than myself; my movie and sports buff brother Mario. Anyways, Clint was the baddest of the bad as far as I'm
concerned. No matter what movie he starred in he was able to, like the Duke, develop his own character for the role and lead the viewer in to
believing they knew, or had at least seen somewhere, that person in the past. Nobody could out do Blondie when it came to toughness and
bravado. He was the quintessential Hollywood legend and perhaps subject of folklore and cult following in his movie performances. A class IV
Radical is one who partakes in the recreational sport of LCD as did Blondie in his films. No one does it with as much grit and toughness.
Basically a Radical can go days, even weeks and months, on end without eating a decent cooked hot meal or sleeping in a comfortable
setting (like I do every night in my tent and on my comfy air pad [by the way, the Krazy glue fix worked and I slept great last night]). Radicals like
to refer to themselves as minimalists, which is just another way of saying they live without most everything the rest of us feel we can't. They don't
need showers except when they're available (I, as a Cowboy, need one most every night), and their diet can consist of sports bars and
perhaps a Subway sandwich, again weeks on end. Their goal is to bike mega- miles and thus, since weight, or rather lack of, is essential to
biking long distances, they leave behind all the superfluous stuff Cowboys and City Boys bring along like fancy tents (they use a bivy sack
which is basically a cover or shell for your sleeping bag to keep off the rain and moisture), stoves (they don't cook), and rely on, at best, one
extra set of clothing. They are unmistakeable when seen because at the most they have a couple rear bags on their bikes, which are usually of
the road riding style for speed (as opposed to the touring or Mtn bike style that Cowboys & City Boys use). Generally Radicals are younger
(usually their late teens or 20's) than the those in the other classes and their trips require the least amount money to prepare for and execute. If
a radical were to see my set up with Mtn. Bike, rear panniers (French for bags) and a heavy BOB trailer filled with equipment, he would break
in to hysterics. At the start of this journey I met a Radical up in Northern BC. His name was Chris Figureida and he was attempting to ride from
Death Valley CA (lowest point in N America, nearly 300' below sea level) to the base of the highest point of N America; Mt McKinley in Denali.
From there his plans were to climb the formidable mountain and then descend to the opposite side, where he would retrieve his bicycle
(shuttled there by someone) and bike back to Death Valley. Unbelievable. Last I heard from him he had been unable to summit due to severe
weather but was continuing on with the ride back to Death Valley. Anyways, when I met Chris along the road I was just getting started on this
journey and up to that point thought I was the craziest person within 10,000 miles, that is until we encountered each other. We talked for a spell
and he told me I was the first biker he had seen since leaving Death Valley a month and a half earlier (he was the first and only one of two LDC
cyclists I had seen in BC [ I met an Asian fella a couple weeks later heading north on a short tour]).  Before Chris and I parted ways we
exchanged a farewell that really sums up the difference between a Cowboy and a Radical when I told him he was one crazy bad dude for
attempting to travel through this harsh forbidden terrain with the few meager belongings he had along with him (the minimalist approach to
LDC), and he responded that he thought I was one crazy bad dude for traveling as I was with all the stuff I was carrying (at that early point in the
journey I had even more junk than I do now and my bike resembled a freight train with pedals). So every class looks at the other classes and
believes they are crazy, that the only method for madness is that which their own is able to contrive, which is generally true of most minds.
So that pretty much sums up what a radical is and how they approach the recreational sport of LDC. I have no desire to ever do a trip in that
way. Perhaps it is because of my age but then I've never wanted to bike travel with that type of harsh method. I'll stick to being a Duke or
perhaps a Luke, heck I may even digress to being a pansy in the future. But there has been and never will be any Blondie in me. Sorry Clint.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 160   9/22/12
SP : Redfield, AR
EP: Dermott, AR
DM:  95
TM:  10,995

I awoke this morning with a scratchy throat and throughout the long hot day it was bothering me to swallow. I felt weak and a little achy as well. I
must have picked up something from somebody or thing and now I will have to work through it as I can't afford to take anytime off with the fall
months rapidly approaching. If I were home, which entertains my thoughts often these days, I could relax on the couch for a day, eat pralines &
cream ice cream and watch an old movie or two. But no such luxury here and now. So my plan is to take two aspirin and hit the tent early. To
make matters worse the heat returned today and at one bank sign I pedaled by it registered 95. But it didn't feel that bad, in fact I enjoyed the
warmth because it was dry (it almost felt like Arizona here in the Mississippi River Delta) and on the back of my mind know that these warm
days are not going to be around much further and soon, I'm sure, I will start complaining about the cold weather (at least I'm giving you fair
warning of my upcoming diatribes). Out here riding and living every day in natures elements I have become accustom to every little change and
feel so close, even a part of, the natural cycle. It's been that way since I arrived I Juneau over five months ago. I know when the sun rises and
sets, what the lunar cycle is (waxing gibbous at the moment), the wind direction, temperature, barometric pressure, humidity level, topography,
natural obstacles in my path such as rivers or mountains and natural landmarks, wildlife, and generally the customs and personalities of the
people of each region through which I pedal.  It's remarkable how, when on a journey such as this, time passes so slowly. When I try to recall a
campsite or town I passed through or some out of the ordinary encounter I had with another in BC or Idaho, it seems like an eternity ago. I recall
in more normal times thinking how fast time goes by, but for the last five months this is not so. Maybe if we want to make our lives slow down
so we can enjoy the moment, live in our surroundings more intimately and feel like we're living longer we need to go on an extended bike trip or
hike or anything that gets us away from the old hum drum life most of us fall in to.
So camp tonight is another little woodsy area sandwiched between clear cut areas that I think at one time were for crops but now are left to
come back to there natural state of being in this low lying delta region (my gps shows me at 149' above sea level). US 65 is about 3 or 4 FF's
(football fields) east of here and the Mississippi River only about ten miles east. As like most of these wooded areas I camp in the long legged
spiders are everywhere, even on my bicycle,(see picture 1 below) but are totally benign and don't bother me at all. The passing traffic from the
highway, though audible, is not overwhelming. I am aware of my closeness to the Gulf region as there is a small wild palmetto tree just a few
feet away.(see picture 2 below)  I can't get over, after months of biking through hilly and 'Mountainette' terrain, how flat this delta area is. I mean
I'm not complaining at all, but E Arkansas must be one of the flattest places in N America, including Florida. Not even the Midwest is as flat as
this region and much of which is nothing but rolling hills.
This evening is one of those times I am feeling really tired of this journey and would do just about anything to be back home (due probably to
my not feeling 100%). I would love to have some company, if for nothing else than just to hear someone talk. My LSTD this afternoon was in
McGhehee at a convenience mart and I started in to a conversation with a fella a few years older than I that was a long time resident of the area
and was wearing an LA Lakers t-shirt and warm up pants. He was having a cup of coffee and I just sitting at a booth waiting for my phone to
charge. He did 90% of the talking, mostly about his younger days when he tried out for the New Orleans Jazz (the ABA predecessor of the
Utah Jazz and the moment of glory in this mans short amateur basketball career) and his take on the level of play between current NBA players
and those of the past. I felt he could have gone on forever so eventually had to politely tell him that it was time for me to go. But I could have
listened to him for hours and really never said a word. It was stimulation to my mind that has had none other than my usual daily routine,
observations throughout the day and the thoughts that go in to this journal. I believe I am becoming a better listener now than I use to be and
finding out that it is more interesting to listen to others stories than sharing my own, of which when I do share find it easier to put on paper (or
hard drive) rather than recount verbally.
I passed by probably the most meaningful of those neon church signs with aphorisms written on them.(see picture 3 below) It reminded me of
Eric Clapton's song 'No one knows you when you're down and out'.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 161   9/23/12
SP : Dermott, AR
EP: Holly Bluff, MS
DM:  83
TM:  11,077

I awoke several times throughout the night each time with my body drenched in sweat. That's a good thing I believe as it tells me my body is
trying to kick out whatever virus has broken through its defenses and invaded it. Unfortunately my sleeping bag is wet this morning so I've hung
it on a tree for a spell before stuffing it back in its little sack. This morning my throat is a little better but I still feel somewhat weak and stiff. It's
cooler this morning, probably from the dry air that has been blowing in from the NE. It feels good and I have put on my fleece jacket while
making coffee and cereal. It's already after 6 so it will be a late start today. I was so tired this morning that I couldn't get myself up at the
planned time of 4am. Oh well, it's a Sunday.  Little later this morning I will cross the Ol' Man River again, this time in to the state of Mississippi.
It will be the fifth time this journey that I will have crossed the giant waterway that splits America in to east and west halves and there will remain
only one more crossing left from Baton Rouge Louisiana in to Texas, and that's in just a few days.
I crossed the Big Muddy around 10 this morning on a bridge that looked nearly brand new,(see picture 1 below) in fact, I found out from a
couple fellas I met riding motorcycles across it that it was only finished a year ago.

There were hardly any vehicles at all on the bridge in either direction and I took my time enjoying the view from the top (probably the highest
point in this river delta). This Delta region here in the Magnolia state, like that in Arkansas is dead pan flat and the soil about as rich as I've
seen anywhere, including the Midwest.

I made only one stop today and that was for lunch as this area is, except for crop fields and a few farms, pretty much void of anything else. I'm
thinking it is just to darn hot and humid here in the summer time for anyone wanting to take up residence year round. Retired folks like the dryer
climates and there aren't any malls to attract city dwellers. The restaurant I stopped at was filled to the gills with Sunday morning church going
folks, but I arrived just as they were all leaving but the restaurant staff still frazzled from the rush. Lunch consisted of a typical southern fare of
fried chicken, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and a variety of vegetables (some green and others not), and various pies for dessert. The
wait staff all wanted to hear about my journey once business had slowed down and one wanted a picture in case I was ever on TV(see picture
2 below) (I told her the only place she might ever see my mug is on a post office wall and wanted for vagrancy).
Anyways, tonight's camp is on the edge of what looks to be a cotton field that never came to harvest.(see picture 3 below) Perhaps the drought
this year effected this area as well. It is very quiet as I am way out here in the middle of this Delta region about 15 miles from the small town of
Rolling Fork (my FSTD & LSTD for the day) and just west of a wildlife refuge with the unsettling name of Panther Swamp. Just before camp
here I passed by a road sign with a bear emblem.(see picture 4 below) I had to have a double take on that one as I had no idea there were any
bears in this part of the country, especially in these hot low lying regions. Unfortunately I gave my bear spray away when I left BC (just kidding of
So on this day in 1953 came in to the world my older brother of nearly ten years, Vincent Pasquale Scaturro, second child of Vincent and
Audrey Scaturro. He was born in Hollywood CA, like all his siblings, but grew up from his teen years on in Thousand Oaks, a half hour north of
Tinseltown. Pasquale, or PV by which most his friends refer to him, is, like our father, one of those larger than life characters we sometimes
come across in life and to do him and his life real justice would take a minimum 500 page biography. I only have a few minutes now so here is
the abbreviated Cliff Note version. By the age of 16-17 he was achieving nearly straight A's in school, participating in school sports (cross
country, basketball & track [in which he still holds a school record]),  managing two gas stations, owner of the most beautiful, souped-up car in
Ventura County (a green 55' Chevy Bel Air that he would race for pink slips on weekends, and as far as I remember, always win), going out
with his high school sweetheart, home coming queen and the most beautiful girl in town (later to become his wife and mother of his three
children), and helping to support financially a struggling home and family, as well as providing a father presence for his younger brothers (our
father and mother were both having difficulties both professionally and personally at the time). Shortly after HS he married and went to serve
his country for four years in the US Air Force, being stationed for two of those years in England. During that time he had his three children (two
boys and a girl) and by the time he was 24 was enrolled full time as a geology student at N Arizona University in Flagstaff and building homes
for his family as well as various other jobs to make ends meet. After college he moved his family to Denver Colorado where he went to work in
the field of oil and gas exploration for Amoco Oil before venturing out on his own, over the years owning numerous consulting and  
management firms. In 1995 he summited Mt Everest for the first time, a feat he would replicate twice more including as trip leader the first blind
expedition to the top of the world. In 2001 he lead the first ever expedition to raft the entire length of Africa's Blue Nile River from source to sea
and in the process co-produced and starred in the epic IMAX movie 'Mystery of the Nile'. During all that he somehow managed to coauthor,
along with friend and travel colleague Richard Bangs, a book of the expedition entitled the same. He has rafted rivers all over the globe and
summited most of it's major mountains. He has traveled more than any other person I have ever known and I believe has a deeper
understanding of the entire continent of Africa, at least from a physical standpoint, than any other person in the world, living or in the past. He
also lives there periodically throughout the year on his 20,000+ acre  ranch in Namibia. He has traveled more to the farther reaches of the
globe than anybody I have ever known, and still today at nearly 60 years of age maintains his continuous traveling, some of which is piloting his
single engine aircraft. He loves to be social and can keep an audience captive for hours with his stories of places visited and people
encountered through out his remarkable lifetime, but whose true nature enjoys as much if not more being alone and working in his garage. In
the past he has been wrongly accused by certain envious individuals of being self centered, impetuous, scatter brained or lacking detail in his
work. Knowing him my entire life I can honestly say nothing could be further from the truth, and if this were 200 years earlier and I Thomas
Jefferson, I could think of nobody more qualified or dependable to lead the Voyage of Discovery. Through all his personal achievements he
has managed to remain a caring and supportive father to his children (the youngest of which, Adam, just earned a bronze medal at the '12
Paralympic games in London), and now five grandchildren, always placing their welfare and needs above of all else in his life. He is intelligent,
hard working, a charismatic proven leader and trusted helpful individual to those he knows and loves. To me he has always been a mentor and
somewhat father figure, especially in my early years, and has always been there when I needed his assistance or advice. I am proud to say he
is my brother and am as close to him as none other. Buon compleanno caro fratello e ci vediamo presto.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 162   9/24/12
SP : Holly Bluff, MS
EP: Crystal Springs, MS
DM:  86
TM:  11,163

I awoke about a half past 3 this morning and laid in my tent for about 20 minutes listening to the absolute quiet of the Mississippi Delta with the
exception of one hooting owl and a band of chirping crickets in the woods behind my tent and on the edge of the cotton field where I was
camped. It was the first time I can remember waking to such beautiful silence in a long time as usually there is at least a distant background
sound from passing traffic. But nothing this morning. I was on the road by 5 and the darkness on the road was as deep as the silence in the
cotton field. The only visible light other than the stars and planets of Venus and Saturn in the east, was from the city lights of Jackson and
Vicksburg refracting off the low southern horizon like two eyes peering upward toward the stars and Heavens, while I pedaled toward them
from the tip of the nose. A handful of cars passed me this morning and I can only imagine what went through their mind seeing a lone biker out
in the middle of no where pulling a single wheeled trailer with dozens of flags flapping around on the back and red blinking lights all over. It must
have been something right out of the Twilight Zone for them to witness at that hour of the morning.
My FSTD was at about mile 18 in the 'yawn and you miss' town of Satartia, MS. I stopped there because my cell phone battery was completely
dead and seeing as I use this device for navigation, am blind without it. So a charge was high priority when I pulled in to the only commercial
business in town; a small store with a couple gas pumps in front and 5 or 6 cats moseying around the parking lot.(see picture 1 below) It was
just getting light and still early but the lady running the store, whom I found out later was the owner, already had warm sausage biscuits made
and ready for the taking so I got one, a bottle of chocolate milk and a banana and sat out on the front bench to do my precious days journal edit
while charging the dead phone battery. After a few moments sitting there doing my daily ritual, the lady who had made the wonderful breakfast
sandwich came out and asked me a few questions regarding my trip. I answered her in as polite and attentive terms I could muster while in my
usual morning rush to get the blog done and hit the road. She went back in the store and a few moments later returned with $50 cash on hand
and handed it to me, saying that anyone who could bike that far needed a gift of some kind. I was speechless as I hadn't even explained to her
what the causes were or given her a brochure. I hadn't talked to her more than a half a minute and I'm assuming that she is not a very wealthy
person by the looks of the store and the town in which it lie (of course I could be wrong as looks are always deceiving). But what a thoughtful gift
to someone she hadn't even known but a few minutes. To make this act of generosity even more special is the fact that I, nor FRAANK
organization, have received any donation for weeks and perhaps months and I'm not quite sure this lady knows how much her donation meant
to me at this time. Anyways, after I finished the blog edit, all the while fending off friendly Good Morning gestures and usual questions from local
fellas stopping by for their morning coffee or breakfast sandwich, I went back in to the store to thank the generous lady and when I found out
she had left asked the attending clerk if she would give me her personal info so I can post to the website her donation. So, today the FRAANK
causes have received a $50 donation from Carol Droge of Satarita, MS. Thank you so much Carol and I can't wait till the next time I can come
visit your store and have a breakfast sandwich, and I promise that I will stay longer and  chat more with all the friendly locals out front.(see
picture 2 below)
Anyways, I landed to in capital #39 for the 50@50 SPT in Jackson at around noon.(see picture 3 below)

I had no word from anyone in the FRAANK organization if any meeting was set up with anybody in the capital, so I attempted to go across the
street from the capital where the governor has his office in an eleven story building. The security personnel at the entrance asked what my
business was and if I had an appointment. When I answered that I did not and then explained the reason for my being, that all I would like is to
go to the governor office and speak with someone in there about getting back the flag I had sent to them, they told me, in no uncertain terms,
that I could not go to the office without an appointment. When I told them this was the first time in 39 states that security has denied me from
going to the governors office they weren't impressed and responded "Well, then you've obviously never been to Mississippi before".  They
gave me a number to call but when I did was shuffled around, put on hold, and then sent to some unknown voicemail. I hung up and headed for
the door, no flag in hand and quite disappointed in the official reception received from the state of Mississippi. I mounted my bike, got some
lunch and began heading south towards Louisiana.
Camp tonight is a little forest with homes relatively close by and US 51 only about a football field away. The town of Crystal Springs is only a
couple miles south. The ground is littered with natural forest debris and it looks like this area took a beating a few weeks ago when Isaac came
rambling through these parts. The ground is still wet as well.  I'm very tired tonight and can't wait to close my eyes once in my tent. After
reaching Jackson today I have no more eastbound heading left for the duration of this journey, until the last leg from Sacramento CA to
Phoenix. And after I reach Baton Rouge which will be in just a couple days there will be no more southward direction neither until the last leg.
From that point on it is either north or west.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 163   9/25/12
SP : Crystal Springs, MS
EP: Liberty, MS
DM:  80
TM:  11,243

Was on the road again by 5 and pedaled about 10 miles before my FSTD in Hazelhurst Mississippi at a donut shop along US 51, the highway
I've been on since leaving Jackson yesterday. An Asian man, Dos,(see picture 1 below) about my age along with his non english speaking
wife (also Asian) were running the shop which stocked a wide variety of the sweet mouth watering, though fat-drenched little delicacies as well
as hearty, freshly made breakfast sandwiches. If I could find one of these places every morning I would be in eternal heaven. So I ordered a
little of everything and sat down on one of two wooden booths inside the little home decorated premises. When there was a lull in business
Dos sat down at the other booth and, noticing all the flags hanging off the rear of my bike parked in the front of the store and leaning against a
large plate glass window, asked in well, but lightly accented, english if I had been to all those places. When I told him about the 50@50 journey
and the FRAANK causes the first, and really only, word from his mouth was "Wow!". I then asked him if he was the owner of this fabulous little
establishment and he said he was running it for the owner and thinking of buying if it made enough money, of which he wasn't sure it did.  Then I
asked him were he was from and when he said Cambodia I then asked if he remembered the war there and if he had seen the movie the 'The
Killing Fields'? Being only a couple years older than I (52) he responded yes to both my questions and that he remembered everything well,
especially all the pain and suffering he, his family and fellow countrymen went through during the mid 70's. Dos recounted being taken from his
home and family at the young age of 15 and sent to work in camps for the Khmer Rouge and how they indiscriminately killed over 3 million
innocent people during their three rule of terror and bloodshed. He recalled once climbing a hill near the forced labor camp he was at, on top of
which was a deep crater where had been disposed the bodies of hundreds, mainly those who were professionals (doctors, teachers, lawyers
or anybody with an education) but children, even babies as well. He recalled hacked limbs and fresh blood being everywhere, and distinctly
remembered the smell which to this day he said can't forget. He said that at his labor camp he worked in the rice fields, but that most the time
he went hungry as the government sold the finished product to China in order to buy military armaments to aid in their war against the
Vietnamese. He  recounted his journey after the war when Cambodia was occupied by Vietnam and there were soldiers everywhere, forcing
he and his family to travel on foot to Thailand and live in a refugee camp until being allowed to come the US after a lengthy three stage
bureaucratic process in which he learned english. I could have listened for hours to his most incredibly moving and poignant story, but he was
forced to help his wife as new customers came in and she had trouble understanding their order. But the only word that came out of my mouth
while listening to his journey was "Wow". There we were, two middle aged guys, though from two different backgrounds and on two completely
distinct journeys, sharing our stories together and both with the same single worded reply when listening to the other; "Wow!"
Back on the road again I got to thinking how fortunate I feel to have been born in the time and place I was. I've never personally seen war, felt
hunger or witnessed mass political or social unrest and we live in relatively good, stable times. I thought of the slogan made popular in the 60's
and 70's during the Vietnam war protests, 'America, Love it or Leave it' and how when I see some talking head on the 24/7 cable news brain
washing mechanism or hear a polemic agenda driven voice on AM talk radio rail about our corrupted leadership and how they are portaging
the destruction of America, I feel like repeating that to them with my own little twist; 'America; love it, leave it, or else shut the hell up!'. As far I'm
concerned, if you don't like the leadership in the country today than you have two options; go to the polls next election and vote for someone
you think will do better, or leave and go make a life for yourself in Cambodia or Iran or some other third world country with a tin pot dictatorship
or theocratic government.  But please enough of all the partisan hate filled haranguing, lies and seditious talk. After all this is America, "..the
last best hope of earth" as Lincoln told the US Congress of a nation of people so weary of war in 1862.
Ok, haven't had one of those in a while. Tonights camp is, where else, another pine tree forest about a half mile north of SR 48/569 and a few
miles south of Liberty MS. I followed a logging road off the highway and as far as I'm concerned have found the nicest place this side of the
Mississippi to camp here on my last night in this state along the Great River. Tomorrow my plan is to cross the Mighty River after tagging state
capital #40 in Baton Rouge. From that point on my directional for the next 2000 miles is either north or west. This is a big mental hurdle I'm
getting over in knowing that, with the exception of the last leg to Phoenix from Sacramento, I have eliminated two directions of travel; south and
east. It means I'm heading home, and not soon enough as this evening I am feeling utterly wasted, physically and mentally. I think it's because
of this cold virus I picked up and is still working its way through my body. All I do is sing that Beatles tune to myself;  'I'm soooo tired, my mind is
on the blink".  My energy level is down and I feel exhausted all the time. Weighing on my mind as well is the knowledge that there awaits me still
a distance equivalent to going from LA to NY of some of the most difficult riding conditions I've yet encountered on this never ending journey to
all 50 state capitals; potentially horrendous westerly winds, bitterly cold high altitude temps and gigantic mountain passes possibly covered
with snow. I try to put all this out of mind during the day as I'm pedaling (the weather here and now has been helping out being in the low 90's)
and focus on the end stretch across the Mojave Desert and in to, what should be, sunny warm Phoenix (even in November). Oh how sweet it
shall be.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 164   9/26/12
SP : Liberty, MS
EP: Grosse Tete, LA
DM:  84
TM:  11,327
Week 22    WM: 573  TM: 11,144    AVG. Per Day: 79.3 - 81.4 miles

Around 8am I  pedaled in to the 40th state thus far of the journey; Louisiana.  After that it took me a few more hours and around noon I reached
the suburbs, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and then pedaled to the capital building of Bayou state; Baton Rouge. On the approach in to the
capital I had seen a towering building which to me resembled the Empire State building in New York, but I had no clue until few blocks away
when I asked a lady standing on a street corner where capital building was and she pointed to that.  I was shocked as this was a one and only.
The only other capital I can remember being taken aback by its appearance on first sight was in Bismarck N Dakota which to me resembled a
giant hospital. I did my usual video

and photo(see picture 1 below )on my arrival and then went in to see if anyone in the Governors office had my flag, but no such luck. I went up
to the top of the 27 floor high rise where the visitor center was located to buy a flag but when the lady at the counter said that they were $6 I
figured I could do without another flag on the back of my bike causing more wind resistance and emptying my wallet further. Louisiana will have
to be one of the unmarked states on my flagstaff for the duration of this journey. But I did catch a few pics from the scenic promenade around  
the outside of the top floor of the high rise capital and left with a feeling that this venture in to the building itself was not a complete failure.
Anyways, I'm not even a full day in to the Pelican State and already looking forward to the next state; Texas. The roads here are terrible and the
people not overly friendly, in fact several I have come across have been downright nasty. This is not a complete surprise because I remember
two years ago writing about the same thing when passing through these parts on my way to Atlanta, stop #3 on the Baseball trip.
Tonight I am camped a couple football fields north of I-10 which I rode the last 10 miles. I crossed the Mississippi River(see picture 2 below) for
the 6th and last time on this journey coming across the Huey Long Bridge

(former Louisiana governor and US senator assassinated in 1935) and then headed south towards I-10 on which my plan tomorrow is to ride
at least to Lafayette (40 miles west) and where there are some alternative roads heading west or until booted off by a state trooper. I am in
barren crop field with a thick line of trees separating me from the highway. A bike path is only a few feet away and the town of Grosse Tete,
which if I'm not mistaken means 'Big Boobs', is just south of the interstate and my location here.
So on my mind all day was my precious baby girl, Angelina, when on this day in 2001 my little angel was brought in to the world two weeks
after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and weeks before the Arizona Diamondbacks won the World Series. Today was
her 11th birthday and how I would have loved to had spent it with her. Born from a father who 8 years earlier had had an operation to have no
more kids (guess you can't keep miracles from happening if they are destined to be), our decision to name her Angelina, Little Angel, was a
given. Like her brother Domenic, Angelina was a preemie, nearly nine weeks early, and was aired down to Phoenix moments after birth where
the first six weeks of her life was spent in a covered incubator with wires and tubes attached all over her tiny doll frame size body. I recall vividly
the first time the nurse asked me if I wanted to hold her and I said "Sure", all the while thinking how in the heck I was to hold something so tiny,
yet so treasured. Her entire body literally fit in to the palms of my hand. I was so scared of dropping her that after a few seconds I asked the
nurse to please take her back. I had gotten a room at the Ronald McDonald house down there which was only a mile or so from the hospital
and I remember how tiring it became doing the shuffle between Phoenix and the Verde Valley. My heart goes out to this day for all those
grieving family members who are forced to do that. Anyways, I remember when we did finally get her home and put here into her crib the
strange unnerving feeling for all of us in the household leaving her alone, even for an instant, her still being so small and vulnerable. The
nickname Dinky, because she was so small, came about spontaneously and has stuck ever since, though as she gets older now we refrain
somewhat of using it.  But her presence gave us all a wonderful fulfilled sense and we all rejoiced in our new addition to the household. At
about two months her still developing lungs came down with viral pneumonia and she had to be flown down again to Phoenix for a couple
weeks and again I took up part time residence in the RM House. After she was allowed to return home we had to keep a close eye on her for
several years whenever she would get sick that it didn't turn in to anything serious, especially in to her lungs. Today our little Angel is a healthy
normal sized preteen that excels at her studies in school and participates in school cross country always placing amongst the top finishers.
She has beautiful straight brown hair and olive skin that browns beautifully during the summer. Angelina is a happy, social, kind, caring and
empathetic young lady who always thinks of others. She is athletic and  loves dancing, singing, riding her bicycle, being outdoors, and walking
her dog Lucy and playing with her cat, Kitty. Our little Angel is still the life of the household like she was the day we brought her home from the
hospital nearly eleven years ago.  I can't begin to explain how much I've missed her over these long months on the road and can't wait to see
and be with her again. Happy birthday my little Preziosa.  I'll see you soon and promise never to do this again.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 165   9/27/12
SP : Grosse Tete, LA
EP: Jennings, LA
DM:  74
TM:  11,401

It's almost 9am and I'm at my FSTD at a truck stop cafe off Hwy 10 about 5 miles west of Breaux Bridge. All the locals sitting in here are having
their coffee and exchanging stories of which I can hardly understand anything because it is all in their deep Creole. This is the first time I have
ever heard this regional mode of the spoken word and I can't determine whether it sounds like butchered pig-English with a heavy French
accent or visa versa. But having grown up hearing Sicilian dialect spoke as contrasted to text book Italian, I'm certain that this uniquely
American way of speaking is a dialect and not a language, whether it be French or English based. Anyways I'm here because I was escorted
off the interstate this morning after riding about 20 miles across the Atchafalya Basin bridge.

A state trooper was parked on the shoulder and I had no choice but to go around him and when he noticed me (later telling me my bike made a
low pitched sound on his radar detector) followed for a while and so I stopped, leaned my bike against the guard rail and walked to the
passenger side of his SUV patrol vehicle. "Why are you riding your bahhhcicle (that's how Southerners pronounce bicycle; like a sheep
bahhhing) on this bridge?" where the first words out of his slow moving southern mouth. "Well, you see officer, if there were any other roads
around this swamp/bayou/lake/river filled area I wouldn't be on this bridge" was my honest reply. "Well don't you know  it's illegal here to be
riding on the freeway? You will have to get off, and now." I asked if I could ride to the next exit, about 5 miles west, and where I was planning on
exiting anyways. "I can't let you do that. If something were to happen to you it would be my job on the line. I'll have to call you a tow truck to get
you and your bahhhcicle off from this roadway". "A tow truck? I can't afford no stinking tow truck. Can't I put my bike in your truck and you take
me to the next exit?" I pleaded with both hands clasped together in prayer. He replied that if I could fit everything in without scratching his
vehicle he would. I thought of badgering him a little more to allow me to ride the few miles to the next exit, but figured from his adamant
disposition that it would be useless and possibly counter productive if he changed his mind about the ride and went with his original idea of
calling a tow truck. So I decoupled the trailer, took off the rear bags, removed the front wheel and crammed everything in to his backseat along
with my body in a contorted position for the three minute drive here.
This was the third time now I have been forced to proceed on this journey without using my own power (the other two times being the half mile
ferry ride across the St Clair river in to Ontario from Michigan and the 4 mile ride I was forced to take to cross the Chesapeake Bay from
Maryland's E shore to Annapolis. In total it is roughly 10 miles out of over 11,000 (.0009) that I've been unable to power this crazy journey on my
own. I know it may sound ridiculous but I feel letdown by all three incidents as my goal was to do this 100% under my own power. All three
times there was nothing I could have done other than travel alternative routes that would have cost me in total hundreds of additional miles and
numerous days in travel, especially the St Clair river crossing which probably saved me at least 200 miles from having to go around the
southwest end of lake Erie. But going across the Chesapeake Bay saved me about a day and staying on highway 10 here has cut off at least a
half a day from having to go much further north on US 90 and then back south again. It really sucks that freeways are not made accessible to
accommodate bicycles. How much time I could have saved if they were goes without saying.
So I'm at camp tonight and what a relief it is after a very warm, humid day. One roadside sign I went by read 100' but I'm thinking that was a bit
exaggerated. Nonetheless I'm guessing it was around the mid 90's with the usual high southern humidity to boot. I'm about a half mile south of
I-10 and a football field from SR97 on the outskirts of Jennings LA. I jumped on I-10 again earlier for about 5 miles as there were no other
roads to take unless I had traveled for miles either north or south. Needless to say after this mornings unfortunate episode with the Louisiana
state trooper I am somewhat reluctant to ride the freeway but there is such little choice with which I am left. Louisiana has proven to be a
difficult state to get across, not just because there are so few roads, but also the fact that most the existent roads have no shoulder and are in
such terrible disarray. Adding to that is the fact that the hot weather returned today, and all I can think to myself is how much I want to leave the
South and really just return home. A store clerk at my LSTD asked what inspired me to undertake such a daunting journey and after thinking for
a moment and trying to summons the usual auto-reply I've been giving for that question just said "I don't know". And left it at that. I am so out of it
right now that I can't even figure out how to reply when asked why I'm doing this. Do I even have a purpose anymore for doing this?  Last night I
spoke with Dan Nash, father of Dakota, cancer patient and 50@50 beneficiary. We spoke for at least an hour and he gave me an update on
Dakota's progress since we last spoke at least a couple months ago. Since I hadn't heard any word I was with the belief, perhaps over
optimistically, that he was doing fine since the blood plasma transplant back in April shortly before I departed on this journey. And he has had
progress in certain areas like the ability to eat and taste foods and to grow some hair he lost during his cancer treatments. But according to
Dan he has contracted GHD (Graft Host Disease) which is a debilitating skin condition and causes him intense pain, discomfort and an
inability to leave the confines of immediate care (in other words he has been mostly in the hospital longer than I have been on this NEJ [never
ending journey]). Last night I didn't sleep well. Partially because my stupid Therma-rest sleeping pad had a giant bubble coming from it's
internal organs and was losing its comfort level (I bought a new one today in Lafayette and am looking forward to more comfortable rest this
evening), but also because I kept thinking about Dakota and how much that poor boy has suffered and had to go through in his brief 18 year life
here in this cruel world. Who decides who will live happy, healthy and prosperous lives and who will not? And why does that cosmic force,
supreme consciousness, all mighty God, whatever it is and if it even exists, give so much to some and so very little to others? I've heard it said
that 'God gives us no more than we can handle'. Bullshit! I've seen some, in fact many, who have much more than they can handle. What
bothers me most though is why this Decider, whoever or whatever it is, include so many children on his/it's list of human suffering. Why not take
someone who has lived life and experienced it for all it's ups and downs rather than innocent children. Today while I was riding I became
incensed with anger and my hands clenched my handlebars in near rage when I thought about the disease that has overtaken Dakota's body
and caused him so much pain and discomfort.  All I could think about was strangling that demon (the cancer) with all the strength in my hands
and arms, if I only could. I asked, who ever that decider was, to take me, or Dan, or someone else who has had a chance to live and
experience some of life's treasured, and so treasured, moments. But please leave the children alone. It doesn't make sense and to me is the
most cruel verdict ever to give upon a young individual. Children want to laugh and play, dream and drive their parents crazy, not sit in hospitals
awaiting their next dose of morphine. I remember in the movie 'The Green Mile' with Tom Hanks when his character asked the giant black  
Jesus (I can't remember his name now) shortly before his execution if he wanted him to help him escape from prison and avoid his sentence of
death. His reply was no, that there was too much pain he felt in this world that he was tired of witnessing, and that death might actually relieve
him from having to deal with it anymore. I know it is cliche to say, but I reckon many answers to life's most perplexing questions are just not for
us to know, contemplate perhaps, but not know. There is a fabulous quote by Mother Theresa that went around the internet and FB a while ago
in which she's quoted as saying "Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway". I guess that about
sums it up.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 166   9/28/12
SP : Jennings, LA
EP: Orange, TX
DM:  77
TM:  11,478

Tonight's camp is about 2 or 3 football fields north of I-10 and a few miles west of Orange Texas.(see picture 1 below) I am next to the
perimeter fence of a cell phone tower and there are some homes and manufacturing buildings close by but I believe my presence unknown and
should remain that way until I leave early tomorrow morning.
I am so glad to be out of Louisiana. My experience there has to be the worst of any state thus far (Connecticut included) and, with the exception
of Oklahoma on deck, I am not anticipating any more difficult passages as what I just went through. And 'difficult passage' about sums it up
best. Throw in for more bad measure the less than friendly people living here and Louisiana ranks, as far as I'm concerned, at #50 on the
50@50 SPT as well as for LDC. Again this morning I was 'pulled over' and for reasons I'm still trying to sort out. I got an early start about an  
hour and half before sunrise and pedaled through the town of Welsh, LA when I made a brief stop in front of a closed gift shop to do something
or other (I stop numerous times through our the day to fix this or that). Just as I got back on my bike and start pedaling deputy Fife came from
behind and hit his siren with those brief loud noises without turning them fully on and so I stopped. I got off my bike and stood next to it waiting
for him to make the next move and when I saw him motion with his hand for me to come over to his squad car and I did, all the while trying to
hold in my incredulity and somewhat anger at this breach of my freedom for no apparent reason.  "Yes Officer" I asked politely with a touch of
what I felt was frustration. "Do you have ID?" he asked as the boiler plate question for every cause of suspicion.(see picture 2 below) I turned
around, walked back to my bike and got out my wallet from my rear pannier, still dumbfounded by this interruption in my progress. He did the
usual W&W check and when he discovered I was no lead, finally told me that the store in front of which I had stopped briefly had been broken in
to a month ago and when he had saw me pulling away decided to check it out. Aww, so that explains it. He wasn't overly rude or
condescending, just doing his job. He didn't apologize or ask me about my trip nor anything else. And for that I respect his temporarily
obstructing my mission, if it was true. But I still have doubts concerning his reasoning for the predawn harassment.
Anyways, water under the bridge. Today again I was forced to negotiate roads and highways that I believe are the worst in the country for
cycling. When I reached Lake Charles Hwy 90 again disappeared and the only option was my nemesis Hwy 10. Well a steep bridge over the
Calcasieu River was the only option to continue on and so I decided to check to cross there, illegally of course but it would only be for a mile or
two as bicycles are not permitted on freeway interstates in Louisiana. Well when I got there I looked west at the bridge and there was no
shoulder whatsoever..."Bafaculo" where the exact words out of mouth and which I choose not define here. What now? Well I had two, actually
three options, no check that, four options. One I could head north about 15 miles, turn around and then come back south to I-10/US90 which is
the route Google on iPhone was giving me. Two I could head south about 10 miles and try to cross illegally again on I-210 and then return north
to I-10. Three I could bring out the American Express and call a taxi...humm. And lastly (and the natural option coming from a cheap Sicilian
boy like me) hitch a ride across the mile span.

Actually there was a fifth option but one that not even a madman as myself would sanely considered; that is trying to bike across. So I chose to
stick out my thumb for a while, and 'a while' it was. I bet I waited at least an hour and half for someone (specifically I was hoping for a pick up
truck as my belongings [bike, trailer, and bags] would need considerable space). I was so hot and miserable standing there underneath the hot
Louisiana sun that I just wanted to scream out profanities to whomever, and I did, as loud as I could and didn't care who heard them.
"Louisiana, I hate you!" was just one of the less vulgar bursts of vocal emotion I let out during my uncomfortable and humiliating exposure there
on the east side of the I-10 bridge spanning the  Calcasieu River. My mouth was dry and I was starting to feel the dreadful effects of
dehydration set in. Why wouldn't someone give me a ride across this short bridge that would take me no more than five minutes to get across
on my bike?I started contemplating doing what was the unthinkable just an hour ago; riding across. If the road on the bridge weren't so steep I
seriously may have done it regardless of how much traffic backed up or how many car horns blown at me or middle fingers given to me. When I
was almost at my breaking point a guy in a pick up stopped and told me to throw my stuff in the back. Hallelujah!  It took me less than a minute
to throw the components of my broken down rig in to the bed of his truck, jump in the bed with it, and we were off. 3 minutes max it took us to
cross that one mile obstacle of advancement for me on my bicycle, but nearly two hours when including my hitchhiking time. It was the slowest
mile I've had on the journey thus far.
Ok, it is two days before October and right now I am in my tent pecking out these words while sweating up a storm from the intense heat. I took
a cold shower a few minutes ago hoping that would cool me down, and it did for a little while. I can't believe how hot this region of the country is
at this time of the year and anyone who travels these parts of the country in July or August must need their head examined. Today it rained hard
on me just before entering Texas and the forecast calls for 90% chance of rain tomorrow (why not just say 100%?).
Earlier this afternoon, just before leaving Louisiana, I had to get on the I-10 again to cross over the Sabine River into E Texas. It was a
horrifying experience for my last few miles in the state as at one point the freeway shoulder completely disappeared and I was forced to cling
on for dear life to the guard railing while convoys of 50 ton tractor trailers and other vehicles whizzed by at speeds in excess of 70 mph only a
couple feet away. I can't believe what they must have thought seeing me, my bike, and a one wheeled buggy with flags flapping around off the
back holding on to a foot and half concrete lifeline in the middle of pouring down rain. It was, without a doubt, the most precarious position I
have found myself yet on this journey (Day Five in the Lynne Canal no exception). I stayed there for a couple minutes trying to figure out what
my next move would be as I wasn't sure how far I would have to go before the shoulder returned. When suddenly I saw a break in traffic I
decided to go for it, no matter how far I had to pedal, hopping off the concrete step first myself and then dropping the bike and trailer. I jumped
on my saddle and pedaled for my life's worth to the end of the bridge and a renewed shoulder, fortunately only about half a football field away.
Once out of immediate harms way I started to feel nauseous for a while and as if I might need to stop and throw up. I began to take deep
breaths and started feeling a little better, especially knowing now that the danger I had just went through was over and could resume the final
miles of East Louisiana in relative safety  crossing the Sabine river(see picture 3 below) and rolling in to state #41 Texas.(see picture 4 below)
Immediately I noticed a difference from Louisiana in the roads, there being a frontage road and with more than ample space to pedal along.
Again, I am so glad to be out of Louisiana. It was  a terrible experience from start to finish and one I plan to never repeat again. If I ever come
back to the Bayou State it will be on an airplane or in a car. But never will I return here again on a bahhhcicle. And one last note on the days
events, and a sad one at that. I had to put Ol' Ms Coleman(see picture 5 below) down to rest after five and a half months of faithful service to
me and the 50@50 project. Today I picked up her replacement(see picture 6 below) at a Walmart in Sulphur, LA so she was buried with full
honors befitting to a comrade in arms (minus the 21 gun salute).

We had many a memorable evening us two together, my behind resting on your back, and I will never forget you. Farewell Ms Coleman.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 167   9/29/12
SP : Orange, TX
EP: Humble, TX
DM:  97
TM:  11,575

What a difference a change of state makes. Since leaving Louisiana the roads have gone from the worst in the country to the best. It's like the
difference between night and day, sunny skies and rain, Salisbury and Ribeye steak, Chevy Vega and Cadillac or the stark contrast of
boarding a plane in Ethiopia and getting off in Switzerland. As well, I have a feeling I have left the South after crossing the Sabine River
yesterday and entering in to Texas. Hallelujah!
I know Texas, especially this eastern half, is considered the Southern Gulf region but now it feels much more like the West rather than the
South. I actually had a great lunch at a Mexican restaurant today, what I had been craving for months now but unable to find, especially in the
South where fried chicken is king.
This morning I pedaled on a huge newly paved two lane frontage road on both sides of the freeway with a 10' shoulder, but not really needed
because there are so few cars anyway on the roadway, they being most entirely on the freeway. I followed the frontage to Beaumont and then
US 90 diverted from the I-10 which heading southwest.
I got a 5am start this morning and just in time as it started raining just minutes later and hasn't stopped yet, coming down at times hard. Right
now I'm stopped for a donut and phone charge in Liberty and I already have 60 miles from camp and it's before 11am, so it appears I'm
headed for a hundred miler today which should get me somewhere around the northern Houston burbs.  I was hoping to do clothes today but
with all the rain and mud I'm thinking of waiting another day. I just hope my smelly garments don't keep me up tonight if can't get to their washing
I'm at camp now and 'Surprise, Surprise', another cell phone tower. But tonight's tower is owned by AT&T, my cell carrier, so I have 5 bars, 4G
service and the presumption that they're tower yards are open camping for their customers....Yahoo!  I am situated exactly north of George
Bush Airport (IDK if it's named after Bush 41 or 43) several football fields or so north and directly underneath a power line field. I am in the
complete open which is not the ideal location to be tonight as it had been raining all day and continues to rain now and the forecast calls for
more rain tonight and in to tomorrow morning. But I didn't have much choice being caught in the suburban jungle of northern Houston. I can't
believe how much traffic and large box strip malls there are around here as it seems they are lined up one after another.
At the moment I sit on my new Ms Coleman (how sweet it is to sit and not feel as if the chair you're in is going to collapse at any moment) and
peck out these few words under the protection of my 8'x10' blue tarp awaiting a break in the rainfall so I can set up my tent, climb in, and go to
sleep after a long day. I really hate continuous rain day after day. I don't mind so much a day or two, but we're going on three days now without
much letup and I'm starting to feel like a slimy slug. All my stuff is wet or damp. The good thing is that this slow moving frontal system from the
Gulf of Mexico and moving Northeastward is warm and as such I am not cold or in much discomfort, excepting of course my negative attitude. I
wish I could brighten my mood right now but I'm not sure what it would take to do that (a big donation to the FRAANK causes might go a long
ways or, in the absence of that, a warm shower just may be the trick). This whole journey is beginning to seem like a dream in the making. I'm
not sure of the day to day happenings or what the conclusion of this dream will be, but as far as my mindset at this point it is as if I'm here but
not really. 'La Vita e' un sogno' (Life is a Dream) were the words repeated over and again by my father before taking his last breath in this life
from his tumor-filled lungs. This feeling I have now could be partially what he was talking about, as well as I'm sure the brevity of one's lifetime.
Right now there is an occasional breeze from the north, the direction this storm is going, and it feels so nice when it comes on. I feel like I'm in
Hawaii, 'Paradiso' when it's cool, yet warm embrace envelopes me.
At my LSTD today I shopped finally at a nice grocery store, the first I believe for weeks. The South has the worst grocery stores anywhere.
Ones like Piggly Wiggly that don't have fresh bakeries, very fresh produce of wide selections of other things. I won't keep beating up on the
South, but I sure am glad to be out of there.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 168  9/30/12
SP : Humble, TX
EP: Chappell Hill, TX
DM:  62
TM:  11,637

Today is the last day of September and with it's departure there remains an ambiguous feeling in my gut. On one hand I welcome the cooler
temps and the fact my heading for the next month will be nothing but west and north (in other words, homeward bound). But October means the
first real onset of fall and the possibility of much cooler temps, even snow through the mountain passes that await my arrival. Already this
evening I have had to put on my fleece jacket that's been with me since day 1 in Alaska five and a half months ago. It has become considerably
cooler with the passing of the storm that has been around for the last couple days and in its wake are 20-30 mph winds from the NW (precisely
my heading for the next week). But I'm only at 30' latitude and at the most a couple hundred above sea level. Latitudes and altitudes much
higher than this await me at dates far along the calendar of the chilly autumn months and mountainous terrain before me. Yes those butterflies
of ambiguity in my gut are flapping their wings with gusto and in my heart of hearts believe the most difficult, trying part of this journey is still yet
to come.
Anyways, tonights camp is a classic and one I'm certain will become more the rule than the exception as the day and nights become more cold
and possibly temperate. I am inside and protected by cover, no matter how rudimentary it may be. This place, I'm guessing, is a 30 yard
concrete floored and tin roofed covered refreshment/concession stand(see picture 1 below) about on the grounds and about a football field
from a 19th century built catholic church with a red terra cotta tiled roof and tan colored rough stuccoed exterior. There are 6 high arching and
beautifully decorated stain glass windows on it's east side and facing me in my little dungeon here. It is a gorgeous old SW style church that I
discovered while stopped for water for the evenings camp (there being a hose on the side of the hundred year old structure) of which I was still
uncertain at that time.  While filling my bottles I glanced around and noticed a few covered awnings in the back grassy field which looked
promising for camp, what with continuing grey skies, 20+ mph chilly winds, and the possible chance of more of the showers that have been
battering me throughout the last few days. So I decided to have a closer inspection. I walked through the church grounds toward the awnings
but discovered they were really close to US 290, which I plan to ride to Austin, but much worse was the chilly northern wind blowing right
through the uncovered improvements. I knew something better than this was going to have to suffice in order for me to stay here for the night so
when I saw this protected, yet open, concession stand I decided to go for it. There are homes nearby and I did not want to get seen, so as
nonchalantly as possible I checked it out and when I decided this would do, opened the sliding aluminum door on one end and walked my bike
right inside. So here I am, covered, protected and as snug as a bug in the rug...well, putting all things in to consideration that is. But what I
wouldn't give at this moment to be back home with my family, taking care of my Little Angel (she called me a few minutes ago to say she was
feeling achy and feverish and probably wouldn't go to school tomorrow). But that is still six weeks and 3000 miles away and I can't allow my
mind to become transfixed just yet on that. I'm sure there are still too many trials and obstacles ahead of me.  
Have you ever thought that perhaps life is meant to be alone, at least sometimes. I mean we are born alone and die alone. And it's only in the
interim when we accumulate family, friends, lovers, kids, enemies, pets and other diversions to avoid being alone, of which most of us try to
avoid like the plague. Maybe when we're alone we're actually not alone but rather fulfilled with the best company of all; ourselves.  When our
minds are constantly filled and preoccupied with this and that regarding family, friends, work, school, TV, mortgages, weekend parties, etc, we
are at our most lonely moments. I guess what I'm trying to say is that when we are alone we have removed all the facades masking our true
identity and are able to allow the fulfillment found with the discovery of self to be exposed and presented. Coupled with the glorious sights,
sounds and smells of nature, it can bring us as close to who we really are as was the case perhaps at birth and possibly to be awaiting at
death, minus of course all the physical discomfort and pain associated with both. As you can tell I have a little time to think tonight so I'm letting
go with some of it.
Today I received another donation from again a total stranger. I'm assuming he had driven by and just saw me riding along and decided I was
worth the effort to stop and offer some assistance, both to myself and the FRAANK causes it turns out. I saw him when he pulled off US 290
about a football field ahead of me so I stopped pedaling hard to assess the situation. When he got out of his car holding a plastic bag I knew
something was up and that it probably was for me. He handed me the sack filled with delicious bananas, apples and oranges and asked to
hear about my ride and causes. After telling him he contributed $20 to our causes and I was pretty much in awe at the spontaneous generosity
of this person I hadn't even known 5 minutes, yet had trusted that I was genuine in my task and purpose.
Joe Vasquez Jr. of Burleson TX.; on my behalf and that of the entire FRAANK organization and its beneficiaries, thank you so much.
Today I crossed the Brazos River(see picture 2 below) that flows from the N Texas hill country to the gulf of Mexico. It was originally named by
the Spanish, Rio de los Brazos de Dios (River of the Arms of God; how pretty is that?) Linda Ronstadt and  Emmylou Harris sing a beautiful
song entitled Across the Border in which is mentioned the river and one I listen to practically every day.
I also discovered a new pop here in the Lone Star State and which the jury is still out whether I like or not.(see picture 3 below) It was the
cheapest I could find and it's name fitting for the state through which I am now passing, so I decided to give it a try.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A
October 2012
SP=Starting Point - EP=Ending Point - DM=Daily Mileage - TM=Total Mileage

Day 169   10/01/12
SP : Chappell Hill, TX
EP: Elgin, TX
DM:  72
TM:  11,709

I am pretty proud of myself this evening, and I'm not usually one for the ol' chest pounding ego boost. But I managed to eke out 70+ miles today
with a considerable headwind and getting a late and slow start. Last nights sleep on top of the chest freezer in the church concession (how
funny; the iPhone auto correct wanted to put 'confession' rather than the word concession) went really well even considering it was only 5' in
length and I am 6' tall. Actually having my feet hang off the end felt kind of good and I was so tired that even though I would awake periodically
throughout the evening (to relieve myself and whatsoever), I would fall back asleep every time and it wasn't until about 6 that I finally decided to
get up. In other words, I slept great (well for an old guy). You know, I'm starting to think that the reason deep, uninterrupted sleep becomes such
a rarity (at least for men) is that it's Gods way of telling us that time is finite. 'Hey buddy, you ain't got that much more time here before you
come and visit...or go South to Louisiana, so don't waste too much of it sleeping.' Ok, I here ya. Tomorrow morning my plan is to get up before
4 and hit the road by 5:00 so I can enjoy the sunrise, gain some miles before the wind kicks in too bad and most importantly, eat some
delicious glazed donuts and greasy cinnamon rolls before they sell out at the donut shop (by the way, the best donut shops down here are the
independently owned ones where the owner is usually Asian). That should put me in to the capital of Texas in Austin before most the state
employees are even to work yet. After that I need to find a bike shop as there is some work it is needing, most importantly the bottom bracket
is beginning to clunk a bit telling me that the bearing needs replacement, a job far beyond what I'm capable of taking care of out here on the
Tonight's camp is in a little forested area south of Hwy 290 about a half mile and a few miles east of Elgin TX. Not much to write about for the
day except a lot of warm beautiful weather and the continuing wind out of the north west hampering my progress. I did encounter another biker
around noon time while I was having my lunch in front of the American Legion building in the tiny town of Burton. He saw me sitting at a bench
and introduced himself and telling me was on a cross country bike trip from NY to San Diego alone and driving his truck. He would drive from
location A to location B and park, then bike half way back to location A and then return to location B, in essence biking in miles the whole way
across the country though only half the route. I thought it was pretty ingenious, but a little strange. He said he liked having his truck with him for
emergency and hauling his stuff. He was not camping either. I asked him why he didn't just bike the whole way from location A to B and back to
A again and then he would be able to say he had biked across the country twice, or round trip. He wasn't too keen on that idea and then asked
me what I was going to do for an encore after this 50@50; travel to the moon?  I thought that was pretty humorous and told him if I did he would
be the first to know. Anyways, Paul is a retired 64 year old police officer from Long Island NY(
see picture 1 below) and doing something he has
dreamed about and for that I congratulate him and hope for him the best of luck. I guess he would be considered a City Boy 'Luke' LDC, though
doing it in his own unique way.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 170   10/02/12
SP : Elgin, TX
EP: Jarrell, TX
DM:  71
TM:  11,780

Woke up this morning just before 2am and after a half hour tossing around decided I should get an early start on my final push in to Austin, 30
miles east, and was on the road by 4am. My hope was the wind would be somewhat still at that time in the morning but discovered as soon as I
was free of the tree covering around my camp that it was as strong as yesterday and the day before. My direction being west and it from the
northwest I managed to make decent time in to Austin arriving around 8am including a stop at the local grocery store chain here in Texas,  H.E.
B., for a donut and phone charge. I already had my flag returned and signed by Gov. Perry which I had sent to his office before the trip and like
most of the governors, he being away from the capital and probably on the campaign trail, there had been no meeting scheduled. So after the
usual video

and photo(see picture 1 below) I turned my bicycle north and headed off toward Oklahoma City following interstate 35 along the east side
frontage road. This is the first state that I've been able to do that and it makes it far faster and easier to travel next to the freeway which is the
only direct thoroughfare heading north in these parts. It's busy and noisy at times when passing through major cities but it's the speediest way
for me to go at this time. Getting out of the northern suburbs of Austin while fighting the stiffening northern wind took me the rest of the morning,
and by around noon I had reached Round Rock, about 20 miles north of Austin.
At some point during the chaotic urban ride this morning I had received a phone call from someone with a Sedona caller ID. My first thought
being it was my son and my hope was he was not calling me from jail or with some other bad news (why is it I only hear from my kids when
they're in trouble or in need of something?), so I returned the call right away all the while hoping for the best. When a young sounding lady
answered I was somewhat relieved but the pessimistic aspect of my personality told me it might be the jail clerk. Through the loud rumbling
traffic of the Urban Jungle around me the young lady began a description of herself that I only understood, at the most, half of what she was
saying, kind of like when my grandmother would speak to me in her heavy Sicilian dialect. I did catch that she was a friend of one of my friends,
long time loyal customers and FRAANK volunteers Ann & Roberto Rabago of Jerome, AZ and that her was Cindy Alejandro. Cindy, a longtime
resident of the Cornville/Verde Valley 'Hood' had called to  let me know that she lived in my line of travels heading northward toward Oklahoma,
and that if I so needed, or desired, she was wanting and willing to help me out. She and her husband Anthony lived in a town many football
fields, or perhaps 20 miles, north of Austin called Leander.  I responded that I would call her when I approached her new 'Hood' and perhaps if
she wasn't busy we could meet for lunch. And so we did. Actually we met at the REI in N Round Rock where in I had taken my bike to have the
bottom bracket which is similar to the drive shaft of an automobile and connects the left and right side pedals and crank shafts. Replacing the
essential part were the mechanics at REI and what a spectacular job they did along with some other minor repairs and they displayed the
typical professionalism and courtesy of all the REI staff(
see picture 2 below) in every outlet I've ever been to (no, I don't get paid by them for
saying that). Thanks fellows for getting me back on road in such an expedient manner.
Anyways,  Cindy(
see picture 3 below) and I went to a buffet I had spotted a couple miles south and for some reason the thought of a bountiful
American buffet sounded good to me (this happens once in a while when bike traveling [weird cravings for this or that]). To my surprise Cindy
offered to buy me lunch. Wow, I ask her to lunch and she pays. How much better than that can it get and reminds me of the first time I asked out
my wife of 28 years and forgot my wallet so she ended up paying....haha. Anyways, I haven't had such a pleasant lunch in months; and no, it
wasn't because of the standard buffet selection offered. But rather because of the friendly, outgoing and relaxed company provided by my
guest (she didn't even eat having had a minor bout with stomach flu the day before). It was so nice to talk with a Gumpa (even women can be
Gumpa's) from the 'Hood' and bring up common names and places. I had the most entertaining and enjoyable, yet, like I said, relaxing
afternoon that I can remember. I could have sat there for hours hearing about Cindy's stories about this or that one and her new promising life
here in Texas with two teenage bound boys and loving husband but time grew short as usual and she had to leave to pick up her kids from
school and I to the REI to pick up my bike and continue on the journey now heading north to capital #42 in Oklahoma City. She even sent me off
with some homemade biscuits, chocolate chip cookies and some fresh crispy red grapes which I plan to have for dinner. Thank you so much
Cindy for your thoughtfulness and kindness to this old weary bike traveler. I will never forget our lunch together and my spirits have been lifted a
plain or two, at least for a while anyways.
Towards the end of the day I met and pedaled with a local fellow(
see picture 4 below) out on an afternoon ride. I can't remember his name at
this time but he was a few years older than I and retired. He told me that years earlier in his life he had done numerous ultra long distance
riding with mileages of around 800 miles and involving time deadlines requiring a minimum of 8 mph in total time. It was a type of riding I have
heard of but never partook in as of yet. That type of cycling is very mental and a class or level that would be close to what I describe the Level
IV or Radical 'Clint Eastwood' type'. Speed is número uno and they need very little to maintain themselves. This type of riding is usually
planned, with support and involving a race format and direction. So in that sense it is different from the Radical who is independent and not
racing anybody else. I may do one of these someday but for now I am still content being a level III Duke.
Anyways camp tonight is behind another old abandoned home the inside of which is filled with garbage and discarded personal belongings.
The backyard I'm situated is nice and clean though overtaken with weeds. I am on a clean concrete patio and it feels good to have a break
from the usual forest debris and annoying crawling insects and flying bugs. There is a beautiful sunset(
see picture 5 below) over the flat Texan
plains and the temp is perfect with a cool breeze continuing from the NW. I should sleep good tonight after a long day today.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 171   10/03/12
SP : Jarrell, TX
EP: Alvarado, TX
DM:  120
TM:  11,900
Week 23    WM: 537  TM: 11,681    AVG. Per Day: 72.5 - 76.7 miles

I'm stopped for lunch at a Burger King a couple miles south of Waco and already with 60 miles for the day and it's not even 1pm. I'm making
great time because the wind I've been struggling to pedal through the last few days has done a 180 in my favor and is now aiding my efforts to
finish this journey out (6 weeks and 3000 more miles); at least it is for now. I'm hoping to have well over a hundred today and do camp until the
southern suburbs of Ft Worth. I made one stop this morning for my FSTD at a coffee shop/donut shop that was filled with locals sipping coffee
and conversing about every subject under the sun and with old 50's and 60's shows on the TV.  This place was remarkable. The breakfast taco
I ordered was filled with freshly fried egg, potato, bacon, sausage, cheese and homemade salsa. I could have easily eaten two of them but
kept reminding myself I had a full day of riding I'm front of me. I asked the thoughtful gentlemen who served me if he could pose for a pic(
picture 1 below
) in front of the shop and he did even though I could tell he was busy. If you ever find yourself passing through these parts you
must stop at this wonderful little eatery about 15 miles north of Jarrell. I can't remember the name but it was something about Roy.
I've been on the I-35 and it's frontage road all day and this is the sweetest riding I've had thus far on 50@50. The roads here are magnificent in
both condition and magnitude. Sometimes I feel like a middle eastern carriage traveler arriving in to Rome 2000 years ago when I pedal
underneath these colossal freeway overpasses and along these capacious roadways. They say that all roads led to Rome; could it be that
some day all roads will lead to Austin. This energy based economy here in Texas is obviously doing very well, especially when compared to
the rest of the country. It appears that $4 a gallon gasoline is paying off nicely with hefty dividends for this humongous 2nd largest state in the
nation. The Lone Star state is so big and diversified that if it were to break from the Union and become an independent republic, like it once
was, it would, I believe, have no problem getting along well as a competitor in todays global economy. It's us, the other 49, that need Texas with
all it's resource richness and vibrant economy and, dare I say, intrinsically progressive thought and not visa versa. Except for perhaps
California, I can't see another state so economically prosperous and thriving, especially in these still bleak economic times. But California, I
believe, is a ticking time bomb just waiting to implode due to its extravagant and wasteful past and disposition to not change no matter how
steep the cliffside is to which they are progressing. Whereas Texas, still with its obvious faults, seems to have discovered the balance between
growth and maintaining social infrastructure, and most important, without losing its undies. Whether that trend will continue remains to be seen;
much of course depends on 'King Oil & Gas' and if the state can parlay their gains now in to the future when, as we all know, energy will come
from sources other than fossil fuels. But I am impressed with this state and what they have been able to attain in times as these.
Anyways, tonight's camp is a great one, and if it were raining would be a godsend. I am in a building which I can't determine was for
commercial or residential purposes. Whatever it is basically gutted with the exception of a couple of still hanging cabinets. It is for the most part
clean in here and by the looks of the concrete foundation was built within the last ten years. Who knows why this structure was built or what
service it played out during its short lifetime. What I do know is the it is providing an excellent indoor camp for the evening and I have almost no
fear of being discovered. I-35 is only a football field away to the west but the sound of traffic is not overly burdensome on my senses. Tomorrow
morning will be easy getting out of here and back on the highway or frontage road on my heading north through Ft Worth and then on to
It was a long day today and I took full advantage of the favorable wind staying in the saddle over 7 hours and averaging over 16mph, but I am
pretty darn tired.  My average on an ordinary day is around 12, and that's rolling time meaning whenever the front wheel is rolling the clock is
on, even if I'm just walking with it. Today I rode 1/100 of my total mileage. This is a tactic I use for diverting my mind away from the tedious grind
everyday. At a total mileage of 100 miles it is a mile and at 1000 miles it is 10 and at 5000, 50 for the day.  But as the trip goes on it gets more
difficult to attain. So when I reached 10,000 total miles I had to reach 100 for the day and that doesn't happen often. Today when I reached
119.99 I had reached the 1/100 mark, so I just made it. How many more times I will be able to reach this mark remains to be seen. Hopefully
tomorrow I will as the wind is again forecast out of the south and my heading north, and if all goes well I will be in Oklahoma, #42.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 172   10/04/12
SP : Alvarado, TX
EP: Marietta, OK
DM:  122
TM:  12,022

I had a terrible nights sleep last night as I awoke around 1am with the uncontrollable urge to itch all over my body, and I'm not sure why. I felt
little bumps but am not sure from what the source. I'm not allergic to anything that I would have come across, as far as I'm aware though my
allergies have been effecting me somewhat over the last several days. I haven't had such a miserable night since the ant attack back in one of
the Carolina's when I set up my tent next an ant colony and they made there way in to my tent through the zipper. While I was awake and
scratching my legs, arms, and just about every where else, I became conscious of the mosquitos buzzing around my head and ears (there is
little to me as annoying as a mosquito buzzing near your ear). So after convincing myself I was not going to get any more sleep until I set up my
tent to escape the flying nuisances, and then did, I was able to fall back a sleep for a couple more hours and at 5:30 was boiling my water for
coffee. About an hour later I was on the road and headed north to my next destination, Oklahoma,(
see picture 1 below)

but not before having to get through the urban madness of Ft Worth which proved to not be as frustrating nor time consuming as I had
anticipated, mainly because of the convenient frontage rd along Hwy 35. Once free from all the urban trappings I was able to put the pedal to
the medal or, in my case, the foot to the pedal and continue on taking full advantage of the wonderful tailwind I had been afforded for the
second day in a row. The terrain has changed substantially since leaving the south and now is starting to resemble more the West (minus the
mountains) and Midwest (minus never ending corn and soybean fields). For the first time in weeks I am actually climbing short, non steep hills
and I've gained several hundred feet and tonight am just under 900' (which is high compared to last couple months back east and in the South).
The topography is best described as undulating and the vegetation is not like totally green and ever present but rather with hints of off green
and more sporadic in presence.(
see picture 2 below) The tree most common is the Acatia which I've seen most often in Africa. All this change
is reminding me that I am inching my way closer to home and that this NEJ will, eventually one day, come to a completion and hopefully as
planned though I am prepared, perhaps over optimistically, for the unexpected. What's the adage; 'Hope for the best but prepare for the worst'.
The problem with that is the worst is inevitably something you would have never even begun to think of much yet for which to prepare. 9/11 is a
perfect example of that. Yes there are many arguments and conspiracy theories out there about that dreadful infamous day over ten years ago
and how it could have been averted. But really no one, not even our highest in the intelligence community, could have predicted with much
certainty, the level of sophistication that went in to the first foreign attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor. So yes I plan, and for what ever
good it is. Anticipation I believe is the best form of prevention but in the absence of that keeping a level head is needed.
So camp tonight is in yet another older, abandoned home. I chose this place because there is a weather disturbance in the region (hence the
advantageous wind the last couple days) and I did not want to be exposed in the case of severe rain or wind and also because here
Texas/Oklahoma most the land is fenced in because this is cattle country and ranchers don't like their investments wondering off or getting
mowed over by a semi truck (it's a 50/50 chance over who survives the impact with a small car). So with limitations for camping and the
impending storm I decided that this old home would do well. I look for signs, or clues, that old places like these are used or even ever
frequented and when I see they are not then I assume even if the actual owner discovers me he or she will not probably give a hoot and, if I'm
lucky as has happened in the past, bring me some dinner and pie for dessert, or perhaps sit for a while and listen to my tales of adventurous
idiocy on the road. After all I'm not a bum, perhaps a old tired vagabond, but not a bum.
So the forecast for tomorrow calls for a 180 in the wind direction and I am not looking forward to the battle that will take place. These last
couple days have been so pleasurable and I picked up about 100 extra miles over my usual mileage but I cringe at the thought of pedaling in to
another headwind, especially a chilly one at that as the high tomorrow in Oklahoma City is only suppose to be 57'. Wow!  I haven't felt anything
that cool in months and I'm somewhat preoccupied with my inadequate belongings of cool weather clothing. If its just cool and no precipitation I
should be fine; but if it starts to rain I may be headed in to some difficult times. For now though I am going to worry myself about it as I need
some good sound sleep to deal with another day of this never ending journey tomorrow.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 173  10/05/12
SP : Marietta, OK
EP: Pauls Valley, OK
DM:  60
TM:  12,082

Slept well last night and got up around 4am. The winds are forecast to change direction today to the north making this last 120 miles in to
Oklahoma City probably a difficult one. I wish I could have had one more day of that southerly, but I can't complain really as I pedaled over 240
miles in the last two days and  now am further along than originally anticipating. The temp in Oklahoma City is only suppose to top out in the
mid 50's today and even lower tomorrow so it appears fall is coming on rapidly and perhaps sooner than I anticipated as well as had hoped for.
About mile 25 today I had my first sustained climb since New England. It was only about a mile and half and perhaps 500' in elevation gain but
it reminded me of what's to come over the next six weeks and 3000 miles as I attempt to finish up this long haul I've been on for the last 5 and
half months.  At the top of the limestone climb was an expanded plain that stretched out northward for as far as I could see and vegetation and
trees (cedars) native to the west. For the first time since New England I actually had a vista at the summit(
see picture 1 below) with which to
marvel and enjoy. It's all starting to remind me of Arizona and my final leg. There are many big mountains awaiting me on this final fifth of the
journey and I would be stroking my ego if I were to say I wasn't preoccupied with their crossing. But ode to joy, I am finally starting to recognize
Today is only the 5th day in October but I have already made my first fire(
see picture 2 below) of the cool approaching season and out of
necessity, not desire. I have no plans for a shower this evening as I hardly broke a sweat all day. In fact, I had to keep taking clothes on and off
because of the chilly conditions. I can't believe that this summer of 2012 is past as it has been so long and hot for me. Again I feel like in a
dream, that perhaps all of which I've seen and gone through over the last several months was not real. And now I'm making fires to keep warm
as I did in Alaska and BC back in April and May. But how nice it is to have a fire again, and if for no other reason than the company it
provides.  Fire, sun, wind, water and earth are natures life giving forces that provide the essential nourishment for  survival, if not always
physically than for certain spiritually.
Tonight I am camped along the north bank of the Washita River, a tributary of the Red River, and just a few miles north of the town of Paul's
Valley, OK. I can hear virtually no traffic (US 77 is only a couple football fields away (downriver) but because it is downwind of me only faint
sounds emanate from its passing traffic. And the whistle of a passing train to the east is about as soothing a sound for which I could ever hope
to have. Other than that the rustling of the treetops brings almost complete relaxation to my mind and comfort of soul. The moment is bringing
me back to earlier days of the journey coming down from Alaska and BC when I felt alone and more in tune with basic needs like fire and
shelter and eating. I believe, and kind of hope this trend continues on my way westward which will be the heading tomorrow after I tag capital
#42 and continue on.
You know, sometimes there just aren't enough rubber bands.
This afternoon I stopped at a Walmart for my LSTD as I was very short on staple supplies (coffee, cereal, olive oil) as well as I picked up a
couple pairs of warm socks I hope will keep my piggies warm in the morning. The only thing I didn't get which I believe I will need tomorrow are
gloves because I couldn't find any I liked. Skies all day have been overcast and with one look at my mileage for the day it's not difficult to
ascertain the wind direction. Yes my mileage was cut in half because of the nor'easter blowing through these parts. Only a few hundred miles to
the north in Kansas and Iowa, the area where I suffered through 100' temps a few months ago, it is actually snowing right now. At times today I
was struggling to keep a 7-8 mph average. It was very discouraging and spirit sapping, especially after the last couple days with the generous
push from behind I had received. But there's a part of me right reveling in this new environment. For the first time in months I feel like I'm alone
and away from society, at least enough to feel comfortable to make a fire, and the trees and air and soil are all starting to bring me back home.
I know I'm a long way away from my final destination but still feeling a little more in control as this is where I've grown up and lived my entire life.
The Midwest has kind people, New England beautiful 'mountainettes' and friendly folks as well, the Atlantic states history and great roads, the
South that ol' time hospitality. But nothing for me compares to the West with  it's vast, remote, sometimes untouched natural splendor and
majestic scenery. Oh how good it feels to be coming back home after so long away.
For dessert I had a package of Twinkies and they tasted as good as I remember they were back in grade school. Nothing can top Twinkies for
this evening so I'm off to my tent and some rest. Think I'll wear my long underwear to bed tonight.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 174  10/06/12
SP : Pauls Valley, OK
EP: Yukon, OK
DM:  83
TM:  12,165

I awoke at a little after 2am, and after lying snuggled up warm in my sleeping bag about 30 minutes listening to the wind blow through the tree
tops and tent doors flap around, decided reluctantly to make another early day of it no matter how chilly I knew the air would be outside the
comfort of my tent nor how punishing the head wind once on the bike and pedaling. I put on every layer of clothing I had, cranked up the cook
stove and huddled over it awaiting my cowboy coffee to boil. I went through my morning ritual all the while thinking that if this sudden blast of
cold was a prelude to what's coming up over the following weeks as I attempt to complete this journey, I am in for heck of a difficult time. While
pushing my bike towards the highway I noticed the most unusual animal (I assume animal) footprint(
see picture 1 below) I have ever seen
imbedded in the muddy road next to which I had set up camp. It resembled a human hand and can think of no animal with that type of footprint.
If anybody has any clue please let me know as I would be interested to find out.
Once on the road I started to warm and believe again in my ability to finish even though the brisk cold wind was turning my toes numb and
allowing my speed to not break the 10 mph threshold, it being only about 15' off a dead header.

I thought of a new acronym for LDC (long distance cycling); BMW (big mileage wind) which is what I had a couple days ago. Of course the
opposite of a BMW, is what I battled through today and would be a LMW (no description needed).
Anyways I only had about 50 miles to go to Oklahoma City and was hoping to reach the capital before noon and then turn my front wheel west
and start heading to capital #43 in Santa Fe, close to week distant depending on wind conditions. But how good it feels to know I am heading
westward again and this time to the foot of the Rocky mountains. I have been waiting for months with much anticipation for this next stretch,
knowing that finally I will be rounding third base and have home in sight on this last fifth of the journey.
I had my FSTD in Purcell at about 20 miles and at the typical donut shop for a breakfast sandwich, donut and chocolate milk. I didn't feel like
leaving the warm comfort of the store and begin pedaling again in to the cold wind, but after a few minutes became accustomed to the biting
cold as I had earlier when I left camp.
Around noon I arrived in to the capital and after having a bite to eat practically next door the building itself at a Burger King, went to do my usual
ritual of video as I pedal up the final few yards.

About all I can recall about the structure that was unique from the other capital buildings was the statue of a prominent and proud looking native
American warrior at the very top of the dome.(
see picture 2 below) Nobody was around it being a Saturday except a state trooper sitting in his
patrol car eating pistachio nuts and trying to keep warm with his engine running and heater on. I asked him if he would take a pic of me in front
of the state building(
see picture 3 below) and by the look on his face one would have thought I had asked him to marry his sister. Reluctantly
though, and perhaps out of obligation of being a public servant, he put down his bag of nuts and stepped slowly and gingerly out of his squad
car and without taking more than two steps from his front door snapped the worst picture I've had yet taken by any passerby in front of any
capital. He handed me the phone back and without any return gesture to my thank you, got back in his car and turned the heater on high. Ok it's
chilly, but not that bad I thought to myself. Anyways, as soon as I could mount my bike I was off headed west toward my next destination. It was
wonderful not having the wind pushing against me and my speed was notched up a few miles per hour. I made my LSTD in Yukon a few miles
back and did my clothes which were all dirty and while waiting for them had my protocol shave for the week (I always shave while doing my
Tonight's camp is next to a large electrical transformer field a few miles west of the town of Yukon Oklahoma, home of country music
singer/songwriter Garth Brooks.(
see picture 4 below) And tonight this place feels like the Yukon of our northern neighbor Canada that I passed
through nearly six months ago at the beginning of this journey. I bet the temp is down to near 40' as I sit here trying to peck out these few words
with cold hands. With the wind chill making it at least 5' colder. I am set up in a line of trees and vegetation separating the power transformers
from some cattle grazing ranches, away from any disturbing noises and hidden about as well as can be expected seeing I'm only 25 miles from
the state capital. State route 66, which I believe may just be 'Ol 66' (the one we all got our kicks on), is about 2 or 3 football fields to the south. I
hear little noise except the buzz from the electrical power transfer and a few cows bellowing out their obvious discontent, like me, with the
sudden change in weather.  It is so cold that my can of pop is now colder than when I took it out of the cooler two hours ago. To make matters
worse I had to take a shower this evening as I didn't last night (first non shower day since Montana) and there is no way I can go two nights in a
row without soaping off my body and shampooing my hair (so much for my Cowboy image). I would make a fire but I'm just not sure about my
whereabouts and there is a lot of dry combustibles around and I don't have much water. So I guess I'll go in to my tent where at least I am
protected from this chilly wind. If it were to rain tonight there's no doubt it would turn to snow.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 175  10/07/12
SP : Yukon, OK
EP: Canute, OK
DM:  89
TM:  12,254

If I were to remain riding on the highway I rode today (I-40) I could be home in less than 10 days. I-40 was the interstate that rang the death bell
for old route 66, though sections of it are still pretty lively, and it runs through Flagstaff, Arizona about 700 miles west of my current location.
One hour south of Flagstaff is my home in the Verde Valley. But in order to complete my SPJ to all 50 state capitals I must make a right turn
before Albuquerque, tag Santa Fe, and then head north along I-25 to Denver and then Cheyenne Wyoming, states #44 & 45 respectively.  That
is really quite frustrating for me as I don't want to go north anymore especially with the weather turning bitterly cold as such;

all I really want to do is go home. But having come this far, to not finish what my stated and intended goal has been all this time, would be much
worse than dealing with the upcoming trial and not even a thought I wish to entertain in any way. Which brings me to my present position and
it's surroundings and elements in which I am exposed this evening. I have decided to make camp under a covered picnic area,(
see picture 1
) sometimes referred to as a gazebo, in the town park of Canute, Oklahoma which is on the south side of I-40 and a few miles east of Elk
City and not much further still from the smokestack looking panhandle of Texas. Amarillo is still a couple days off. By the looks of this park it
doesn't get used nor maintained much which is probably the reason I decided to camp here knowing I will probably not even see anybody
(except a few locals cruising by the trash dumpster in their pick-ups to boot their garbage) come around much yet be bothered. It's actually a
nice park and at one time appears to had been the pride and joy of this small western Oklahoma town. But now it just kind of seems a little
lonely and unkept; hum, kind of like me. I just reckon me and this park deserve each others no thrill company for the evening. There is a pretty
cemetery on a little knoll just to the east of the park here and some baseball diamonds with weeds and gopher mounds in the infield on the
north and west ends, but there are no homes close by and only a convenience store/gas station a couple football fields away where I did my
LSTD. The best part about this deserted park is there are 3' high above ground barbecue stands and in one of which I have built a warm fire to
keep the chill from setting in to my tired bones, joints and extremities from this very chilly southwest wind that has picked up over the last couple
hours. My main concern for this evening was finding some type of cover in the event of rain or even snow, which is very probable given the low
temps. My hope is that the wind which is suppose to change to the south west (and is in the process of doing that right now) will start to bring
the temps up a little though simultaneously cause me great grief tomorrow when with my westerly direction. This cold snap is way too early for
this time of the year, even here in the central part of the country. Perhaps if this were November I nor anybody else I have spoke with lately,
would be surprised. But this is, if my mind has not completely failed me as of yet, only the beginning of October.
Riding today here in western Oklahoma I couldn't help but think about this flat fertile land in the 1930's when it was ground zero for the near
decade long drought that struck much of this region of the country. Most of the people who lived here during those times were first or second
generation subsistence farmers who when nature seemed to have abandoned them, picked up their meager belongings and moved to more
bountiful locations. Okies they were called and still called from time to time. If you've never seen the 1939 Hollywood classic 'The Grapes of
Wrath' with Henry Fonda, directed by John Ford, and based off the novel with the same title written by John Steinbeck (of Salinas CA
[artichoke capital of the world]), I highly recommend you do. The first and only time I saw it in it's entirety was when I was a young boy on our 19"
Magnavox black & white TV (didn't really matter as the movie was in B&W) and with my mother whose passion was watching old movies (she
also took me to see 'Gone with the Wind' at the movies back when they would only release those classics every few years for the movie
houses and of course long before tapes, CD's or video on demand). I remember feeling so upset at the hardship the family had to endure on
their way to California (even though our own family at the time was going through difficult times and financial hardship). And here I am, 40 or so
years later, pedaling my bike through that part of the country hardest hit by the Dust Bowl and where the film took place at the beginning before
the Joad family uprooted and headed to California. As I was pedaling along today I  attempted to visualize large black clouds of dust
enveloping everything in it's path like the Japanese tsunami we all witnessed on TV and the Internet last year. Before Manifest Destiny took
hold and Americans decided to inhabit most every square mile of this great continent from sea to sea, dry times probably came and went
without much disturbance to the land. But with the flow of anxious farmers to new lands, plowing up grassy plains land and making agricultural
usage out of it, came the real source of the Dust Bowl; not the drought or wind but farmers themselves.  Oklahoma to me seems like a
combination pizza; a little of this and some more of that. It's somewhat midwestern, southern, western and even a touch of its own identity.(
picture 2 below
) I kind of like it and after several long arduous months negotiating the varied terrain, people and customs of this great nation
welcome a little diversity. One thing very apparent and welcoming for this tired old desert rat of the pacific and four corners southwest is the
identification of a more western feel to life in every aspect; terrain, people and way of life. I know for certain I'm headed home now and
hallelujah. I can't begin to explain the feeling of relief and joy in knowing that the end of this never ending journey, no matter how much longer it
takes or arduous it may be, is coming and soon, at least I so hope for.
One good thing about the cooler temps of the last few days and nights is the non need for a shower at the end of the day, like today. I don't
think I broke a sweat all day and so tonight my only plan after dinner (which consists of a Walmart bought salad and decent salami sandwich) is
to set up my tent and crawl inside my sleeping bag. I wouldn't even set the tent up but knowing the temp tonight may get below freezing I don't
relish the thought of shivering through a cold night outside in an old bag (I sent most my cold weather gear home after leaving Montana). One
other nicety with the oncoming coolness is the non existence of bugs or insects. They all seem to have gone underground or perhaps perished,
I don't really care. All I do know is it feels great to not have to deal with the annoying pests anymore. And with their absence the welts and
itching also has subsided.
I've become so accustom to looking at signs of nature to tell me how to prepare or react if necessary that while riding today I noticed many of
the trees along the highway had their upper branches leaning northward.(see picture 3 below) Though telling me something I didn't already
know, I took it as a sign of the prevalent wind direction in this region, the south. It's magnificent and empowering to know that you can look at
nature in ways for which you can learn and adapt to or modify if necessary from what was originally intended. Being out here this long and in
such a basic primitive mode has taught me such.
Ok, my existential question for the evening is do I make a fire or not in the morning upon my exit from the tent. Of course it will be cold and a fire
would be 'Oh so nice'. But it takes time and is a hassle. Believe it or not, these are the questions my mind is pondering over this evening. For
others it is far more grave. Today I spoke with both beneficiary/friends of the FRAANK fundraising effort (Dan Nash & Reggie Freeman), both
of whom I was unacquainted with before I set out on this journey (the monies of which, 100%, go to them), but over the last several months have
had the good fortune to get to know them and their families quite well, not to mention their difficult stories they are both having to struggle with
on a daily basis. Kelsea was just admitted to Phoenix Children's hospital this week and will probably be in for at least a week or two while
Dakota, who has been in for most the year, is hoping to be released in a couple weeks or as soon as his skin infection has healed enough the
doctor feels its alright for him to go home. Daniel, Dakota's father, and Reggie, Kelsea's mother are both down in Phoenix to care for their kids
and as can be assumed trying to make the best out of such difficult and unfortunate circumstances. If anyone so desires you can contact them
and I feel certain they both would welcome any inquires of concern or benevolent hopes and prayers. Please contact me or my wife Patrice for
their contact info.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 176 10/08/12
SP : Canute, OK
EP: Shamrock, TX
DM:  50
TM:  12,304

Slept well, probably because of the cold. Now I'm siting in my tent having my morning ritual of strong coffee and hot cereal  (which is actually
cold because I let it sit too long outside) so as to stay out of the strong cold SW wind and keep myself warm as possible. It's in the mid 30's
right now but the wind of course makes it feel colder, and it rained last night, I believe, as the ground is wet. I never thought it would get this cold
this fast and can't believe how different conditions were just a couple weeks ago in Louisiana when it was still miserably hot, muggy, and what
my friend Jerry Gallucci aptly termed a 'juxtaposition in living conditions'. I'm sure it will warm up somewhat over the next couple days so the
cold is not my biggest concern now but from the forecast it looks as if the wind is going to be picking up and as I've been suspecting all along
from it's prevailing, though adverse for me, direction; the southwest. Today it's suppose to be 15-25 mph steady and gusting possibly much
higher. There are few trees around these parts so when the wind blows, which is most the time, it does so unabated. Guess I'm in for what
Bonnie Raite refers to as a 'Sloooww Ride' (must attempt to keep some sense of humor during times like these). Anyway, my plan is to stay on
the freeway today where the passing traffic may give me some relief by breaking the winds relentless steady flow.

Having my FSTD early today in Elk City at the usual local donut shop. I was feeling weak this morning riding in from last nights camp in the park
at Canute so I decided a quick sugar and fat fix might do the trick by giving me a kick start for the day. The sun is warm but the air still chilly
because of the wind. I think it's going to be a long day.
Now I'm at my LSTD for the day in the town of Erich Ok and only a few miles from the Texas border. It is 4pm and so far I have a grand total of
41 miles. This may end up being one of the worst days yet on the tour in terms of mileage and it is due to this inexorable wind that won't allow
my passage through here, at least not without ease and frustration. At the moment I'm trying to top off my phone battery before my last stretch
of riding for the day and camp. The day is actually a nice one though cool. If I were headed north or east with the wind direction it would be an
excellent day.
For a while this afternoon I was riding on a deserted and unkept section of Ol' 66.

I tried to imagine all the vehicles at one time this now nostalgic relic use to carry over its paved back. Now there is nothing but clumps of grass
growing within its midst and tree branches hanging from above while an occasional rabbit darts across it's rutted surface and, of course, there
is myself living a moment of nostalgia while pedaling along and singing Nat King Cole's classic.
Camp tonight is just west of the Oklahoma border in Texas (my 2nd time passing through this huge state) in a one time cattle pen but now
grassy field.(
see picture 1 below) Highway 40 is about a football field north of my location but the noise level is not too bad because I am
upwind of it. There is a beautiful sunset this evening and fortunately I am sheltered from the wind and much warmer this evening than yesterday.
I was determined to accomplish two things before calling it a day today; one was reaching the 50 mile threshold for the day and two, be within
the boundaries of Texas again.

Both I succeeded at, but just by the sheen of my gritty false teeth. What a spiritual downer the day was battling that wind. It was reminiscent of
the beginning of the journey in BC when I was well aware of the enormous task before me but unable to really make a dent in to it because of
the unforgiving headwinds I had to deal with day in and day out. Back then I wanted to cry, and on more than one occasion I did, but now it is
somewhat different. Yes I feel frustrated, lonely, tired and as flat and lively as one of these squashed road kill armadillos (Die Panzershwein) I
pedal by constantly. But I have a sense now of having been to this darker side before and feel that, as the age old idiom (or was it scripture)
reflects, 'And this too shall pass'. Life is nothing but a long day at school and each day nothing but a brief second of that day. We continue to
learn and relearn all of life's essential meanings and in the end all we have is a memory, or more precisely a momentary dream, upon which to
reflect in our later years, that is if we are fortunate to live in to those years.
I observe people everyday going about their usual life; taking kids to school, commuting to work, going shopping, having a 15 minute lunch,
gassing up the truck. And all I can think is....'have you hugged your kid today', no just kidding. I don't know what I think because I feel as if
I'm living in a bubble at the moment.
So I've had this thought on my mind for some time and as it appears I have a few moments this evening I might as well let go of it. Having
traveled via bicycle now to over 40 states, I believe that the country should consolidate a bit. There are 50 states now and when we were a
loose confederation of states before the civil war (I think there was about 35 at that time), one could say he or she was a Virginian or New
Yorker or Wisconsonian and you were of your state not America the nation. But today all that has long gone changed. There are so few
differences between most states in this country, especially ones regionally close together. Why do we still have 50 states when so many of
those could be easily molded together as one and better off for it?  IDK. I believe it's time we consolidate these 50 states down to a
manageable number, let's say 25 and here's how and why. Washington & Oregon; Orington. Arizona & New Mexico; Arexico. Nebraska &
Kansas; Kanaska. Minnesota & Wisconsin; Minneconsin. Illinois & Indiana; Indinois. Kentucky & Tennessee; Kenessee. Vermont & New
Hampshire; Vershire. The Dakotas, Carolina's, and Virginias reunited once again and the really big states left alone as they are already too
big, except the one I'm in now which we could call Texahoma. Some of these future states could be made by joining more than two like
Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. And some are just so small I can't figure out how they earn two seats in the senate arm of
congress. Delaware? I mean that is smaller than some major cities of the country. The First State should definitely be the first state to be united
with another, most probably Maryland. What is the benefit of such a drastic restructure of the American alignment of statehood? Well just like in
a corporate buyout or merger there is cost savings and generally a more efficient fluidity of operations, margins of economy, both at the state
and national levels. Consolidation of the smaller states might also make them more competitive with the larger states since their pool of
resources would be enlarged.  And less capitals would have made my job of traveling to all the state capitals a lot more easier and faster and
at a younger age. Perhaps someday if the country decides to have another constitutional convention one of the representatives will put the forth
the consolidation idea.  Anyways, thought I could have a little fun with this one, especially the naming of the new mega states.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 177  10/09/12
SP : Shamrock, TX
EP: Groom, TX
DM:  74
TM:  12,378

I had another early start this morning at 5, having had awoke at a little after 3. I felt pretty good the first dark 15 miles in to the no frills, dusty little
town of Shamrock TX for my FSTD and stopped at a burrito shop for a bite to eat and phone charge (the only place open at that hour other
than McDonalds). It was still dark when I arrived shortly before 7 but by the time I got out of town the sun had fully risen and it was already after 9:
00. How I manage to kill more than two hours so fast and easy I have no idea, but I do it quite easily. Once on the road it started to warm up
rapidly so off came all the layers I had been wearing since leaving camp when it was in the low 40's with the usual chilly wind again from the
As I sit now in the only place to eat in the tiny town of McLean TX, a store/grill/filling station, I feel exhausted, and I'm not sure exactly why or how
this sensation of complete lethargy has taken over me. I don't even have 40 miles done for the day and I slept well last night, so there is little
excuse on that well traveled avenue of blame. The wind has shifted to the NW so it is still pushing against my forward momentum and slowing
me down, though not as bad as yesterday, and I don't believe neither can it be blamed for the reason I'm out of gas. My mind is also on the
blink again and I just can't seem to focus well on anything; even pecking out these few words is taxing it to the limit. I guess my body and mind
are just in need of some well needed rest. All I really want to do right now is lie down on my couch at home with my comfortable feather pillow
and favorite blanket that I've had for years and take a long deep nap, the type of midday rest that no one or thing can bring you out of. Arguing
kids, spouses washing dishes, loud television sets, dogs implanting their wet noses in your ear, cats using you as a spring board to chase a
pesky moth, nor the eternal ring of a telephone is capable of bringing you back to consciousness while napping the way I thinking of now. And
when you do awaken to the point of subconsciousness that perhaps you should arise, you convince yourself rather easily that you have already
blown the entire day away so you close your eyes again and go back to that deep sleep again until dinner time. That's all I want to do right now.
Ok, I've arrived to camp and what a unique one it is. I don't ever recall having ever having had done a camp in a train box car,(
see picture 1
) so I reckon this is a first. I am located about a few miles west of the no frills 'why would anybody ever want to live here' town of Groom
TX. This place is so unusual I can't believe Hollywood has not exploited its uniqueness yet (or perhaps it has and I don't know about it. For
miles away, in either direction, all that can be seen is giant Cross.(
see picture 2 below) The health department fellow back in Shamrock, who
had been inspecting the burrito place I stopped at this morning, told me that some rich guy had built it using only his own money. Whether the
builder was of ecclesiastical status or not I have no idea but the cross itself is without a doubt the biggest one I have ever seen, even more so
than the one above Butte, Montana (underneath which I camped inside a freeway culvert the night when it snowed a couple inches (see Day
51). The other monolithic structure which was apparent for miles on my approach from the east was the giant 'Leaning Water Tower of Groom'.
see picture 3 below) Never have I seen something so massive as that on the verge of total collapse, except of course when  I visited Pisa, Italy
and witnessed that universally known tower. This thing here in Groom TX had lost its footing on one side and was set for destruction. I thought
to myself that this humiliating structure, combined with the gargantuan 'Cross' could make this less than attractive town a actual spot on the
map. "Come see the worlds largest leaning water tower' was going through my mind....oh wow, I guess it's been a long day.
So as I was saying camp is in a very old rusted railroad box car that appears was used at one for a machine shop but now has nothing but junk
and garbage strewn about it's 10'x30 ' interior.(
see pictures 4 & 5 below)

The door on the south end was busted open and through it I have a beautiful view of the southwestern sunset over a field of young cotton
see picture 6 below) My plan is to bunk tonight on a wood plank shelf about 5' off the floor at one end of the dirt filled car and I have set
my bike and plan to do my cooking in the middle where I have cleared out an area of junk. Traffic from I-40 is quite loud as I am only about a
football field south of it and there are numerous clanging sounds from the sheet metal covering the enclosed areas of the decommissioned
grain silos between the freeway and my 'accommodations' for the evening. Seeing as no one has probably ever spent the night here, nor most
likely ever will, I feel it is my honor to bestow upon this unique structure the title 'Boxcar 40' after its original usage and the freeway that it now
rests beside.
What's very frustrating for me now as I sit here on the new Ms Coleman is witnessing the wind start to come from the NE after all day it was
coming from a NW direction. hopefully tomorrow it will continue to blow with an easterly touch so I can make up some miles lost with the LMW
(low mileage wind, as opposed to a BMW; big mileage wind) over the last few days. However, for every yin there seems to be a corresponding
yang, right? Well when I finally got going this afternoon after my downer mood at lunch in McLean the highway started climbing gently up to a
high plateau and tonight I am at the highest point I've been since leaving the Rockies in Montana back in late May; 3,300', the same altitude I
live at in Arizona. The view once I reached the top was expansive and spectacular,(
see pictures 7, 8, & 9 below) and one I've been waiting to
see for months ever since leaving the western landscapes somewhere around western Minnesota. I feel now I have finally reached the West
and thus home.

It also seems to have been the needed elixir to cure my depression after lunch today. There are still a few diversions before reaching my final
goal in Phoenix next month, but a huge waypoint has been reached on this NEJ this afternoon and with it my hopes for completion have been

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 178  10/10/12
SP : Groom, TX
EP: Bard, NM
DM:  109
TM:  12,487
Week 24    WM: 598   TM: 12,279     AVG. Per Day: 83.1 - 85.4 miles

Tonight's camp is yet another classic; the garage of a gutted, abandoned filling station(
see picture 1 below) less than a mile from New Mexico
see pictures 2 & 3 below), which I entered in to a little earlier to retrieve some water at the NM visitor center just across the border.(see picture
4 below

So I guess, technically speaking, Texas is the first, and probably will remain the only, state in to which I have traversed across its border three
times on this journey. By the looks of this dilapidated service station, and another one a football field to the east, they were abandoned years
ago and left to teenage vandals who have tagged their metal exterior walls with spray paint and buckshot and broken every single window
leaving shards of glass over every square inch of concrete floor. The entire back wall has vanished somehow but with its departure is left a
beautiful view for me to enjoy this evening of the surrounding chaparral desert plane to the north.(
see pictures 5 & 6 below) Desert plane? This
afternoon, somewhere in NW Texas, I finally returned home to my much loved and missed desert landscape with it's tall, yellow though hearty
clump grass, low lying shrubs of sweet smelling sagebrush, small ground hugging cacti, medium sized prickly mesquite trees and crimson
toned creosote bushes.(
see picture 7 below)

The climate is the driest I've experienced since leaving home back in April and the skies as expansive and blue as that I witnessed in Montana.
The vistas are incredible and stretch on for miles as far as the eye can see with not a cloud visible, at least for now, in any direction. This is the
desert Southwest where I've spent most my life and come to not only appreciate but love despite it's often harshness, intrepid character and
inexplicable vagaries to the average person. I'm not just immersing this entry with hyperbole when I say I have dreamt about this moment for
months now.

I really never fully believed that I was capable of making it this far along in the journey and continuing in the mode of travel I set out to do it since
Day 3 when I left Juneau Alaska nearly 6 months ago. To reach this point was a fantasy not even worth entertaining as it seemed so distant,
even in the southern states much yet in northern British Columbia where it was so cold my thoughts were more consumed with surviving the
frigid environment than reaching the SW. And now that I'm here I feel almost as if it's no big deal, like a reoccurring dream in which the
conclusion had been so heavily anticipated that upon its arrival there is a letdown. Have I just been through what I believe I just went through? It
all seems so distant now. But I am aware there awaits a considerable challenge yet ahead of me and for which I must prepare physically and
mentally. I dread the thought in a few days of having to turn northward  and begin the trek toward Colorado and Wyoming, only to be followed by
nearly a thousand miles of high altitude mountain passes all the way to California where I turn my front wheel SE and can finally tell myself I am
on the last stretch of this NEJ. That will be a very sweet moment if I can succeed at reaching it.
Anyways, seeing as how I am probably the first and last bike traveler to ever spend an evening here, as at past lodgings I take the honor on
myself of bestowing the title of this temporary abode, a place like last night in which only a tired old Duke could take any comfort in staying, the
'Texico Inn'.  
Anyways my FSTD this morning was in Amarillo (and yes, I did arrive to 'Amarillo by morning' ) nearly 40 miles distant from camp in the Boxcar
40 behind the retired grain silos. I stopped at a Waffle House to grab a bite to eat; my usual 2 eggs over easy with hash-browns, well done
toast, and a double waffle. The middle age guy sitting next to me at the counter was involved in a political discourse (basically a one side angry
diatribe) with the waitress who seemed about as interested in what he had to say as she would have been watching wet paint dry. He then
directed his anger with the world toward my ears. He bashed the current government, taxes, Gays in the military, communism, and just about
everything except his breakfast that seemed to be getting cold whilst continuing with his outburst. I felt like leaning over to him and whispering
in his ear, "Hey mister, try getting a bike and disconnect for a while from all that brain washing media hype you probably submerse your few
years of life left here on the planet". His anger was so manifest that even when he would pause for a bite to eat I could feel it emanating from
the pores of his drooping jowls and crinkly forehead. I finished my breakfast as soon as I could, paid my check and got out of there as soon as
possible out of fear that his attitude and outlook on life was contagious. I made another stop shortly after at the usual donut put stop to finish my
blog edit and phone charge and enjoy a warm cinnamon twist. The young pretty hispanic lady who served me at the counter reminded me of
my blue eyed beautiful cousin in Italy, Anna Maria. A few days ago I had pedaled by another neon church sign with 'idiom of the day'; "If you
want to be loved, love". It came to mind so I commented to her the likeness she had down even to her unusually striking blue eyes for a Latino.
She blushed and thanked me saying that she had in the past been mistaken for being Italian even though she was mistaken. I sat down at a
table to enjoy my warm roll and cup of coffee and a few moments later she brought me a freshly baked glazed donut, smiled and said how
much she appreciated my saying that. I said the truth should never be withheld and thanked her for her thoughtfulness. A little later while
pedaling somewhere out on the flat Western Texas plains I recalled the two totally opposing encounters I had within minutes of each other and
came to the conclusion it all begins in the heart, follows to the mind and then returns again to the heart. Johnny Cash has a song that I can listen
to over and over; 'In your mind' where he sings " all goes down in your mind", and I too believe that's where it all begins. I also thought that
perhaps had I mentioned to the grumpy fellow at Waffle House complaining about life that his droopy jowls or wrinkly face (of course in gentler
terms of expression) made him look distinctively handsome he may have quit his bitching, at least for a while, thus allowing me to enjoy my
Anyways, today I met an eclectic group of travelers ranging from a fellow on a motor powered bicycle, Tommy,(
see picture 8 below) and who at
the time we met on the road on his way from Albuquerque to....I can't remember where now (not that it really matters anyway). How nice I
thought it would be to have one of those things he was riding on strong headwind days. I also met and talked for a spell with a young attractive
lady, Maggie,(
see picture 9 below) perhaps in her mid 20's and originally from Nashville though she had been living recently in Philadelphia.
Her small blue car was filled to the roof with her belongings, even a bicycle, and was on her way out west for a few months hoping to land a job
as a waitress at a ski resort so she could get free lift tickets to ski board on her days off. I thought afterwards her story was the quintessential
'coming of age' journey and that I was involved in my own 'coming of age' journey, albeit 'middle age' journey. I figure why should the young folks
always have all the spontaneous fun in life. Anyways, for the remainder of the day riding I sang to myself Rod Stewart's best selling single;
Maggie Mae  
And then toward the end of the day as I was approaching the border of New Mexico a guy in a truck, Mike, pulled ahead of me and asked if I
needed any water. I readily accepted his kind, thoughtful gesture and filled my water bottles. This was the first time throughout this while journey
that I can remember anyone doing that and came at the most opportune time as I was completely out of water and getting thirsty. He was on his
way to Albuquerque from Houston where he had been on business. I was reminded again of the friendly folks here in New Mexico, one of my
favorite places in the country, if not the most.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 179  10/11/12
SP : Bard, NM
EP: Palominos, NM
DM:  55
TM:  12,542

Had the best nights rest in a long time and almost 10 hours. I knew I was tired but for me to sleep that long proved I was even more so.
Anyways, felt good when I finally drug myself out of the tent and started my morning ritual of boiling water for coffee and cereal. I was on the
road about 6:30 MST when I entered in to New Mexico for the second time including yesterday's foray to the border visitor center to fetch some
water for camp at the Texico Inn. Yes I am finally in mountain standard time and it seems as if I've been in the central time zone forever though if
my memory doesn't fail me it has only been since Alabama. Now I am only 2 hours ahead of Juneau Alaska and I believe 4 hours ahead of the
finish next year in Honolulu. Still four time zones to pass through before my final destination is reached, I hope, next year. Even with the
relatively late start I had the opportunity to enjoy the marvelous sunrise over the low eastern desert horizon through it's climb above the purple
cloud cover.(
see picture 1 below)
It has been so nice to be able to ride the interstate freeway again after having no choice but to ride back roads through most the country this
summer. Anyone who has been reading this blog knows my frustration with the prohibition of bicycles on rural freeways throughout the country
with the exception of the western states as it is faster, easier and safer for bikes to ride them than most the shoulderless roadways,(
see picture
2 below
) especially in the Midwest and South.
My FSTD was in San Jon (pronounced San Hone) about 20 miles west of the border of Texas. Not much there but a couple gas stations and
the one I stopped at had  hearty delicious breakfast burritos filled with lots of goodies. They were so good I ended up eating two of them, but
part of the reason for that, I fear, is the long push with this headwind to the next town,Tucumcari, about 25 miles west. So I decided the prudent
decision would be to fill up here just in case it ends up taking longer than expected for lunch. I am just like a car out here, but rather than filling a
gas tank I fill my gut. The wind is out of the south/southwest at about 20mph, or in other words a direct stiff header. The going is slow, very slow,
and my average speed I don't anticipate being much over 8 or 9 mph today. There is also a weather disturbance working its way somewhere
around here and the chance of showers today is 30% and rising to 80% by tomorrow. If there's and silver lining to this bleak assessment of
conditions today it is that tomorrow the wind is suppose to shift to the SE which should be my direction of travel in to Santa Fe, so I'm hoping
for that BMW.
I finally made it in to Tucumcari just before 2pm and since I had no AT&T 4G was forced to dine for lunch at the McDonalds on the west side of
town in order to hitchhike on their wifi service to send the prior days blog, video and pics, just like I did for nearly a month in BC. It's funny how
modes of survival or avenues of convenience are relegated to the lower reaches of our memory banks but easily brought forth again when
needed, like using McDonalds for wifi service. I had forgot completely about it until today having had such good 4G service throughout most
this entire trip. It brings back the old adage 'Necessity is the mother of all invention'. I believe as long as one can think on the fly and be
confident in their decisions and, more important, themselves that almost any problem can be solved. What's the other adage...'there are no
unsolved problems; only situations waiting for an answer'...or something like that.
I have been seeing scores of green tarantulas(
see pictures 3 & 4 below) crossing the paved shoulder here in New Mexico. It's funny because
as soon as they sense the passing traffic, they do a 180 and head back to the desert from where they came. Very rarely do I see one
squashed like the dumb pancaked armadillos (panzershwein) I've been seeing for months now.
So camp tonight is a beauty and one I haven't experienced since leaving E Oregon. I am back in the SW again where open land and vistas go
on forever, so I all day I was thinking about a camp like this one where I am alone on a high mesa overlooking the grand 360' panorama of the
surrounding planes of the colorful and uniquely sculpted desert.(
see pictures 5 & 6 below) And here I am, just what I had imagined.

It is a spectacular setting I've thought about for many months now. The highway is only about two football fields north of me but I can hardly hear
a sound from the passing traffic as the southern wind is strong enough still to carry the sound waves somewhere further north. It is a little chilly
though due to the oncoming frontal system about to pass through, but all the more excuse to make a fire, which finally after months of being so
hot and in areas that were not conducive to open fires, I feel relaxed to make for the warmth and companionship it provides.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 180  10/12/12
SP : Palominos, NM
EP: Eldorado, NM
DM:  139
TM:  12,682

What a day it was. I did not have time to write once because my focus was on gaining as much mileage as possible seeing as how the winds
were in my favor and tomorrow they were expected to change directions yet again towards an unfavorable direction. I can't believe how fickle
the winds are lately. In one 24 hour period they can literally rotate like the hands of a clock in a 360' circle. There are a few stories I would like
to write on but seeing as how I am so tired from a ten hour, 139 mile day in the saddle I will be forced to write on only one, that which happened
at the end of an otherwise non noteworthy day except for a lot of rain and riding.
Tonight I am camped beneath a road in a dry sandy culvert,(
see picture 1 below) protected from the wind and rain that slammed me about 2
hours ago a few miles south of here. I am at the junction of US 285 and St. 41 a few miles south of Eldorado NM and a dozen miles or so south
of Santa Fe.  I chose this location as there was absolutely no other cover in this area except for the cedar trees which don't offer much
protection. Most the day I pedaled I-40 and made pretty good time even though the rain was off and on this morning.

I made a breakfast stop in Santa Rosa, my FSTD for the day and was cold and wet when I got in. I had to repair several flats during the
morning and that was costing me time. The only other real stop I made was for a bite to eat at a roadside tourist store about 20 miles east of
the I-40/US 285 interchange. Once I reached 285 it was 5 pm already and normally I would have chose to camp right away but there was a 20
mph tailwind from the south so I decided to ride it as long as it lasted, which I did until about an hour later when it suddenly, within minutes,
turned to the west and with it came a tempest the likes of which I have not experienced for some time, if ever. Winds picked up to over 40 mph
and gusted at over 50 mph and possibly more. Along with the wind it started to hail and rain and I was instantly soaked and getting cold. The
road was completely fenced and gated in by private ranches so the only way I was going to camp was decouple my bike from the trailer and
hump them over separately, which I did but it was too late to set up any camp, even my tent, as the wind was too strong and the hail and rain
coming down with such force it was stinging my exposed hands, arms and legs. The ground turned in to a mud bowl and there was no
protection I could find form the elements so I broke my bike apart again, lifted it over the fence, tied it back together and got back on the road
in search of some type of protection, now with the sun almost gone and the cold starting to become a factor. Still the wind blew and even
increased in intensity, once blowing me completely off the road in to the grassy shoulder. I leaned the bike at practically a 30' angle against the
wind just to avoid being blow over again, all the while thinking that if it stopped all at once I would fall over toward the direction I was leaning.
About 7pm I finally noticed this culvert, and though some wind was still blowing through it, I was at least protected from the cold rain. It was dry
inside and I had little fear of any water coming through it as the precipitation of the storm I thought was over and this that was happening now
was just the tail end with a lot of wind. About 8 the wind started to slow down so I made a little fire, cooked my dinner, and actually took a
shower that earlier I had all but counted out for the evening with the nasty weather. Through all the awful wind and hail I actually thought about
shooting some video but was too cold and struggling to hold on to my bike to get my camera out. I did manage to catch a nice shot of the
see pictures 2 & 3  below) and sunset that followed the gale force winds and stinging hail and rain.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 181  10/13/12
SP : Eldorado, NM
EP: Espanola, NM
DM:  48
TM:  12,730

Another late day to camp and getting going on recording the days experiences. I actually slept well last night, probably because I was so tired
from yesterday's long ride and the unexpected tempest at the end of the long day that slammed me from the west. I didn't nearly write enough
about the days events nor the severity of that storm, but it is what it is there being not enough time for everything I desire to do and on this
journey it being far more the rule than the exception.
Tonight I am camped in the middle of a wide wash (arroyo) bed(
see picture 1 below) a couple football fields west of US 285 and a few miles
north of the town of Espanola NM. There is a beautiful view of the mountains to the east that have a new capping of snow(
see picture 2 below)
from the storm that just passed through and the sculpted sandstone hillsides surrounding this small canyon are fabulous.(
see pictures 3 & 4
) I made a little fire from whatever dry wood I could scavenge from underneath the nearby cedar trees and it's warmth and companionship
is just what I need this evening after a long day.(
see picture 5 below) I didn't have time to check out very much the little, unpretentious town of
Espanola but from what I saw I liked it and the residents there I encountered were about as friendly as anywhere I've been. I know I've said it
before but I like New Mexico, not just because the people are friendly and the landscape and weather fit my preference, but there is something
uniquely colorful, even mystical about this state even though it's not that much different from most the other areas in this four corners region.
Perhaps it's the heavy Spanish and Native American influence here.
Anyways, I tagged #43 today along the 50@50 SPT in Santa Fe,

and it's distinctiveness from most the other capitals was readily apparent.(see picture 6 below) First of all the town of Santa Fe is the only
place like it in the world as far as I know, with the possible exception of Sedona Arizona (in my stomping grounds) and it really doesn't
compare that well. It manages to hold on to an identity centuries old despite much progress, outsiders, and most importantly capital. There is a
lot of money there, like Sedona, but for some reason it is more hidden, unlike Sedona. I live 20 minutes from the Red Rock, Vortex country of
Sedona but feel repulsed to ever go there anymore. As a kid growing up in flagstaff I remember going there when it was basically a pit stop on
the way to Oak Creek Canyon from either a northbound or southbound direction. Now it is a tourist Mecca and more money and development
has occurred there over the last 25 years than just about anywhere with which I'm acquainted. Along with that boom it attempted to acquire an
identity, and it borrowed, or patterned, that self image from Santa Fe. But it is no Santa Fe, not even close. The natural beauty around Sedona
is even more spectacular than Santa Fe, but I don't understand why places, people and things just can't be themselves and not try to imitate
someone or thing else. Today I try to avoid going to Sedona or Oak Creek Canyon at all costs in order to avoid all the people and tourist
based commerce there. Nobody I know actually lives in Sedona; it would be like saying you live in an amusement park. They work there but
choose to live in the outlying areas and not just due solely to the expense of real estate there, though it is priced like California, but because it
is like a circus, especially in summer. But Santa Fe, along with the same artsy, progressive, tourist feel as Sedona, also has a feel of
genuineness and  uniqueness that I appreciate.
Anyways the fall colors here in N New Mexico are out in full show. Against the backdrop of the deep green coniferous cedar and piñon trees
their golden contrast is breathtakingly beautiful.(
see picture 7 below) However they are a sobering reminder that even colder fall months are
coming, and soon.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 182  10/14/12
SP : Espanola, NM
EP: Antonito, CO
DM:  86
TM:  12,816

Again I awoke around 1:30 am, crawled out of my tent in to the cold damp air to relieve myself and then clambered back inside and nestled my
now cold body back in to my now cold sleeping bag. I warmed up soon but after tossing and turning for about a half hour and thinking about
what lay ahead for the days ride, amongst other things of no value at the time of night, I decided to get started with another early start and
began with the usual morning ritual of boiling water for coffee. By 3:30 I was on the road in the pitch black moonless morning pedaling into
visible nothingness for 50 miles except for a few feet of roadway lit up by my headlamp in front of my bike.
The temp was in the mid 30's where I camped, about 5,700' altitude, and as the highway began to climb eventually topping 7,500' it was well
below freezing. The northerly wind from yesterday still was around though greatly diminished at around 10 mph vs 20 mph yesterday. Being so
dark the stars were shining brilliantly and the trail of cosmic matter burning in earths atmosphere (meteorites, or better known as shooting
stars) was like watching a fireworks show and would briefly light up the dark sky . The Big Dipper guided my northward path along the roadway
and felt that if I just kept pedaling long enough I could possibly reach the end of it's bucket and climb inside for one of it's circular motions
around the North Star.  The cold dry air chilled my toes to a state of ice block numbness and though I do have some one time use hand
warmers I was considering using for my feet figured that this would be good training for the mornings much colder that I'm certain are coming
(acclimatization).  There were few vehicles out at that hour, especially it being a Sunday, and on occasion a barking dog would break the
silence. At one point a couple of unfenced mutts started chasing me and I didn't realize how close they were until I heard their paw nails
scratching the pavement a few feet behind my bike. That is something new to me, being chased by dogs in the pitch dark (it happens
constantly during the daytime), and let me tell you that nothing will get your heart pumping faster and prompt your legs to pedal harder and
faster than the sound of unseen barking, growling dogs coming somewhere from behind and gaining ground. I let out a loud growl at where I
believed they were and did as I just said; pedaled hard and fast, and with a 'for my life or limb' intensity. They gave up the chase after about half
a minute and as a consequence of the brief encounter ended up reaching my fastest speed of the day.
Anyways, the first 50 or so miles of the day, half of it in the dark, were mostly climbing and in to the northerly left over from yesterday. My
average speed was somewhere around 8 mph, quite discouraging for me knowing that more than 2000 miles remain to be ridden before I
reach my final goal of Phoenix AZ. I stopped a few times on the road just to snack on granola and chocolate bars (I can finally buy and
consume the delicious cocoa, sugar and butter delicacy after putting it off all summer because of fear of it melting in the heat) and a left over
turkey and avocado sandwich I had made myself yesterday in Santa Fe, most of which I had in front of the state capital building. I ended up
topping off the climb at over 8000' and enjoyed one of the most magnificent sunrises this morning of the entire trip.(
see picture 1 below)
Around noon I reached Tres Piedras (three rocks) and stopped for lunch in a little diner mainly to get my phone charged and send off the pics
and blog since my cell service has been sketchy since arriving to New Mexico a few days ago and they advertised Wifi. It was a small place
run by a lady a few years older than I (at least I hope so), and who I assume was the owner, along with a couple of 20 something kids helping
her out.(
see picture 2 below) While there I decided to order a burrito which was prepared fresh for me while I was doing my customary blog
edit and phone recharge. The food was great and the comfortable home style relaxed environment just what I needed after a long difficult
morning of biking.
During the afternoon hours the wind finally began to shift to the east and southeast and my speed as a result began to pick up. I reached
see picture 3 below) and  the highest point of the day (8,500') about 15 miles before Antonito, my LSTD for the day, and the base of
Mt Antonio(
see picture 4 below) and the western end of the Taos Plateau(see picture 5 below) the vista of which was one of the most
magnificent sights I've had the pleasure to behold during the 50@50 journey.(
see pictures 6 & 7 below)

I saw two herds of pronghorn antelope and figure if the barb wire fencing enclosing this awesome country were taken down that there would be
all types of wild game visible.
Anyways, camp tonight is only a mile north out of Antonito along the Conejos River and a couple football fields west of Hwy 285. There are tall
sycamore trees with fall golden leaves all over(
see pictures 8 & 9 below) and I've made a fire in anticipation of the cold evening coming on fast
now as I peck out these words. For dinner I have some greasy fried chicken legs and thighs I picked up at the local grocery store in Antonito.
On a side note this is the town I passed through two years ago on my way to Arizona during the baseball trip. I was headed south at that time
and from here I turned west toward Chama, New Mexico. I was also in a very gloomy mood having left my family who had drove out to meet me
in Denver for the baseball game.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 183  10/15/12
SP : Antonito, CO
EP: Walsenberg, CO
DM:  102
TM:  12,918

No time to journal today even though I got another early start this morning in the cold 20' temp more than an hour before the colorful and
inspirational sunrise.

Now I am at camp which sits on an undulating red, course sandy bluff a short distance above and north of US 285 and tucked amongst a small  
grouping of 6-12' high cedar and piñon trees. The town of Walsenburg is less than 10 miles east and from where I plan to take I-25 north to
Again I arrived late to camp because I could not find anywhere suitable to lay my bones for the evening and was also determined to drop from
the high altitude I've been at the last couple days. I reached the highest point of the 50@50 SPT late this afternoon at La Veta Pass, 9,400'
above the sea.(
see picture 1 below) Coming from the east, as I was doing, the pass is quite easy to cross over by Rocky Mountain standards.
The decent down the eastern side is steeper and longer and when you combine a tailwind of 15-20, it is like being shot from a cannon.
Unfortunately I couldn't enjoy the exhilarating, heart thumping speeds because my bicycle rig is just too big and heavy for such. I did reach 40
mph at one point but was forced to slow down drastically when I felt the trailer start to teeter from side to side causing my bicycle to follow suit. I
tried not to brake too much too fast and potentially making the delicate situation even worse. But I will admit my stomach was in my throat there
for a while. Bob single wheeled bicycle trailers can do that when they are overly weighted and the distribution of that weight is not evenly
centered over the middle, both of which were the case on this particular decent. My LSTD was in Blanca, over 40 miles from my eventual
camp, so I was forced to load up there on the essentials for the evening, including water. Anyways, it was probably the most precarious
moment while riding that as of yet I have had on the 50@50 SPT.  
On the climb up to Veta pass I pedaled through the most magnificent scenery thus far of the tour. I was surrounded by majestic 12-13 thousand
feet clear rocky topped cone shaped mountains(
see picture 2 below) rising so high in the deep blue sky that not even trees nor any vegetation
can survive due to lack of oxygen, untouched meadows with golden grass swaying in the brisk wind(
see picture 3 below) and grazing elk and
deer totally indifferent to my presence, and periodic groves of tall white bark Aspen trees with their golden leaves fluttering in the cool autumn
see pictures 4 & 5 below) and trying, in vain, to hold on to their source of creation for as long as possible before inevitably joining their
brethren on the ground below. Within a month or so the leaves and everything else around there will be covered with a heavy blanket of snow.
Such beauty of sublime character and complexion resulted in  the tortuous high altitude climb to pass within a seemingly succinct moment and
before I knew it was catching my breath on top of the scenic pass.
A beautiful day today in every way; weather, scenery, riding and road conditions. Feeling good now, at least for the moment.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 184  10/16/12
SP : Walsenberg, CO
EP: Fountain, CO
DM:  93
TM:  13,011

What a difference a day and a couple thousand feet in elevation can make. Yesterday morning I had every article of clothing I own covering my
body in the low 20' air and today I'm back to just wearing shorts and sandals. This morning when I arrived in to Walsenburg for my FSTD it was
30' warmer than the previous morning. I'm not complaining because it feels great but just strange how the conditions can change in such a
short period of time.
Camp this evening is just north of the town of Fountain in a large empty square lot that obviously was used for some commercial purpose at
one time but now is completely void of anything save a few piles of dirt and some pottery fragments. I-25 is perhaps a half mile west and I can
hear the traffic though it is not all encompassing, sort of like relaxing background sounds...white noise. From my vantage point I have a
wonderful view of the deciduous sycamore trees with all their leaves a bright shade of yellow/gold along the stream bed(
see picture 1 below) a
half a football field to the west. There is a jogging/walk path down there and once in a while I can hear people talking as they enjoy their late
afternoon fall walk.
The day was absolutely perfect climate wise with the high in the 70's and not a cloud in the sky. The wind during the morning hours was from
every which direction but after noon it settled in to a SW flow allowing me to gain, along with the draft from passing traffic on interstate 25,(
picture 2 below
) some extra miles. I ended up with over 90 for the day and when calculating my weekly average (which ended today)
discovered that I had my biggest mileage week of the journey thus far pedaling 633 miles and averaging over 90 miles per day. And in the
process I have upped my total average mileage for the whole bike portion of the journey to nearly 74 MPD, and that's everyday since my
departure from Skagway back on April 25 (175 straight days of riding without break).
I have a little fire made, more for the companionship and to keep me from going to sleep to early rather than warmth as the days are so short
now and I so tired of waking up at 1 or 2 in the morning and unable to go back to sleep. A camp fire is second only to a good dog as far as
man's best friend. It not only keeps you warm and cooks you're food (I have a gas stove and don't need it for that purpose anyway) but more
importantly at times gives you something to occupy your mind  by tending to its needs (gathering wood, preparation and keeping it going) as
well as entertaining one with its rhythm, soul and always unique style. If seems no two fires are ever exactly the same, somewhat like people in
that sense. Their character is derived from the wood used, the site prepared, the wind, and even the air pressure and humidity levels.  I made
fires every evening the first month and half on this journey and now having one again has reminded me of their importance. Next to my
equipment, supplies, and support back home from my loved ones, fire has been the most important element of the 50@50 SPT.
A little earlier in the day I had passed El Huerfano,(
see picture 3 below) The Orphan, a cone shaped volcanic butte named by an early Spanish
explorer and used as a beacon for other early explorers including Col John Fremont on his railroad expedition through these parts in the
middle 1800's. It stands out alone, hence the name The Orphan, as no other natural outcroppings or mountains are in the nearby vicinity. A
river runs by just to the north and has been bestowed with the same name, Huerfano River.  It was a appealing picturesque setting with the
many tall Cottonwood trees lining the banks of the slow flowing river, their leaves turning a bright fall yellow, and if I hadn't had to do more
mileage would have enjoyed calling it camp for the day.
This afternoon I topped the 13,000 mile point(
see picture 4 below) of the bike portion of this journey and now there remains only a little over
2000 miles more to pedal before reaching my final destination in Phoenix AZ hopefully in about four weeks from now, weather permitting of
course. In some ways it seems so long ago when I left Juneau on that chilly though sunny Wednesday morning back in mid April. But other
ways it seems almost like yesterday. I guess it's just like normal life when back home when sometimes life flies by without our ever hardly
noticing what happened, and other times it seeming like a never ending ordeal.
A little while after reaching that mileage milestone I stopped off a rarely used freeway exit to relieve myself and a few minutes later when I was
getting myself going again noticed a dust cloud off the side of the roadway. I then saw a parked car on the highway shoulder and a lady whom I
assumed the owner of it trying to climb over the barb wire fence between the freeway and the dust cloud. As soon as the wind blew the earthen
particles over the eastern prairie I discovered what was going on; a car had veered off the freeway and rolled over multiple times by the look of
see picture 5 below) I raced up to where the lady had parked her car, put my bike down and ran towards the completely destroyed wreck,
trying to avoid all the personal articles strewn about on the ground (shoes, water bottles, CD's, clothes, food, but thankfully no bodies) after
being ejected from the high speed rolling piece of two ton metal. When I got there the only occupant of the car, a middle age man perhaps a
few years older than I, was getting out of the drivers side door and shaking the dirt off himself. Unbelievably there was not a scratch on his body
nor hitch in his get along. His hair was a little messed up but other than that he looked as if he had just stepped out of a business meeting. The
lady I had seen climbing over the fence was a nurse and seen him drive off the freeway and, like me, was going to help. She was asking him
questions about his state of being, both physical and mental, but he said all was fine and started walking around, I collected his personal
belongings scattered all over the field. A few minutes later I heard the sirens of the first responders and when they arrived took over and began
their report. I decided I had had enough excitement for an afternoon and hopped back on my bike for another couple hours of riding, though the
accident brought back for me, once again, the realization of the potential danger of being out here everyday fully exposed to such scenarios as
what I had just witnessed. Perhaps,  along with the fence and trees this fellow took out with his out of control rolling automobile, I would have
been included had I not stopped when I did at the exit to go to the bathroom. For the remainder of the day I was a little more conscious of
everything going on around me and really can't wait to finish this trip up, and the sooner the better.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 185  10/17/12
SP : Fountain, CO
EP: Larkspur, CO
DM:  45
TM:  13,056
Week 25    WM: 633   TM: 12,912     AVG. Per Day: 90.4 miles

I awoke around midnight and noticed that a thin, inconsistent but somewhat dark cover of clouds was hiding the sky usually so full of stars at
7000' elevation, the same sky full of stars that before I went to sleep, around 9pm, had been shining so brilliantly. That's funny I thought as the
last forecast I had checked on my phone app before retiring called for 0% chance of precipitation and a low in the mid - high 40's. So with that
reassurance of mild overnight conditions as such, I decided not to set up the ol' 'Nylon Cover' and instead just to do it the easy-sleezy cowboy
style and make my bed under the beautiful sky by just rolling out my sleeping bag and air pad on the open ground, something I hadn't done in
some time on the 50@50.  I turned my phone back on and checked out the forecast just to make sure nothing had changed, and again the
same reading as I had a few hours earlier; 0% chance of precipitation, low in the mid 40's. So I just figured there were some loose renegade
clouds out there having fun by messing with my mind, so I closed my eyes and tried to go back to sleep. A few minutes later I felt the first drop
splash on my forehead, then another on my nose and yet one more on my closed eye lid. What the heck is going on here? As I lay there
debating in my mind whether or not to put up my tent (a tedious time consuming task during daylight hours much yet in the middle of a dark
moonless night, raining, and the wind blowing 20 mph), all I was really doing was just putting off what I knew would be the inevitable decision; to
put the darn thing up so I could relax and go back to sleep. But I continued to procrastinate for a few more moments and until the drops started
getting things thoroughly wet. Angry and cursing the Weather Channel phone app, I finally made the decision to do the do, and by the time my
shelter was up and I inside everything was pretty much wet, not soaked, but damp. I checked the phone app once more and it still said 0%
chance of precipitation and temps in the mid 40's, all the while listening to the drops smacking the outside of the tent. I eventually fell asleep,
and slept well, not awakening till after 6am. The topper to all this though came in the morning when I  proceeded with the usual painful clamber,
mixed with vulgar loaded grumbling, exit from the relatively warm vinyl shelter and in to the chilly, near freezing air. The now infamous phone
app was reporting that the current temp was 45' still when I knew it was much colder, in fact so cold that the residual drops of rain on my tent
wall had turned to ice. How can a predictor of weather be so far mistaken? It would be like batting under .100 in baseball along with the  
distinctive stigma of being league leader in errors. Aren't these apps suppose to be updated regularly? I know my app was as it showed it was
updating every time I checked it. Oh well, all's well that ends well except that the same app is forecasting winds today from the north, my
direction of travel, at 20- 30 mph and possibly gusting over 40 mph. I just hope it is wrong as it was with last nights forecast. But knowing my
luck sometimes it will probably be dead on with this one.
So one look at my mileage of the day tells the story of the day. A brutal, punishing, cold northerly worked against my interests in trying to reach
the capital of Colorado in Denver and spend the evening with my brother, his family and friends who reside in the area. By the noon hour I had
pedaled less than 20 miles and the afternoon winds were suppose to be even more fierce. It was so frustrating at times trying to pedal in to a
force of physical nature that wouldn't bend to my desires, no matter how much I believed my perseverance and resilience would not succumb to
it's confident power. I didn't want to give up the momentum I believed had been on my side for the last few weeks and in my mind this day was
a battle between my will and the wind. The lyrical quote  from the Led Zepplin song When the Levy Breaks "Crying won't help you, praying won't
do you no good" kept running through my mind all day, especially when the powerful gusts would top 50 mph forcing me to a complete standstill
in the middle of the road. At one point my brother Pasquale from Denver called asking if I wanted him to come pick me up in his truck and bring
me back to his home for the evening, have a nice dinner and hot shower and sleep in a comfortable bed. In the morning he could bring me
back to the same spot he would pick me up from so the integrity of attempting to ride the complete distance of 50@50 wouldn't be disturbed.
Perhaps even the wind would settle down by tomorrow allowing me the easy passage to Denver for which I had originally hoped. Thanks, but
no thanks was my immediate, unambiguous reply. This was my personal battle I was engaged in and wasn't prepared, at least yet, for the
humiliation of defeat. After all, what would I do out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean when there are days like this; cry for some help? There
won't be any help to come; in fact, there won't even be anybody to call as I won't have a phone except for emergencies. Several times during
the day I let out loud outbursts of vulgar-laced language directed at no one or thing in particular, but just to alleviate my bottled up and helpless
chagrin at being forced to confront this relentless nemesis.  But in the end, as  inevitably I knew I would, was forced to concede defeat to an
adversary far more powerful than I, find an early camp, and give up my plans to reach Denver for the day. Nature had won out again and forced
me to take notice again of it's supreme power over everyone and thing and not just my obstinate, though fragile, will.
Anyways, it all worked out good as tonights camp is a beauty. I am situated about a couple miles west of the community of Larkspur, CO and
just on the other side of the hill from its school. Camp is in a Ponderosa treed forest with scattered scrub oak trees and a thick carpet of pine
needles, cones, and interrupted only periodically with groves of golden native grasses.(
see picture 1 below) This is the type of high altitude
forest landscape and ambient conditions I grew up with as a boy before finishing school in Flagstaff Arizona. I have a fondness for this type of
dry high altitude vegetated ecosystem and thus feel at home in the present, even though physically I remain many miles away from being there.
It's strange being home after being away in strange places. I have a comfortably warm fire(
see picture 2 below) and when combined with the
relaxing sound coming from the wind rustled tree tops, feel I have finally found my peaceful moment for the day.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 186  10/18/12
SP : Larkspur, CO
EP: Ft. Lupton, CO
DM:  69
TM:  13,125

This morning was the coldest since leaving N. BC back in May and possibly for the entire 50@50 SPT. Again I dressed with every layer of
clothing I had in my pillow bag even doubling up on my socks and leaving on the long underwear I usually only wear when in my sleeping bag.
And still I was cold  during my morning ritual of prepartion and savoring consumption of dark, muddy coffee and hot, but never over thrilling,
cereal. As usual I crouched over my 3" diameter gas stove to stay warm and contemplate the coming days events which  included mainly  route
designation in to and out of Colorado's capital of Denver, all the while hoping the wind would have a little more lenience in my efforts to
complete this lengthy journey than it did yesterday.
The water in my one liter water bottle I had left on my bike was frozen solid and thus useless for my breakfast, but fortunately the one I had
brought in to my tent to sip on throughout the night was cold but inside of it there was no ice. It figures then that if the temp outside my tent was
in the low 20's, if not lower, than it was at least 10'-15' warmer inside the nylon enclosure and thus making me a bit more secure in the
knowledge that I should be mostly comfortable if the weather and temps take a drastic turn south, which they very well may in the following 2-3
weeks as I attempt to make what I believe may be the most formidable part of this trip in crossing two major mountain ranges in a capricious
time of year.
Anyways, when I finally got rolling around 6:30 it took me a good long while to loosen up my stiff joints, most likely due to the cold and not my
age (though I'm certain that factored at least somewhat in to the self-reckoning equation). I was shocked to find out shortly after beginning to
pedal that the wind, what little there was, came from the south and as a consequence made for excellent timing in getting to Denver.

I stopped for a filling and hearty breakfast, phone charge, and blog edit at a classic diner called 'Breakfast King' where the waitresses wore
those old time white with black apron outfits and the bonnet type hats like airline stewardesses and nurses use to wear (and also when the
passengers dressed formal). Sometimes it is nice to see things haven't changed. It helps to bring back memories and is nourishment for
nostalgic people such as myself.
After staying more than two hours I headed towards the capital building only a few more miles north and after doing my usual arrival video

and passerby aided picture in front of the building,(see picture 1 below) I went up to the governors office to see if I could rustle up the flag I had
sent to them back in February asking it to be signed by the governor, as they had never sent it back to me unlike most the other states.  One of
the Governors aids, Ms Kreck, was aware of my pending arrival but informed me the flag had already been sent back to Arizona. I asked if the
Gov. Hickenlooper was in the office today and if so my request for a brief meeting and photo would be possible. She asked me to hold on a
moment as she disappeared in to the back chambers of the office. While waiting for her return I noticed the goofiest looking life size plastic
covered horse I have ever seen,(
see picture 2 below) but also realizing it was probably a humorous representation of the Governors obvious
love (and sense of humor) for the local NFL Denver Broncos (I could hardly wait to meet him now) Ms Kreck reappeared shortly afterward, like
she had said, and escorted me in to those hidden chambers; through a few hallways and offices of various other aids and directly in to the
governors official office where he seemed to be awaiting my arrival (Wow I thought. Never had that kind of reception before). We shook hands
and I introduced myself and then described briefly what the 50@50 SPT was about as well as the FRAANK causes and goals. Ms Kreck
snapped a picture of us in front of a giant, colorful wall mural depicting the beautiful lakes, mountains, animals and trees(
see picture 3 below)
(Aspens in fall mostly like I've been witnessing as of late) that abound in this unique Rocky Mountain state. I mentioned that next year the plan
for completion of 50@50 included a trans Pacific Ocean row to Hawaii and so he asked me if I had ever heard the one about the young shark
learning to eat humans from his father? I replied that I had not but would enjoy very much if he would share it with me, and so he did. The story
begins with a sudden ship wreck in the mid pacific where all the passengers are forced to abandon ship with just their life jackets and wait for
help from a rescue vessel. While waiting in the chilly, choppy waters of the Pacific, a father shark and his son swim by and spot the floating
human legs flapping around under the water and so Papa remarks, "Humm, those look to be human legs. Haven't had any of those in awhile.
Son, let me show you how to eat the prize Catch of the Sea; a Human Being". "Awesome! I'm starving" shouted the young hungry teen shark
(seems most teen sharks, like most teen humans, have never ending appetites). So Papa shark leads his boy in a 360' around the floaters
with just their dorsal fin out of the water. When the passengers see the shark fin circling them they all start panicking, shouting out loud to scare
the sharks away and figuring out what to do if they get any closer. One of the passengers, a marine biologist shouts out to everyone, "Don't
worry folks. Sharks don't attack until both their dorsal and tail fins are exposed above the surface of the water". Well after completing the circle
Papa now says to his boy "Son, now let's do another job around our stewing delicacy, this time a little closer to them and with both our dorsal
and tail fins out of the water for the humans to see". After they completed the second go around the passengers are in total hysteria crying,
screaming out loud, praying for divine intervention and reciting what they presume will be their final words in this lifetime. Now the Papa shark
says to his boy, "Son, now let's go have lunch". "Finally, I'm starving to death. But I have just one question Pops before we do. Why did we have
to do those two laps around them first before eating?" Papa shark looks in to his son's beady non blinking eyes and says in a fatherly manner,
"You see Son, humans are about the best eatin' thing you'll ever have the good fortune to find out here in our deep blue home. But they taste
even better if you scare all the poopout of their  bowels before eating them".
After the capital extravaganza, I met my good friend and rafting buddy Kurt Hoppe of whom I've known for years. (
see picture 4 below) near his
work place in downtown Denver. Kurt is also a geologist like my brother Pasquale and he very well traveled. He took me to lunch at a fabulous
mexican restaurant where we had great conversation and I the second humongous meal of the day in less than three hours. Afterwards he
bought me a coffee from a nearby Starbucks(
see picture 5 below) and then we parted ways; he back to his office and I northbound towards
Cheyenne, #44 on the list 50 state capitals.
Camp tonight is in a large grassy field of a community park on the west side of hwy. 85 in the town of Ft Lupton.(
see picture 6 below) There are
people walking nearby and a couple ranch homes within a stones throw away, but I remain hidden for the most part. I made a tiny fire just for
the companionship.  Dinner tonight consists of little more than an apple and side salad I purchased a few miles back at a Burger King. Yes, I'm
still full from all the eating I did earlier for breakfast and lunch.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 187  10/19/12
SP : Ft. Lupton, CO
EP: Cheyenne, WY
DM:  72
TM:  13,197

Again no time to write in the diary today but as the day went by and thoughts came to mind I wrote them down as abbreviated notes to myself
for later, like now. Camp tonight is a first time classic, even by 50@50 standards. I am situated underneath a dry river overpass(
see pictures 1
& 2 below
) of Interstate 25 (that runs from Texas to N Wyoming) and only a handful of miles south of the Wyoming border and from there a half
dozen more to Cheyenne, state capital #45 on the 50@50 calendar.(
see picture 3 below) I have never slept under one of these because of two
main reasons; first, I hate a lot of artificial man made noise, and passing freeway traffic would easily qualify as such and second, camping so
close to a freeway makes me feel like a homeless person. The former I feel is a physically legitimate reason, but the feeling of not wanting to
be associated with a certain underclass class of society is not. The homeless are homeless not because of choice no matter how much one
adheres to Milton Friedman's  'Freedom to Choose' philosophy. Just ask yourself this; why would anyone in their right mind choose to live in
the street? And since most of us would probably agree that no one in their right mind would, why we don't do more in society to help those get
off the street and at least in to some type of basic shelter, if not treatment for their disease, is something I can't fully understand. No doubt one
reason for such apathy toward the homeless is expediency. Its much easier to shluff off someone in need than actually take the time to help that
person. "Oh they choose to live like that" or "Go get a job you bum" or the most common used excuse "I don't have the time right now". There
are probably as many ways to justify not helping someone in need as there are in actually helping and it's easy to rationalize such thoughts and
behaviors when you're stomach is full, home warm and basic needs met. The  Homeless are homeless for some reason or other; mental
illness, drug or alcohol addiction, acute unemployment, and yes, in some instances, by personal choice. Most these are diseases of which
these folks suffer and are forced to endure on a daily basis in life, whether from a wayward gene or some unfortunate event in their past are not
even judged as an illness by most people. Why we in mainstream society treat most these victims of abnormality with the disrespect and
stigmatization as we so often do, is abhorrent and not in the least bit conducive to basic standards of humanity much yet consistent with the
teachings of the one we worship as the Son of God.  So why, I ask myself, do I feel humiliation sleeping under a freeway overpass? Because
this is where they often take their out of sight-out of society shelter, and in doing such myself I am associated with that class of discarded
societal abjectness and with which most would avoid at all costs to be. I must still be concerned with 'who I am' rather than 'who I aim to be',
and must have a long ways to go yet to free myself from these personally destructive socially engineered modes of thought and behavior.
Mother Theresa devoted her life to taking care of the poor, uneducated, mentally and physically suffering victims of the world. And she didn't
just do her calling for the relief of humanity and in the service of God in the US or some other modernized society. She went to India where she
worked helping the poorest of the poor, much like her guide and savior Jesus Christ did 2000 years earlier in the land of the suffering. So why
should it be for us so difficult just to treat these unfortunate individuals with basic and decent human respect, much yet with the compassion
enough to help them out? If life is not about helping others less fortunate than ourselves, than someone please tell me what it is about. Because
in the end, as my father repeated over and again before ceding to the powers of life at play, all of this is nothing more than a dream. La Vita e'
un Sogno (Life is a Dream). How we decide to narrate that conscious dream is up to us. Ok, that's enough of my personal rambling for the
evening, so as far as the noise level there ain't a whole lot to write about. My hope is as the evening progresses the traffic diminishes and I am
not bothered by it. My reasons for camping here were as such; first it was getting late and there was no place to set up camp as the country
around here is nothing but rolling treeless plains. Second I really wanted to escape the westerly wind that, between it and the passing semi-
trucks, I felt like I was running the gauntlet at a fraternity hazing ceremony. And third I wanted a warm fire tonight,(
see picture 4 below) unlike the
wimpy little sucker I made last night in the crowded park in Ft Lupton, and this place has a ton of dry wash bed drift wood scattered all about.
So, as in every decision, scenario, and person we meet in life, my chosen campsite has its ups and downs. And again, to really appreciate this
unique, and probably only campsite as such along the 50@50 SPT, a LDC (Long Distance Cyclist) would likely have to be of the Duke
personage in order to take comfort in its utilitarian value. There are also those human like baby prints all over imbedded in the crusty sand. I'm
still trying to figure out from what animal they are left.(
see pictures 5 & 6 below)
This morning was, like the morning prior, very cold with temps I'm betting in the low 20's or nearby. Once on the early morning dark road (US
85) I was fine, but always with an ever cautious eye to traffic from behind.
I'm not aware if when Adam and Eve picked the forbidden fruit, an apple I assume, they ate it all or just took a few bites and threw the rest
away. I'm betting they did not eat the entire apple and for thus reason Papa was upset. I know for myself that when I consume one of those red
or green (or some color in between) balls of nourishment and good taste that I devour it entirely, core and all. When I see a discarded apple on
the side of the road with just a couple bites taken out of it I just shake my head in disbelief. In fact any food not fully consumed and thrown away
makes my stomach churn in displeasure, and I've worked in a commercial kitchen for most my adult life where I'm forced to witness it often.
Mother use to repeat over and again to my brothers and I  as kids that wasting food was a sin. And now I believe it. The second stanza to my
fathers famous 'La Vita e' un Sogno' is 'La Fame e' una Brutta Bestia' (Hunger is an ugly Beast). Both my parents, when growing up, we're
visited by the Ugly Beast and instilled in me as a young boy the inherent abhorrence to waste food. I tried to do the same with my children but
have no idea of success or not. Only time will tell, I guess, and by that time I will probably not be around. Tonight for dinner I had a bag of off
brand barbecue chips for an appetizer, one of those convenience store packaged salads, a Milky Way for dessert and lastly, a juicy bright red
apple of which I ate every last bit, even the seeds and stem.
This morning I rode Colorado's front range.

To the west were the snow topped Rocky Mountains rising to over 14,000', and to the east were the spread out rolling plains of agriculture of
Eastern Colorado.(
see pictures 7, 8, & 9 below)It was quite unique and I believe one of the few places in the world it is possible to view such a
stark contrast in physical landscapes.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 188  10/20/12
SP : Cheyenne, WY
EP: Laramie, WY
DM:  53
TM:  13,250

I was up at 3:30 and on the road by 5, but not early enough I feel for that which will be needed to beat, at least somewhat, the arrival of the daily
westerly winds that I am surely anticipating over the following few weeks as I make my next to last directional change, here in Cheyenne, to the
west before the completion of the first 49 states of 50@50. Now that Wyoming(
see picture 1 below) has been said and done the journey
continues on to Salt Lake City Utah, Carson City Nevada and ending the  westward push in to Sacramento, CA before finally making the last
directional change and heading SE towards my final destination in Phoenix AZ.  The heavy headwinds in this region when venturing westward
combined with the likely occurrence of an early winter storm, and not to mention the remoteness of the country through which I will be traveling,
may make this, in all probability, the most daunting leg thus far of the 50@50 SPT.  I have been anticipating for some time this part of the
journey and would be pounding my chest in false bravado if I said I was not very preoccupied with whats to come over the following weeks. I
feel I am prepared to handle whatever nature decides to dish out, but who knows. S. Wyoming is the windiest region of the country I believe,
and the spring and fall seasons of the year is when that wind is at it's peak strength. Unless there is an approaching storm the wind comes out
of the west, or some close variable within,and  it's prevailing direction most the time. There are no natural or man made physical obstacles or
barriers (trees, hills, or buildings) to impede the flow of the wind, mostly rolling plains of grass, and when combined with the 6000'-9000'
elevation it can make for nothing but a wind tunnel nightmare. My decision in June, after reaching Helena MT, to forego going to Salt Lake City,
Denver and Cheyenne and rather head to the Dakotas, was one I am starting to question now. Wind gusts today are forecast upward to 35
mph, and that is nothing unusual. It may get worse, much worse.  I believe all I did by changing my route last spring was put off the inevitable
and am starting to question the rational of it all.
It's about a half past the noon hour and I'm forced to take an early break underneath a Hwy 80 underpass. The wind is living up to everything I
had been expecting. I'm not even 20 miles out of Cheyenne and already feel chained, whipped, exhausted and now seriously second guessing
further my decision back in early June to not get this region done when I would have been coming from the opposite direction as I am currently
heading now. Now we're getting in to late October and at the rate I'm going I won't reach Sacramento for days later than I was hoping. This
region was not made for bicycles to be traveling in the direction I am trying to pedal and at the moment feel like a fool for attempting to do it. It
was a bold and naive decision to attempt to ride this stretch in mid fall. What I was thinking at the time I changed the schedule is looking at this
moment to be pure stupidity on my part.
It's about 6:30 pm and I'm preparing the evenings dinner (pasta with assorted vegetables in a garlic and olive oil sauce and of course
Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top) and sitting next to a warm fire

behind some early vintage Honda Civic-sized granite boulders(see picture 2 below) to avoid the merciless 30-40 mph wind which is still
blowing from the west and as the sun sets (a very colorful one at that)(
see picture 3 below) is starting to get chilly.  I am located in the
Vedauwoo Nat Forest about a half mile north of I-80 (I can see the headlights from passing vehicles) and 15 miles east of Laramie. There are
small building size outcroppings of granite boulders scattered about the area and several small groupings of timber pine trees as well as some
low lying sagebrush highlighting the hills and flat plains surrounding my camp.(
see pictures 4, 5, & 6 below) The sky is mostly clear and
beautiful with the exception of a few benign isolated dark clouds(
see picture 7 below) which I feel are no threat to the dry air, at least for this
evening. The 'Lone Pine in a Rock',(
see picture 8 below) a stunted old timber pine tree growing right out of big boulder in the middle Hwy 80, is
only 2 - 3 miles east. It was first noticed by the builders of the first railroad to be built through these parts (the Union Pacific) back in the 1860's
and Teddy Roosevelt is rumored to had stopped to observe it's uniqueness on horseback on a trip from Cheyenne to Laramie around the turn
of the last century. Camp here is at over 8000' elevation and it may just get quite chilly tonight, but my plan for now is to just sleep 'Cowboy'
style under the stars since there is no threat of rain and I have two sleeping bags in which to snuggle and be warm, even if it gets down in to the
20's which it very well may.  
This is one of the most scenic and aesthetically rich camps thus far on the 50@50 path.  All this (the vistas, cool evenings, fires, self prepared
meals) is starting to make me feel as if I were back again in BC except now I have the relief in knowing the end of this never ending journey is
coming soon and that there are 13,000 miles pedaled in back of me rather than ahead, a big psychological advantage.
My average speed from Cheyenne to camp this evening was around 7 mph and would have been less had the passing trucks not provided
some relief from the punishing wind. At this rate I won't reach Salt Lake for another 8-9 days, 2-3 more than I was hoping. I don't know what to
do other than get up around 1 am and ride early in the morning. At times when the wind starts to gust over 30 mph I just put my head down and
look at the grass on the side of the road to make sure I'm still making progress. It's a mind trick I use to do in BC and reminds me that I am
moving forward, no matter how slow.
Anyways, I did make it to the capital of Wyoming in Cheyenne early this morning, even before beating the sunrise.

It was a small structure but in line architecturally with most the other capitals while still displaying its own uniqueness with statues and wall
murals depicting Wyoming's past.(
see picture 9 below)
I have had so much wind to contend with during this journey that I can pretty much tell the exact speed of it by observing the movement of flags.
A large flag that is still relaxed but fluttering indicates a wind speed of 5-10. When it begins to stand on end but still is not totally at a 90' angle
to the mast then it is between 10-20. And when it is at 90' and flapping wildly it is 20-30. And finally when the mast or flagstaff is shaking and
the cloth flag actually begins to curl back on itself then the wind is gusting over 30. Another thing I noticed today is the reason horses and cattle
always notice and sometimes follow me as I pedal by is because they may think I'm one of them. And from a distance I do resemble a horse or
cow with the low trailer (torso) and flags flapping from behind it (a tail) and legs pedaling. Crazy I know, but these are actual things I analyze
and think about out here. At least I'm not at all concerned about who gets elected for president next month or if the market is ready for another
turn to Bear territory. I do think about and am concerned (I don't know why as they're all doing fine) about the well being of my family back home
and can't wait to be reunited with them once again.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 189  10/21/12
SP : Laramie, WY
EP: Laramie, WY
DM:  50
TM:  13,300

This is the first time I have listed the same town as my 'Endpoint' twice in a row along the 50@50 SPT . I did so because last night I was 15
miles east of my EP (Laramie) and there were no other towns even remotely near, and this evening I am roughly 35 miles west of my EP and
there are no towns even remotely near. There is a little spot on the map called Arlington a few miles west of here but I'm not sure it is even
listed as a town on most maps. In fact there are very few highway exits along this stretch of I-80, also known as the Lincoln Highway for which
there was a giant statue depicting the head of the 16th president(
see picture 1 below) just before descending a long hill in to Laramie from the
east.  So if you catch my drift here, I am pedaling through some of the most desolate, forbidden country(
see picture 2 below) in the lower 48,
and nearly as remote as that which I came through in N. BC last spring. It's very nice in one way, but somewhat difficult in another. I love the
openness, beauty and seclusion of terrain as this, but when venturing through via bicycle it can force one to reevaluate their methods of travel,
like stocking up on supplies.
My camp is a first: on the open country side of a highway deer chute.(
see pictures 3 & 4 below) These things are relatively new to fenced in
rural highways and they consist of a berm of dirt on the highway side that leads up to and over the elevated 8' fences that exist in some areas
like here in Wyoming. I'm not quite sure why the fences are so high unless it's to keep elk from hopping over them like they can the smaller barb
wire ones. Anyways on the opposite side of the dirt berm is a wood constructed 6'-8'wall to keep deer and elk from coming on to the highway,
and is behind that and protected from the wind where I have made my camp for the evening. Dutton Creek Rd is a mile west of here and there
is a tiny brook meandering it's way through the grassy meadow(
see picture 5 below) to the north. My plan is to just roll out my pad and bag at
the base of the wood structure where the noise from the highway is least noticeable. I took a shower, the first in three days, a little while ago
behind some stunted trees lining the brook. Right now I'm sitting next to the fire I built to keep warm and prepare my dinner of bean and cheese
burritos. The sunset is another beauty and the vista magnificent.(
see picture 6 below)
I made my only real stop today on Laramie, arriving just before sunrise. I stopped at a Walmart to stock up on supplies for the next big push to
Rawlins, 100 miles to the west. Laramie reminds me a bit like Flagstaff AZ In that it is a college town (UW), has an older but well cared for
downtown area,  is situated on a major interstate highway with no other towns close by, and rests on a high plateau of 7000' elevation. In the
front of the University, like the State Capital Building, there was a bronze statue of the celebrated Shoshone Chief Washakie(
see picture 7
) who was known as a skilled orator and charismatic leader of his people. He spoke English and French and was responsible for uniting
his people in to a significant political and military force. In 1868 he helped to negotiate and then sign the Ft Bridger Treaty establishing a 3
million acre reservation for his people in the Wind River country. It seems every where one travels in this region of Wyoming they are reminded
of the presence of this remarkably gifted native American. When I get back home one of the first books I plan to read will be his biography.
My main stop in Laramie was at the local downtown bike shop where they had left me some parts I needed to repair my bike in the back of the
shop as they were closed, it being a Sunday. Yesterday I discovered that the rear wheel of my bike was imploding as spokes were breaking
through the wall of the rim. When I called the shop they told me they had a new wheel for me and along with it I decided to replace the entire
drive chain, some of which hadn't been replaced since the bike was new (over 25,000 miles ago). Anyways. the parts were next to the back
door along with a few tools I needed to do the job. It took me about two hours to finish and by noon I was back on the windy road towards
Rawlins. And windy it was. I managed to bike about 30 miles before finding this place I'm at tonight. I'm somewhat concerned right now as the
forecast calls for strengthening winds and the first winter storm of the season in a couple days. My goal for tomorrow is to rise as early as
possible and pedal in to Rawlins before the winds, forecast at 30-40 mph, kick in around noon. From there I must decide what to do as the next
town is not until Rock Springs, over 100 miles distant.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 190  10/22/12
SP : Laramie, WY
EP: Rawlins, WY
DM:  77
TM:  13,377

I was on the road by 4:30 this morning after a good nights rest below the deer chute and made good timing in getting in to Rawlins(
see picture
1 below
) at 10:30. My biggest worry when riding early in the morning before it gets light, other than being mowed down by a sleepy trucker, is
avoiding the giant remnants of shredded truck tires on the roadside as their black color is difficult to notice with just a single headlamp for
illumination. When these tires self destruct on a moving truck they can leave their presence for miles ranging in size from a tiny thread (the
cause of most of my flat tires) to lengthy road shoulder wide strips of nearly unavoidable, and thus very dangerous, road hazard.  Anyways, I
stopped only a few times this morning to relieve myself and once to snack on a leftover donut and some peanut butter & jelly sandwiches I had
prepared yesterday in Laramie for the tough going I knew was coming on. The temperature inversions throughout the morning ride were
strange and at times I felt differences as much as 20' and thus resulting in a morning of frequent stopping to shed layers of clothing, only to be
followed shortly thereafter with another stop to put them back on as I made the numerous climbs and descents across the undulating terrain. I
pedaled by towns of which, when not even blinking and on a bicycle, I took no notice; Arlington, Medicine Bow, Elk Mountain (though the latter
of which I did actually see it's namesake on the south side of the freeway).
At the moment I am taking brief refuge in a McDonalds from the whipping, howling wind outside and which, since I arrived here a couple hours
ago, has increased in velocity and is now steady at 25-35 mph and gusting up to 50mph. Of course it is out of the SW, still my direction of
travel, and now it is beginning to get cold as an approaching storm nears, the first winter system of the year. The forecast for the next few days
calls for more winds and snow, how much snow though I am unsure. Temps are suppose to be down in the 30's during the day and teens at
night by midweek. This is my worst fear developing right before me. If I leave Rawlins

now and head out in to these open and desolate high altitude plains I run the risk of finding no decent shelter, or even cover, when the flakes
start to fall (expected to begin tomorrow evening) if I can't make the next town, Rock Springs, over 100 miles to the west. But to stay
somewhere around here for a few days would be a hellish nightmare psychologically right now for me. I am so very close, relatively speaking,
to my final destination in Phoenix that the last thing I want to do is hold up for several days in a worthless backwater windy town in southern
Wyoming. I haven't rested one day yet in over six months, so what, or how, I would do with myself is an intimidating thought.  In Denver I picked
up the wet/cold weather clothes (sent to me from home in a care package by my wife) I had brought with me to Alaska and BC but sent back
home in June. So I believe I have not to worry too much about getting too wet or cold, and possibly hypothermic, when the winter tempest does
hit in a couple days. But still garnering the nerve to go outside and do battle with this stuff is like entering the ring with the a heavyweight
champion: I know what brutality awaits me out there and will eventually siphon from my depleted reserves of energy, but understand as well that
at some point I must get off my duff, grit and get on and over with it. I cannot be 'Stuck in Rawlins' again.
I have now managed to pedal only a couple miles past the west end of Rawlins before being forced to stop at a truck stop and take cover from
these terrible winds. This is insanity trying to ride against this stuff. It throws me around from side to side and back and forth like a rag doll. I
believe I'm using as much energy just trying to keep the bike upright as propelling it forward. Why anyone in their right mind would choose to
live in a place as inhospitable as this is unbeknownst to me; but I do know that I would not and in this moment of torment by forces out of my
control I just plain hate this region of the country. I'm not sure what my next course of action should be, or will be. This wind is just too much to
pedal through and with the approaching cold front I feel again, 'Stuck in Rawlins'.
It's a little after 5pm now and after I eventually summoned the courage to go out and push on despite this relentless unforgiving wind,

am now at camp, albeit only it only a few miles past the truck stop at the west end of Rawlins. It is nothing special but meets my needs for this
evening and feel fortunate to have found it. I am taking cover behind a cattle chute this evening,(
see picture 2 below) as opposed to the deer
chute yesterday evening. I spotted this place as I was struggling along on the highway and in desperate want to find some type of cover from
this blasted wind that has been causing me so much grief and ire over the last weeks and which the last day or two has increased its intensity.
This structure was apparently built by some nearby rancher to herd his free range cattle in to cattle trailers and hauled off to market or winter
quarters. The plywood and plastic siding is giving me an adequate amount of relief from the wind and I doubt I will even set my tent up tonight
as there is no threat of precipitation, at least as of yet. The surrounding isolated hills are laced with creeping sagebrush and appear untouched
by any presence other than that of nature.(
see picture 3 below) It is my presumption to be the first set of human eyes to actually sit, analyze and
thus appreciate their uniqueness to the physical world, at least here on the high barren plains of south central Wyoming. If it were not for this
blasted wind I would probably discover and be able to enjoy much more of the aesthetic beauty of these uniquely majestic lands in and by
which I find myself surrounded and even held close to bosom.
Several years ago I came through Rawlins for the first time with my friend Jim Bostwick and youngest son Domenic, at that time only 12. We
were riding the northern half of the Continental Divide route from the Canadian border to the Wyoming-Colorado border having had ridden the
southern half, the Mexican border to the Colorado-Wyoming border, the prior year. As we entered the place I consider now to be the windiest
spot in America, we found the winds as bad as they are now, except from the south, then our direction of travel (now they are from the
west/southwest, my direction of travel). The first night we decided to get a room and rest as it was getting late and we were pretty tired from the
long days ride across the barren, dry high desert of central Wyoming and thus take our chances that perhaps the wind would be calmer in the
morning. But when we got started the next morning discovered soon that in fact it was worse. We got a few miles south of town and gave up,
surrendering in reality based humiliation that follows trying to pedal in to a steady 30-40 mph headwind, and thus rode back in to Rawlins to get
something to eat and examine our options from that point as I was on a time schedule and had to be home soon. So for the remainder of the
day we attempted to hitchhike from one of the highway exits we knew from where there were a lot of trucks entering the highway but no luck,
even though we made little Domenic as visible as possible in the hope someone might take pity on us and give us a ride. By then it was
getting late so we checked back in to the room we had had the night before for a second night. The next day we again examined options, other
than hitchhiking of course, and found that no buses stopped in Rawlins and no rental car companies existed; we were essentially 'Stuck in
Rawlins'. Finally while talking to someone we were told of a fellow who was renting cars from his garage, perhaps unofficially, and would lend
us a truck he had for the day and even though it cost us an arm and a leg, we at least had our ticket out of there. So we picked up the truck and
drove to where our vehicle was parked on the Wyoming-Colorado border and then drove both vehicles back to Rawlins, dropping off the rental
truck and finally heading back home to Arizona, thus ending a long, tiring and expensive ordeal just to get out of Rawlins. I forgot to mention
also that the reason we couldn't just ride at a slow pace with the wind is because I was on a deadline to getting back home as there was a
private Grand Canyon river trip and for which I was one of the boatman and couldn't just abandon.
Anyways, during those couple days we were stuck in Rawlins I started to write my first poem titled, what else, 'Stuck in Rawlins'. I've toyed
around with it for years and over the last few days have put some additional touches to it, though I still believe it a work in progress. Passing
through this place I thought I would never go through again in this lifetime, much yet be nearly stuck here again, has brought a flood of
memories back to me.  I've also over discovered over the last few days that a great way for me to take my mind off the tedious, sometimes
painful, hour after hour of riding is to write poetry in my head (though I doubt the Duke ever wrote poetry while riding his horse). So here it is
though still in its unfinished form.  
"Stuck in Rawlins"

Stuck in Rawlins
and we can't get out.
The wind a howlins'
as our thoughts turn to doubt.
And though we hear our callins';
stay steady, be stout,
the fact remains
we're still stuck in Rawlins
with no way out.

Though the need to keep
moving is a must
we remain motionless
in this terrible gust.
If the winds would simply diminish
we might surely see the finish
our ceaseless quest to ride
the open wide Divide.

But why make a fuss
when there may be a bus.
And if we search afar
we may even find a car.
But in desperation
we resort to a thumbins'
only to discover nothins' a comins'.

O' ye Canyon
we all know best,
created by the red colored
river of the West,
how I long to be
in your wrest.
O' Granite, Crystal,
Ruby and Sockdolager,
consider me not a dodger
for as you can see, it's not really me.
So the call of the Grand,
while here in this dreadful land,
seems all but forsaken,
oh how I wish I were mistaken.

In this empty land
of wind and sand,
a place called Wyoming
capable of stripping a man
from his heart to his clothing,
we find ourselves in a rush
to escape this barren land of brush,
a need for haste
to leave this waste.
We thus fail to find the joy
in the ode to the Ol' Cowboy.

And as we attempt in vain
to escape this windswept plain
we tell ourselves this is no race
to leave this god forsaken place.
But for now we need our rest
to escape this wind in jest
and to keep our spirits from fallins',
still stuck in this terrible place
they call Rawlins.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 191  10/23/12
SP : Rawlins, WY
EP: Wamsutter, WY
DM:  57
TM:  13,434

I rolled in to Wamsutter about an hour ago, the only services I understand between Rawlins and Rock Springs, still 70 miles distant to the west,
and taking what will probably be the only real break of the day for myself. I was on the road at 5:30am and very pleased to find the wind had let
up substantially from yesterday afternoon's typhoon strength 50+ mph gusts.

The approaching winter storm from the west is now only hours away from my location here at this truck stop Subway where I am  currently
taking refuge from the cold 20-30 mph winds, and my intent as I proceed on is to dress in my outer rainwear consisting of a GoreTex parka,
pants and neoprene gloves. I really am not looking forward to the next few days as this first major winter storm passes over this remote and
desolate high country of featureless windswept plains. I feel exposed and vulnerable out here as there is little in the way of any natural or
manmade cover and the forecast is calling for an inch or more of snow this evening followed by several more tomorrow and possibly continuing
on with more accumulations Thursday. But as I had concluded to myself yesterday back in Rawlins when taking refuge from the wind at yet
another truck stop, I would rather continue on and brave the oncoming harsh elements in my tenacious quest to finish this seemingly endless
journey rather than sit idle, fearing a potential oncoming bout of melancholic emotional downswing , and allowing the forces of nature to
completely take over the agenda, even though I am aware that to underestimate or resist those forces could lead to some very uncomfortable,
if not tragic, circumstances if I'm not careful and prudent in my decision making. But my main concern at the moment is in finding adequate
shelter or cover for the following several nights, even though I have a tent for which I would use only as a last resort.
About an hour ago I arrived to camp for the evening which is in an old abandoned trailer(
see picture 1 below) with a two story high water tank
and well alongside it, on top of which there is a comical looking larger than life size sheet metal cowboy mannequin waving to all the passing
interstate traffic.(
see picture 2 below) My belief is that the hilarious figure was constructed apparently for promotional purposes of yet another
old, abandoned structure, this one a gas station/store/RV park situated between this place and the south side of I-80. It appears this trailer at
one time housed whoever had run this little income generating spot (but for obvious reasons not much income generating) out here on these
lonely sagebrush covered sandy lands. I am only about 45 miles east of Rock Springs, my goal for tomorrow assuming the weather allows for a
safe passage. This was the only structure I had seen all day in which to shelter myself for the evening, and when I arrived here there were three
fellows building a stock water tank cut from a giant Caterpillar tire in back of my potential accommodations for the evening. I got to talking with
them and came to find out that two of them, Tom and Shane,(
see picture 3 below) a pair of roughly 30 year old somethings, rugged in
appearance yet, my hunch, sensitive in nature (visualize along with me, if you can, the old range cowboy riding his horse out on the wide open
prairie, his dog in follow, and singing in tenor La Traviata), spur dangling, rodeo riding true to life Wyoming open range cowboys who owned
this place as well as the main ranch in the area; the Red Desert Cattle Co. If I were Hollywood script writer these would be the fellows for which
I could develop a movie or reality show. They were both very pleasant and friendly, like most real cowboys (as opposed to the ubiquitous,
phony, and insecure urban 'Rhinestone Cowboys' found in Arizona and many parts of the developed and modernized West [Being a Cowboy
is as much a state of mind as it is lifestyle or especially manner of dress]) I've encountered throughout my years of travel in the West. Initially I
just asked them if I could camp for the evening behind the old store using it as cover from the wind, but as we got to talking, mostly about my
ventures over the last six months, I asked them if I could use stay in this abandoned trailer to avoid the impending snow storm which was
already starting to spread a few renegade flakes about as we spoke. They said they had no problem with that and so here I am again, camped
in a vacated structure, but this time with the peace of mind knowing I have permission from the owner. Several windows have been broken, it is
cold, there is garbage piled in various spots and there are a few dead birds birds lying about but this match box structure on wheels is about all
I could ask for  this evening. What's more there is a functioning light in the kitchen which means there is electricity, a great feature if I become
snowbound here tomorrow as I will be able to recharge my phone battery. But the best part is that there is a fireplace(
see picture 4 below) with
plenty of wood outside and even an old space heater. I have already made a warm fire and good it feels! It is really cold and windy
outside but I have found a gold mine here in which to take refuge for the evening, and possibly tomorrow as well if this storm does not let up
and ends up being as heavy as is it forecast to be. Finding and now staying in this old drafty trailer for me tonight is better than the Little
America, 100 miles west of here, and for which I've seen advertised along the highway on billboards every few miles or so. I really could not
ask for anything more than what has been provided, and I feel very content and fortunate to have so much. This entire journey it seems has
been like that; deciding what is needed and then being provided with it when needed, as if there really is a guardian angel looking over my
shoulder and for my frequent immediate needs. Some may dismiss such thinking as simply my desire to avoid responsibility or just plain
fanciful, and perhaps they are correct.  What I do know is it feels good believing and trusting in that someone or thing is helping to look out after
my needs, especially at the present moment because god knows I feel I need it. But enough of such talk for now as in just a few minutes I plan
on taking a hot shower and then sitting on the New Ms Coleman in front of this warm fireplace, writing some more (I'm trying to finish up my
poem on Rawlins) and then preparing my dinner.
Ok, now I'm snuggled in my warm down sleeping bag rolled out on the floor of the living room and close to the dwindling fire in front of which a
little earlier I made my dinner consisting of what was left of the bean burrito ingredients from a couple evenings back and an apple for dessert.
There is a little draft of cold air coming in from one of the broken windows, but I ain't complaining because as I said earlier it is a whole lot
better than being out there right now, stuck in my little claustrophobic tent with the snow piling up on the nylon walls and threatening to cave in
on me. A few moments ago I peaked outside and the large burning flame of an oil rig(
see picture 5 below) a mile or so south was lighting up
surrounding country as well as the gently falling snow already collecting on the ground. This probably means I will have a tough go of it
tomorrow morning getting in to Rock Springs, that is if I make the decision to go for it. The good thing, I hope, is the winds will be calm, a trade
off I'm more than willing to accept. What happens tomorrow after I reach Rock Springs (assuming I do) is anybody's guess. I'm headed in to
unchartered territory here riding in all this winter weather, as well as lands for which I am unacquainted. I can't believe that less than a month
ago I was still complaining about all the heat and humidity down South and am now forced to contend with conditions the complete opposite.
The rays of the waxing Gibuous moon are being reflected off the new fallen snow outside and in through the double pane windows of which
several of those broken, probably by teenage vandals, I have covered with some cardboard boxes and duct tape. It is all so beautiful, tranquil
and real to life, no matter the adverse challenge of it all, that again it is as if living in that conscious dream to which I often descriptively refer.
And if only I knew I didn't have to get up in the morning and ride in these awful conditions, it would be all the better

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 192  10/24/12
SP : Wamsutter, WY
EP: Wamsutter, WY
DM:  0
TM:  13,434
Week 26   WM: 423   TM: 13,335     AVG. Per Day: 60.4 miles

This is the first day, after 182 consecutive days of biking and 191 consecutive days of venturing, that I have taken completely off, with nothing to
do. In other words, a rest day and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I didn't think I was capable of really spending a day idle with nothing to do that
required physical exertion. But I managed to pull it off and quite successfully I might add. What did I do cramped indoors all day in an old, cold,
dilapidated trailer with no running water and what most people would call the bare essentials, a TV; I wrote. There were no distractions or
visitors except Shane in the morning who came by to inspect the drying concrete in the middle of the tire cattle tank(
see picture 1 below) (and
in which Tom had carved out FRAANK in the wet cement yesterday afternoon). We talked for a few moments and he told me he was glad to
see I had decided to not go on with weather conditions being what they were. He said the highway had several wrecks on it between here and
Rock Springs, including an overturned semi rig, because of the snow and icy conditions. This was my fear and primary reason for not venturing
out this morning.  Being held up in this trailer all day  was, perhaps, living a day in the life David Thoreau, the poet, writer and philosopher who
would escape to his lake side retreat, Walden Pond, to be alone and write, inspired by the beauty of the physical world. It is actually something
I've wanted to do the entire trip but felt always compelled to continue moving in order to beat the winter weather, unsuccessfully of course and
with which I am now faced.
So about these weather conditions. Well as usual I awoke early this morning, around 3am, and after relieving myself glanced out the living
room window, below which I had rolled out my sleeping pad and bag, and observed a moonlit flat grassy landscape completely covered with
fresh fallen snow,(
see pictures 2, 3 & 4 below) still swirling and dancing down in giant flakes from the cloudy skies. "Wow!", I said to myself
(after 6 months being alone I'm no longer concerned about talking to myself out loud) "It looks like I am snowed in".  So back in to my warm
comfy sleeping bag I went and  back  in to that dream where I had left off before awakening (I forget now what it was about, but it was a good
one). I awoke again about 7am and made my final decision to just stay put for the day as the snow was falling heavy and the wind, of course
from the west, was blowing around 15mph which would have made it all but possible to had make Rock Springs and this left me somewhere
along the cold, windy and snowy highway and most likely with no decent shelter or even cover. Discretion is the better part of honor and my
decision to remain put after so long on the road was, though somewhat difficult, definitely the right one. My plan is to head out early tomorrow
morning and reach Rock Springs before noon. From there I must decide what to do next as Green River is only 15 miles further east, but after
that there is nothing again until Evanston, 100 miles distant and just short of the Utah border. I'm so tired and just want nothing more than to get
home and as soon as possible but am being forced to deal with the reality at hand. This cold front is packing a big punch and I really didn't
think I would be hit with anything this big so soon being still two months from winter and believe it may portend a cold stormy winter, which is
fine by me as long as it holds off until I arrive home still four weeks and 2000 miles away. Otherwise I may be stuck out here on the road a lot
longer than I had planned or hoped for

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 193  10/25/12
SP : Wamsutter, WY
EP: Green River, WY
DM:  60
TM:  13,494


What a difference between last nights camp and tonight's (though the last two nights could hardly be considered camping in the Red Desert
Cattle Co Trailer ). Tonight I am inside another freeway culvert(
see picture 1 below) about half way between Rock Springs and Green River,
perhaps a little more on the Green River side. My main concern for the evening was, as has been for the last few days, finding shelter from this
fierce cold Wyoming wind and I have succeeded again because the wind is, as usual, from the west and the ends of this 8 by 8 square
concrete enclosure(
see picture 2 below) are facing north/south. There is a little wind tunnel effect but compared with the it's strength just 20'
above me, only marginal. The second part of the this frigid storm passed through while I was in Rock Creek late this morning

and early afternoon, and I was unsure what to do all the while; should I stay in Rock Creek and get my first room of the 50@50 SPT or keep on
trucking and hope it passes and clears up. Years ago when I first started in this recreational sport I have coined LDC (Long Distance Cycling) I
would have succumbed to the elements at play, called it a day, and just got a room. But I've been here before and knowing that this was nothing
more than an aftershock of the real tsunami that hit yesterday, I decided to zip up tight my jacket, pull my hood over my head, and hit the road.
And so I did and here I am, now sitting next to a warm sagebrush fire(
see picture 3 below) (there is another low lying, prickly brush around here
of which I'm also burning but am unaware of its name) and feeling good, at least for the time being (tomorrow morning maybe a different story).
I never tire of having a fire in the evening. It is so much more entertaining than watching TV or just about anything else in Pop culture America
these days. I believe I could sit next to a comfortable fire every night (even summers, though in Arizona and not the South) for the rest of my life
and be never be amiss. Tonight the temp is suppose to get down to the low teens, and I have decided not to set up my tent being so little room
is in this cold concrete tube. I have two sleeping bags and lots of clothing to wear so I should be comfortable. One thing I need to do tomorrow
is clothes as it had been since Alamosa CO when I did them last: that's over 10 days!
Do you ever feel you could eat a whole bag of chips at one setting?  Well that's how I feel tonight as I munch away uncontrollably on this bag of
Doritos. I love Doritos now as I  have for years. I remember as a teenager when living in Flagstaff going down to Oak Creek Canyon's Slide
Rock on a weekend with my friends, sitting on the red rocks and checking out all the NAU chicks sunbathing while devouring a bag of Nacho
Cheese Doritos. Those days really don't seem that long ago, where did 50 years and all that enthusiasm and energy for life go?  I guess I still
have some, otherwise I wouldn't be out here trying to travel to all 50 US capitals, but there's no doubt it's form has changed. I hate looking in a
mirror anymore as I don't recognize the person looking back at me. "Who is that old guy? He has wrinkles and bags under his eyes. I don't look
that, do I?" I actually vision my father now when I look at myself. That's a momentous time in a mans life, when he starts to look like a parent (I
assume a woman as well).  It's all natural and all, but still doesn't make it any better or easier. Whoever said that people age like fine wine must
have had too much of that wine when they said it.
I have decided to stop shaving and trimming my beard until I finish this journey. I also don't plan on trimming my eyebrows, nose hairs, ear hair,
or hair on top of my head, what little there is left. Some of the reason for such erratic behavior is I value all the hair on my face and body to keep
warm in this wintry weather. But also there is a part of me that doesn't care anymore about what people think about my appearance which I
believe ought to reflect how I'm feeling (tired, irritable, unsociable, a bit rebellious) and the ordeal through which I am going on now for over six

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 194  10/26/12
SP : Green River, WY
EP: Lyman, WY
DM:  49
TM:  13,543

I'm stopped for my FSTD in Green River at a 50's railcar diner on the west end of town and trying to thaw out from the brief but bone chilling
ride this morning from camp

in the subterranean concrete tunnel below I-80. This was the coldest morning yet with the temp in the low teens and at least 10' colder when
factoring in the wind chill, of which there was plenty in the tunnel. I was warm sleeping last night snuggled in my two down sleeping bags and
actually slept well considering the frigid conditions. A little after 4am I decided it was time to get going and proceeded dressing one limb at a
time until finishing off with my feet by putting on the least dirty socks I have (I haven't done clothes since Alamosa almost two week ago). I put
on every layer of clothing in my possession including two shirts, a fleece pullover, light vest and two jackets, one of which is a gore-tex parka.
Then I began gingerly dressing my lower body, still in the warmth of the sleeping bag, first with biking shorts then the stretchy girl tights, fleece
pants and finally gore-tex pants. And still I was chilly. If I hadn't put a jug of water in my trailer and surrounded it with my dirty clothes I would not
have been able to have my morning coffee and cereal as the water in the plastic bottles on my bike were frozen rock solid, and obviously
impossible to thaw it being plastic. On mornings this cold I need to dry my pots using the stove to heat them as the residual water left on them
after washing freezes in less than a minute and the ice sticks to them. All matter moves slow when it is this cold. Exposed skin becomes
begins to sting and become stiff and numb in a minute or two, the plastic trailer bag is almost impossible to close, the components on my bike
stop moving, and I eventually get frustrated unable to move freely with all the bulky clothes on. Even little things like trying to go to the bathroom
require much more time and effort than usual. It all makes for a hellish start to the day. My hope is this is the worst of the cold I will experience
for the short duration left on this never ending journey, but I wouldn't bet the hog futures on it.
Camp tonight is, you guessed it, another road culvert.(
see pictures 1 & 2 below) Except tonight's culvert is nicer than last night culvert because
first of all I am at least a mile, as that darn proverbial black crow flies, south of interstate on Bus route 80, the road that goes in to Lyman and
Fort Bridger, and thus it is very quiet (in towns I've passed through on this journey where the interstate has bypassed them nothing much usually
remains and tomorrow morning I will find out if that holds true for Lyman and Ft. Bridger). Secondly the wind is not blowing as much as last
night and lastly, I doubt it will get as cold as the arctic single digit temps of last night, notwithstanding it is still cold especially for an Arizonan.
The scenery today was absolutely magnificent as the terrain begins to take on features resembling the SW with deeper canyons and valleys
and sculpted hills and buttes.(
see pictures 3,4, 5 & 6 below) The white snow highlighted the natural colors of red and brown rocks and boulders.
see picture 7 below)  There is still very little by way of vegetation, except of course the low lying sagebrush, but with vistas as far and grand as
such, who cares?  
I'm trying to cook dinner but everything is frozen, the water, olive oil, carrots, Parmesan cheese and even my toothpaste. I'm surprised the salt
is not frozen. The only thing that hasn't frozen is the soda pop and we all know why that hasn't. And when I do buy a can of pop for the end of the
day it is colder when I get to camp then when I pull it out of the fridge at the store. I have had a real difficult time trying to keep the water from
freezing. Tonight I am thinking of putting it in the sleeping bag with me or just wrapping it in my dirty clothes like I did last night. I could  also put
it in the pot tonight and heat up the block of ice I'm sure will be it will be in the morning. I've never had to deal with living in conditions this cold.
Nearly all my outdoor adventures have been in spring, summer, and a few in fall. These conditions now are winter like and considering that this
is still October it's quite telling what will it be like in January in these parts?  I know I wouldn't want to spend a winter here as it it's even too cold
for me in Arizona.  Perhaps this weather now is just a freak thing, and next week the temps will be 30' warmer. Or perhaps not. I'm just glad that
tomorrow I will most likely be in Utah and one state closer to my eventual goal; home in Arizona. The only thing saving me right now from being
in complete discomfort and probably in my sleeping bag is this nice warm, sagebrush fire. Again I have fire like last nights and thank goodness
it makes all the difference and for the companionship as much as the warmth. My friend Jerry Galluci, whom I visited when I passed through DC
a couple months ago, wrote an interesting comment regarding fire in response to one of my blog posts. I had never thought of fire this way and
here is what he said:

"In your blog of the 16th you compared fire to people in its individuality.  In fact, the human body is a type of controlled fire.  The energy of our
body derives from oxidation.  O2 feeds our energy processes and produces CO2, just like fire.  Both are combustion processes consuming
fuel.  I like to think we are all a unique, standing flame burning in our own way.  We burn until all our fuel is consumed or something puts us out."

Anyways, my plan to stop shaving and trimming other unsightly facial hair didn't last long as today I made a stop at the Little America truck
stop, ostensibly to do clothes, but when I inquired about a shower and was told it was only $10, decided to go for it. And how nice it was! The
room was clean and spacious and had a big vanity and mirror with good light to shave and trim everything else. The shower water was
steaming hot and it felt so good to take a real shower with a lot of water and not having to turn off the water after wetting myself (military style)
after being so long without one. I probably would not have splurged with such 'decadence' but I hadn't been able to shower for three days
because its been so cold when I get to camp and tonight is no different. Its really not the cold temp as much as it is the cold, icy wind, which
when blowing over one's wet body is about as god awful a state of physical discomfort you can ever experience. So it was a productive two
hours I spent at Little America, the only services for miles in any direction and am very glad I made the decision to stop there and 'take care of
business', no matter how annoying the continuous barrage of billboards(
see picture 8 below) advertising its presence for over 100 miles
(especially the one billboard with the smiling lady with a cup of coffee).

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 195  10/27/12
SP : Lyman, WY
EP: Evanston, WY
DM:  51
TM:  13,594

Tonight I am camped just on the Utah side of it's border with Wyoming in an aluminum road salt storage shed belonging to the Utah State DOT.
Interstate highway 80 is half a football field south of me and as such the noise level is terrible (it will definitely be an ear plug night). Adding to
noise of nearby passing traffic are the sudden screeching sounds of chunks of ice sliding off the roof and landing on the ground outside as it
loses it's grip in the warmer (warmer but still in the 30's) temps of late afternoon. That loud startling sound scares the you know what out of me
as I believe some screaming body is about to fall from the ceiling. I haven't slept in one of these since Oregon, when out of desperation to
escape the never ending rain (it had rained on me for a week straight) and cold, I slept next to a big pile of lava cinders. This time it is salt,
much noisier, colder and with the ever present fear of falling corpses. And the worst part of it all is no possibility of having my warm companion
for the evening; the sagebrush (or any wood) campfire. So I'm anticipating a cold night in 'salt' and, again, one would have to be a hard core
Duke in which to find any redeeming qualities, of even the slightest nature, of spending an evening in this tin sided salt bin. Although I will admit
the pigeons, who are nesting in the nooks and crannies in the high ceiling, walls and whom were scared away on my arrival, are somewhat
entertaining company as they cautiously fly back in, perch themselves on the overhead steel rafters and check me out from above in apparent
wonder; "Who the heck are you and why are you in our home"?
There is a lot of open land in the area but most of it still has snow piled on it and, as has been the problem through out the entire time I've been
traveling through Wyoming, no cover. There are no trees and very few man made structures in which to find cover from this never ending, cold

Wyoming has been, without a doubt, the most difficult state for me to get though up to now, partially because of reasons inherent in the state
and also because of fate. It was last week when I pedaled in to her southern border from Colorado and then a few hours later in to her capital of
Cheyenne. Now after 8 difficult days of cold, snow, bike mechanicals and worst of all wind I have finally reached her border with Utah.(
picture 1 below
) It has taken me eight days to pedal less than 400 miles through this state, that's an average of roughly 50 mpd. Of course one
of those eight days was a snow day when I didn't bike at all (the first 'off day' of the journey) but it still counts and so this week getting through
Wyoming is less than my previous low week in Massachusetts when I came down with food poisoning and averaged 55 mpd. I've known all
along that when I changed my plans back in Montana to postpone Colorado, Wyoming and Utah till the end of the trip that it was going to be
rough going, and so it has. Oh well, what am I complaining about? I'm still ahead of my planned schedule for averaging 500 miles per week or
71.4 mpd and Wyoming is done....yes, yes, yes! Wyoming is not an easy state to travel through, no matter if going in the opposite direction as I
am or in an long ago era when travel was often on foot and counted in miles per day rather than hour. Friend and FRAANK volunteer Brian
Supalla in a vivid analogy brought this to my attention in an email to me a few days ago as I was hemming and hawing about the difficult
conditions being encountered here in the Cowboy State. Here is what he said;

"The early Wyoming pioneers defined tough. If you’re looking for a human-powered equivalent, some pioneers made the journey into or
through Wyoming pushing handcarts, not even having the wherewithal for oxen-drawn wagons and sometimes averaging just seven miles a
day, let alone the seven miles per hours you’re currently faced with. Look to the horizon – there’s a petite 5-foot tall daughter of a European
immigrant who made it 130 years before you."

I guess that about puts it all in to perspective, especially seeing as my average was just over 7mph today, but begs the anachronistic vision of
the same petite 5' immigrant girl lugging a 100 lb bicycle and trailer for six months zigzagging across the N American Continent with all it's
varied terrain and climate.. When I observe people driving by me at 75 mph in their heated or air conditioned vehicles, listening to music or
casually conversing with another occupant, completely unaware of the temperature, humidity, wind, or contours of the physical landscape it just
amazes me. Complete detachment from reality is what it is and I am reminded again of the Johnny Cash song 'In your mind', because that
seems to be where it all is anyways.
Not many highlights for the day except a lot of windy riding.

My FSTD was in Lyman at the only thing open in town; the local gas/convenience store where I wolfed down two donuts, two biscuits with
sausage and a chocolate milk while chatting with the locals and store clerks. After Lyman the ride became very chilly as I crossed what
everyone told me were named the 'Three Sisters', a sequence of three climbs roughly 1000' elevation gain each followed be a corresponding
decent, the last of which landed me in Evanston. I hadn't eaten anything since Lyman so when I arrived to Evanston I stopped at a Wendy's for
a cheeseburger, malt and to complete the prior days blog edit and phone recharge. I have little or no cell service through most of Wyoming, the
first state which I can say that.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 196  10/28/12
SP : Evanston, WY
EP: Park City, UT
DM:  58
TM:  13,652

Today is the end of my 28th week along the 50@50 SPT and with a little cooperation from Mother Nature, I will be home in just a little over
three more weeks. At the moment I am in Park City UT camped on Parleys Summit with scattered melting snow everywhere and  surrounded
by the beautiful Aspen, Cedar, and Pine Trees. I am  about 30 miles from capital #46, Salt Lake City or, how my Nonna (Grandmother) Maria
called it, Salta Lakha Cittatahka. More than 90 years ago she, along with my Zia (Aunt) Anna then 12 and my fathers only sibling, made the
epic months long journey alone, just the two of them, from a small mountain town in the central part of the island of Sicily (Bisacquino) the only
place she had ever lived or known, to Los Angeles California to be with her husband of nearly 15 years, Nonno Epifanio, but for the last 10 had
not seen at all. I never knew Nonna Maria as she died from internal injuries at the still young age of 49 after a fall from a Vitex berry tree, also
referred to in those times as the 'Chaste' tree for its bearing of a fruit that, in addition to flavoring food, was known to assuage sexual urges
(she had been separated or a widow for most of her marriage) and in the Middle Ages was used mostly by monks and subsequently titled
Monks Pepper. My father thus became parentless at the young age of only 16 as 10 years earlier Nonno Epifanio had died suddenly from
pneumonia shortly after the family had returned to Sicily for what was suppose to be only a temporary stay to take care of family affairs (The
family of then three ended up staying in Sicily and Pop never returned to America until his 20's and shortly after the war).  But to hear the epic
tale from Zia Anna (who passed on in 1998, only days from her 90th birthday) of that memorable voyage from the old world to the new one
(what I wouldn't give to had shared that incredible adventure with them, or at least to have a diary of it) was one I never became tired of hearing,
no matter how many times she would retell it. And as I recall her telling of the venture, when the train rolled in to Salt Lake City, on its way from
New York to LA, Nonna asked Zia, "Annuzza, Come si chiama questo paese?" (Anna, what's this town called). Zia Anna, having had studied a
little English before the journey and thus being somewhat familiar with the proper pronunciation, answered her mother "Mama, this town is
called Salt Lake City, which means Sale (Salt), Lago (Lake), and Citta (City). "Oh, I believe we have relatives living in this area (many Italian
immigrants had settled around the Salt Lake area, brought there for the available work in the mines). But how do you say the name again?"
"Salt Lake City" answered Zia Anna again. "Salta Laga Chittataga?" tried Nonna once again aiming to find the correct pronunciation.  "That's
good enough Mama" replied Zia Anna while both giggled at Nonna's very own unique accented version of the city's name. So forever on the
name of the place in a basin next to a great salt lake will be known to as Salta Laga Chittataga.
At times when Zia Anna would recount that story or others in the past regarding Nonna, Nonno or the greatest voyage of her life to the far off
New World, I would see tears well up in her eyes and feel the miss she felt of their absence, even after so many years. She was to me the
closest to a grandmother I had ever had as all of  my maternal and paternal grandparents were long deceased when I was born. On the several
occasions when I would go back to the Ol' Country to visit before she died she would even treat me as a grandson, spoiling me with tasty treats
such as Nutella and Swiss chocolate bars brought from their namesake country by her son (my cousin) Vincenzo, every summer when he came
home to visit.  To this day I still have a hankering for Nutella and Swiss chocolate (I know, who doesn't). I also remember when she would slip a
deicimille lire bill (a few bucks back in those days) in to my hand to go to the piazza (town square) and spend on whatever it was I so wanted
(usually it was the creamy delicious ice cream, gelato,). I It's why I feel today how important it is for us to spoil our kids when they are young, not
with an over abundance of material possessions, but with love, affection and personal attention (and yes, a little bit with material temptations). If
a child is lacking that nurturing care and attention I think they often tend to grow in to selfish and in compassionate adults.
Similar to Zia Anna's tears were my fathers lucid and emotional dreams. As a kid my brothers and I remember vividly hearing and seeing Pop
while sleeping (he slept in late because his business [restaurant/bar] kept him up in to the early morning hours) calling out for "Mama" while
tossing about in bed, and usually followed by something in Italian for which we could never understand but needed not to as it was apparent he
was dreaming of his long ago departed mother (my Nonna Maria) whom he had surely loved, missed and was left with a terrible void
throughout the remainder of his years.
I'm not sure what happens when one succumbs to that inevitable fate we all some point will meet; death. My belief though at this point in my life
is that this thing we call the soul and that after death goes to either eternal bliss with a father, or creator, living above in some cloudy residence
along with his only real son who he had begotten and then sent to inform  his siblings of his existence, or down South in to eternal damnation (I
think I was just there a couple months ago) doesn't quite cut it. I do believe that all living life (all matter for that matter) as well as action, is at its
very core comprised of a spiritual energy and how that energy is expelled, or released, defines us not only as an individual but as a species.
This energy of which we are all made never dies but is recycled throughout lifetimes of existence and impacts everyone and thing. Writing is an
example of one form of potential  energy which when complete and on paper (or hard drive) may lie dormant for as long as it takes for a reader
to discover, digest, and possibly act on. It's like a dehydrated bag dinner that can sit for years, decades, even centuries until someone adds
some hot water and it comes back to life as an edible, tasty (ok, somewhat tasty) thing to eat. In past generations people wrote more and kept
daily diaries, a gift of their energy to future generations. But people don't do that anymore and as a result we are losing those potential sources
of energy.
Another example of this spiritual energy that came to mind one morning during my FSTD,  was when I was still in Louisiana and not in a very
good mood seeing as the weather was hot and miserable, the roads were terrible and I knew I still had a long ways to finish this trip. Anyways,
when I was checking out with my morning donut she simply made eye contact, smiled, told me to have a nice day and that was it. I summoned
enough from my depleted well of energy to thank her,  give a half smile and then I left the store. But I noticed shortly after that my mood was a
little brighter (and not because I had my raspberry jelly donut for the morning) and I attributed it to the simple act of the clerks warm greeting. I
can't remember now but perhaps with my improving disposition that later in the day I greeted several others with the same positive energy as
the clerk had with me, and one or two of them did the same. It's easy to see how one positive act can exponentially grow to become dozens or
even hundreds of similar acts. It's like throwing a rock in to a calm body of water and seeing the waves that emanate in 360' and not stop until
they reach shore. Nobody exists nor nothing happens in a vacuum in life. It reminds me of the John Donne quote 'No man is an island entire of
itself, every man is a piece of the continent'. And it seems good, positive energy attracts like kind energy, unlike the physical world where
opposites attract; an ionized negative particle seeks a positive charge, or boy seeks girl (well most the time). I believe 90% of energy is good
and that we are born with and pass on through out our life to successive generations of people and things. But there is that 10% for which we
have to be aware exists and to not allow it manifest more power than is inherent in itself. When we do we create the Hitlers, Stalins, Saddams
and Bin Ladens of the world. They exploit the people and institutions of the world that are vulnerable and cloak their evilness with false
promises, deceit and aims of goodness. People are born who they are and seldom change in life, at least in a profound sense. It's in our DNA,
passed on through tens of thousands of years of evolution, and there is as little one can do to change their basic nature than they could change
the color of their eyes. That's why as a species we've been able to endure and evolve in a benevolent manner because 90% of us are good
and pass on that good energy (love, compassion, understanding, forgiveness, honesty, humility) to succeeding generations, and why I believe
we will continue on the path that perhaps some day will lead us all to that cloudy residence somewhere above with our creator, our true father
and mother. This has been studied, written and told by philosophers, sages, and religious scholars and leaders for thousands of years. It all just
seems common sense; do and be good and good will come back, both individually and collectively. And it's important for us to keep that well
of positive energy from being too depleted as we often let it become in life due to circumstances in our control and sometimes not. Refilling the
well can take different forms depending on the individual. For some it may be a walk or hike in nature. While others it may be praying or
meditating. For me it's running or riding my bike. Physical exercise replenishes my empty spirit, so I can ass it on to others. When I hear
people say that they don't have time for doing that which is good for their spirit I feel like telling them than if you don't have time to do it for
yourself than at least do it for yourself for others, if that makes any sense. As well as a restful, content mind, a healthy body is as important and
thus presupposes that a good diet and exercise are essential to that healthy body.
Anyways, it's late and I have to call it a night. This is the latest I've stayed up in months; 9:30 and it's only because I have my wonderful reliable
companion back after a brief leave of absence last night; the campfire. But my wood is used up and Salta Laga Chititaga waits my early arrival
tomorrow so Buona Notte a Tutti.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 197  10/29/12
SP : Park City, UT
EP: Lake Point, UT
DM:  48
TM:  13,700

Tonights camp is beside a berm of dirt hidden from human eyes and in a large barren field(
see picture 1 below) that looks as if it is used for
nothing but cattle grazing, and I feel sorry for the cattle because there is hardly anything edible. The nearest town is called Lake Point which is
more a small community of homes just west of me. Basically my location is at the very southern end of the Great Salt Lake and about 20 miles
west of the city itself. I-80 is about a mile north and busy State Route 36 which heads south is only about a half mile north. There is a range of
beautifully sculpted geologically uplifted and treeless mountains to the east, the base of which is only about a half mile away. Long dark
shadows highlighted by the  low rays of the setting sun(
see picture 2 below) are slowing emerging from the sporadic outcroppings of jagged
rocks seeming to pop up for a breath of air from the covering of tannish earthen hillside. And 90' away to the north is the view of the Great Salt
see pictures 3 & 4 below) the largest salt water lake in the western hemisphere, 4th largest terminal lake in the world (don't ask me what
the other three are because I read this on an informational sign a few miles back), and nicknamed the Dead Sea of America (the Dead Sea is
in Jordan on the border with Israel). It is an incredible setting I have this evening and made all the more worthwhile with my small campfire,(
picture 5 below
) the sound and sight of the Union Pacific trains with dozens of artistically tagged cars in tow passing every so often at the base
of the hills just explained,(
see pictures 6 & 7 below) and the red, orange and purple tinted cirrus clouds resting benignly over the salty dead
lake. And it is landscapes, vistas, weather (it was sunny, dry and in the 70's most the day), openness and sense of freedom like this why I
reason that there is no place in the world I would want to live other than the majestic quadrant formation of the western US states of Utah,
Arizona, New Mexico & Colorado.
On my way out of Salt Lake City this afternoon I accidentally took a road that, according to my Google map, led in the direction I was aiming
(westward and toward I-80). Only after I started realize that there was no other traffic on the road with me and especially when it turned to gravel
and then a 10' foot fence blocked further passage onward, did I realize that Google had done it to me again (led me astray). I wasn't about to
turn around and ride back another 5 miles, which is what it would take to bypass the barrier and thus capitulating to a 10 mile goof (of course
with Googles assistance), so I decoupled the trailer and humped it and then my bike around the basketball rim height chain link fence,
breathing heavily from the thin air, with a half dozen signs 'Keep Out. Violators will be Prosecuted' plastered all over. Once on the other side I
tied everything back together again and proceeded on around a hill, still breathing heavily and still relying on the Google directions for my
heading. When I arrived to the anticipated opposite end of whomever's property on which I was trespassing, about a mile away, and crossed
another fence, though less formidable than the prior one, I discovered why the road and area was fenced off; there was a large sign stating
'Asbestos Removal Site'.(
see picture 8 below) Now it makes sense. Oh if it weren't for Google where would the 'A' in adventure come from on
this journey?
Just before camp I pedaled by the largest mine I have ever seen.

It was miles long and nothing else lie in the vicinity save a couple of towns built specifically, I assume, to house the workers and their families,
much like Phelps did with Old Town Clarkdale back home. The Bingham Canyon Mine, one of the largest open pit copper mines in the world,
lie directly along my spontaneous 50@50 route across the Great Salt Lake Basin and I saw hundreds of vehicles in it's numerous parking lots
of mining, smelting and refining operations telling me that it was major employer of the area. Of course I couldn't help but reflect on the remote
but very real possibility of my being from this area and possibly being one of those employed in this mine had Nonna Maria and Zia Anna
descended from the train there to meet Nonno Epifanio (he had considered working and settling there rather than LA). Salta Laga Citataga
could have been my home.
Today was a grand spanking great day from start to finish. It began with a chilly decent down from camp on top of Parleys Pass just west of
Park City, in the dark but with a beautiful moon above(
see picture 9 below) and relative cold ( I say relative because the temp was hovering
around 30' but compared to what I've experienced last week a seeming heat wave).  I was forced to break most the way down, not allowing my
speed to exceed 30 mph, as with the SE wind from behind I could have reached bicycle supersonic speeds. It took me less than an hour to
coast the 20 miles and reach the capital of Utah.

Once there I stopped at a bakery/cafe 'Paradiso', SE of downtown to finish the prior days blog,  recharge of cell phone, and kill time until my
scheduled meeting at the capital with the Consumer Advocate of the Governor, Ms Pamela Atkinson. Pamela, a friendly courteous,
professional and articulate lady, greeted me warmly along with other members of the Governors office at  the west side of the marvelously
situated capital structure high above the surrounding and beautifully architected city of the 'Crossroads of the West', home to the headquarters
of the Church of LDS (Latter Day Saints) and where roughly 50% of the population are Mormon. Utahans are generally known for their
hospitality and friendliness, and both were on display this morning during the reception of my arrival at the front granite steps of the grand
romanesque style domed building.(
see pictures 10 & 11 below) We talked for about 20 minutes and Pamela delivered to me on behalf of
Governor Herbert the warm, thoughtful message of his appreciation for the actions of the efforts done by the entire FRAANK organization for
the benefit of children, congratulatory remarks for the 50@50 SPT, as well as wishes for a safe and successful conclusion. It was the first time
along the 50@50 journey that I was recieved with such formality and warmness and my appreciation and gratification for such cannot be easily
put into words. The best I can do is say thank you so much Governor Herbert, Pamela and all the others who took the time to personally greet
me on this beautiful day in one of the most beautiful cities  in America.
After the reception I finished an interview/film shoot with a local TV station, KHS, who was doing a follow up story on 50@50 to a prior story
done several months ago on FRAANK beneficiary Dakota Nash. I also met fellow, though former, resident of Cornville, filmmaker Corina
see picture 12 below) who volunteered to take the time and effort to produce a short clip of 50@50 for the FRAANK website and in
our efforts promote the causes of the organization as well as aid in our efforts to raise much needed monies for  the FRAANK beneficiaries.
And to my surprise the elder sister of FRAANK co-beneficiary Kelsea Freeman, Jessica, came to the capital from her home, nearly an hour
drive north in Ogden, along with her adorable, yet a somewhat tired, 3 year old boy Mac, to greet me on my passing through the nearby capital.
(see picture 13 below) It was all more than I could have ever hoped for and helped tremendously buoy my spirits as I set out on the final few
legs of this middle bike stage of 50@50, what I have referred to often in this diary as the 'Never Ending Journey', but starting to realize that
there may just be an end.
After all the business was complete at the capital Corina, Jessica, Mac and I went to have lunch just a half mile down State St from the Capital
at the Joseph Smith (prophet and founder of the Church of LDS) Memorial Building. It was a pleasant ending to unforgettable experience at the
46th state capital. And now it is on to #47, Carson City, Nevada, a 500+ mile ride across one of the most isolated areas in the lower 48 and
along a highway nicknamed the 'The Loneliest Road in America'. Too bad I couldn't make a rest stop in Las Vegas, but it's way too far south,
and knowing myself would probably never get out of there, at least with possession of the shirt still on my back.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 198  10/30/12
SP : Lake Point, UT
EP: Knolls, UT
DM:  66
TM:  13,766

After yesterday's excitement and fun at the capital, visiting Salt Lake, and socializing with great people, today was pretty dull and lonely. Only
once did I enter in to any conversation with anyone, other than the perfunctory greeting of a store clerk, and that was in Delle, UT this morning
during my FSTD and believe me that it was not very stimulating as all they (two older middle age gents eating hot dogs and a tired appearing
southern looking lady) did was ask where I was headed and if I slept on the road. One of the fellas, the driver of the minimum ten year old
Lincoln Continental, handed me a few bucs, I didn't even have to wear a sign around my neck saying(Brother can you spare a dime)  (I'm not
sure how much because they were ones and I just tossed them in the cash bag I keep for small donations )  and said I hope this helps in an
apparent gesture to help out a tired bum in need.  I tried to explain to them that all donations go to our beneficiaries but they looked to be in a
hurry and not really interested in what I had to say. So before they pulled away I grabbed a brochure and gave it to the guy who had given me
the money. He thanked me, and I him, and that was that. Pretty dull huh?  
Tonight's camp is a first for me. I'm in far western Utah about 35 miles from the Nevada border in a salt pan(
see pictures 1, 2, & 3 below) along
I-80 and literally less than 20 yards from an active railroad track. A little while ago the first train to pass by since I've been here was extremely
loud, so I'm getting ready for a fun nights sleep.

This flat salt covered environment in this region of the country,(see picture 4 below) called the Great Basin, was at one time part of the
prehistoric Lake Bonneville that formed thousands of years ago and was nearly the size of Lake Michigan. Because of mass natural releases
over time and evaporation due to a warming climate it now exists only as remnants of several smaller lakes in the area including the Great Salt
see pictures 5 & 6 below) which is at the lowest elevation of all of them and thus the largest. Since releases of water only occurs through
evaporation, the sodium richness is maintained, like any terminal salt bodies of water. The highways and railroad are all about 5'-10' higher
than the low lying salt pans and inside one of which I am camped for the evening(
see picture 7 8 below) and only a few miles west, toward
Wendover, is where the land speed record was set at over 750 mph, a bit faster than my two wheeled motorless record this summer of 48 mph.
It was a gorgeous sunny and warm day and best of all the winds were light. The scenery today along Hwy 80, though a bit monotonous, was
scenic and with vistas that stretched for miles.

I can see why they name this road the 'Loneliest Road in America' as there really is little to arouse the senses of one, especially if in a climate
and sound controlled vehicle. This is the only highway I've ever seen with signs every dozen miles or so reminding motorists to pull over and
rest if they become drowsy.(
see pictures 9 & 10 below) Adding to the beauty of the scenery was the spectacular sunset coupled with the
unique environment.(
see pictures 11 & 12 below)

Where's Romano in the U.S.A

Day 199  10/31/12
SP : Knolls, UT
EP: Wells, NV
DM:  71
TM:  13,837
Week 27   WM: 332   TM: 13,667    AVG. Per Day: 47.4 miles

I've made it to Nevada, finally. If one had asked me six months ago, or four, or two or even last month when in Texas, if I could reach this point
of the never ending journey I would have said, "IDK, and it's too far off to even think about". And here I am now in #47, the Silver State, and only
a few days from it's capital, Carson City, in the far western end of this beautifully remote high altitude mountainous country. My elation and joy
when arriving in to Wendover this morning, a town consisting of several casinos, a few fast food joints, numerous hotels, a grocery store, but
most important the western most point of the Great Salt Basin(
see picture 1 below) and border between Utah and Nevada, was one I didn't
want to fully acknowledge to myself much yet express to others. It was probably a good thing there was no around to talk with during my FSTD
at a Smith's grocery store in Wendover, except for the middle age grocery clerk lady taking a five minute cigarette break and anxious and
proud to inform me of her origins from New York's E Manhattan (and with an accent to back it up), as I probably would have made a scene of
myself. The prudent, cautious side of my personality (the mind) constantly trumps the impulsive and emotional side of that same complexion
(the heart). I guess that's a good thing, as it was not for Thomas Jefferson during his lovesick courtship with Maria Conway, a married woman
(and he a widow), in Paris in the 1780's. The usually self contained representative of the newly formed United States failed to keep his
emotions in check during the short lived relationship and struggled personally to discover and then attempt to reconcile the dichotomy between
the head and heart in a written conversation amongst the two, a telling piece of literature on our 3rd president and author of the nations first and
most prized liberating document.  I still realize there are 1,500 miles left and three weeks of biking through rough mountainous country and in a
climatically precarious time of season. I want so badly to succeed at this point that no minor detail I feel is to be left unexplored. My mind is
starting to drift towards figuring out the details of the row next year and I keep having to bring it back to the current task at hand. As well I can't
stop thinking about home, my family, friends, home, business, dog, cat, bills (ooops, I went one to far). It's as if a conscious dream I've been
having over the last six months is finally beginning to materialize, but am still, and perhaps overly, cautious of a dreams fleeting and surreal
Ok, enough of dreams and home. Tonight's camp is probably the first since late last spring when in eastern Oregon or Idaho. I am in a cedar
and sage brush forest(
see pictures 2 & 3 below) about a half mile north of I-80 and 15 miles east of Wells NV and nearly certain these are
BLM public lands and there is an RV parked about a football field away. I couldn't feel more at home if I we're in my backyard. This is the
environment I love most here at 6,300' elevation, though higher than home which is about 3,500'. The air is dry and the vistas spectacular.(
picture 4 below
) I have my nightly campfire(see picture 5 below) companion providing warmth and composed of dry sweet smelling cedar, the
best bang for your wood burning buc.
This afternoon I had the first tailwind since the morning I rode in to Denver two weeks ago tomorrow and as a result managed to meet my daily
trip average for the day; 71.4 mpd. It was a fabulous ride as I ascended a series of climbs roughly 1000' each and on top of which were
plateaus of sparsely vegetated terrain of piñon and cedar forests, followed by casual descents in to wide, magnificently bowl shaped and
sagebrush covered valleys. Shortly after entering Nevada this morning I crossed in to the pacific time zone(
see picture 6 below) and now am
only one hour behind where I started in Alaska in April, which I won't see again till next year somewhere out on the Pacific Ocean.

Where's Romano in the U.S.A
November 2012
SP=Starting Point - EP=Ending Point - DM=Daily Mileage - TM=Total Mileage

Day 200   11/01/12
SP : Wells, NV
EP: Elko, NV
DM:  80
TM:  13,917

I awoke around a half past two this morning and decided to make an early start of the day.  I made it to Wells, 25 miles west of camp, and
am currently having my FSTD in a Burger King. The morning was a bit chilly but the winds were relatively calm. There is a big hi-def tv here
and a few moments ago the news had coverage of Mitt Romney giving a speech and now it is Obama's turn. They both appear well coached
and polished, Romney looking like your typical community bank or grocery store manager and Obama, who usually comes off like a TV
news reporter to me, today resembles a rock star in both dress and persona with his Air Force One jacket gestures to the crowd. I believe
even if of African American decent or religiously Mormon I would find it difficult getting excited about the representative for president of my
party. They both say the same things we've heard politicians say over and over to get elected and it all reminds me how fortunate I am to be
unplugged and away from it.
Today is day 200 and I can't but help recall 100 days ago when I was in W Virginia and made it to capital #27 in Charleston, arriving soaking
wet from all the rain I had encountered during that period of the journey. It seems like a complete different world from there to where I am now
as I sit viewing high snow capped mountains and terrain that resembles nothing like the green small treed hills of W Virginia. Back then I had
only pedaled 6,500 miles and since I have covered over 7000 more. The biggest difference for me though is the mental one, the fact that
back then there remained nearly 9,000 miles to completion of the 50@50 SPT, and now there are only 1,500.
Camp tonight is definitely 'Home on the Range'. I am in a sagebrush field about two miles NW of Elko, the second town of the day and hence
my LSTD. I believe this all BLM land and leased to the ranchers for grazing rights for their cattle. The ground is composed of dry, overgrazed
silty dirt that seems to permeate everything and whenever I drop something it is covered with the tannish earth. Between some discarded
building materials and dry sagebrush I have enough wood to make a nice fire for the evening and my plan is to hang my shower bag from a
rickety 5' wooden fence post to shower this evening. This is definitely not the best camp I've ever had but it is quiet and I am secluded. I am
also tired from getting an early start this morning and am looking forward to a restful nights sleep in my tent that I set up tonight as the storm
that is passing through the area blows out.

Day 201   11/02/12
SP : Elko, NV
EP: Battle Mtn., NV
DM:  79
TM:  13,996

It was after 5 this morning when I finally garnered the will to get moving for the day, one I knew was going to be with a chilly start. Slowly I
dressed in my frost filled tent putting on all my layers of clothing, just as I had in Wyoming last week when the temps were down in the teens.
The temp outside could not have been much over 20' and felt much colder with the frigid humid air frosting everything non permeable with a
glittery white layer and a slight northerly wind adding to the chill. It seemed to take forever to finish with breakfast, get cleaned and then
packed up. I can't work with my gloves on and my fingers and hands became quickly numb and immobile, like blocks of ice making it
impossible to do anything. I was  forced to place them every minute or so on the only convenient spot on my body warm enough to quickly
bring the blood flow back to them; inside my pants and next to my  manhood. Fortunately there was no one within miles as it would have
been a ridiculous, not to mention personally humiliating, sight seeing me standing in a cold, empty, sagebrush desert in the early morning
light with my hands down my pants. But it worked and eventually I packed everything in to my bags and was rolling again toward the next
goal; Carson City #47, over 300 hundred miles distant to the west. At present, about 10am, the skies are clear and the sun is beginning to
rise far enough above the surrounding treeless round top mountains to perform it's wonderfully magical warming properties of everything
including myself at the FSTD in Carlin, a small I-80 one truck stop town, but where I was fortunate to find a great little mexican burrito shop to
do my blog edit, phone charge and enjoy the best breakfast burrito I've had yet this journey.
Now to camp and a nice, functional one it is. I am located about 10 miles west of the town of Battle Mtn on the NE side of I -80 about two or
three football fields from traffic and behind a power substation with relaxing, low-pitched womb sounds of refrigerator like motors assuring
that a restful night of sleep awaits this tired 50 year old hobo. However, the Union Pacific RR is about 50 yards off in the direction of the
highway and as a loud horn blowing train just went by, I am brought back in memory to a few nights past, while still in the salt pans of Utah,
when I camped literally feet away from the passing trains. I can't begin to explain the startling blustering noise these gigantic rolling boxes of
iron, steel and kinetic energy make while sleeping close to one. Upon first realization there is panic amidst frenzy to escape whatever is
coming to send you to your maker, triggering the fight or flight response without the knowledge of knowing what you're combatting or fleeing.
It's a strange feeling and one to which I believe, after enough time has passed, you could become accustomed. But I know I won't as this is
only one night here and there are no trains within earshot of my home in Cornville.
It was a beautiful early November afternoon here in north central Nevada and I am feeling about as relaxed, positive and secure as I've been
since the beginning of this SPT back in April. Tomorrow I will surpass the 14,000 mile point of the kayak and bike ride and all that remains is
1,300 miles till completion of this phase of the 50@50 SPT. I know I've said it before but I have to say it again; I never believed I would reach
this point in the journey. My mind is tending more and more to focus on what awaits me on the row next year and the things with which I need
to do in preparation. It is all exciting in one sense, but frighteningly daunting in another. Having virtually no knowledge of or experience in the
sea I feel as if I will be lunging in to an environment so alien and potentially hostile that it will be far beyond my capabilities with which to
negotiate and exist for the anticipated months on end it is anticipated to take to complete the row. I know these are fears for which I must
contend over the winter, but for now need to focus on the remaining task at hand: finishing this second stage of 50@50. I believe fear is a
good emotion if it forces one to mobilize and develop resources in preparation for the oncoming challenge; however, if it is permitted to
intimidate, or worse yet overtake,  one to the point of inaction or even weakness, then all may be assuredly lost.
For dinner this evening I barbecued the first steak I've had since last spring in Montana, and how tasty and satisfying it was. I cooked it over
sagebrush coals which added a wonderful smokey redolent flavor. Seated next to my campfire I ate caveman style using only my fingers and
which I believe brings the entire essence of the masticating moment to fruition.

Day 202   11/03/12
SP : Battle Mtn., NV
EP: Humboldt, NV
DM:  84
TM:  14,080

No time to write today as I spent nearly 7 1/2 hours riding after getting a 5 am start in the chilly N. Nevada autumn morning, though fortunately
not as cold as yesterday morning when I was forced to put my hands down my pants to initiate blood flow to my lower metacarpus. As I sit
now in a t-shirt and shorts in the shade of a retired master bedroom sized 480 volt  mobile electrical unit (I'll get to that briefly), it is in the
cooler, but not cold, fall temps I was anticipating all year but was starting to believe had skirted my route after the icebox temperate weather
of the last few weeks. As well the winds the last several days have been light and variable, thus allowing me to get back on track mileage
wise. The majesty of this largely untouched western landscape of long golden concave valleys punctuated by volcanic cone shaped and
cedar tree studded hills and  interrupted only occasionally by elevated snow capped mountains is a remarkable sight to be held and I feel so
fortunate to have this remote countryside as one of the last stretches of this 50@50 middle leg. It's as if I have come a full circle from the
beginning legs of this journey when I was in BC albeit a little less secluded, and at least for now, warmer.  
Anyways camp is in the town (if one can call it that) of Humboldt, basically a small community of isolated residences dependent on the
surrounding mine operations of which I have found shelter in a half acre of stored and inactive mining equipment consisting mainly of lengthy
mine slurry conveyor belt frames and the accompanying electrical control panels of which I earlier explained. This is about the only spot for
miles I could find any cover as the countryside near this I-80 route is completely void of trees or any man made improvements  except for the
occasional highway culvert and in which  after camping  several times in Wyoming, have no desire to do so again, especially without the
threat of snow, rain or major wind (the only reasons I did so back then). Trying to find wood for a fire has been a task on to itself and shortly
ago I put a 4'x 4" cedar timber I found rummaging amongst the steel framed conveyor belts on to my humble little sagebrush fire. Not
knowing it had been previously soaked in creosote, I watched at first in amazement, that quickly turned to panic, as it flared up like a giant
gas torch releasing a foul odorous smoke and flames that rose above my height. Fortunately though the fire show was short lived and since
has calmed down.
So that Cat Stevens song just came in to my head, "Another Saturday night and I ain't got nobody, I got some money cause I just got paid
(not!)". It is a Saturday night and I ain't got nobody, but I ain't got no money neither, because I never get paid, but even if I had there would be
no one or place to spend it on. Why do such crazy songs so suddenly and randomly pop in to head?
Anyways, the strangest thing happened today as I was approaching the truck stop town of Puckerbrush (I'm not kidding, that was its name),
population 28. Earlier in the day I had been wondering about all the dead owls, relative to other birds, from impacts with vehicles I had seen
on this trip so far, when I noticed a live bird that resembled a duck (to me if it ain't a chicken, turkey or duck and it flies then it's just a bird) but
with a longer beak and white belly, and squatting in the middle of the highway. It had apparently been impacted in flight by a passing vehicle
and was now incapable because of injuries of escaping from it's most precarious, but for certain, deadly position in the middle of high
speeding traffic.

Hurt, but none the less scared, angry and determined to not to meet such a violent and ignoble ending, as was shortly coming, it kept striking
out with its long neck and beak at each passing vehicle as if with a naive pretense of holding the upper hand in the battle between it and the
multi ton boxes of heavy metal whizzing by within inches of turning him in to a feathered coated pancake. My first thought was to just pedal on
my way and allow the forces of fate to act out on their own, but when I started to mount my bike reconsidered knowing my consciousness
would not allow me to act as such and thus just leave the cantankerous little fellow without at least making some type of effort to ease his
predicament. I knew if I were to do something it had to be fast but every time I went towards him to shoo him away he would hiss and lash out
at me as he did with the metal Panzershwein (german for Armadillo meaning 'armored pig' and my new term for vehicles). Of course there
was traffic flying by at hypersonic speeds (at least it seemed that way after being on a bicycle for over six months) and, not wanting to end up
like the vulnerable lipless gimp in the middle of the road, I had to figure out some other way to free him from harms way.  So I found a piece
of rubber from a blowout truck tire and when traffic slowed I flicked the foul tempered fowl off to the side of the road and far enough that he
was out of dangers immediate grasp. I then, with a clear conscious, bid him good luck and farewell. Back on my bike I couldn't decide if I
had done the right thing or not, as the question remains whether it would have not been better to hasten his soon to be deceased destiny by
allowing the weight of a Panzershwein to finish him off rather than prolonging his suffering and eventual demise whether in the jaws of a
coyote or through dehydration and starvation. But I did what I did and now his fate rests with someone or thing else.

Day 203  11/04/12
SP : Humboldt, NV
EP: Nighingale, NV
DM:  76
TM:  14,156

Somehow I have gained another hour, but I'm not sure how. Last night I was 2 hours behind the time on my bike computer which I set last to
central time when I was somewhere down South and the old battery died. I thought I was on pacific time yesterday but if so how did I gain
another hour, unless it had something to do with daylight savings time which we Arizonans don't recognize anyway. So lets just say, being a
resident of Cornville AZ, that I am a little cornfused at the moment. I haven't kept record of how many times I have changed time zones
throughout this SPT, but I'm sure it is many.
Tonight's camp is a bit of a strange one in that I am not hidden per say, though nobody is around to see me. I am situated in a large two acre
size gravel clearing of BLM land though which is leased by a company titled Ormat Nevada. I have no idea what they produce but I do know
that this land has geothermal properties and is the probable reason for their presence here which consists mainly of a windowless steel
building about a quarter mile north. There are rising plumes of steam at the base of the hills east of my location and earlier when I arrived I
went to check them out but they are all underground but I could hear the likely scalding hot running stream of water underground, and in a
couple places it appeared as if at one time there were soaking tubs in the area, but nothing now but crusty sulphur and other mineral rich
topsoil. But there is a canal with high 90' crystal clear thermal water about two football fields from my empty gravel lot and in which my plan is
to take a bath in about an hour or two

after the sun has set and before I call it a night and bed down on a giant roll of plastic pond lining I have unfurled for my bed tonight.
My F&LSTD were in the town of Lovelock this morning. I should have done more miles but felt sluggish and out of it. My mind keeps tending
toward the finish of this journey coming soon and, believe it or not, there is a part of me that is a little reticent about admitting my concerns of
ending this solitary carefree hobo lifestyle I've known and become accustom to after nearly seven months now. I know I will readjust quickly
once back home but the sudden transition worries me a bit.
Have you ever wondered how many kind and perhaps interesting people you encounter through an average day, but because you are too
busy with something else fail to recognize their uniqueness or their offer of kindness?  This morning I was made aware of it when a lady
approached me at the only available wifi hotspot within miles, the McDonalds in Lovelock, and she offered me a new flag of the US, seeing
as how the one on my trailer was worn out and tattered. I refused her kindly gesture because the flag she offered me was half the size of the
one on my bike and for which I felt a certain attachment to having had it with me for long and through many adverse situations; we are
comrades together along this journey. But I could have at least accepted and thanked her for the kind offer and afterwards done whatever
with her patriotic gift rather than flat out rejecting it. My bet is that these one time chance encounters happen frequently throughout most our
lifetimes but most of us fail to recognize them at the moment because of our hectic, high octane lifestyles today (I was frantically trying to
finish up the edit of the prior days blog).
So today's random and suddenly occurring song to pop in to my head was the posthumously released 'Watching the Wheels' by John
Lennon. If there was ever an artist or musician years ahead of his time it was he. Having listened to the Beatles since the age of preteen
hood (several years after release of most their works) and knowing by heart nearly all their songs , I can say that today, 50+ years after the
creation of most their compositions, that much of their music not only still resonates with me but for which I now have a new, different and
profound understanding, especially that of Lennon. He was a musical genius I believe, not just with lyrics but through his unique style of
instrumental melody that showed,  like I said, how he was years ahead of his profession and age in life. And believe it or not, if he were alive
today would be 72. Wow!
Anyways, during the verse, "No longer riding on the Merry-go- round" (MGR) it was brought to mind the perfect metaphor between those old
iron constructed school ground toys on which we all played as kids and without knowing, represented life itself as most of us were and are to
become aware of later in adulthood. Those round steel contraptions on which many a kid suffered broken arms, legs and hefty knots on the
noggin (hard to believe they were ever a mainstay of school yard exercise and enjoyment nor how many lawsuits of which they were likely the
source), were a perfect lesson on the circular nature of life. The MGR taught us the value of teamwork in working together and shared
responsibility to achieve common goals. It also showed the importance of balance in life as too many kids on one side prevented it's smooth
operation. Remember there were those who because of their efforts running and pushing made it go round, the Makers, and then those who
just  preferred to stay on, the Observers, and were perfectly content watching the Makers do their thing, sound familiar?  One of the most
important lessons of the MGR was it taught us compassion and understanding for those whom, when the pie cutter formed apparatus got
going too fast, would invariably get tossed off and bounced around on the ground several times, eventually coming to a stop face down with
a mouthful of hard gritty sand, ears full of dirt and most assuredly a dizzy headache. Or all of the above. But as I recall, the MGR would
eventually slow down and all those who hadn't been thrown off, at least those which I explain in an earlier blog had the genetically encoded
spiritually positive attributes that are responsible for the evolvement of our species, would wait for those with dirty faces and mouthfuls of
sand to spit and shake themselves off before reluctantly returning, if they were strong and resilient enough, to the 'fun'. But that's just life when
things get going too fast, even if we're just an on board observer. All of us have, or will be, at some point thrown off the MGR of life and it's up
to the other team members to help that individual to shake off their bumps and bruises and hopefully get back on. It is in that service to
mankind, to the kids who were thrown off, that we find purpose and meaning to life, but without which the MGR loses its members, enjoyment
and eventually comes to a stop.
But I believe the most important lesson of the schoolyard MGR experience is that it taught us the circular round trip motion of all things in life.
No matter how hard we pushed or how much fun we had, or did not have, it only endured so long as eventually the recess bell would ring and
we would we all jump off, go to bathroom, get a drink of water, and return hot, sweaty, bruised and full of dirt and sand to our classroom, the
source of learning and great spiritual creator. Before he died Pop would ask me in his thick Italian accent when I would talk about doing this
or achieving that, "My sonna, where do you go in thisa life? No where you go." He didn't say it meaning I wasn't going to achieve any material
success or socially measured goals of achievement; but rather pointing out to my young mind that all life is circular, that what goes around
eventually comes around. Not so much in the sense of what the young man to whom I returned the wallet back in Michigan referred to as
karma; as I don't believe good is always returned as good, nor bad as bad. People are not always dealt even hands and some are given
way more adversity than they can manage. That life doesn't start at point A and in a linear fashion end at point B; but rather moves in a
circular motion, 'The Circle of Life' (ever see the  Disney animated film 'The Lion King'?), starting at point A and eventually returning to point
A before resuming the circle once again, after of course a stop in the bathroom, drink of water and a return to the classroom to learn the next

Day 204  11/05/12
SP : Nightingale, NV
EP: Carson City, NV
DM:  74
TM:  14,230

This evenings camp was tough to find, and once found make do, but eventually it worked out. I am in a narrow natural drainage only about a
couple miles southwest of Carson City in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It is tight here as there are cliffs on either side and
little wood though I did find enough to make a fire. I reached the capital of Nevada here in Carson City around 3pm

and was in a hurry to leave the downtown area and suburbs as fast as possible since it gets dark now between 5&6. All day I couldn't decide
whether to make the 47th capital of this SPT today or camp somewhere on the eastern outskirts and pedal in tomorrow. A nice tailwind this
afternoon helped me to make up my mind when I was in Dayton about 10 miles to the east. It was a beautiful day today with above normal
temps and clear skies and the same is expected for today. But Wednesday it's suppose to start cooling and Thursday and Friday are
expected to be cold and snowing here in the Sierra Nevada's as a cold front from the Gulf of Alaska pushes south and east through here. It
looks as if I just made it in time getting through this last mountain range of the 50@50 SPT as tomorrow I cross over them through S Lake
Tahoe and then begin the long decent down to California's central valley. I will probably be blasted with a cold rain this week, but that does
not concern me nearly as much as getting stuck in these high altitude mountains here like I was in central Wyoming two weeks ago when that
cold front walloped me on I-80 just east of Rock Springs and I was forced to take cover in a drafty abandoned trailer for a day and two nights,
the first and hopefully only day off from riding since leaving Skagway Alaska on April 25, involuntarily of course.
The State House here in Carson City is the original capital building built in 1871 when Nevada was admitted in to the Union and it was small
and without all the adornment and pretension of so mostif the other capital buildings. It's walls were constructed of gray square cut local
granite and it's unadorned dome spoke of the plain values unique to the western states. Carson City was the first capital in to which I arrived
by crossing through a casino parking lot.
My lunch break today was in the crossroads town of Silver Springs where I had lunch in a dark, dank, windowless and smoke filled casino
restaurant. There were numerous gamblers hunched over in deep concentration at their electronic color screened games, many smoking
and drinking before it was even noontime. It was to me a pathetic sight to witness and I don't understand how anyone could find enjoyment in
such a lifestyle and atmosphere. I ate my lunch fast and got out of that place as soon as I could before too much of the negative energy, as
well as second hand smoke, had time to seep through my skin and in to my core. Once outdoors I began to feel my senses come back to life
in the clear fresh air and energizing sunshine as I began pedaling through the last of the open valleys before reaching the foothills and then
mountains of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. At one point I noticed a herd of open range (no fences) horses crossing the road and
roaming freely, and shortly afterwards a highway sign notifying motorists of their presence and the need to drive slowly and cautiously. It's
what I believe more lands should be like rather than being fenced in and disturbing the natural migrations and wanderings of wildlife as well
as unsightly. Too much of this great land is chopped up and fenced off for no real reason other than 'that's the way it has always been'. At
one time perhaps it was useful for ranching purposes, but much of it no longer as most ranches don't even exist anymore. But still the fences
Tomorrow I will enter the Golden State, #48, early and hopefully pedal most the 130 miles toward its capital in Sacramento and where also
resides my mother and older brother Rico. Once I leave the capital  of the most populous state in the nation, 3rd largest in area (Alaska &
Texas being 1st & 2nd), and 8th largest economy in the world (not to mention my home for most the early years of my life), I will make what is
the final directional change of this middle stage of the 50@50 SPT towards a SE heading and homeward bound towards Arizona. This is
such a monumental moment for myself and one I have day dreamt about for months. In less than 30 miles I will reach 14,300 total miles up to
this point from Juneau Alaska and only 1000 more will remain to be pedaled. If a hundred miles is condensed to a second, then the
countdown from 10 to arrival at the capital of Arizona in Phoenix, and the terminus of this stage, begins in 30 miles.

Day 205  11/06/12
SP : Carson City, NV
EP: Pollock Pines, CA
DM:  61
TM:  14,291

"California here I come, right back where I started from" (in fact I'm already here). I reached the 48th state of this journey to all 50 state
capitals after crossing a few casinos on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe this morning and one of which I made a stop for their advertised
$2.99 breakfast (it didn't state though that you had to join their gaming club to get the cheap meal; how many times do I have to learn that you
never get something for nothing in this life) . Anyways, as I pedaled across the nondescript border between the Silver and Golden states, I
was forced to look deep for any notice of the transition but eventually caught glimpse of a small blue sign with gold print atop a steel traffic
signal pole with the simple inscription "Welcome to California" along with a couple of golden poppy flowers in the margins. That's it? The
most populous state in the union with an economy bigger than 95% of all the other nations in the world and the only introduction one receives
is a boring two square foot sign upon arrival?
It had been quite some time, at least 20 years, since my last passing through the spectacularly beautiful Lake Tahoe Basin, but I found things
to be pretty much the same. Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine water lake in the US (Crater Lake in Oregon is the largest) with a depth of  over
1,500' at it's deepest point. The first time within memory that I visited its clear chilly waters surrounded by granite laced mountains in every
direction, I thought it was the most beautiful piece of gods creation I had ever witnessed, and being back there again today I was reminded
of just how magnificent it really is. What adds to its splendor is that development in the town itself and around its perimeter has been kept to
a minimum and where ample public access is maintained to the lakeside and surrounding mountains, unlike the Finger Lakes region of New
York where the opposite is true.
So tonight's camp is a nice one even though it's a little close to US 50 and the occasional passing vehicle. I am situated on a old abandoned
section of hwy 50 that wound around the S Fork of the American River and about 10-15 miles west of the town of Pollock Pines. The new
highway which is visible from my standpoint has been bridged across the river that joins the Sacramento River at it's namesake city and
eventually empties in to the San Francisco Bay.  Next to my camp on the old road is a small creek cascading down from the surrounding
hillside and for which I believe is responsible for the new bridged highway as large sections are sinking in to a dark abyss just feet away
from me. Nature always takes back that which rightfully belongs to it, which includes just about everything I believe.
So today is election day 2012 and for the first time since being of legal voting age I did not vote, and for which I feel absolutely no remorse.
Being out here on the beautiful American road day after day has taken me, fortunately, far from away from the nonstop multi million dollar
political negative media campaign bombardment. And how refreshing it has been. Tomorrow half the country will be relieved and optimistic
for the coming four years while the other half will be grieving over the fate of our nation, except for me that is. I, as usual, plan to mount my
bicycle for the 197th consecutive day (with one day off in a drafty cold trailer in Wyoming due to the snow and cold windy weather) and head
in to capital #48 in Sacramento, a city born from the efforts of a Swiss immigrant, John Sutter, but originally discovered by the Spanish
explorer Gabriela Moraga in the early 19th century. A writer along with that expedition 300 years ago explained the scene quite succinctly yet
descriptively; "Canopies of oaks and cottonwoods, many festooned with grapevines, overhung both sides of the blue current. Birds
chattered in the trees and big fish darted through the pellucid depths. The air was like champagne, and (the Spaniards) drank deep of it,
drank in the beauty around them. “Es como el sagrado sacramento! (It's like the Holy Sacrament.)”  
Sacramento and John Sutter himself hit it big time during the California Gold Rush when it became a major distribution point and
commercial center. It was also the final destination for many foot travelers of the Overland era who came west for the promise of new lands
and potential riches. As well it was a terminus for the telegraph, pony express, and first transcontinental railroad. Today as the capital of
most populous state of the nation  it still has, at least for myself, the 'air of champagne' being the next to last capital stop along this stage of
the 50@50 SPT and for which I, like the Spaniards centuries earlier, shall drink deeply in it's surrounding beauty 'como el sagrado
Today was a fabulous day due to the perfect weather conditions and scenic beauty of the High Sierras. Temps hovered around the 60' mark
and with an abundance of direct sunshine unblemished by the absence of any cloud cover whatsoever. I was forced to reckon with the
needless waste of energy I had brought forth on to myself over the concern for months now of the possibility of impassable roads, due to
inclement weather as I crossed over this last range of mountains before the final decent in to California's central valley and the safety of
lower altitudes. But rather than the threat of cold, snow and impassable roads, my only worry today was getting too much sun and thus
burning my now autumn fair skin as I began the final climb out of the Lake Tahoe Basin with my shirt off.

I had two major climbs on the day; the first as I left Carson City and ascended over Spooner Summit just over 7000' with  2,500' of elevation
gain over about 5 miles and the second, being that just mentioned, out of the Lake Tahoe Basin to again a little over 7000' and  1000' of
elevation gain over about 3 miles at its summit near Echo Lake. On both climbs I was greeted with a splendid display of autumn induced
golden-yellow Aspen and Oak tree leaves stunningly contrasted against the backdrop of dark greens of the surrounding alpine coniferous
forests. The sublime vistas of tall craggy white granite faced mountains and deep valleys overlaid with a thick matting of pine trees were
equally as breathtaking in appearance.

Day 206  11/07/12
SP : Pollock Pines, CA
EP: Carmichael, CA
DM:  68
TM:  14,359

(A) = Arrival + 10 seconds (1 second for every hundred miles). Yes I have reached the capital city (actually Carmichael) of the Golden State
and tomorrow morning plan on pedaling the few remaining miles to the State Building from where I will make my final turn of this leg of the
50@50 SPT and head back home. A + 10 and counting down, that's where I'm at. I'm staying the night at my brother Rico's home, and with
whom my mother lives and is cared for, in this suburb city of Sacramento and taking advantage of his washing machine in which I'm currently
doing what will probably be my last load until I reach home in less than two weeks. I also plan on taking the first real shower tonight since the
truck stop at Little America in Nowhere, Wyoming during those windy, bitterly frigid days a couple weeks back when it was too cold really to
be living outside much yet showering. But most important is the opportunity to spend a little time with my aging mother, now 89 and still
recovering from a hip replacement earlier this summer. Her sight, hearing and memory are not what they use to be and though she can still
get around, and without the use of a cane or walker,  it is very slowly and methodically.
I had arrived to the house when no one was home yet and about an hour before Mom was due to arrive on the senior center bus (where she
spends her days there while my brother is at work). I was there waiting to meet her when the bus dropped pulled up in front of the house but
she did not recognize me. That mattered little at the moment though as much as the Senior Loose Bowel Movement she was on the verge of
experiencing if a hasty exit down the two or three steps of the bus exit and in to the bathroom of the house was not completed, and fast. We
did make it in to the bathroom, but too little too late. This was not the scene I was expecting upon our reunion after not seeing each other for
a year, but then reality never does quite fit neatly in to what are our expectations have led us to believe. Incapable of cleaning such a mess
without assistance, I spent the next half hour doing it for her, including not just the floor and her clothes, but she herself in the bathtub with a
washcloth. I tried to make light of the matter, for the spirits of both of us, by making a few jokes and laughing.  But she did not find any of the
humbling episode funny whatsoever. In fact I was not even going to mention any of the afternoons cleaning festivities, but decided to only
because after thinking about it further I realized that this was life; why try to hide things or events that have and will occur naturally to most of
us at some point in our lives. In other words, she took care of me and cleaned my mess during my earlier years and now it was my turn to
repay the favor, no matter how humbling it was for myself as well. In fact I almost took a certain amount of pride in doing the clean up, though
on the back of mind debating if my children were going to replicate the favor for me someday. And what's more, even though my brother
Rico and I don't always see things in life eye to eye, at that moment it became apparent just how much a caring and giving individual he
really is for taking such wonderful care of our mother for over 15 years now and how fortunate I as well as our other 3 siblings are that he has
made the noble sacrifice in doing such.
Eventually things calmed down, the mood lightened and the air refreshened to the point we were able to sit on the couch and spend a few
moments conversing (her memory actually comes around when outside interferences are minimized (like having to go the bathroom I'm a
rush). "Oh what a day!" she uttered out loud to herself several times and I agreed with that assertion completely. She also repeated to me
over and again how thankful she was for my visit, how much she loved me and the best part, "Bless your Pea Picken Heart" (Mom always
had the perfect adage for the perfect moment).
For dinner the two of us walked slowly the two or three blocks to a local Arby's restaurant and ate roast beef sandwiches with Mom's favorite
topping, horseradish. She had a bit of a time with it being dark and she unable to see well in the daytime much yet night. She also
complained about her hip bothering her somewhat on the way back home. But eventually we made it, her demonstrating that physical and
mental grit and perseverance I had always known for her being.
Thank you Mother for the wonderful visit afforded me and it is I who is thankful for all you did for me during my early years, and not just in
cleaning my messes, but instilling in me the good values and morals I feel are important in life for one's fulfillment and happiness.  I promise
to not to wait so long nor be so brief for my next visit and I love you and bless your pea-picking heart.

Day 207  11/08/12
SP : Carmicheal, CA
EP: Galt, CA
DM:  39
TM:  14,398

I'm camped in another abandoned structure this evening as it has been a cold, windy and rainy afternoon after leaving the southern suburbs
of Sacramento. Tonight it is a dirt filled garage with broken windows and door less entries, but with still an intact corrugated roof under which
I plan to take cover for the forecasted rain this evening and tomorrow morning. There are piles of old rusty gallon size paint cans I had to
throw to one corner of the concrete floor, most of which is hidden under dirt, cattle and bird droppings, to make room for my bike and bedroll.
I found a couple of old style wooden boxes my plan for which is to shortly now break apart and build a small fire to warm up and hopefully dry
my wet shoes, socks and gloves. What a strange day it has been, or to borrow a bit of my mothers vernacular, "Phew, what a day!" It
seemed I never really got going on this 207th day I rolled in to the 48th capital of this never ending journey. I awoke early enough this morning
(3:30) and after a bowl of cereal, packing, and of course kissing and hugging my mother countless times, who had slept on the couch
offering up her bed for me and was upset about my departure, got pedaling toward the capital less than 10 miles distant. I ran out of my
coffee stash yesterday and my brother does not drink coffee and thus has none in the house. So with nothing to make my thick morning
brew, made my FSTD at the next best, and coincidentally cheapest, alternative; McDonalds. While there I started on my blog edit of the
previous days events which included very little writing due to my being preoccupied yesterday afternoon during my standard writing hour
attending to my mothers needs. So I ended up staying at the house Ronald built until after 8, nearly three hours after my arrival. I've done this
frequently throughout this journey; 'squandered' countless hours toying with words and ideas on this electronic diary, and still uncertain if any
of it is worth the time I have put in to it or not. But writing is relaxing for me and I enjoy doing it. It also taps in to my limited natural abilities of
artistic talent or achievement. I've never considered myself an artist or creative person in any sense of the word; a dumb jock would probably
be a term more applicable of my being. But that doesn't negate my fondness and appreciation for most of the arts, regardless of my stunted
capacity to fully comprehend their uniqueness and contribution to humanity.
Anyways, after Mickey D's I pedaled the few remaining miles to the capital

and after a friendly, lengthy conversation with one of several DPS security officials in the front of the capital at the metal detector entrance,
attempted briefly, but in half earnest and in doubtful anticipation, to unsuccessfully make contact with the governors office, there being
another DPS official, this one short, husky, and somewhat intimidating especially with his tall Stetson felt covered drill sergeant hat that
made him appear much taller than he was, at the front door and whose job was apparently to inform me in a round about way but with no
uncertain terms that if I had no appointment scheduled I might as well hit the road....Jack.
I guess I'm a long ways from Kansas now. It is striking the differences between the big populous states like California and the simpler,
unpretentious, less uptight and much friendlier states of the nation, especially the Midwest, when I basically walked through the front doors,
many without even any metal detectors and perhaps a older, friendly security officer to greet me, and straight in to the governors office; one (I
can't remember which now) with a sign that read "Welcome. Come right in".  I know California, like New York, Texas and perhaps a dozens
or so others are large, diverse and forced to implement security measures more stringent than the smaller states due to the increased risk of
some type of crazed act of terrorism. But in doing so they end up alienating themselves and thus creating a breach of trust whether real,
imaginative or some combination thereof from those who they were elected to represent. It is just one more reason why the people feel so
far removed, mistrustful and doubtful of our elected officials and the job they are fiducially obligated to perform. We seem to overreact in this
country when something bad happens, like 9/11, and in our fear to prevent the unfortunate episode from ever happening again, end up
enacting measures and behaving in manners that those demented individuals who carry out such unspeakable acts of humanity were aiming
to create; fear, paranoia, unrest, and suspicion, and most important ameliorating our core values as Americans. We don't even need a 9/11
to initiate such change when just watching the nightly news will suffice instead. We insulate and thus isolate ourselves with the pretension of
limitless security measures to protect us from these awful forces out to destroy us, while living in the false belief that if it's on the news or in
print it must be real and omnipresent. Fear sells and media marketers know this all too well. "Scare the people enough and they will buy it, or
vote for you".  Taller, more impregnable fences and barriers to keep me and my family safe, no matter if speaking individually or collectively
as a nation, seem to be the national dictum these days. No where is this mindset more visibly manifested than here in California where
fences, gates, alarms, guard dogs, warning signs, video surveillance, ubiquitous presence of law enforcement and even guns have replaced
the values of what we once use to place above all else; hospitality, friendliness, unity and trust. Just this evening when I decided on camp
here in this hallow, half open shell of a garage I went to the only home around to get some water for tomorrow mornings coffee and cereal.
There were welded steel fences and locked gates completely surrounding the property with a modest home and several cattle in an
adjoining field of which a foul stench arose from the damp rainy air. There being no guest foot entrance to the home I found an unlocked 5'
gate through which I passed to go ask if I could fill up my water bottle from a nearby yard spigot. I should have known better than to enter
such a securely enclosed yard as 2 giant dogs, one Rottweiler, came out of nowhere and began in earnest a growling, canine teeth bearing
chase toward my behind which no doubt was in their direct crosshairs. I did an immediate 180 cranking up these 50 year legs and high
tailing it back over the fence it in a single bound hurdle the act of which would have made the ego of an Olympic high jumper feel depleted.
Hearing the commotion outside a lady appeared from the front door of the home and began walking down to the fence line, behind which I
was now safely separated from the snarling, drooling chest high four legged beasts.  Appearing not much older than I but in obvious
displeasure for the disruption to her life of self generated jailing behind all her fences and locked gates, she began a tirade of patronization
directed at my insensitiveness for neglecting  her rights to private property. I explained that I was only searching to fill my three liter water
bottle with spigot water and I was intending to ask first but that there was no formal access to her home. She took the bottle from my hand to
reluctantly fill it but not without further lecturing me on my disrespectful behavior and even illegal act of crossing in to her yard without
permission. I can only take so much negativeness from anybody before I say enough is enough. I asked her for my bottle back and told her I
have no intention of taking such a verbal abuse just for asking for a simple basic element of life and that even if I were in the Mohave Desert
and dying from dehydration would I take a drop of water from her. She handed me the bottle back and as I mounted my bike and began to
pedal away reminded her that she still had one more gate to lock (the one I went through) before she could be totally isolated in her enclosed
sanctum with her vicious dogs, smelly cows and fearful paranoid mind. It usually takes a lot for me to crack, but once there I am unable, and
unwilling, to hold back anymore venting myself and this was one of those moments and for which I feel no remorse.
Perhaps I'm just being naive and/or nostalgic for a way of life that no longer exists for much of this bountiful and magnificent country and
nation of ours. But I would rather be labeled such than be brainwashed and held hostage by the fear and paranoia that seems to grip so
many and resonates from surreal forces appearing of greater magnitude than what they really are. I want to 'Imagine', like John Lennon did
and encouraged others to do when he left us with that beautiful and timeless musical piece, no matter how pessimistic I believe the current
tide of negative consciousness is prevailing in the country.

Day 208  11/09/12
SP : Galt, CA
EP: Oakdale, CA
DM:  68
TM:  14,466

Except for the first evening after leaving Skagway and camping a few miles east of the US/Canadian border in the bitter cold and snow
banked roads of N BC (the following day I entered the Province of Yukon), I can remember no other evening when I was compelled to enter
my tent for warmth from the cold outdoor elements, and both times it was because of an absence of fire. But tonight surprisingly I am in
typically warm California and though the base temp is probably only in the 40's, it feels much colder due to the high humidity from all the days
precipitation. In BC there were still 12' piles of snow and not a dry rock much yet piece of wood for which to make my favorite companion
(other than my golden lab back home); a campfire. This evening I have parked my self-powered rolling show in the middle of a peach tree
orchard just a mile or two northwest of the town of Oakdale on the eastern side of this large central valley of my original home state. This spot
was the only place I could find in this northern end of the San Joaquin Valley that stretches  hundreds of miles from the Sacramento River
Delta in the north (where I camped last night) to the Tehachapi mountains in the south  and where my plan is to cross over to the Mojave
Desert in just a few days. This region is similar to the much of the Midwest where it is empty, but full. There is a lot of land and space relative
to its population (though there are several major population centers; Modesto, Stockton, Bakersfield, Fresno as well as others) but it is
chopped up, fenced off, and developed for commercial agricultural purposes. I had a difficult time of it even finding this camp as I pedaled
for miles this afternoon but without seeing anywhere without a fence, locked gate, home, ranch, farm, topographical feature or natural barrier
like trees except for those that exist for commercial purposes. I could not imagine living in an area like this as there is no where to go to
escape the touch of man, or even man himself. Being here reminds somewhat of that which Barbara Savage wrote years ago in her now
near cult status book about the impossibility of achieving any sort of privacy in India during her and her husbands two years bicycle travels
around the world (Barbara was subsequently killed in a bicycle accident with a motorist a few years after the expedition). I know it's not as
congested here as in India, but I still am reminded again how fortunate I am to live somewhere where I can literally walk out my backdoor and
in to miles of seclusion and untouched lands (my home borders the Coconino Nat. Forest in N. Arizona). I personally feel that I need to live in
an area that is open and unenclosed. Even if I don't experience it everyday just the thought of knowing that it is there to escape to in a
moments notice  is important for mind.
For the most part the day was a nice one though with a bit of a chill from the tail end of the Alaskan borne storm front to pass through over
the previous two days and in to this morning. I still can't get over my good fortune in descending from the high altitude Sierra Nevada
Mountain range with hardly any time to spare, in fact at the most 24 hours. Had I been caught in this cold front there, rather than in the relative
safety and comfort of this low lying valley, I may have been forced with the need to find shelter to postpone my return home for possibly
several days  And that would been terrible for me as I look so forward to finishing up this leg of the 50@50 journey and arriving back home to
the comfort and well being of my home and family.

Day 209  11/10/12
SP : Oakdale, CA
EP: Chowchilla, CA
DM:  67
TM:  14,533

I can't believe how short the days are now. It's just now turning 5pm, the sun has set and the passage of twilight lies just ahead. I do though
have a nice warm camp fire of oak, my favorite of all woods for its clean hot burning properties. This is the first time I can remember there
being absolute still wind, and that coupled with my remote site for camp makes this one of quietest camps I've had throughout the 50@50
journey to this point. I am situated in a dry wash bed a hundred yards or so west of the rural Central California Valley road of Santa Fe Dr
between Marguerite rd and Ave 28. This is about the only place I've found in days hidden away from structures and with some type of natural
surroundings other than commercially grown fruit and nut bearing trees. There is perhaps a vehicle or two to pass by the road every few
minutes and other than that noise from their passage I can hear nothing but a few birds and the low bass chatter from the flickering
blue/yellow flames of the fire. It is so very calming for the soul and what I've missed immensely over the last couple evenings.  
Not a whole lot to report on the days events. I had a relative late start, around 6 after sleeping in till 4:30. I had actually awoken in the 2
o'clock hour and considered getting going then but after relieving myself in the cool humid air outside the tent managed to fall back asleep
for a couple more hours. I think it was Benjamin Franklin who said that the best way to fall asleep was to allow yourself to become cold first
by walking around with little or no clothes on, and then retiring to the comfort of a warm bed. I think he was correct.
My lunch was at a fabulous bakery (panaderia) and taco place (taqueria) a little NW of Merced called Mi Cielo Bakery (My Heaven Bakery).
What a pretty and descriptive name I thought as I pedaled by it on Santa Fe Dr, a block to the west about a hundred yards, and if I hadn't
been so hungry I probably would not have spotted it. This place was Mexican authentic to the utmost implication of the term. One middle age
balding fellow ran the whole place and from his talents were borne the freshest and most satisfying baked Mexican breads and treats I have
ever had. As well he prepared authentic Mexican tacos and burritos of which I devoured several. I could not stop eating while there and for
the first time in a while I mounted my bicycle with a full satisfied belly for the afternoon ride.
After lunch I continued pedaling south and east in this long valley that tends toward that direction blocked in by the Sierra Nevada's rising to
the east and the geologically active pacific coastal range on it's western flank. A few miles north of Merced I came upon one of the few
LDC's (long distance cyclists) I've encountered in months. His name was Thomas and appeared to be in his 30's or early 40's at the most.
His clean well groomed and handsome appearance, combined with a pleasant personality and intelligent mind,  closely resembled a friend
of mine from back in the Cornville hood, Rusty Baldwin, and he had just returned from Yosemite Nat. Park a couple days ago, unfortunately
prematurely, due to the same storm that had ravaged this area with a cold rain over the last few days and afterwards laid a deep foundation
of the even yet colder white stuff in the higher elevations and mountains . He was riding a nice Cannondale tandem with an attached Bob
trailer like mine except newer and with quite the menagerie of equipment including a 10lb 12 volt battery for recharging his electronics and
an Hibachi barbecue for which he was planning to barbecue steaks and chicken with some homeless folks in the area (I didn't inquire much
in to that one). Apparently his stoker for this tour bailed out on him and so he was continuing on with no one on the back his lengthy 10', 1/2
ton rig to help him out though he did seem interested in finding someone compatible to join him on it or with a separate bike. He told me he
had met a lady in Santa Cruz who wanted to join him but that because of her incessant talking about all that had occurred wrong in her life
decided it probably would not have worked out. I'm not sure it's my place to ask but if there are any single ladies out there looking for a great
adventure with a pleasant fellow this might be the opportunity you were looking for. Inquire within between the hours of 8-5.
The only other noteworthy anecdote of happenings, or rather observation, was the passing of a veal farm.

I've seen these several times throughout the journey when pedaling through quiet rural farming areas and can't help but notice the stealth
nature of their presence. If in a fast passing vehicle it's almost impossible to see them. My belief is that if most people knew of the
unthinkable conditions in which these baby cows are raised the industry would be handed quite a job trying to justify the continued production
of veal beef. They basically live out their less than one year life within the isolated confines of 2'x5' enclosure constructed of either plastic or
wood (I've seen both) and am always quite saddened with the barbaric conditions of these symbols of inhumanity when I hear their only
social interaction being that of calls to the other veal calves in adjoining pens. I'm not a vegetarian and enjoy steak and hamburger as much if
not more than the average American. And by and large I believe that American beef producers and processing industry do an excellent job
providing a quality product at a great price for the American consumer. But after witnessing first hand the crude implacable method used to
raise calf veal , I believe the production of the commodity should be ceased. I know for my part when I return home I plan to take veal off my
menu and replace it with another item, though probably still beef related.

Day 210
SP : Chowchilla, CA
EP: Sanger, CA
DM:  68
TM:  14,601

It's not even 5:30 pm yet and the sun has long ago dipped below the southwestern horizon along with the accompanying twilight hour nearly
complete. The days are getting really short. If I get a late start like this morning (6am) I am forced to keep pedaling every precious moment of
the daylight hours it seems in order to reach close to my daily average of 72 mph. Today I nearly did but it was a struggle as I've never felt so
pressed for time as I do now. Tonights camp is behind a small grouping of Paradise trees, sometimes referred to as the 'Jesus Tree' back
home due to their vivaciousness and tendency to sprout up just about anywhere; 'Oh Jesus, there's another one'. They are basically weeds
that can grow to heights more than 30' and need little water to exist, though where water is abundant they flourish. My campfire tonight is
energized from the dry remnants of their past years trimmings scattered at their base and I must say for as much as I often complain about
these overgrown tumbleweeds, they are providing me with adequate cover from human awareness and a source of warmth and
companionship for the chilly evening. I am situated about a football field east of Newmark Ave and a couple miles south of the town of
Sanger CA here on the far eastern side of California's busy and productive central valley. Fresno and it's sprawling suburbs, through which I
passed this afternoon, is only 15 miles or so to the NW. I was hoping to be further south at this point but between the square grid based
suburban layout with it's accompanying traffic signals at every corner as well as light but persistent headwinds (5-10mph) out of the south
and east (my direction of travel) the going has been slower than anticipated. I still believe I am set up well to make my arrival in to Phoenix
before thanksgiving (Wednesday Nov. 21), my hope since the beginning of this never ending journey now going on it's seventh month. The
plan is to make it to Kingman Az in one week from today and meet Patrice, Angelina, my Boys Giuliano and Domenic, and friend and
comrade in adventure John Alvey (John began 50@50 with me last April in Juneau for the kayak segment to Skagway) for the final push.
From Kingman it is expected us to take about two and half days to arrive to the 49th capital of this SPT to all 50 US capitals in Phoenix. At
present I am looking forward with great anticipation for the arrival in to Kingman and being once again with family and friends with whom I've
longed to be over these last several months. As well I am anxiously awaiting the subsequent final couple of days riding from Kingman to the
capital in Phoenix, as if it were a victory lap around the Champs Élysées', that descriptive words of emotion and thought are beyond my
written ability. All that comes to mind is that this is a dream materializing in front of my eyes every day, evening and pedaling moment until, I
hope, the finale of this middle stage of the 50@50 SPT goal is met.
Yesterday I passed by the town of Turlock where recently a young lady, angered apparently at the reelection of Pres. Obama, was fired from
her job at a Coldstone Creamery after stating racially derogatory statements on FB about the president including the desire and hope he is
assassinated, and which since has gone viral in the media. None of this should be surprising to anybody who follows the news or
understands that there still remains a sizeable portion of the population of this country that remain entrenched in racially prejudiced and
hatred thinking. Nor should it be surprising that the media on both ends of the political spectrum have jumped on to the story to advance their
own personal interests by shepherding their naive followers toward their polemic beliefs and candidates.  What is surprising to me though is
how the mainstream majority of American citizenry continue to allow this nonsense to take over and direct the discourse of the country. When
are the good honest, hard working, generous and compassionate people of this country going to say enough is enough with this BS. No
matter how much the vast majority of us disagree with this woman and are angered by her distasteful description of his race and fate, it
doesn't mean we should be giving even one iota of attention to her or her twisted thinking, or in this case social network outburst. This is a
free country and the young lady is entitled to state, within reason, her beliefs. But we don't have to listen to her, do we? Not until the good
people of this country turn off from this racially induced nonsense, as well as most the nonstop 24/7 political media propaganda, will the
message begin to resonate on those that force this absurdity emanating from both political extremes on to the American psyche. I meet
people practically on a daily basis that are angry for reasons that to me seem ludicrous and for which can only be explained, I believe, from
the crap they are spoonfed through the media and their political underwriters. Most what angers people today are over issues that if the
nation can just start talking about in calm unemotional constructive dialogue can pull together and compromise relatively fast; taxes,
immigration, trade, government regulation, health care, public vs. private policy, education, defense & so on. But the voices of fanaticism
with their cohorts in the media have been in control and drowned out the majority.
The one difficult issue though I believe which is at the core of the divisiveness in the country and must be resolved before we can remedy all
else is abortion. Termination of a fetus is the moral dilemma of our time with as much implication for the future as was antebellum America in
dealing with the topic slavery. Of course there would never be a civil war as resulted back then mainly because abortion lacks the social and
economic components that went along with slavery. But from an emotionally charged and moral standpoint it is on a par, if not more so, than
the peculiar institution laid to rest 150 years ago this January 1st. But I believe there can be worked out a lasting compromise to dilemma of
unwanted pregnancies, and thus abortion, that is suitable for most if we can just take the argument away from those at the far emotional
ends of the debate and allow those with cooler minds to prevail. As it stands now the implacable hotheads on both extremes are calling the
shots and are as unyielding as belligerents in a Mexican standoff, with the third party being the majority of us who believe in and desire to
find a workable solution to the impasse. I doubt there are many on the prolife side that wouldn't agree with the fact that state laws banning the
procedure will only lead once again to coat hanger and back alley abortions, and that if a woman is intent on aborting a her fetus she can
and will, no matter how unconscionable the method. And those who are pro choice without any compromise must surely understand that an
abortion is not only the taking of a unique individual life, no matter if we're talking about a few hundred cells or a fetus with a beating heart,
but afterwards leads to the frequent occurrence of immediate reimpregnation of the mother due to guilt and remorse, unless that is the
procedure is used as a method of birth control for which most of us probably agree is abhorrent. The goal is and should always be
eliminating unwanted pregnancies and if in case of such, recognizing that alternatives are available without having to resort to the procedure;
adoption, birth control, education, and the strengthening cohesive family units are just some of the options that we've heard about and on
which the focus of the debate should be centered. However, I do not believe the best outcome would be in overturning a 40 year old
supreme court decision that would turn back to individual states the right to ban a very personal procedure. But until this issue is resolved it
will continue to eat away at the fabric of our national character and prevent the country from being as great, powerful and charismatic to the
rest of the world as it has been in the past and I believe eventually will be again. The need now in these emotionally charged highly partisan
times is to turn off the noise, tune in to what's important and take the country back from those extreme elements who are, perhaps
unknowingly, tearing apart the very fabric, character and traits that helped make this country so great and powerful; our diversity, openness,
resourcefulness and ability to compromise.

Day 211
SP : Sanger, CA
EP: Poplar, CA
DM:  72
TM:  14,673

'Just when you think you've seen everything, think again', an old adage worth heeding. Tonight's camp is in a Pistachio tree grove and I have
been snacking on the fresh meaty nuts all evening but believe they taste nothing like their roasted brethren we find in the stores. I am about
10 miles SW of Porterville and the same distance east of hwy 99. There is a dry irrigation ditch half a football field to the north and a dirt road
alongside it that I followed when looking for tonight's camp. When I crossed over a pile of leaves on the ground from one of the numerous
cottonwood trees lining the embankment of the canal I noticed that they were sticking to the bike tires. The first thought to come to mind was
that I must have unknowingly passed over some wet tar or gum back on road 192, one of the literally hundreds of different roads I have taken
getting through this long agricultural valley of Central California. But when I stopped to inspect the odd occurrence of dry leaves sticking to
tires, I noticed that the reason they were stuck was not because of any sticky road substance, but that I had rolled over hundreds of
Goatheads on the canal road and the leaves were tacked to the rubber like a poster hanging from a wall with thumbtacks. If you've never
seen one of these scourges of off rode cyclists, they are multi-headed tacks as hard as roofing nails and sharp as a sewing needle and no
matter how they lie on the ground one of its pricks is always pointing up. They are the seeds from a low ground cover that grows wildly during
summer rains and produce along with the pea sized pain in the backside, a pretty yellow flower. As far as I know they grow exclusively in the
SW as I've never seen them in any other part of the country and in all my years biking on and off road I never recall being at'tacked' by so
many of these tire tube puncturing nuisances. They have completely blanketed all three of my tires and my concern now is that since I only
carry one spare bike wheel tube and one spare trailer wheel tube, one of the bike tires will have to be patched and if there are more
punctures than patches in the tire with least punctures then I will be unable to proceed on tomorrow morning. I have never had need for more
than one spare tube for tire maintenance except when pedaling through remote regions, which this central valley is not. But with potentially
dozens of holes in every tire, I am now faced with the dilemma of what to do. My plan is to pull every Goathead out, inflate the tubes to find
which one has the least punctures and if I have more patches than punctures, to repair it. If not I guess I'm walking the bike tomorrow morning
to the nearest town to find a tube, which I fear maybe Bakersfield still 50 miles to the south.
Usually when I get to camp my mind is on relaxing, having something to drink and writing for a bit. Lately though with the shortening days I
have been forced to take care of camp essentials first such as tent setup, fire and shower (if it is shower night as I only shower every other
evening now as the weather has cooled). This evening though the first line of business should be repairing flat bike tires but since it is
already getting late (5 pm) and it is already chilly, a fire is the first call to action before fixing the three flat tires. Once that is complete I will not
only have light but some added warmth as one time the sun is gone these days the temps drop precipitously. I must also set up the tent to
give it some time to dry out from the previous evenings dampness (the rain fly I usually keep out to dry during the day sometime. Of course
that's how I lost my first tent in Kansas). Now to begin.
Its about 9pm now and I have plucked every single Goathead from the tires and then after going through each bike tire meticulously I found 8
holes in the front and nine in the rear, so it made little difference which one to patch except that the front tube was newer and with less
previously patched punctures so I decided to go to work on that one. I had 14 patches in total so I would be alright assuming I had found all
the leaks, a big 'if' seeing as how it is dark and my only source of light being a campfire and my headlamp. But I did the patch job and put the
new tubes in for the rear tire and trailer, put everything back together and now sit in front of the fire hoping that tomorrow morning I won't
awake to find the front tire flat again. I just felt the front tire and it is losing some air so tomorrow morning I'm certain some further patching
job will be required. The lesson learned from all this is, of course, to always carry more than one tube and always know that you don't know

Day 212
SP : Poplar, CA
EP: Edison, CA
DM:  61
TM:  14,734

So in case you were wondering the answer is 13; 8 found and patched last night and 5 more this morning to completely seal the tire.That's
how many punctures were in my front tube after inadvertently rolling through a goat-head patch yesterday afternoon looking for camp, not that
bad really considering there were probably in total between 100 & 200 goatheads piercing the the rubber of the tire. Remind you though that
I only had one spare tube and 14 patches to repair two tires so I was left with one patch in reserve to ride the 50 miles to Bakersfield this
morning, but fortunately there were no more flats. This is how the entire journey up to this point has been no matter what obstacle lay in the
path of it's completion. Being somewhat superstitious I hate even to bring up the subject of good fortune lest I trigger an opposing trend. But
for now I must admit that at times I can't help but wonder who that guardian angel is looking over my shoulder.
Anyways, tonight's camp is in a orange tree grove about 10 miles east of Bakersfield (hometown of Merle Haggard) and two football fields
north of US 58. The last little town I passed through was Edison which had some industrial buildings and a school lining its main street. Last
night I feasted on pistachios, this morning grapes and this evening it is oranges and grapefruits. I'm starting to believe one could live in
relative comfort and with a full belly venturing through this long valley of gigantic agricultural production. I am at the base of the Tehachapi
Mountains of Kern County and basically the southeastern end of this San Joaquin Central Valley. Tomorrow morning I begin the 4000'
ascent (the last and longest sustained climb of this stage of the journey) to the town bearing the title of its namesake mountain range and
then descend 1000' to the high altitude Mojave Desert of Eastern Ca.  I think I am going to miss the Central Valley with it's quiet, rural and
agricultural N-S/E-W grid road layout, much like the Midwest. Most the roads are well maintained and have adequate shoulder space. The
latino population that dominates the racial population are friendly, helpful, honest and respectable. I'm going to miss sorely the carne asada
burritos from the local Taqueria, fresh baked goods at the Paneteria's and Asian run donut shops. The flat roads have been a helpful relief to
my tiring knees and much needed for the upcoming climbing tomorrow. Yes I am really enjoying myself for one of the few times on this
journey and knowing that I am on the homebound stretch has been the best part of all.
The last few mornings when I leave a frosty camp, usually in the low 30' temp range, I have been met with a low pitched humming sound
emanating from the citrus groves and grapevine orchards.

The first time I heard it I couldn't figure out what it was until I approached closely and saw that the two story high, motor driven, twin blade
wind machines were the source, the purpose for which is to circulate air over the the trees and crops so as to keep the frost from damaging
the soon to be harvested fruit.

To me it sounds as if I am on the tarmac of a WWII air craft carrier. It also brought to mind the fact that this is only middle November and still
far too early for an Alaskan cold front to be descending upon these southern latitudes. As well I could not stop comparing the cold weather
now to this summer in the Midwest when the drought resistant genetically modified ears of corn were wasting away on stunted stalks
sheathed with brown, shriveled leaves and root bound in the crusty dry earth due to the intense heat and lack of rainfall. Then there was the
freak late season tropical storm to ravage the E Coast a couple weeks ago along with the devastating fires in the west this spring and early
summer. Of course we can't forget about the floods of last year that devastated many parts of Mississippi delta region nor the frequent
occurrence of tornadoes through the heartland of the country. It seems one can make an argument, no matter how much it goes against most
current empirical scientific data, that such erratic weather disturbances are part of a natural  weather cycle or a result of cosmic forces such
as a solar flare. But anyone over the age of 40 cannot deny that the climate has been warming and experiencing strange global patterns
inconsistent with that which has been the norm for centuries. Whether or not man is responsible through the emissions of CO2 in the burning
of fossil fuels is still up for debate, even though most that's been occurring over the last few decades is consistent with the scientific
generated computer models showing the correlation between CO2 emissions and increasing temps with changing weather patterns. But
shouldn't we at least come to the conclusion that the weather is changing and along with it the increase in occurrence and severity of natural
disasters so we can come together on the source and begin to do something about it. Otherwise who knows what the future may hold. It's
either we investigate and change now or stick our heads in the sand and suffer increased consequences later, that is if it's not already too
A little further along the 50@50 trail this morning, as the sun began to warm things up, I pedaled past a white cowboy looking hat with a
feather on one side and appearing similar to those I see worn by many migrant field hands.  This has happened on numerous occasions
throughout the journey and each time I feel compelled to stop, pick up the lonely lost headpiece and wear it for a spell.

I remember once in an Amish populated area of Iowa finding an Amish hat and another time a real felt Stetson somewhere in Montana. I've
had countless caps of local schools and colleges and even regional employers. Each time I wore them for a while, washing them first of
course, but eventually and assuredly they would blow off my head from the wind or I would lose them, like I lose pretty much everything else.
But for the few moments or hours I have the head covering it's as if the spirit of whomever lost it is riding along with me and I feel more
connected with area I am pedaling through. Hats are not just a head covering but also a symbol of the region and description of the person
who wore them. Perhaps some day I will undertake the first ever 'lost hat bicycle tour'.
Around then around late morning today I finally began to leave the Central Valley as I approached Bakersfield from the NW. The dead pan
flat land started to become hilly and the endless fields of trees and crops gave way to a different commercial enterprise; oil wells. The area
north of Bakersfield is completely littered with the foul smelling prehistoric looking apparatuses.

It was an abrupt change from the mountainous and then pastoral setting of the past week, but fortunately was not extensive and is limited to
the area previously explained. Now it is on to a different landscape, one with which I am more acquainted and looking forward to passing
over; the high desert landscape of SE California. This Never Ending Journey is rapidly coming to an end.

Day 213
SP : Edison, CA
EP: Boron, CA
DM:  75
TM:  14,809

I believe I mentioned in an earlier blog that the point along this journey when I started to feel home coming on was when I crossed the Sabine
River from Louisiana in to E Texas (see Day 166).  Not just by coincidence, I also began to sense the feel of the west begin to make it's
presence shortly after that precarious and illegal crossing on Interstate 10 of the river that means Cypress in Spanish and has often been
described as the border of the Old South and the New Southwest. I remember that night camping next to a cell phone tower a few football
fields from I-10 and several miles east of Beaumont TX and anticipating rain which was forecast for the evening and the following couple
days (the next morning just as I began pedaling it started coming down and didn't let up till I reached the N suburbs of Houston). I can't quite
explain exactly what it was that guided my thoughts to the realization that I was headed home, but something triggered it. Perhaps it was the
Mexican influence of the area which use to be NE Mexico in the first half of the 19th century or it could have been the wide nicely maintained
Texas roadways, especially coming from Louisiana which, I believe, has the worst roads in the nation.  Whatever it was from that point
onward, every waypoint, milestone, new state or natural crossing made has reminded me of the fact that I am homeward bound and getting
closer with each stroke of the bicycle pedal crank. Tonight I am camped in the NW section of California's Mohave Desert on the northeast
border of Edwards Air Force Base in south central California and with the High Sierra mountains to the northwest. It is high desert here with
scant vegetation save a few Yucca Cactus, prickly shrubs, the ubiquitous creosote bush, sandy earth beneath and inside my Keen's, and
never over the last seven months feeling so close to home as now. The air is dry and the sky mostly clear with a light high cloud cover and
colorful in its twilight phase as if painted varying shades by the hand of an artist. The wind is completely still and the only sounds are from a
few passing trucks out on four lane 58, a rumbling freight train every hour or so a football field away, and the crackling sound coming from my
campfire of yucca cactus (decent wood for a campfire if you tear off the outside spiny leaves) and random 2x4's I scrounged before it got
dark. The air temp is around 60' at the moment and I doubt it will drop below 40' tonight so I have decided not to set up the tent but rather
sleep under the large 360' low horizon of moonless, but slightly lucent, sky full of stars. A little earlier I watched what I believe were F-18
fighter jets making their landing to the base within a sights distance from my small, typically humble campsite. Edwards Air Force base is
the sight of multiple Space Shuttle landings when adverse weather in Florida has necessitated their landing elsewhere. This afternoon I
passed over the 14,800 mile point and there remains only 500 miles and one week more to pedal before I reach Phoenix, the 49th and next
to last capital of this 50@50 journey. The unimaginable thought that next week at this time I will be in my warm comfortable home with my
family goes without saying after being so long on the road. Thirty weeks done, one to go.
Highlight of the day, no matter how painful, was the long grueling 30 mile, 4000' climb over Tehachapi pass

And the decent down its eastern side was less than exhilarating there being an annoying 10 mph headwind with which to contend and the
fact that I've only taken back about a thousand of those arduously earned feet in elevation gain from this morning. But the vicissitude of
terrain coming from the busy and immensely productive agricultural valley of Central California to this dry, lonely, even mystifying desert
landscape with endless vistas of expansive tan colored sandy plains carpeted with reddish brown creosote bushes, tall curious appearing
Yucca trees, and low lying hills is enigmatic to the senses.

Day 214
SP : Boron, CA
EP: Newberry Springs, CA
DM:  75
TM:  14,884

For tonight's dinner I splurged and bought a big juicy looking NY cut steak and of which I can't seem to get my mind off at present. My plan is
to cook it with the only seasoning I have; salt and a clove of garlic saved from the small garlic shed I took cover in back in Vermont one cold
rainy evening (see Day 117). I purchased the hearty piece of meat at a Vons grocery store back in Barstow 25 miles west of camp which is
beneath a giant Tamarisk tree alongside old route 66. I have another warm fire, as has been the rule every evening for weeks now, and this
one is of dry tamarisk which is burning far better than last nights Yucca.  Within the last two hours I have had two cars pass by my little
roadside camp here and neither even seemed to notice my presence, though I am clearly visible from the road. The town of Newberry
Springs is about 5 miles west and was my LSTD for the day at the only operating store/gas station there and just off Interstate 40.

This section of Route 66 at one time was a busy stretch of highway before the interstate diverted traffic and left those dependent on travelers
passing through for their livelihood. Now not much remains now save a few deserted and crumbling buildings with broken windows, fenced
premises and which in their heyday served those passing through with traveler essentials; gas stations, motels and souvenir shops. It all has
the feel of a ghost town now and earlier I was trying to recall the last time I was on Ol' 66 and believe it was in Oklahoma City...'My Pretty'.
The town of Barstow has always been somewhat of an unnerving, enigmatic place to me. Three major highways converge upon it (I-15, I-40
& 58) so one might assume it had at least the potential for a prosperous if not somewhat cosmopolitan atmosphere. But nothing could be
further from reality of this downtrodden crossroads town of perhaps 10,000 residents. I have never felt comfortable passing through it in a car
much yet a bicycle as I did today when I rode its entire length from south to north along Main Street. I must have witnessed more liquor stores
than I had ever seen in a town of its size (in fact in any US city) and of which I counted 14 in less than a mile. Other notable and prized
sectors of commerce with multiple outlets included run down motels, tire shops, and an assortment of questionable restaurants. The
sidewalks were populated with folks seeming to be drug addicts, homeless, mentally unstable or plain old down and out on their luck.
Barstow gets very hot in the summertime and usually, though not today, the wind blows incessantly. The question I kept asking myself as I
rode through this Garden of Eden at the Crossroads is why would anyone in their right mind choose to live in such a community. I guess
there are reasons just as there are reasons for an middle age fellow to attempt to travel to all 50 US state capitals using only self power as a
means of transport.

Day 215  11/16/12
SP : Newberry Springs, CA
EP: Needles, CA
DM:  81
TM:  14,965

I was up and starting my coffee around 4am. Shortly afterward though I felt the first drop of water land on my cheek and within seconds
began a full blown sprinkle of rain, a teaser by Eastern standards big news here. And since there were droplets of water coming down from
the sky the thought racing though my mind was, "What's this all about?" This place gets so little rainfall that when it does come down it usually
is cause for great celebration, but nothing in the forecast on my weather app had indicated even the slightest bit of precipitation. That's right,
0% and thus my reason for sleeping without the tent. Here we go again I began to think, a repeat of the happenings in Colorado south of
Colorado Springs a few weeks back when I awoke at 1 am with the same conditions, except heavier rainfall then (I knew I should have taken
my friend Jerry's advice and downloaded a different weather app).  Well since I really was not in the mood for celebrating (only to sip my
coffee)  I was forced to frantically gather all my belongings scattered all over the ground and stuff them in to my waterproof trailer bag before
they got wet. Now if you are like me and have your morning coffee ritual interrupted, you probably know how something as trivial as this can
throw off the rest of your morning, right?  Yes, but not always. Fortunately the strange occurrence didn't last long and  I went back to my
morning ritual of preparing my breakfast and finishing my cup of coffee (which was cold by then) and pressed on with the remainder of the
day, which turned out well and uneventful (uneventful is a good thing to me nowadays).
Once on the road (Ol' 66) I was forced to negotiate all the cracks, bumps, and potholes on its surface until I reached the first freeway
entrance and got on that, about 5 miles east of camp. Ol' 66 is classified as a National Histo