Cycling Across America — Part 00: Introduction

Arrival in Boston

In 1996 I flew to America with my bike, and then proceeded to cycle across it. First though, I had to negotiate my way past Immigration Controls in Boston. This is an excerpt from the first entry in the journal of my cycle across America. Part 01 continues the story, and so on until the end.

“The woman in Immigration seemed incredulous in an unfriendly way.
 -You’re just going to take these 3 bags and cycle to Kansas City and then to the West?
 I don’t think I convinced her but she let me into her country nonetheless.

Looked for a sign for airport exit and went the opposite direction (because this country is designed for cars). Outside the terminal I could see big roads and big signs for other big roads and big tunnels. This is not a world for bicycles. Continued to go opposite direction to all airport exit signs and a couple of miles later I found myself outside the airport.

East Boston. Food places everywhere. I was hungry and needed change for the phone. Beef. I could have beef. This is not Mad Cow Diseased Europe — let’s eat some cow. They even had tea up on the price list.
 -Beef Roll Regular with sauce, and cup of tea please.
 -Tea?
 -If you have it?
 She had to look. She didn’t really. I could’ve given her a teabag. Due to hurried packing in Dublin I was currently cycling around with 80 teabags in my saddle-bag.

Down to the waterfront to look across at downtown Boston. Called Dec, my first host, collect. He was not expecting me for another month.

Luckily I caught him just before he left the state, so he could at least give me directions to his place, where his housemates would be in.

Stop in the rain at an arcade. A beggar covered in plaster in a wheelchair, with badly cut hands threatened to give me a slap because I wouldn’t give him any change. I didn’t have any American change. Said he’d been knocked down by someone going 65 mph and now he was homeless. I still didn’t have any change.

I turned down a salesman who sounded Irish, selling wonder miracle screwdrivers. He moved on efficiently to sell five to somebody else and three to another person, and walking across to McDonalds he sold another one to a man in the car park. I was beginning to regret not buying one.

Another man apologized for hogging the phone. I was waiting for the rain to go, not for the phone. He was sorry he was stressed but his cheque hadn’t arrived and he had rent etc. to pay.

Scrapped my friend’s directions because this was my cycle, and it was obvious he drives a car. The bridge over the Charles River has a central section unpaved — a metal grid all jiggedy. Hard to hold the bike steady and you could see straight through to the river.

Zig-zagged through suburbia until I found a house where a post-it on the door said ‘Irishman Welcome’.”

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