New York - Montreal - Quebec - Boston
New York

After a year of savings and preparations, on May 15th finally the moment is there whereupon I will mount my 'horse of steel' for a cycle-trip through North-, Middle- and South-America. As pretty soon a large amount of water has to be crossed the mounting is for a short time; in Amsterdam I step over in a 'bird of steel' which lands that evening in New York City. My plan to do this trip as environmental friendly as possible by travelling as much by bike as possible. Not to fly. And to take as less possible additional transportation seems in practice not to realize. Iceland can still be reached by ferry, but from there I must fly to get to Canada, as the few freightships on this itinerary don't allow passengers. As there has to be flown anyhow, my choice is a direct flight from Amsterdam to New York City, although I could fly also via Iceland, which is just 200 km extra.

Unfortunately Iceland Air does not allow a stop-over which last longer than 3 days, which makes this option not really interesting for me as I am not able to cycle around Iceland in just 3 days!

After collecting my luggage, fitting my bike together and finding the exit of the airport, twilight seems to be starting already while I still have to cycle about 10 km, without a map and without light, to reach my first Servas-hosts. "First make a call for some directions" I think by myself. This phone-call appears to solve also my light-problem, as 30 minutes later I am sitting comfortably in the car of Ann, my hostess and also world-cyclist with cycle-experience in several countries around the world including Central- and South-America.

About 20 minutes later I meet the rest of the family: father Joel en daughters Rose (4) and June (1, just starting to walk!). With both a full-time job and 2 little children it is quite a stir in the morning... and in the evening. The Solow-family is very open-minded and seems to me not really attached by materialistics but more to social contacts. The house is full of signs of an active social- and family-life: pictures, postcards, letters, toys of the children, etc. can be found everywhere in the house (and in the car!), which makes the house very alive. I am given all freedom to explore New York City... and get a key of the house, which appears to be very handsome as the Solow's decide to spend their weekend in their summer-holiday-house.

With all the maps, books and leaflets about New York City (and other parts of the U.S.A. I am going to cycle) and 4 photo-albums (with text) about Ann's own cycle-adventures I am not bored for a moment and spend almost 4 complete days in Manhattan. Manhattan's skyline can beautiful be admired from the ferry between New Jersey or Staten Island and Manhattan, but only when ashore actually standing between the skyscrapers makes you become aware of the magnitude of Manhattan; it is really impressive! Also the number of limousines is astonishing; I had expected to see some, but not every minute!

Of course I bring a visit to the world-famous Metropolitan Museum. After a few hours I notice that I have only seen a very small part, and realize the size of the museum. So if you would like to see the complete exhibited collection count minimal 2 days for seeing it. The also famous Guggenheim Museum, remarkable housed in a screwshape building can be seen in half a day. Its' collection is small but of high quality.

A visit to nw York City is of course not complete without a visit to Central Park, which I visit twice. The first time to lunch and the second time to bicycle. Central Park is an oasis of rest in the middle of Manhattan surrounded by skyscrapers and the always crowded traffic. In Central Park people walk, cycle, skate, sport, play, rest and also lunch, as it is, when the weather allows it, an excellent place to eat your donuts, peanutbutter-jelly sandwiches, bagels and pretzels.

To Katonah...

















































































































































Katonah

When, after 4 days of visiting New York City, I on the fifth day start pedaling again (in the direction of Katonah, 50 km north of New York City) I decide to cycle through Manhattan. Although my next Servas-hosts eludicates me almost crazy, I can say it was not so worse at all. Although you find at least 200 traffic-lights on your way and you have too cross Harlem and the Bronx.. But you also have 5 km easy and beautiful cycling through Central Park, which also shows you the huge size of the park (5 by 1 km, with many tracks, hills, rocks. Trees and lawns).

After 40 km cycling through crowded city-area, most of the misery is over; but not for long as with just 60 km on my km-counter, a thunderstorm overtakes me and keeps me for 2 hours stuck at a gas station. After two hours the thunderstorm seems to be over, but the weather keeps unstable. Because of the delay time for the last 25 km is also quite short... within one hour it will be dark. But the railway can give me a helping hand! So I decide, for my own safety, to take the train for 25 km. In Katonah Doug Goodman, my Servas-host. Picks me up at the railway-station.

Although the Goodman-family has a similar composition as the Solow-family, it is a very different family; everything is well arranged, the house is very clean and ordered, there are strict bed-times for the children and during the day for their youngest son Eric (3) a nanny is available. But their hospitality is similar! In the kitchen I see another remarkable similarity: again the kitchen has the sink/tap/dishwasher/cooking-elements in the center of the kitchen instead against one of the walls, luke in the Netherlands. This composion seems usual in the U.S.A. (if space allows).

The next day, after doing my laundry, I pay a visit to Katonah. It is a beautiful small village with many historical houses, some small churches and convivial shops. Especially because there are no stores belonging to the well-known chains, but only small, styleful shops, the village has a pleasant, authentic atmosphere. In the one and only bookshop in town I buy the travelguide for which I informed in New York City in at least dozen stores. This guide provides me enough information for that part of my trip which leads me through New England (= 6 states in the northeast of the U.S.A. where early America's history started, and therefore very interesting).

I also find time to set up my financial- and cycle-administration. Especially the start-up takes some time, but when this is done it is mainly keeping information up-to-date, which is a matter of discipline. The next day I decide not to leave but to spend an extra day in Katonah as Doug and Lauren, which have a day off, lent me a racing-bike so I can join them on a nice cycle-trip in their neighbourhood. In the afternoon follows an excellent Indian buffet at a good local restaurant, after which I have plenty of time for making preparations for the next day, which will bring me to Litchfield (west Connecticut).

To Litchfield and Vermont...

















































































































































Litchfield and Vermont

There I will finally meet, after two years of stamptrading, Scott Buttwill and his family in person. The ride to Litchfield is very heavy. The area is getting more hilly and I feel every kilo luggage on my bike when going uphill. Also the fact I did not real training for this trip is breaking me up. But finally, completely exhausted, I arrive in Litchfield... and still in time for dinner. The Buttwill-family is a lovely, convivial, average, American family with two nice young kids, who treat me as a special guest. They just moved to Litchfield and today it is their first day they actually sleep there. Because of this, and also because they don't have a special guest like me everyday, the children are quite excited. After seeing Samantha's dinosaur-collection and Kevin's animal- and car-collection, it is time to see part of Scott's stamp-collection, which he specially unpacked first (most of their stuff is still in remove-boxes). Their remove to Litchfield is for me extra interesting, as Litchfield is also one of the best-preserved 18th century towns of Connecticut.

I have also the possibility to leave some luggage at their place, which they will drop off at Scott's mother-in-law, where I will collect it when I have returned in New York City. So the next day I leave with about 3 kilo lighter., which I immediately feel at my first climb. I am heading now towards the state Vermont, but first I have to cross the state Massachusetts. About 10 km before the Vermont-border I decide to put my tent up as I see a fantastic campground, complete with picnic tables, small brook with bridge, and - as I found out later - midges. With several midge-bumbs I cycle the next day through the Green Mountain of Vermont, which are a wonderful cycling-area. It seems that there are more people aware of this as I finally see some cyclists (but no one with luggage!).

Vermont is an agricultural, rural and not densly-populated state with many hills, farms and small villages. I pass several charming, historical villages like Bennington and Dorset. In the first one I can even witness the yearly Memorial Day Parade.

Halfway the Green Mountains, in Middletown Springs, I meet somebody who knows where my hometown Oerle is situated (although it has just 1500 inhabitants and is to most Dutch people unknown). This person, Nanette Gilmour, is my next Servas-host and lived in the Netherlands for about a year very close to Oerle. She has now her own real-estate agency which has office in her own large farm. Beside this she does some agricultural work on a small scale.

The next day, meanwhile arrived in Burlington, I stay with complete other Servas-hosts: Jay Friedman and Kim Wilson. A couple of my age with both very special professions. Jay gives lectures sexualogy at universities all over the country and Kim is in pottery. Pottery is a specialism at some art-faculties and Kim got chosen for one of these few available places. Burlington is the capital of Vermont, but still has only 50,000 inhabitants (a middle-size city in other states!) It's well-known for it's university and spiritual, open-minded, young atmosphere. It's center is very lively and convivial and has a very European-like shopping-boulevard.

A few km south of Burlington the Shelburn museum can be found. It is an famous open-air-museum with railway-station, lighthouse, blacksmith, steamship, etc. The 37 buildings house several exhibitions. As well art (with famous names as Degas, Renoir and Rembrandt) as historic items (old toys, coaches, tools, etc.) are exhibited. To see the complete museum takes at least a full day (which I was lucky to know in advance). In the evening I am introduced as a guest on the cookingclub Jay joins. It is his turn this evening to prepare a dish for the others and his choice has fallen on a Thai dish which appears to be very tasty.

To Montreal...

















































































































































Montreal

The next morning I leave for Montreal, which is only 150 km away. As the weather is very warm and pressing that day thunderstorms are expected in the afternoon, and indeed the first storm starts at 2 o' clock pm. Because of this unstable weather I decide stop and overnight in Alburg, just before the Canadian border, and just 3 km away from my first thunderstorm shelter, a small campsiteshop. In Alburg should be a Bed & Breakfast according to my travelguide. It is quickly found by me as Alburg is very small (and quite boring, because there is nothing of interest, with the exception of the laundry which I could use at this moment). The Bed & Breakfast looks closed, but as it is just 4 o' clock in the afternoon I decide to wait a few hours in the verandah, which has a large and comfortable couch.

The neighbor tells me the family is out and probably will be back later this evening. And indeed at half-past one midnight I wake up (when I became dark I unfolded my sleeping-bag and went sleeping of the veranda-couch) by a car enetering the driveway. As the enter the house at the back they don't notice me and I am to sleepy to get up and announce myself. I wake up at six o' clock in the morning and when it's seven o' clock I have packed and eaten. But the house seems to me still in a deep sleep, which makes me decide not to wake anybody and just leave the house with a note on the door.

The ride to Montreal is quite heavy, although just 65 km, because of constant wind in the face without any trees or buildings to break it. In Montreal I decide to try the youth-hostel, as I was not able to contact a Servas-host in time, which appears to be a good choice because of the central situation, kitchen-facilities and clean bathroom, and this all for just HFL 25.=. At six o' clock in the evening Nathalie Langevin is picking me up at the hostel for a dinner together with her sister Isabelle and... Sjoerd from Terneuzen. I know Nathalie, as she provided me with some information while preparing my cycle-trip, on flights (she works for Air Canada) and Sjoer is a dutch friend just visiting Canada at the same moment as me.

At the sandwichbar where the sisters Langevin taken us, it appears that only Sjoerd and me are ordering the specialty of the house. When it is served we understand why; the sandwiches are very big and richly filled and even more difficult to eat than a Big Mac. Especially for Sjoer it is quite a job to eat his sandwich properly, also because of the spicy mustard on it. The ladies enjoy this all very much and we can see the humor in it, and enjoy it as well. Besides, the sandwiches might be difficult to eat, they are really delicious. Afterwards we have a drink in lovely and convivial café with a grand terrace, which is visisted by many students.

Montreal is a lively city with a beautiful old center, which can be seen best by walking a tour. So the next day I pick up a colorful booklet with such tour at the tourist office. The guide provides besides the route very useful background information and many pictures and drawing... really an excellent guide. I also climbed to the top of the Mont Royal which gives you a nice view over the city. A similar view, but now from the other side of town, you have while standing on the Jacques Cartier Bridge. When I pass the high bridge, and look halfway down, I have a nice view over the city and the amusementpark on island on the middle of the St. Laurence-river, which looks like a miniature amusementpark from this high. A trip over this bridge, especially by bicycle, is an attraction itself.

To Quebec...

















































































































































Quebec

After Montreal I decide to go to Quebec, which is about 240 km eastwards. In two days I cycle this distance, with useful tips for the second half of it, as received from my Servas-host in Point-du-Lac (near Trois-Rivieres), the family Lacombe. Arrived in Quebec it looks like I am in Europe again; with it's fortification, declining and inclining streets, many historic buildings and the French language I feel as I am only 200 km from home in Luxembourg-city. It is quite touristic, but this has also advantages: many good restaurants in all price-ranges. I decide to try the Crepery Breton, An excellent choice as it appears. On my second evening in Quebec I visit my first internetcafe (a grand café with computerterminal), and my first small popconcert: Chix Diggitts and Groovin' Ghoulies are both rockbands with ramones-influences, with are both quite good.

The next morning I leave Quebec, still sleepy of the evening/night before, in the direction of the U.S.A.. But before I pass the border it is still 200 km cycling and two nights with Servas-hosts in Canada. In St. Georges I stay with the middle-class family Gagner and in la Patrie (a small town close to the border) I stay with the family Paquette. My last day in Canada and first day in the state New Hampshire I have to cycle the complete day in a raincoat, and because of the lack of hosts and youth-hostels I need also to camp, which is not really funny with this weather. The second day in New Hampshire (where I am already cycling in the White Mountains) I am able to cycle 60 km without a raincoat, but than it starts raining again and at that moment I wish I could skip a day. But it is all part of the trip; sunny days and rainy days... and I find a solution for not having to camp a second day in the rain! Just 6 km from the place where it started to rain, Franconia (middle New Hampshire) and where I am sheltering already for one hour, seems to be the Pinestead Lodge Farm which rents rooms for not to high prices. My travelguide proves another service to me, and after 6 km cycling (in my raincoat of course) I can take a warm shower.

Bob Shelburn from the Pinestead Lodge Farm is really the most friendly host I have ever met. He arranges transport for to the laundry in Franconia and in his garage I can clean and grease my cycle with the right equipment. So the extra day spend at his farm turns out to be very well used, certainly if you realize that it rained all day long. But after two nights I have to go on and.... the sun is shining again, and with the route tips from Bob I mount my cleaned bike again. Franconia is situated close to the Franconia Notch, a beautiful state park in the White Mountains, and has a beautiful... cycletrack. At the Flum Falls, where the cycletrack end, I am heading towards Conway. Herefor I first have to climb the Kancamagus Pas (800 meters) which is not so heavy as it takes 8 km for inclining 600 meters... and you are rewarded with a similar declining after reaching the top. All together I even cycle 120 km that day and are only 170 km away from Boston.

But before arriving in Boston. The next day I cycle to Portsmouth, the nice, old and only New Hampshire harbor, which is good for several pictures. I had planned (but not yet arranged) to stay with a family, but it seems they are not home. While looking on the map for campgrounds I am approached by another cycle-fanatic, Kurt Barnard a 33 year English teacher, who lives just across the street and recently returned from a big cycletrip in India. He offers me to stay at his place, which I prefer above camping, especially I can use a shower after a sticky warm day with lots of sunscreen, and also because it is nicer than than spending a night alone in a tent. I carry a tent with me for those cases when there are not other forms of spending the night (at reasonable prices). In the evening we go to a local pub which is suprisingly convivial.

The next day Kurt helps me to get on the right track and as it is just 75 km to Boston I arrive there at four o' clock, two hours to early, but the internetcafe (this time more an amusementhall than a café) and the pizzeria help me spent those two hours. More about my experience in Boston in the next travelreport.

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