Happy 4th of July!

Today was sponsored by an old battle buddy. He wanted to make sure I had a hotel and a good dinner. His words.

It made today so much nicer and easier on the mind knowing that I’d have a real bed to sleep in tonight.

So a huge thank you goes out to him and a couple others. I appreciate the love.

I left camp early and by 7am I was sitting in a little cafe getting coffee and French toast. That’s always a decent way to start the day.

At some point while driving through New York state this last week, a gentleman approached me as I was fueling up. He’d noticed my combat vets vest and he is a member of the Patriot Riders Motorcycle club. As we were discussing my trip, he mentioned that I should really do Mt. Washington. I’d heard of it before but it hadn’t been on my route. Well, somehow I’d changed things up enough that it would be “on the way”. I’m so glad I did it. It costs $17 for a motorcycle to ride to the top. The mountain has some long history with Americans. The first idiot climbed it in 1649. Why? I don’t know. Then some other idiots built a “hotel” up there in 1852. Apparently there were a lot of stupid people back then because the hotel was busy. Mt. Washington has the highest recorded wind speed on earth. It as also typically covered in clouds or very low visibility along with the winds. I got lucky today. It was 71 degrees at the summit, clear blue skies and zero wind. People I overheard talking had been there many times and had never seen it that nice. By the way, the road up is insanely narrow and steep. No guardrails or a center line for most of it. They were also doing construction so a mile of it was compacted dirt.

I survived the mountain and literally got the bumper sticker (they hand them out at the bottom).

I figured since I was so close to Maine, I might as well cross the border.

I hadn’t really figured out where I’d be for the 4th and as I rode along, I decided that Portland would be as good a place as any. Especially since I didn’t need to worry about camping. So nice.

I pulled into Portland’s old district and found a lobster shop right on a pier. It was about 2pm and I was hungry. Hungry and lobster don’t equal cheap. Oh well. Two lobster rolls hit the spot. So much so that I’m writing this at 11:10pm and I’m not hungry. That was fun, and really good. I wish I could find them back home.

While I was eating I looked over at one of the charter whale watching boats. I checked out their website just for kicks and saw that they were doing a fireworks cruise that evening and there was only 1 ticket available. Boom. Mine.

I’m not sure what possessed me to do the cruise. I wanted to see the fireworks but I didn’t know where to go and the whole crowd thing. The cruise solved those two problems.

I’m not one of those vets that avoids fireworks. I personally think it’s ridiculous. If a loud noise surprises me, then yes, I may get triggered. If I’m expecting it and know where it’s coming from, like fireworks, then it’s perfectly fine.

It turned out to be a really enjoyable evening.

Now I’m back at the hotel. Another old one too. This one is really quaint. It was built in 1879. My bathroom is my own, but it’s down the hall and I need to use my key. Plus I go up a million crazy stairs just to get to the third floor. I love it.

I think tomorrow I’ll follow the coast for just a short while before I make the turn West.

I hope everyone still has all of their fingers.

Happy 4th of July!

A post script to July 3rd.

About 10 miles after dinner I’m really starting to think about where I’ll be camping. The sun is quickly setting and I’d prefer not to set up camp in the dark.

As I’ve posted before, it’s really hit or miss asking my nav or Google for places to camp. Against my better judgement I went with the closest camping option on my nav.

It proceeds to take me on some crazy back roads where there is actually a town. Rumney New Hampshire. Amazing. They even had a cemetary that required fields on both sides of the road. I pulled into the Baker Campground and of course the office is closed. Dejected, I walk back to my bike. A voice calls after me. A kind woman checks me in and charges me $10 less than the nightly rate. I also got a spot overlooking the Baker River.

I also obviously have cell service. That means I get to call my wife tonight which is a major plus.

Why is it that some days I’m able to rise above the crap I’ve been handed? I really wish I could figure that out. Right now I feel like a normal person and I’m happy.

To a better tomorrow…

Oh. I totally forgot to say that the weather is so nice right now. This is the first night in forever that I haven’t lost 10lbs in sweat weight while setting up my tent in the humidity. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still humid. I can’t wait until I get back west to dry heat.

A taxing day.

I’m beat. Worn down.

I’ve done less than 3 miles so far today. Yes, you read that right. 3 miles.

The Harley dealer here in New Hampshire had my bike. ALL. DAY. I was able to load up and leave literally as they locked the doors behind me at 6pm.

Typically Harley dealers put a priority on traveling customers. Not these guys. They had a queue to get through and they weren’t inclined to bump me to the front of the line. I was surprisingly patient which is not my strong suit.

I hung out in my hotel room this morning after breakfast until the last possible moment. I went down to the lobby and checked out right at 11. I then booked an uber over to the dealer. It took 4 tries to get an uber. I guess there aren’t many drivers in the late morning.

I finally made it over and just quietly sat down in the “lounge”. I don’t typically spend time in HD dealer lounges but I do notice them as I browse. This one barely passed muster. The only one worse that I’ve seen is at my home dealer of Zion HD. I’d normally skip over this detail but I spent an inordinate amount of time there so it’s worth noting.

After an hour I checked for some restaurants near me and just my luck, nothing. There was a movie theater though. I asked one of the guys who worked there if someone could give me a ride. That was a big negative. I spend less money servicing my cars and they ALWAYS have shuttles. Was I asking too much? He just pointed in the general direction of the theater and said I could walk. Ok then. Walk I did. Two and a half hours later I walked back over. It’s now about 3pm. I check on my bike. What bike? Ok, so it wasnt that bad. I wasn’t showing up in their system and they finally had to call the guy over who put it in. Oh, that bike. We’ll get right on it. In about 30 minutes. 40 minutes later the service manager comes out to call me back. She shows me the back tire. There’s a two inch gash right down the center. And they can’t warranty it because it’s at 2.5/32 of tread depth and the warranty only covers tires with 3/32 or more. Are you kidding me? She calls Woodstock HD to see if they did a tread depth measurement before they sent me on my way. Who? What bike? They had NO record of me and the retard who looked at my bike didn’t remember me. I’m taking deep, slow breaths at this point. The manager says she’ll call HD and go to bat for me. An hour later she comes to tell me that they’ll warranty the back but not the front. They can’t find the damage. Fine. Put a new one in anyway. An hour later it’s done. They gave me a military discount and worked a deal so it actually came out much cheaper than expected. Sweet. Finally something went right. I go outside to load up my bike and see that they didn’t wash it. That’s a good final touch that almost all dealers do. I’d actually overheard them telling another customer that they were just about done, it just needed to be washed first. Once again, maybe it’s my face.

I’m torn. They went to bat for me and my service was cheaper than expected. But seriously the worst service ever.

Does that make it ok?

For some reason I feel pretty comatose about the whole thing.

I guess that’s a good thing. It could be much worse.

I’m starving. I had a tiny breakfast and a small bucket of popcorn at the movie. I guess not moving from a chair all day doesn’t really burn calories.

I never found a good place for Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches while in Philly so I’m rectifying that right now.

Next I’ll try to find a camping area. I’m changing my route again. New Hampshire needs more attention. People keep telling me about Mt. Washington and the roads nearby. I’ve decided to give them a shot. It’ll add a day or so to my trip. Which seems endless at this point.

Especially on days I don’t get anywhere.

A small bounce back

I got to my camping area last night, about 30 minutes after they closed.

They had a small gate guard building manned by a college age kid. He allowed me in and recommended that I leave before 8am. No problem. Thanks!

That helps balance out the nightly expenditures, until tonight. I’ll get to that in a second.

I was up with the sun at 5:30 am, that and my back was really hurting. It didn’t help that my camp site was sloped slightly down, to the side.

I left by 6:15, while enveloped in a thick fog that was hanging on tightly to the Delaware River. It was so bad that at times I was getting hit with actual raindrops and my headlights were only there to serve as a warning to other drivers. None of us could see much. I needed a place to try to wait until it burned off.

I got lucky in a little town about 13 miles from camp. A cool little coffee shop run by a couple originally from Long Island. I also got lucky because this was their first day ever opening at 6 am. They usually open at 7 and I would have missed it.

I hate oatmeal. For some odd reason, this morning it sounded appealing and so I got that along with a bagel and coffee. It was actually amazing and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I just chilled for an hour hoping the fog would go away. It didn’t.

I followed the Delaware and a tributary for over an hour before the fog burned off and I was treated to these views of a lake in New York.

I was loving the ride today. Meandering roads, beautiful views and low traffic. That, combined with a whole new area to me and neat little towns. I was feeling a bit of peace again. I was just letting it all go. It seemed befitting then that today should be the day I got to ride through Woodstock. I didn’t want to stop but it was fun regardless. And then I rode through a half mile construction zone. On the other side I could immediately tell something was wrong. I pulled into a gas station and hopped of the bike to look. Damn. Both tires were flat. The rear to the rim and the front almost was as well. I didn’t want to use fix a flat because after the last experience, the Harley tech tried to convince me that it was bad for the rim and future techs would like me more if they didn’t have to clean the wheel as well. Plus, the Harley dealer was just 5 miles down the road. I made it. I explained it all to the service guy and sat down to wait. 30 minutes later they bring the bike back out and tell me nothings wrong that they can find. Uh huh. Great.

I made my way over to the Taconic Scenic Byway. It is the same idea as the Blue Ridge Parkway. No stops, no towns, just one speed, point it and go. I discovered that the Taconic SB was Franklin Roosevelt’s pet project in the 1920’s.

And then I had a squishy tire again. This time just the back. Air up and on my way but now I’m a nervous wreck. The roads are still beautiful but every curve, every bump, every wiggle, I’m panicking. What if?!

I get into Vermont and damn. This State is amazing. Oddly enough my GPS has me routed on some crazy back roads. I even ride by Calvin Coolidge’s boyhood home. I don’t like being so isolated though because I feel like I’m far from help if I need it.

The back tire goes flat again. $#@& Woodstock HD for telling me I was fine. This time I check the front as well and it’s sitting at only 10 psi. Not good. I should have put fix a flat in anyway. I’m about an hour out from the nearest Harley dealer, on my way, in New Hampshire. My GPS says I’ll get there at 5:35 pm. Some dealers close at 5. Wouldn’t that just be my luck. I call and the service guy says they are open until 6. I hope I make it as I don’t have a lot of leeway.

Just in time. When I pull in my tires look good. Wouldn’t that be so awesome if they hold air just long enough for the techs to stay there’s nothing wrong?

It’s late though and so they’ll have to do it tomorrow. I’m going to have them do the 15,000 mile service at the same time even though I’m only at 14,000 (only 14. Ha! Ox is 3 months old). She’s been running hot and could probably use the love. The service guy, Sully, is a Marine combat vet with bad PTSD. He gets me. I don’t think it could be in better hands. After talking with him for about 5 minutes, we’re already family. I gave him one of my cards. I hope he can follow along.

So here I am. I checked into the Hotel Coolidge and had to take an Uber to get here. There goes my budget. Again. The hotel was originally built in 1849 but burned down 10 years later. I’m staying in the portion that was built in 1929. The desk clerk felt bad for me (is it my face?) and very kindly upgraded me to a suite, which is still epically smaller than a normal hotel room. It’s probably haunted as well. I love it.

As soon as my laundry is done I plan to go walk around a bit and explore some of the town of White River Junction Vermont, overlooking the Connecticut River.

Even though today could have been very bad, I’m surprised at how well I’m doing.

It was a typical “survive with PTSD” day. I had ups and downs. Normal people think those are normal things. I don’t know how to describe how they aren’t. It is all survival.

I’ll live another day.

P.S. to add: now I have separation anxiety. Ox and I haven’t been apart in so long.

Also the amazing lady at the desk in the hotel is my new best friend. She is the best person.

Hiding it all

First I want to apologize. It seems I alarmed a lot of people with my post yesterday. I received a lot of messages both from PM’s here and on my personal phone. It’s very nice to know that there is a genuine concern out there for me. I’m sorry if I wasn’t able to get back to everyone.

I’m doing ok right now. I stopped for something to eat in Barryville New York, along the Delaware river. I’ll be camping just up the road (I hope) and there isn’t cell service anywhere so I’m doing this update while I have wifi. My fingers are crossed that I’ll still be doing ok in another hour.

Today I woke up and headed straight into Philadelphia so that I could check that block. Yes, I said I wasn’t going to but I’m glad I did. Independence Hall was so much better than anticipated and the liberty bell was so much worse.

I left by 10:30 and went over to Valley Forge. I took the bus tour and while it was interesting, it was really boring and they didn’t do a good job. It didn’t help that it was near 100 degrees and I hadn’t eaten. My mind was probably elsewhere. I did enjoy walking through the house where General Washington had his headquarters. It’s still mostly original.

From there, I ate and then got back on the road.

I can’t begin to describe the relief I felt at being on the road again. Actually moving towards home, although through a circuitous route. For so long I have had these segments of my trip planned out in my head. For some reason just getting past Philly seemed like it was a brick wall. That could very well be why I had added stress the last few days.

For the first 50 miles or so there were a lot of back roads with traffic lights, stop and go traffic and lots of cars. Sitting on the bike, baking in the heat, I was starting to go crazy again. But then the roads opened up (still low speed limits) and they began winding through trees and hills. It was exactly what I needed to start feeling right with everything. Plus, it was interesting to go into New Jersey, a place I had no desire to go to and it wasn’t originally part of the plan. I’m glad I did and I was pleasantly surprised. I need to stop judging places based of a lifetimes worth of preconceived notions.

Now I’m in New York. I’ve been following the Delaware River for a long time now and it’s beautiful. I have seen a lot of boaters and swimmers in it today.

As to the title of this post?

Yesterday was bad. Unfortunately that is a regular occurrence for me. I have those feelings the majority of the time.

I’m really good at hiding it. I will slip. I will yell at my kids or say something under my breath or flip off a motorist. People notice that stuff. Mostly though I am able to interact with all of my friends and people in general. You’ll never know I’m having a bad day.

This has become the story of my life.

The more I hide it, the more it gets internalized and the downward spiral continues.

Talking with my therapist or my wife has been my only external outlet. Now I have this blog. When the blog ends, when this trip ends…then what? I doubt I’m going to be better. I’m trying, and I’m hopeful. I’m just not going to blow smoke up my own skirt. I’d like to say I’m a realist. People with PTSD are not realists. We’re defeatists.

I feel like things should be getting better. Hell, tomorrow I’ll ride through Woodstock. How can that be bad?

Not a happy camper

Literally.This is not a rant. This is anger. This is frustration and violence brewing. This is clenched fists, a tight jaw and rigid body.This is being pissed off with PTSD.It doesn’t take much to set me off. It can be something trivial. But that trivial thing becomes one of many trivial things, even if they didn’t all happen today, yesterday or even this year. They are all just too much and they make me snap. They can ruin my whole day, even if it was good.No, I can’t just brush it off, smile and nod and move on. Like a normal person. I’m sure it’s easy for everyone reading this to already have a solution for me. Some little tidbit of wisdom on how to handle life’s many challenges. Save it. I’ve heard them. They don’t work.PTSD makes me completely irrational. I cannot be reasoned with. I know all of the therapy cues that are supposed to help me see how ridiculous I’m being. I know I’m wrong. Sometimes I wish I cared.Ok. That’s wrong. I always care. I always tell my therapists that it’s what I want to fix more than anything else but it’s almost like an addiction. My brain lapses back to irritability and lashing out.How did I get to this point?I’d had a good day. An easy morning. My tour of Gettysburg started at 10 am and lasted about 2 hours. It was worth every penny and I left with a much better understanding of the battle. I then rode around and located the marker for the 5th Michigan Infantry Regiment, my 5th great grandfather’s unit. I got a good picture of the front, the back was more difficult.I got lunch, had a nice conversation with a couple of people and then I was on my way.Traffic. I have a hunch that I’m going to be in traffic for a long time. Yay for the east coast.I had my GPS take me towards Valley Forge National park. I figured that I wanted to see that the most and then I’d just leave the Philly area, yes, without seeing the other monuments or historical sites. I just felt like I wanted to get out of here.As I got closer I searched for campsites. The closest one was 12 miles away. Alright. Well, that’s what I’m looking for I guess. I get to the “campsite” as recommended both by Google and my Harley’s nav. It was not a campground. The park ranger there told me the closest campground was in Delaware. I made him repeat that just so I could confirm that he was an idiot.After another quick search, there were two KOA’s, both equal distance away at 15 miles. The wrong way. Now I’m pretty irritated. The downward slope has begun.Several close calls with drivers later and I arrived at a beautiful KOA.I begin checking in and the lady is demanding an email address. No. I don’t need your spam and you can hand me a receipt. But Sir!…No. Apparently that screws with their check in system. Another lady leans over her shoulder and fixes it.She then asks me for $60 and change. I tell her she’s on crack. She doesn’t get it and stares blankly. I ask if she charged me for an RV site with full hook ups. She says no. I reiterate that I’m in a tent. On a motorcycle. My footprint is 10 square feet. I’ll even forego a shower. Still no. And then she tells me it’s because we’re north of the Mason Dixon line. I ask in bafflement if she just used a 160 year old civil war demarcation as an excuse for their exorbitant prices. I get more blank stares.I have nowhere else to go and I’m pissed. I could have stayed in town, in a real bed with a bathroom nearby for a few dollars more. I pay the toll.She gets in her golf cart and leads me to my site. Camp policy apparently. On a dirt road. Up and down hills. At five miles an hour. On a Harley, that’s a workout, and dangerous. I was getting more and more pissed off. My site has zero privacy. I hope I’m on somewhat level ground because my site is on a slope. And the bathrooms are 1/4 of a mile away. When I get up in the middle of the night because I have to pee, guess where I’m going? The answer is not the bathrooms.I walked to take a shower and some chick and her husband are sitting outside their trailer. They must have seen me pull up because now she’s making jokes loud enough I can hear. She says “now that he’s gone, let’s get his bike”. She thinks she’s funny. I don’t. I wasn’t in the mood and even if I was, I don’t know her. I told her that if she touched my bike she wouldn’t live to see morning (probably more colorfully than that). Her husband almost said something. Then he didn’t. Smart move. It’s times like this that make me think I’ll probably be in prison at some point. They weren’t there when I came back.I’m losing the ability to find peace on my bike or in the journey. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong or how to find it again. Is it just that the newness has worn off? I don’t think so. I’m desperate to find that happy place again and I don’t think I can do it on my own.

Need to lower expectations

Then I won’t be disappointed. I had hoped to get well past Gettysburg today. But then I also wanted to really tour the battlefield and not regret missing anything.

I rode through Harpers Ferry today and toured the town. Not very in depth but I need to be fine with that.

I then went and rode through the Antietam battlefield. Also not in depth.

I picked up a chip at the new worst Harley dealer yet (Roanoke was the previous record holder) in Williamsport Maryland. The place is in an industrial park and is a joke. The staff takes the cake for being rude. Their only redeeming quality is that they had a color of poker chip I’d never seen before. The poker chips are still cool mementos so it was worth it, if only just to publicly bash them. I hope they’re following and I make them cry a little.

On to Gettysburg. Just getting to the visitors center is an adventure and you pass a hundred monuments. That’s not a joke. This is huge battlefield and so far rivals Vicksburg for number of monuments. I’ll bet Gettysburg has more.

I wanted a good tour, someone to be speaking and explaining everything so I wasn’t just riding blind. Unfortunately I missed the last tour by less than an hour. The lady behind the ticket counter asked if I’d be here tomorrow. Well, why not. Ok. Now I’m all set for a bus tour at 10am and I’ll be camping at a resort near the battlefield for an exorbitant amount of money to just pitch a tent. I stuck around, saw the movie and the cyclorama (Google it, I didn’t know either) and toured the museum. It has a ton of artifacts that I love. So interesting.

I’ve set up my tent for the night, minus the rain fly for the very first time because there isn’t any rain in the forecast, which means I’m going to get poured on and regret that decision.

Eating dinner at the local brew pub. Someone please explain to me why nachos (huge, for about 4 people) are always on the appetizer menu? Have any of you ever ordered nachos as an appetizer? I just order them all for myself and then I’m done. Restaurants are just weird.

I guess today was a better day. I got some mileage in during good weather and I should be happy. Should be. I haven’t decided yet. I still feel like I’m just getting by.

I’m here in Gettysburg then until at least noon tomorrow and then I’ll move on to Philadelphia where I’ll be stuck again. Yay.

Why don’t I just pack it all in and head west? I don’t want an answer to that.

I won’t quit yet. I really want to get to the west coast, especially the Seattle area. I have big plans there. Already in the works. I miss my friends there. It’s been 20 years. At least.

Overlooking part of Antietam.

Three images from the actual cyclorama. Not a copy. Very amazing.

The most expensive campsite yet.

Bittersweet

I left my cousins home this morning.

I had a wonderful few days to spend with her and to get to know her family that much better. She has great kids and her husband is one of those people I could hang out and talk with forever. They made me feel very welcome.

My mental struggles over the last few days had absolutely nothing to do with them. That is one of the ridiculous things those with mental illness struggle with. Our surroundings can be perfect, it can look like we’re having an amazing time. But in our heads we are tearing ourselves up. It’s like with Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. The pundits look back on their recent history and say “but they looked so happy…”.

It felt good to get back on the bike to start moving forward again. I don’t have any other family stops until I get to the Bay area in California. I will see my dad along the way in Montana but that will just be us and hotels. It feels like I have a long slog ahead of me and it is daunting. I can’t say I’m really looking forward to anything until I get back west. Too much urban sprawl over the next few weeks. I’m sure I’ll be surprised with the scenery and roads. Hopefully like I was in Texas and Oklahoma. That’d be nice and a good pick-me-up.

At least I’m moving.

Please keep sharing. Maybe we’ll find that “one” vet who it can help. Maybe we already did. Maybe that’s just me.

Going pro

I needed something to do today.

I have enjoyed many conversations with people concerning my trip, its purpose and the blog.

I always have fun trying to talk people through the web address so they can find it and follow along.

I have toyed with the idea of making easy business cards that I could hand out.

Today I did it.

Tell me what you think.

Today I’m struggling

After a very introverted day yesterday and a purposefully quiet morning today, I’m having a hard time keeping positive thoughts.

I had a good long talk with my wife last night and it just made me miss and appreciate her even more. She is so supportive and made sure to let me know that she and the kids were perfectly fine and that there was no rush to be back. That’s very reassuring.

I just can’t get my head right this morning. Maybe it’ll pass but not on its own. I’m going to have to work on it.

I haven’t seen a therapist in at least 3 months and its starting to take a toll on me. As much as I wish I could, I can’t do this on my own. I feel like giving up.