Day 13: Jamestown to Erie

Thirteen, some consider to be an unlucky number.

I’ve never been superstitious, but if all was to go wrong any day, today would be that day…

I left Jamestown about 7.30am, joining John on his bike ride into work. Before we left, we had a bit of a tinker about with my rear gear cassette as it had been a constant niggle over the past few days.  We managed to reduce the chain rattle but somehow left myself with only 9 of the 10 speeds available – an adjustment clockwise and I’d miss the absolute granny gear, adjustment anti-clockwise and I’d be without my fastest/hardest gear. But I thought that 9/10 is bearable.

After 7 miles of some big hills (Google Maps puts it at 400ft climb), we arrived at John’s work and we parted company.  I checked my phone for route directions and realised I’d not pressed “start” on Strava.  I was furious with myself for that time (some 45 minutes), distance and climb for which there was now no evidence of me having completed!

I tried to channel that anger as I had successfully managed yesterday, with a big pace.  Tried also convincing myself that it didn’t matter and not to ruminate much on it.  Easier said than done!  Breakfast would help, so I started looking for a diner to stop at.

But at least the roads were in good condition, generally.  And in spite of being confused by route options prior to heading off, once on the road, connections just made sense.  Then I entered Pennsylvania and while the route options remained obvious, the roads deteriorated.  Nowhere even in the same universe of condition reports as Old Route 17 though.

I made it in to Erie early lunchtime and was initially disappointed with the view.  Very industrial.  Not so tourist photo friendly.

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In the city centre, I checked my cash situation – last $4 and small change, so I’d need to withdraw more.  Noted however that my attempted budget of $15/day wasn’t being met – really not practical in the US as everything (except petrol/diesel!) is super expensive.

I managed to get a small ox-brisket roll from a street vendor then retreated out of the pelting heat into the shade.  I made half-attempts to move off a couple of times, but was just too hot to get back on the bike.  So I just chilled there for about an hour.

Eventually I got moving again and after a flurry of wrong turns, by chance found myself on a signposted bike route which I followed through a public park and residential streets to a busier junction with appetising eateries right there.

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At gas station across the street, I tried my UK bank card, which being a Visa card, should work, but didn’t.  I found a nearby bank and tried again.  Still no success and more troubling, a message stated to contact my banking institution – they were notified I’d be in the US for 3 months!  Very angry.

Anger turned briefly to panic when the ATM refused to acknowledge my Mastercard credit card either – as my emergency cash backup.

The only solution seemed to be to contact my bank – but as this was 4.30pm local time = 10.30pm GMT, and bank would be closed.

Besides, I still had zero phone signal from T-Mobile USA.  So I had to re-insert my UK simcard (accept the £4/day roaming fee) and hope the non-UK contact phone number on my card worked – it didn’t!  And Santander don’t offer a 24 hour emergency contact number for anything besides reporting cards lost/stolen.

Checking with the bank employees however, I discovered that, while not great, T-Mobile does get signal in Erie – so my not getting signal was an issue with my phone/simcard.

Still with my UK simcard installed, I was able to locate the nearest T-Mobile store in Erie – 4 miles back uphill – and headed there.

At another bank, I again tried my bank card (no success) and credit card (success!) – cash panic averted, though now knowing I’ll be crippled with extortionate cash-advance charges!

By this time I was also needing to find a place to camp – and Erie’s a big town adjoining with multiple other decent sized towns, with no campsites or hostels and few public parks.  And there was a big storm on its way!

I passed a sign for the Scottish Rite Of Erie County and while I had/have no idea what it is, figured it would be as good a shot of industrial green space as anywhere else.

Shortly after I started stealthily unpacking my tent, a van pulled up, older couple got out and asked me (politely) to move on.  They did however advise of a nearby park where I may be able to camp.  So I headed there.

There were still a few folk mulling about when I got to Zuck Park, so I sat in the sheltered pavilion, found electrical socket to charge my phone, unpacked some food and – having not come across a single diner all day – settled to breakfast/dinner and a spot of reading – waiting for dusk!

At last, dusk fell, the park was long empty and with the lightening flashing across the sky just south, I moved down to the back corner of the baseball field, shielded from sight of the road and carpark by a copse of trees, and pitched tent while resolving to be up and off at the earliest possible light.

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My baseball field campsite. Less than perfect, and photo taken in the morning after a very warm & humid nights sleep.

Unlucky 13 indeed!

Check out my ride on Strava (what was recorded anyway…).

Relive my ride.

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