Due to lack of photos taken on the last day of our first week, I failed to mention the events of Day 7 in our last post, yet it exemplified the classic unpredictability that comes with long-distance cycle touring. It also offered a lesson about fear and acceptance.
Ignorance is not always Blissful
After getting a very late start out of Queensbury, NY, we decided to be gentle on ourselves, heading back through Glens Falls and south toward campsites in Moreau Lake State Park, a mere 10 miles away. We realized we didn’t have a clue what day it was, when we arrived at the park, just before sunset, to discover it was a Saturday, on the last big holiday weekend before cooler weather settled in, and that any and all campsites within a 100 mile radius of our location were full. Although we would have normally felt giddy over our blissful disregard of the Gregorian calendar, we didn’t have time to dwell upon the significance of it, as night was falling and there was no camping allowed inside of the state park, except for designated (and already full) sites.
Suddenly our “easy day” plans were gone, and our legs were pumping up and down the hills of Old Saratoga Road, our eyes searching for a place to rest our heads for the evening.
My Irrational Fear of Bears & How Nice People Help Me Get Through It
At this point, I should share that Kai did find a couple of stealth campsites for us but my irrational yet strong fear of sharp-fanged animals, especially bears, kept me from giving them the stamp of approval. I know this is something I will eventually get over but we’re just starting out, and I am still working into stealth camping, especially in forests, so I’m trying not to be so hard on myself (and Kai is trying too). But, as it grew darker, I became more and more frantic and felt a strong desire to get out of the park and closer to civilization.
After rejecting Kai’s suggested sites, I unilaterally declared we were going to bike as quickly as possible toward the town of Wilton, NY, and that we would ask to camp in someone’s yard. After some riding, we finally came upon a home within the park, with acres of nicely manicured lawns and plenty of room for a small tent. As Kai held my bicycle upright, I knocked on the front door, standing with hope in my heart, but when the door opened, the woman living there was scared and would only yell at me through the locked glass door, informing me that the folks down the road might let us stay in their yard. Disheartened, wondering what about me caused the woman to be fearful, and feeling even more frantic, I got back on my bicycle, and we raced on.
After climbing an insanely steep gravel drive to the next home, we found cars with keys in them, an RV fully open and obviously being worked on, garage doors open, and signs of life everywhere, but when we knocked on the doors no one answered, and when we yelled into the garage and the open air of the fields surrounding the home, no one called back. Kai, realizing I could become hysterical at any moment, let me do what I needed to do to feel safe, as I continued to rush down Old Saratoga Road, pumping my legs as furiously as I could, until we finally broke out of the park.
There, in Wilton, NY, I pulled into a driveway and quite gracelessly asked a woman painting her house if we could set our tent up in her yard for the evening. I explained what we were doing, that we were only looking for a safe place to sleep, and that we would be off early the next morning, fully expecting her to say “No. Please move on.”. Instead, she smiled and said, “Sure, that would be fine, but I have two boys inside and they will be very curious and may want to check things out as you’re setting up.”
I almost cried with joy. Yes, that response would do, now wouldn’t it?
After introductions, and before Molly could change her mind, we set up our tent in their backyard, and soon two boys were out showing us their Halloween costumes in between questions about our tent and bicycles. Kyle, Molly’s husband, pulled into the drive and came over to introduce himself, welcoming us to their home and offering use of their bathroom. After eating a quick dinner and getting everything settled into our tent, we visited with the family, offering them a loaf of bread we bought at the Rock Hill Bakehouse in Glens Falls earlier that day. We shared life stories with them, their children showed us their artwork and talked about their pets, and they left the back door unlocked through the night, in case we would need to access the bathroom.
As we walked back to our tent, I recalled sharing my fear of bears with the family earlier that evening, and Molly’s response.
“Oh, you don’t need to worry. There aren’t any bears around here.”
I silently laughed at myself, letting the fear that I had allowed to seep into my mind over the last few hours of our day slip away. Funny, how particularly personal fears kick into high gear when you find yourself outside of your comfort zone.
Then it occurred to me that the woman who wouldn’t open her door to me earlier in the day was probably experiencing the same kind of exhaustion that I was at the moment, the exhaustion that comes from a day of holding fear close to your heart. And I sent a silent wish out into the night, hoping that someone would help her work through her fears, as others had for me that day.
“Do you feel better now?” Kai asked as we were falling asleep.
“Yes. Yes, I do.” I whispered.