We camped in Clintonville, with no problems, it wasn’t a very entertaining evening, we ate noodles and watched some Arrested Development on my lap top. We woke early and walked on to Grove City.
The days have become hot, and Kieran has become burnt. We are getting through water quickly, but luckily we have the means to carry 8L a day, so we are fine. We have got into a pattern of walking till around 1, finding a shaded area, making lunch, and waiting for the day to start to cool.
We arrived in Grove City around 5. We were staying with a lovely lady called Michelle and her daughter Maegan, we met them through CouchSurfer. It was so nice of them to let us stay, they are in the middle of moving house, so even though it was a really hectic time they still found time to help us out, which is amazing.
We sat in their kitchen ate and chatted the night away, Michelle mentioned she wanted to take us to Pittsburgh the next day, which was a really cool prospect for us because we haven’t been in a big city since New York, plus Pittsburgh is were they filmed Batman. It was a great evening, and they were both great company.
The next evening Michelle took us to Pittsburgh, there was a premier of a documentary called GasLand2, which was about fractural mining, or Fracking. It was first come first serve to get in though, so we had our fingers crossed.
Pittsburgh is a cool city, we went to the cathedral of learning, which is the tallest university building in the world. It also has a very similar feel as Hogwarts from the inside, so Kieran got a little grief. He tells alot of people here, he is Ron Weasleys stunt double after all.
It was a very interesting building, on the first few floors, all the classrooms have different country themes, it had a nice feel, we found the welsh room quite funny, it was pretty much a normal classroom, I didnt know what was implied, boring welsh?
There were also blackboards in each classroom, so obviously the need to find chalk and draw a penis on the blackboards ensued. When we eventually found chalk we thought better of ourselves (or just got too scared).
We went to the 36th floor to a room with a view of the city, it was beautiful, and such a nice thing to be able to do. As Pittsburgh isnt on our route, we never thought we would see this city, so it was great to tick it off the list, and also just a nice feeling to be in a city again.
We finished at the cathedral for learning and went and sat in the Shenley Plaza and had bubble tea, and ate some Iranian food. We finished and went onto the premier at the soldiers and sailors memorial hall.
We were lucky that it was a huge space (beautiful too) so we didnt have any trouble getting in. There were a few stalls of people giving information on various causes, obviously the main focus was on Fracking.
The film was great, it was introduced by the director, Josh Fox. It was all about how Fracking, which is were they drill a mile or so into the earth, then pump at high pressure water and chemicals into the rock, which makes it crumble and release natural gasses. Most of the water for houses here is pulled from wells and spring supplies, so these chemicals and gasses are being brought up in peoples water. There are videos of people literally holding a lighter to there tap which creates a ball of flame. Its pretty scary stuff.
It was a great watch, and well worth looking into, if you are in the US, the documentary airs on HBO on the 8th July (at 9pm) for everyone at home, it will probably be on the internet somewhere, its called GasLand2.
There was a questions and answer session after which was great. Kieran and I were being pretty childish and making Fracking puns. “Why the frack are they doing this?” or “you can Frack off.” We found it way too funny.
Maegan had a little chat with the director after, he was a very nice down to earth guy, so it was nice that he could give advice to her.
We then went back to Grove City for a good nights sleep. We were walking to Mercer the next day so we needed some rest. We had had a great day and seen a new City, our next will be Cleveland.
We said goodbye to Michelle and Maegan in the morning around 10 and set off, it was a hot morning, so we did as many miles as we could in the morning before it got too hot. We made turkey rolls (which Michelle very kindly brought us) and sat in the shade, it was cool, but we are always on the look out for snakes and ticks in the woods, and obviously bears, (which John and his friend told us we would never see)
When we set off getting back out in the sun really hit us, we both put our music on and marched as quick as our feet would let us.We got into Mercer, and planned to walk through to the other side where there was a campsite. We walked past a yard sale and a women at the sale stopped us “Are you the boys doing the charity walk.” We couldnt believe she new, the newspaper we were in was quite a few towns back, so we didnt know how she new. She gave us $5 for water and food, we couldn’t believe it , we were very thankful. As the day was drawing to a close and Mercer in our view. We decided to stop in a bar for a quick beer.
The bartender, Tom got us too large pints of Yeungling and chatted to us, we told him what we are doing and he was a little shocked. He went and got his colleague, Amanda. She couldn’t believe what we were saying and walked off, she came back with two bar T-Shirts and handed us some money, we couldn’t believe our luck.
We both chatted to the bartender Tom a bit more. He got us another free drink, and invited us to his place, he told us he was going to take us out and get us good and drunk. We hesitated to begin with, and the thought of walking hung over the next day, but we did it any way.
We walked to Toms, he drove his Crysler 300c with huge chrome rims, slowly beside us. We got to his garage, greeted by the ‘man cave’ sign. It was amazing, decked in different bar signs, huge sculptures of indians, and two life size statues of the blues brothers and princess layer. With 2 litre bottle of fire whiskey to boot. We had a few drinks with his brother and headed out for the evening.
On the drive to the bar Tom picked up his cousin Dame, who is actually the cousin of Trent Reznor (the singer from nine inch nails). He gave us a signed back stage pass, which was cool. Any who, we drove to a mexican bar and brought some huge margaritas and watched a band out the front. We met a couple outside the bar and chatted to them about the walk. They were lovely, and even spoke to the band and got them to dedicate a song to us, it was lovely. Such a nice couple.
The beers they were-a-flowing. by the end of the night we were a mess, we realized today that we only ate the two rolls earlier, and had been drinking since 4. We needed to get out of the bars and back to some kind of bed. Luckily Dame saw the state we were and took us back to his. He very kindly gave up his bed, and Kieran slept in a spare room.
Dame was a really cool kid, who lives in Pittsburgh most of the time. He mentioned possibilities of getting us Lulapalooza tickets, which would be unbelievable. He took our number, and we hope to stay in touch with him.
We woke this morning hanging, the day was already getting hot and we needed to be on our way. We decided to walk the 4 miles to the camp site past Mercer and stay there tonight, which was hard enough, the road was very busy, and in our state of desperation that morning we forgot to put any suncream on, and were only wearing the clothes we had on the night before. We needed a shower. Desperately.
We rolled into the camp site around 2 this afternoon, its a huge place, with a swimming pool, fishing lake and loads of other activities. As soon as we spoke to reception they asked us were we are from, and about what we are doing. They then wouldn’t let us pay. Again such amazing generosity from the people here. Its very comforting to know that there are still so many amazing people out there.
We are now camping up, and tomorrow we hope to cross into Ohio. We have nearly finished in Pennsylvania. Its be such a great state to us, the people here have made us look forward to the rest of our trip. Fingers crossed Ohio is just as friendly.
Right, bare with me because I’m really hungover, so this is going to be a struggle.
its been a week since we last updated the blog, and that week has been packed full of new characters in our story. We decided that the easiest way to do this was to split the week in two, with me writing the first part and Jack the second. enjoy.
Last Saturday we stopped for the night in Corsica; there was a huge field that we could camp in, but we decided to opt for the dugout of the baseball diamond. Now dont ask me why we made this decision but im very glad that we did. we had this huge flat field, we could have pitched our tent anywhere, but we chose a patch of concrete just a little wider than our tent. Im so glad we did. After we had settled in for the evening and consumed our staple diet of Ramen noodles, we watched a few episodes of Arrested Development then started to think about going to sleep. Just as we decided to turn in for the evening the heavens opened wide. you know the kind of storm where its raining, then you get the 30 seconds of intense, huge droplets, hammering down? we had that for nearly four hours. if it hadnt been for the corrugated iron roof of the dugout i dont think our tent would have made it through the night. We’d have been sodden at the very least.
The next morning was glorious! The sun was shining, there were no clouds in the sky, the birds were singing – and i got very, very burnt. If your name is Rosemary, Dora, Marie or Siobhan, and right now youre thinking “he should have been wearing sun cream”, i was! i was wearing factor 50, a hat and a pretty long sleeved t shirt, i still got burned. I dont think that the luck of the Irish goes as far as achieving a sun tan. 24 years and i haven’t had one yet. Where was i?
We were walking towards Clarion to meet a man named John Miller. We’d got in contact with a lady on CouchSurfer who told us that she was traveling in Europe and wouldn’t be able to help us, but that she knew of a man who might be of some use. John had actually cycled across the states almost 30 years ago, so we were excited to meet him.
When we reached Clarion we made a pitstop for lunch in McDonalds, and gave John a call to let him know we were in town and to find out where we would find him. Lucky enough he was sitting in his store just a block away, so we packed up our stuff and headed in his direction. Artfunkels is a consignment store, it sells a bit of this and a bit of that. John seemed interested to meet us, but genuinely had no idea who we were or what we were doing in his store. His friend hadnt passed our information onto him, and when Jack had called there had been a pretty bad connection, so we had to go through everything again. Clarion is a university town and John told us that he owns a second home which he rents out to students during term, but as school was done for the summer, the house was empty and he told us we were welcome to the whole thing for as long as we liked. We couldn’t believe our luck.
The house was the equivalent of a normal two up, two down, except this one was fully detached, with a beautiful and huge flower garden. Johns wife is a professor at the university but her real passion is tending to the garden of the home they used to live in.
We sat and drank beer with John, his wife and their friend Joe (another incredibly interesting guy) who used to co-own the store with John.
We headed out for dinner that evening, with John and his wife telling us to order absolutely anything and insisting on paying for us. Then the three of them went through all of the things that could, should and would kill us as the journey continued. Nothing as it turned out, but apparently we might get some trouble from some over enthusiastic dogs.
After dinner, John’s wife dropped us at a local bar, and again insisted on paying for us. I chose the most disgusting dark ale, but because I’m such a handsome and charming individual, the (hot) bar lady offered to buy me another drink. We met a friend of friend of Johns who worked in the coffee house next to his store. Mackenzie (Mac’n’cheese to us) was an absolute legend, we didnt pay for a drink for the rest of the night. John is an absolute legend of a man, he told us stories of cycling across the country and the amazing people he met along the way.
Our wake up call came loud and clear at 5am. Clarion has a volunteer fire service, with a siren at either end of the town. luckily enough the siren for our end of town was just outside of the kitchen window. We had planned to head out that morning, but after a lack of sleep and with my right foot still giving me gip we took a rest day, did some washing then hung out in the coffee shop all day with the main man: Mac’n’cheese.
I completely forgot that on the last evening in Clarion I cooked our first proper meal since we started (Sausage and sweet potato mash seeing as you asked), but Jack said that the food was so amazing, and that i was such a gifted chef, that it would stupid not to include it. He said the way i maneuvered around the kitchen was so graceful. doing a thousand things at once. He hasn’t come out and said it (yet), but i can tell Jack really looks up to me. They say never meet your heros, well Jack is lucky enough to walk across a continent with his.
Firstly please bear with me, my writing is that of a primary school child, so I hope this is readable.
We are still walking through Pennsylvania, just past half way through, and the scenery has not changed much: tree’s, farms and mountains. The walking has been much the same, but we’re making good progress and as I write this we are sitting in a Super 8 Motel in Clearfield resting our weary feet.
When Kieran last updated you we were just setting off from Andi’s house near Belfonte, (unfortunately) in the rain, but (luckily) without the cart, as Andi was going to pick us up at the end of the day, and take us back to the safety (and dryness) of her beautiful home. We managed to achieve the 20 mile target of that day to get to the center of the Black Moshanon park. We both wished it was called Black Moshanon mountain so we could have at least prepared for the ordeal. It was a very hard trek up the twisting road to the top of the mountain, but it would have been a lot harder had it not been for Andi letting us leave the cart at hers.
That evening we went back to Andi’s. Her and her family where amazing to us, they made us feel so welcome, and made sure we were well fed and comfortable. Andi even went out and brought us Penn State football jerseys (which we have been wearing with pride). She also filled our cart with food to keep us going for the next few weeks.
When we left our New Jersey family we both thought we may have left our best times behind us, but Andi and her family made us realise that there are amazing people everywhere, and this pattern would continue after we left Andi’s…
We were dropped off in the centre of Black Moshannon park where we left off, and walked through to the other side. It was a beautiful walk through thick forest, and lovely scenery. There was always a cloud of butterflies around, some as big as your head. It was very beautiful.
As we where walking a truck pulled up beside us “ You boys are going to wanna watch out ya hear, there is a rattler in the middle of the road down der.” We thanked the old boy, and proceeded on, camera in hand. Unfortunately we missed the snake, but not before another pickup pulled up beside us. “you boys don’t happen to know where the big oil company are round ere do ya.”
“sorry mate, we are from the UK, we hardly know where we are”. The guy in the pick up smiled and looked a little confused, but thanked us and went on his way. As we carried on walking we saw a bar and thought we had earned a cheeky half, as we approached the bar we saw the pickup from before.
Now you know in the movies when someone walks in a bar in the middle of nowhere, full of red necks: every face turns to look at them, they can feel eyes burning into the back of their head? Well it was like that. We ordered our drinks and thought we would drink them quickly and get out of there.
Well safe to say we finished our drinks in a hurry, but only because we had another already ordered in by the guy from the pick up. Everyone was interested in what we where doing, they where interested in our story, and offered to help in any way they could. We found out there was a camp site 4 miles off the track – 4 miles out of our way. So Ron, the guy in the pickup, said he would drive us, and he wouldn’t take no for an answer. “there is a storm coming boys, and I wont let you walk”. We took the lift.
As we left the bar they all asked for a photo of us outside with our cart, it was funny seeing all the old timers using there smart phones “this damn-thing is smarter than me, I can’t figure out how to use it.”
As we drove round Ron pulled into a side turning and told us he was just picking something up before he dropped us off. He pulled into a small local butchers. He ran in, and we waited in the truck. When we came back he handed Kieran a white plastic bag full of beef jerky and bologna. But not your Wallmart (Tesco’s for those at home) brand jerky; this stuff was the real deal, it was amazing.
Ron dropped us off and helped us explain to the camp site staff what we where doing and why we had a bicycle trailer with us and no car. The staff where more than friendly, and wouldn’t let us pay for our plot. They even said we could use the local fishing lake.
When Ron left he gave us a crate of beer and wished us luck. He was an incredible guy, with an amazing story. Thank you Ron Henry.
We set up our tent, and decided to fish. It was Kieran’s first time fishing, and I haven’t fished since I was a young’n with my dad. So picture the scene, two half cut blokes on the edge of a lake, worrying about putting the worm on the end of the hook, because we didn’t want to hurt it….
Believe it or not Kieran was the first person to hook something, we both had no clue what to do, and all my knowledge at this point was from Robson’s extreme fishing, and this fish was nothing near extreme. It was a tiddler at best, but once we picked the courage up to pick up the fish in an old rag, and get the hook out of the poor fishes mouth (us both profusely apologizing to it) we got a photo with Kieran and his catch, the former as proud as punch.
I then managed to pull in a fish much the same size, again we took the photo. I was even happier that the worm remained on the end of the line, at least we could spare another from the same fate. Kieran’s rod then took a massive pull, he had something big, then followed the confusion of what the hell do we do? but before we could figure it out the line snapped.
While Kieran was at in the office fetching another rod I was casting out my line, I wanted to throw this thing out as far as possible, but in my vigor my rod snapped at the handle and the whole thing except for the handle flew into the lake. Oh dear. I panicked, I had no clue what to do, so I sat down and finished my beer and waited for Kieran to return so we could figure out what to do.
When Kieran came back we decided I had better fish it out, I found the reel in the water and pulled it in. The line was still attached to the snapped rod, but as we pulled it in we realized there was actually a fish on the end of the line as well, this time it wasn’t a tiddler, it was huge! (I’m exaggerating it wasn’t any bigger than my lower arm) I screamed and wanted to get out of the water, in fear of getting eaten.
Eventually we released the whopper, and decided to call it a day. Luckily John who worked at the camp site found the story funny and didn’t mind that the rod had snapped. He and his wife did warn us of the potential of storms that night though, advice we took into account when setting up our tent, and parking our cart under cover.
They where right about the weather, the storm started at about 3am, and continued through, it was the loudest and longest storm I have ever heard, and the rain pounded down on our tent. Luckily she held strong, and not a drop of water leaked through.
There was a break in the weather at about 7am, so we quickly packed up, and showered to get on out way, we thanked John and Christie for having us, we gifted John the few beers we had left and got on our way.
Today we walked to Clearfield, we planned to arrive at the Super 8 motel to rest for the night out of the storms, but unfortunately our map took us to the wrong side of town, we aimed for the McDonalds, but it turns out this town has two, so we walked around 5 miles in the wrong direction.
We rested our feet and took advantage of the McWiFi. We needed to walk 8 miles to get to the motel, 8 miles we really didn’t need. Our feet are beginning to catch up on us. As we sat and moaned about what we needed todo, an old boy approached us, interested in our accent. His name was Louis, and after a short chat he said he wanted to drive us to Super 8. It was on his way. We where so thankful. the extra 8 miles that we didn’t need to do could have broke us.
So now we are tucked up, in the comfy Super 8 motel, with a double bed each, and plenty of food to keep us going (thank you, Andi) we are hoping our feet will improve tomorrow. We have a couch surfer planned for tomorrow, and look forward to meeting him. Its a bit of a trek to DuBois, but fingers crossed all goes to plan.
Thinking back on the last few weeks has made us both realise that first impressions mean nothing, every person we have met, and made conversation with has been amazing. Getting out there and meeting people, finding out their story, and telling ours has brought us close to so many people, and we have met people that we hope we will continue to stay in contact with long after this is finished. So to all those people that have helped us this far, and to all those people we will meet going forward, a tip of the hat to you all.
Jack (checked and corrected by Kieran)
Our Time with our New Jersey Family