May 19: Titusville to Erie, Pennsylvania - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

May 19: Titusville to Erie, Pennsylvania

Verdant and open: Pennsylvania.
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WE LIKED PENNSYLVANIA. It lived up to its name, all sylvan woods of different greens, on hills low enough and distant enough to make a view and not simply obstruct it. On one road the Penn-Sylvan timber company spelled its enthusiasm on placards a hundred metres apart which shouted "I love wood" in different languages.

Steph had a hard time leaving Titusville, though, paying for the day before and for the missed rest day. We went to bed not long after 8pm, tired but also keen to get an early start for what threatened to be another hard day. But our tiredness was such that the early start didn't happen.

We gambled that the busier road from Titusville to Erie would be busier but flatter than the previous day's and would also have a shoulder. Both assumptions were only partly true. The shoulder was narrow, cracked and crumbling and a never-ending hill thrust itself in our faces only minutes after starting. The sun shone but Steph's face was as pallid as fog as only her tenacity got her to the top, drawn, shattered and in tears.

"Just let me recover," she asked, her arms resting on the handlebars, her head dropped. I waited with her for perhaps 10 minutes. We both grew cold and I suggested the porch of a nearby house.

"I just don't want to have to talk to anyone," she said, asking not to add her to her upset.

To me, the cause was simple: tiredness from yesterday, certainly, but also lack of food. I took a pile of her luggage and we rode on to a roadside cafe for eggs on toast and an ocean of coffee. In the cafe, a woman of 42 (she told us her age) was saying: "First time I got married for love. Second time I got married for stoopid. Third time's gonna be for lots and lots o' money."

After that things went better. We followed the main road over hills that twanged the derailleur but not like the previous day. We passed through Union City, which has so little to say for itself that its history marker refers to events 20 miles up the road in Titusville, and then

Café chess set.
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we took back roads through hamlets with delicious names like Arbuckle. Each had its little white church and a sign of black clip-on capitals. One offered a Friday fish fry, which given the symbol that Christians attach to their cars as identification seemed ironic.

The day grew warm and we grew hot.

The sunset made the ride to Erie worth while
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We asked permission of an elderly gent to sit under a tree between his house and the road. He wore blue plastic, heel-less sandals with holes in them and he shuffled with a frame as he went about annoying weeds with a stick.

"Wanna come inna the house?" he asked. "Can if ya like. Seems priddy coola me."

We said it seemed anything but cool on a bike.

"Got yourselves warmed up, huh?" (Americans always grunt at the end of questions.) "Where you folks from, anyhow?"

"France."

"Where?"

I tried again with my approximation of the American pronunciation as Frann-ce. I wondered about adding "Where Lafayette came from" but decided against. He may know someone called Lafayette and I'd be told that, no, he came from Chattanooga or Kalamazoo. My John Wayne impression got me nowhere.

"Europe," Steph said.

"Ah, Europe!" That meant something. So had "France", it seemed...

"Come down Frenchman's Creek, did ya?" He pointed a way we hadn't come. We pointed in another and said "That way."

He thought for a moment.

"Not Frenchman's Creek, then?"

Erie remembers that we frogs gave the Statue of Liberty to New York
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"No."

"You wanna go ta Frenchman's Creek?"

We said we didn't.

Pause.

"Well, anyhow, it's down thadda way."

A lake big enough to be a sea: Erie - a town big enough to have a yacht basin.
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AMERICAN FLAGS SEEN: 242

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