I <3 New York

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Last post from the US ! I’m ready to depart back to sunny France. End of one week of rest / strolling in the city.

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I’ve lived in Paris for 17 or 18 years, after living in the countryside, or small cities. I prefer large cities anytime. You get everything you want and a lot of people, and you can move around easily.

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Among mega-cities, New York is probably the only place I’d rather live in than Paris. Everything is bigger, better, more impressive. And there’s a feeling it is constantly being built and redone, so that it evolves with the time. Paris changes much slower.

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Manhattan is the heart, of course, and I can see more people walking here in a day than for the rest of the trip combined. People of all shapes and colors, speaking all languages. I even heard French quite a few times a day. There is also an architectural diversity that cannot be matched. It’s several cities put together and mixed up. Perspectives are staggering, amplified by the heights of the buildings. And there’s something to see in every street.

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On Thursday I did a ride all around Manhattan, that’s about 30mis/50kms, plus around Central Park. It’s amazing to see the differences from place to place in such a short time. The northern tip is covered in forest while the southern one is packed with glass skycrapers. Lots of red bricks, concrete, large avenues, small corners, deserted areas, crowded walkways… And quite a few places to get lost while trying to ride all around ! I was along a nice pathway for a mile before seeing it was a dead end – no sign at any time.

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I also went down all the way through Brooklyn to Coney Island, in order to reach the Atlantic, and take the mandatory bike-in-the-ocean picture for the end of the trip. Brooklyn is much bigger than I thought ! Took me an hour to get there, and another one, all along the Jamaica bay, to get back to my place. Great views of Manhattan in the distance, a fantastic conclusion for the whole trip, and the eighth and last time I see 111,1kms on the counter.

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On Friday, I started packing, taking down the bike and once again, my life fits in a box. It’s a bigger box this time, maybe there’s a meaning around there πŸ™‚

Go figure

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Finally a post with some numbers. I love numbers πŸ™‚ Aftermath, there is always math πŸ™‚ Plus some notes. A lot of notes really.

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I biked 7362 kms, which is just one ride around Paris more than twice the length of this year’s Tour de France. That translates to 4606 miles, and amazingly, that’s also a bit more than twice the Tour ! Going coast to coast directly from SF to Washington was 3800 miles – that’s what the OneWay team did.

Days. I did that over 110 days, 111 counting day 0 in SF, just like Bilbo’s birthday at the beginning of The Lord of the Rings (yes, that was planned). That includes 19 days of rest or visits. The longest stretch without rest was Kansas in 11 days, then Utah and California’s coast in 10 days. OneWay did the coast to coast in 61 days, with no rest – except when driving the car πŸ˜‰

States. The 92 days of riding are split among 15 days in California, 13 in Utah, 11 in Colorado, 9 in Kansas and Virginia, 8 in Kentucky and Arizona, 6 in Missouri, 3 in Illinois and 2 in Nevada and Tennessee. And then one day for each of the six states on the east coast πŸ™‚

Distance. Over 92 days of riding, I did an average just below 80 kms, or 50 miles.
17 days were over 100kms or 63 miles, with the longest being Leoti to Ness city, 130 kms/80 miles, when I caught up with the Chinese team. 5 out of these 17 days were in Kansas – not a lot of options but to go on :))
8 days were at or below 50kms or 30 miles, including one to accommodate for the world cup’s quarter final (the next day I compensated with the longest ride :). Three of these eight were in Utah, where another four days were below 60kms or 36 miles (out of a total of 10) Short, brutal rides in this state.
I was closest to the daily average during my detour from Kentucky to Virginia : all days but the first one were within 10% of 80kms.

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Speed. The average speed was 19kms/h, or 12mis/h. That includes quite a bit of walking up mean slopes at 5 or 6kms/h. Fastest speed was 60km/38mi/h, going down from Monarch pass.
The fastest day was Barstow to Baker with a speed of 27kms/h or 17mis/h, with a long great ride down, and a long great ride up the next day ! I had seven days over 23kms/h or 14mis/h – two of these days happened in Kansas (including the longest ride), none after that. Not enough slopes to go fast.
The slowest day was the ride up to Point Supreme in Utah, at 8kms/h or 5mis/h. I had ten days at or below 16kms/h or 10mis/h, half of them were in Utah, and the only one after the continental divide was the ride up the Blue Ridge. Not enough slopes to go slow πŸ™‚
Strangely enough, the ride down the Blue Ridge was not very fast : the slope was mean but short. All in all, after Kansas I stayed really close to the average speed, which didn’t change after California anyway.

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Time. That translates to more than 387 hours on the bike, or 16 full days, or 48 working days, almost 10 working weeks with week ends πŸ™‚ In total my trip spanned over 16 weeks, shy of four months. What have I done with these 6 extra weeks ?!
387 hours over 92 days means an average of a bit more than four hours a day. It’s a nice duration that I quickly felt comfortable with. I usually take a quarter more to stop or rest. That means by leaving at 7 or 8 am, I’m done by noon or 1pm.
The longest ride was, of course, the nightmare to reach Kanab, with seven hours. I tend to put this ride in Arizona but I was actually entering Utah πŸ™‚
The shortest ride was going down from Cedar breaks to Panguitch, four rides after Kanab, a little over two hours. I had to stop to find a doctor.
I guess I spent about 10%, or 40 hours, actually walking and pushing the bike, and not riding. That includes 3 hours for Cedar breaks, 2 1/2 for Monarch pass, 2 going up after Boulder, and a bit more than one for the Blue Ridge and Big Sur. I never walked in Kansas, and a negligeable amount after the Blue Ridge. That leaves 30 hours over the other 68 days, or about half an hour per day, which seem about right. That’s a lot more than that for Utah. The other days probably fall down to about 15-20 minutes, enough to walk up a mile or two kilometers.

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Weather. I had only three days of rain, with the meanest in Illinois right before entering Kentucky. Then one later on in Kentucky, and one in Virginia one day before Washington.
I had no really hot day, especially as I stopped early in the day. Hottest day was Kingman to Peach Spring, where I started late and ended around 38C/100F. I actually crossed Nevada and the Midwest during exceptional temperature drops.
I avoided tornadoes and flash floods (although had warnings for both). No earthquakes or fires either.
Strong headwinds ? Sure, on the two days before Kansas mostly. The road was flat, easy, but I was shouting at a 30kms/20mis/h headwind. There was another day later on in Kansas with headwind, but I wasn’t riding alone and that made it easier. And of course, during the whole Hite hellhole in Utah.
Tailwinds are not felt as strongly πŸ™‚ Though going to Morro Bay with Greg and Daryl, we were carried by an express wind going south all the way πŸ™‚ Overall, I had planned the trip to benefit from dominant winds but I didn’t really feel that. They usually change over the day anyway.

Roadkill. I almost never mentioned it in my posts, but it was a constant experience in my trip. Not a day without a few of them on the road : there is a lot of wildlife in the US, especially in rural areas of course.
I mostly saw squirrels and rabbits, small birds, at least 20 of each. Then turtles, armadillos in the Midwest, snakes, polecats, deers (including half ones) all over, 10-12. Muskrats, rats, raccoons, badgers, carrion crows or equivalent, 7-8. Cats, foxes, 3. Cows, 2 (early on in Kansas). Dog, 1. Grasshoppers, that one day in Kansas : legion. Caterpillars : apart from one day on the Blue ridge, NONE. They are small but I was intrigued and focused after some time. This leads me to offer the hypothesis that caterpillars are prescient and know when to cross the road.

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Technical. I had a lot of technical issues. All in all 7 flat tires, 2 for the trailer wheel (in the first two days in Arizona), and 5 on the back wheel, including an explosion. 2 of the other four flats happened over three days, a week after said explosion, probably my lack of technical know-how πŸ™‚ And the first one of these five, two days before the trailer flats :p
Another regular issue was the trailer axle getting loose. It happened four times, generally after some riding and then some walking.
I saw five different mechanics over the ride, once every three weeks. Not bad for a brand new bike. Still, two of them were unable to tighten the axle well enough, and another one didn’t notice the back wheel totally worn off. Bicycle world in Kingman Arizona is the only one who did great.

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Body. Biking hours every day has some consequences πŸ™‚ I lost about 8-9 lbs or 4 kgs in the first month. Then I realized I should eat more to accommodate for the 2k or 3k calories the ride alone was gobbling. And I stopped losing weight :p
I trimmed my beard a bit but it grew almost 2 inches, or 4-5 cms over four months.
I was lucky in getting no serious condition overall. Still, stress got me coughing for more than a month, until the middle of the trip. No medication helped.
I had no serious cramp. I was very careful about that, as a serious injury would mean the end of the trip.
My butt started hurting a lot and got black right before Kansas, but applying Vaseline and equivalent before riding made the problem disappear.
I now have funny tan line, with the darkest tan I ever had on face, legs and arms, but with no tan on hands or above mid-thighs or mid arms. Would make it very practical for Dexter.
And finally I started breaking my back right at the final week when my seat post tilted 😦 Still hurting.

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Eats. I ate most often at Subway πŸ™‚ With the specials of pulled pork and avocado being my favorites. After that, I was in Sonic, Wendy, Taco Bell, McDonald or Burger King quite often. That meant a lot of French fries :p I also tried Denny’s or Ihop for more variety. But you can’t beat the subs for balance and low risk πŸ™‚
En route, I started eating granola bars after a month, and switched to milky ways and almond snickers the last month. That’s just better. I also had a lot of bananas after I discovered it’s the perfect treat to carry around.
I drank a lot of coke initially, then switched to Gatorade orange, and that helped a lot. On average I drank a liter per 20kms or per hour, which is the recommended amount. I ended up riding with a liter of water and one of Gatorade. That was when civilization was around to refill regularly. On one day in Kansas I had 5 liters of Gatorade, 2 of coke, and 2 of water !
By the way, the price I paid for Gatorade varied from less than one buck (walmart, dollar general), to 1,50 when getting a promotion for two bottles, and up to 2,29 or 2,39 in some gas stations. Plus tax, of course…

Entertainment. It seemed like I went to the movies a lot. I saw Budapest hotel, Railway man, Xmen future past 2x, Godzilla, Maleficent, Dragons 2, Edge of tomorrow 3x (can’t find it here in NY), Dawn of Apes, Gardians, Lucy 2x, Hercules, TMNT, Expendables 3, Sin city 2. 18 showings in 16 weeks, plus there was no theater from Montrose to Christiansburg (7 weeks). And I usually had too much popcorn covered with butter. But that’s America !
I also read a lot : Le pΓ¨re Goriot, Jane Eyre (up to the half of it where it becomes ridiculous “yes I love you even if I never said or did anything to hint at it !”), Drama by John Lithgow, All you need is kill (the novel behind Edge of tomorrow, great to see the adaptation), The road. I also read for the 5th or 6th time the 3 novels of Lyonesse and the 5 of the Demon princes by Jack Vance, and the 5 of the Hitchiker’s guide to the galaxy. I read all that on a Kindle, and the transition from books was really easy.
My music playlist was of course ready before leaving, with 2000 songs. Mostly best ofs, from Madonna and Michael Jackson to Brassens, Prodigy, Renaud, U2, Daft Punk, etc, although my iPod seemed to prefer Elton John. Most representative song was “Wherever I may roam” by Metallica, followed of course by “Going the distance” by Cake.
I started to get bored after Kansas though, and tried listening to some local radios from time to time.

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Seems like the end of the post !
A couple last figures though. I took close to 2700 pictures now, of which I posted probably 400 or 500 on the blog. The rest will be in Picasa albums later on. And I recorded 50 go of videos, around 7 hours, to be edited and trimmed down to an hour or so, whenever I can :p

Among these pictures, yesterday I was happy to replace my locked screen image with my own photo πŸ™‚

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Photo πŸ™‚

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Aftermath

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Three days without riding, for the first time since I started getting ready for the trip (apart from the broken bike gap), it really feels like the end of the adventure.

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I love the word “aftermath”, it feels like you did so much math the world now lies in ruins πŸ™‚ Don’t do too much math ! You never know.

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I’ve been walking around Manhattan for three days. Not that much, as my back still aches from the accumulated pressure over the last week of riding, and the downfall of that pressure. But I love it (the walking, not the back ache). I’ll have to make another post about the city πŸ™‚

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It feels really, really strange not having the road moving below the wheel, and going into one direction for hours. It feels strange not watching the horizon become the next crossroads. And it feels strange not having the same routine anymore.

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Goon into the routine of the ride was tough. Mostly the second month, as for the first one it was new and attractive. But it has become a habit now, and leaving a habit is not natural. My bike and the trailer are sitting restlessly in a corner. I hope I’ll feel better enough to do a few rides around the city before leaving.

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So here I am trying to do something else now, enjoying New York. And of course I’m wondering if I am enjoying it enough. Am I making most of the time here ? Am I spending enough time outside ? The kind of stupid questions where I’m judging myself as if someone was pushing me to do more. Is five hours walking enough ? Six ? Seven ? If I’m tired, can I do less and still avoid questioning myself ? How many movies in a week can I see without feeling I’m losing time ?

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I had a mini experience like that going up the Empire State this afternoon. The price to go up there is steep (29$), and I stayed maybe 20 minutes. That puts a price to the famous New York minute πŸ˜‰ I enjoyed the view, took nice pics very similar to the ones I took eight years ago, and then the vertigo pushed me away from the observatory πŸ™‚ Did I enjoy the place enough ? How do you measure that ?

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For sure though I’m enjoying netflix πŸ™‚ It should be up in France a couple of weeks after I get back, so I’ll be on the waiting list !

New York !

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I’m in New York πŸ™‚ I finished crossing a whole continent on a bike, from the Golden Gate in San Francisco to the Brooklyn bridge in New York !

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As expected this was a short trip today. I left quite late, when the chances of rain in New Jersey were the lowest. By any chance I would then arrive late morning when it wouldn’t be raining in New York. And I escaped rain again ! Really lucky with the weather all the way πŸ™‚

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I stayed on US27 up to Elizabeth (a town name :), then switched to gps guidance. It was supposed to be tricky entering the city on a bike. Adventure cycling maps stops you far away and puts you in a train but that’s no fun. I wanted to finish on the bike !

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And after Elizabeth indeed it was a maze through industrial areas, left, right, with no apparent logic. But I had switched to the east, and at 11am, I got my first glimpse of the island buildings ! Including the new World Trade Center.

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Lots and lots of trucks in the area, very insecure. I crossed the first bridge over the Passaic river on the sidewalk. No one ever uses it I guess, it was overrun by plants πŸ™‚ The next one had no sidewalk, so I hurried cautiously, while still blocking a white truck for a couple miles ! It followed me quietly through Jersey city.

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I was still aiming directly for the WTC. Jersey city is wider than I thought, a lot more than thin Manhattan anyway πŸ™‚ And then here I was, by the Hudson ! I’d made it, just a few more miles. Even the sun was showing up πŸ™‚ I stopped for lunch, right by the Goldman Sachs building, one of the 666 gates with hell.

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Going over the Hudson is through a ferry, whenever no plane wants to make a landing here anyway. Bikes are not really secured on the ferry, I was a bit nervous watching it dandling a meter away from the water, with no barrier.

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But we touched down on Manhattan, New York City, state of New York, 17th and final state of the journey ! I went directly through to the Brooklyn bridge, only a mile and so, or two kilometers away. Going around after the bridge was actually longer πŸ™‚

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Well here I am now, hardly believing what I just did. Still, this is the end of the trip (save a victory lap all around the island). The volley of daily posts will end now, even if it became a habit after all this time. I’ll be staying a week in New York, with a couple more posts to do, like a list of figures and achievements / memorabilia (most frequent sandwich, best roadkill, readings and music…), and probably some notes about learnings.

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And one about “what now ?”. Although I won’t be starting another such trip right now, I’ll certainly do another one soon πŸ™‚ I just looked at the Danube river, 3000kms from Germany to the Black Sea, 1k more probably starting from Paris to Amsterdam and then along the Rhine. But I wouldn’t do it alone this time, certainly with a car and other people like the Chinese group did πŸ™‚

Edison

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Couldn’t find a town named Tesla so I stopped here πŸ™‚ I covered most of the route left to NY while the weather was holding up.

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Riding around here is really easy. Lots of route options, too many gas stations and even convenience stores, hardly any climb… On the other hand I saw more traffic lights today than since Vegas πŸ™‚ But there are quite a lot of bike lanes, and drivers are still courteous.

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Once again today I put my trust in google map gps directions. I got out of Philadelphia very easily, even if I almost ended up in a road works pit (my fault). At some point though it told me “take a right”. Okay but I saw no road there ! πŸ™‚ It was the start of the old canal trail that I was looking for. Another nice small unpaved trail going through Philly suburbs.

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It lead me up to the state line with New Jersey ! No sign or anything, just a metallic bridge forbidden to horses, crossing the Delaware river that is been following since Wilmington. But another state nonetheless πŸ™‚

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After this river I entered the very fancy neighborhood of Princeton. A radical change from the poor (and almost entirely black) areas around the major cities I’ve seen up to now. I took a small detour to visit the university itself, said to be one of the most beautiful in the US. A lot of very old buildings, and a lot of very young students – I suppose visiting before the next year ?

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Back on the road after this visit, and I managed to run out of water in a very dense area. I was becoming choosy with gas stations, not stopping as they were on the other side of the road ! And at some point, no station anymore for 10 miles. But that remains short compared to the west.

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I stopped for lunch and was almost caught by rain ! I got back and went as fast as possible to beat it again coming from the south. After entering South Brunswick, there was no more rural area (and not much worthy of a picture). I guess that won’t change anymore now, unless Central Park is counted as rural πŸ™‚

So, apart from the Princeton detour, I stopped just a few hundred meters from 100kms, or 60+miles. Exactly what I wanted πŸ™‚ Tomorrow is left with just 30 miles / 50 kms, probably under the rain.

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Leaving Philadelphia, I finished a run of warm showers host who helped greatly in visiting the east coast ! I want to thank again Margaret and Tom, Sonja, Tiffany and Derek, Pat and Karen, Curtis and Graziela πŸ™‚

Independence city

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A day walking around in Philadelphia. I mostly checked the independence area, with historical buildings. And Rocky !

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Philadelphia was the US capital while Washington was being built, for about ten years. So you can find there the first Senate (with 32 seats for the original 13 colonies plus Vermont, Tennessee and Kentucky) and the first House of Representatives.

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But mostly this is where the delegates from the colonies met to declare the independence from Britain, and also draft the constitution.

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There is a district filled with this part of history close to where I was. Plus I got to see the liberty bell, a symbol of the time.

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And lots of places linked with Franklin, including his tomb and the wireframe of his house !

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After this part I wandered in northern Philadelphia and back through the gardens west of the city. I also paid hommage to another local figure, Rocky, who has his own statue there ! πŸ™‚ I must admit I paid my dues to Stallone by watching the latest Expendables, which was not worse than expected. Unlike the Philly cheesesteak, which is… strange !

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I’m now planning the last two days of riding to reach New York ! It’s so close on the map I can touch it πŸ™‚ Less than 100 miles to go. Might arrive under the rain though. But as long as I don’t bend my back under the growing stress, it’ll be alright πŸ™‚ I bought plastic sandals to bike under the rain, the third pair of shoes bought this year, more than any other time in my life !

Philadelphia

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Another big city, another step closer ! With a regular ride to get there, although I’m not leaving cities anymore now.

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Going out of the relatively small city of Newark was not going to be a big challenge. It was made even easier by my host Pat riding along with me and getting me up to the highway I would follow most of the way.

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From here on, it was a succession of large roads, along the interstate, or in industrial areas. Not a lot of fun. The exception was going through Wilmington and on the boardwalk along the river. But that was over fast.

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About halfway on the trip I entered Pennsylvania ! I’ve seen more rural, or at least nicer state lines, but it still counts ! πŸ˜‰

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And then, a great change ! The trail I was following, the east coast greenway, that goes all along the Atlantic coast, went through a natural reserve. Great change of scenery, still along the interstate, and on a gravel road though. But it was nice to see some green stuff.

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Right after that, I was in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I started seeing the skycrapers downtown, another completely new place to me ! I crossed the inner city west to east in what looked like a village, rows of small red brick houses with shops here and there. I found my next host on the other side of town, in the historical district. A great starting point for a visit tomorrow πŸ™‚