For those that are interested, there is a Facebook group for ELF owners/prospective owners.
It’s a closed group but an email to an admin will let you in.
Last summer I biked with some friends from Amsterdam to Stockholm, about 1000 miles, just about the same distance I biked this summer. On the way we passed through the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, and Sweden. There were some pretty noticeable differences between there and here.
One of the most obvious differences was that there were a lot more bike trails and bike routes in northern Europe, and particularly in the Netherlands and Denmark, which are real havens for cyclists. It was rare that we had to share the road with much traffic.
A more striking difference was the apparent lack of poverty-stricken areas in northern Europe. When bike touring you go through lots of places pretty slowly, you see a lot. Over the course of a few weeks you stop in a couple dozen of towns or cities. Yet in the countries we cycled in last summer, we simply didn’t see any large urban ghettos, or even any small ones for that matter. This was in real contrast to what I saw this summer in my ride up the east coast of the U.S.
In Richmond, VA, Baltimore, MD, Washington, DC, Wilmington, DE, Trenton, NJ, I rode through large, impoverished urban ghettos, half the housing boarded-up, and with businesses few and far between.
Most of these areas were African-American or Latino. This wasn’t just coincidental to where I traveled. According to the US. census of 2010, about 15% of white children live in poverty, while about 38% of Black children do, and about 34% of Latino kids. That’s a lot of children living in poverty. And I kept thinking as I was spent hours riding through miles and miles of impoverished, broken-down urban areas, why didn’t I see this in Europe? Could we have by accident unwittingly avoided all those areas there, or have they made societal decisions that has eliminated that kind of deep, broad poverty?
I must admit I haven’t done any extensive research on this topic, but from what I have read and what I have seen, I have come to the conclusion that maintaining an underclass is a societal decision, not a societal imperative. If we aren’t willing to spend the time, effort, and money to address the problems of entrenched poverty in our country, if we are willing to tolerate the perpetuation of an underclass, then that presence will continue to bedevil our society. But I don’t think it has to be that way. There is clear evidence that societies can enact policies that minimize poverty and we can choose, if we want to, to do that. I can’t understand why we aren’t willing to.
Lots of good trails in this region, but some of them, for example the DC&R Trail in NJ, had bollards spaced too closely for me to ride the ELF on them. I did ride one section of the DC&R and it was beautiful. There is also the Henry Hudson Trail in eastern NJ which was very pleasant.
All through DC and its environs there are lots of bike trails, good riding on all of them. Then, going north from Annapolis, there is the Annapolis-Baltimore trail, which comes almost to the suburbs of Baltimore.
My route stopped here at Havre de Grace, DE because google maps, in bike mode, won’t let me cross the bridge over the Susquehanna River there. That’s where we put the ELF on a pickup to get it to the other side.
The East Coast Greenway doesn’t yet have many completed off-road sections in this area. There is the American Tobacco Trail, a 22-mile trail starting in Durham and going south. Going north from Durham, the ECG took me on very beautiful, lightly-trafficed rural roads.There is a trail that is in development, the Tobacco Heritage Trail, that starts in South Hill, VA and will go north.
Now that I’m back home I got to take my cousin Eliana for a bike ride. Not in the ELF, just with my regular bike and a trailer. I think she’s adorable and she likes me too.
I rode in a light rain to the south of Webster a few miles and found the supposed lodgings. No one was there, but phone numbers were posted. The landline was out of service and the cell went to message. I left a message and waited as the skies really opened up. I took shelter in an open foyer and waited for a call back.
As I waited I recalled a night about 40 years ago with the girlfriend I’d just visited. We had hitched down to Arkansas from Iowa, getting to the site of a state park where we intended to camp. It was raining heavily, we were drenched, and no state park was in sight. There was a farmhouse nearby and we went there to ask about the location of the park. The owners told us that it had closed years ago. They saw our condition, it was already dark out, and they offered us the barn to sleep in. We happily took their offer. We bedded down in the straw of a stall next to the pigs. One of them was quite large, and we fell asleep to the sound of its snorting.
The call never came but the downpour ended. In the meantime I’d found a motel only 14 miles away in Sutton, MA. It was getting dark by now, and I’d used up a lot of battery on the hills of northeastern CT, but I figured I still had enough to make it there.
I set out again, through more beautiful countryside, but now I had little inclination to stop and take photos as I had earlier in the day.
My gps failed in the rural hills. I made a few quick choices, and a cop helped me with the final directions. I found the motel, got a room, set up my charging, and at 10 pm finally ordered in some Chinese food, which was surprisingly good. I guess being very hungry might have helped.
So, not a great day, nor an awful one, but rather a day with some wonderful moments and some very anxious ones. How lifelike.