Nashville, USA - April 9, 2003

Chapter 3 - Sweet Carolina

I finally arrived in the USA. Normally it's only about an hour or so away from Kitchener, but it took me more than three hours to make it to Fort Erie on the Niagara River. Instead of the highway, I took some backroads, because I couldn't drive faster because of the cold weather. I also stopped several times on my way. ON one of those stops I noticed some oil on the forks and thought that I had blown the fork seals, but that proved not to be the case. Maybe I drove through a puddle of oil and got sprayed on.

In Fort Erie I stopped briefly at the Old Fort, but it was still closed for visits, so I took the time to have lunch. I ate the excellent cake my aunt baked me for the road. It was very windy and cold and maybe I would find warmer weather south of the border.
The peace bridge in Fort Erie, which marks the border between Canada and the USA.
When I crossed the Peace Bridge to the USA, it was so windy I kept being pushed towards the opposing lanes. Luckily the many trucks in the other lane provided for some sort of shield. The border crossing went smoothly, though longer than the last time I was there. I am now a canadian citizen and thus didn't have the hassle I always had with my portuguese passport.

From the border I went straight to Pittsburgh to see my friend Sean, who has been living in Pittsburgh for almost three years now. In Pittsburgh it was very hot, maybe 25°C. Because of such nice weather I decided to stay another day. This would mean I would miss at least the first day of the orienteering meet in North Carolina. Well, I guess during this trip I'll be doing a lot of plan changes. Maybe I shouldn't have a plan at all. Just riding.

It was sunny and warm the next day and I went to have lunch with Sean. He works as a physicist at the University of Carnegie Mellon. Pretty much a lot of this city revolves around Carnegie Mellon. There's the Carnegie Mellon Natural History Museum, where I spend a few hours. The building also houses an art collection. I found the exhibit about the American Indian to be the most interesting. I learned that there is going to be a Pow Wow in Albuquerque at the end of April.
Funny T-Rex in Pittsburgh, PA.
I walked a lot through the museum and then around the hills of Pittsburgh. In the end, I stopped in a park to sit down and really do nothing but watch. Pittsburgh is built around two rivers which become one, the Allegany and Monogahela that become the Ohio. All around the town are hills and more hills. Walking or cycling is quite a challenge. In ways, it reminds me of my university town in Portugal, Coimbra. It also has a river, a major university and several hills. I liked the city and I guess the young people around have a lot going for it.
Sean and me at dinner in Pittsburgh.

The next day, I was off to West Virgina. Sean told me about a campsite there and that's where I wanted to stay for the night. I guess I could have continued all the way to North Carolina, but that would have been too exhausting. On my way, it started to rain, but not menacing.
Me on my way to West Virginia.
The campsite is just before the New River Gorge bridge on Highway 19. This bridge is the largest single arc spanned iron bridge in the world. It's quite impressive. I like to see big engineering projects, like bridges. But the weather didn't help and it began to rain, so I had dinner in a small toan called Fayetteville. The Church (or Cathedral) café was closed. They close at 4pm and it was recommended by Sean, so I went to Subway's instead. I find it very hard to eat out here in the US. I am vegan and it's almost impossible to get anything on such a diet. Except maybe the bigger cities or university towns. Where there's students, there's got to be vegan people. In Pittsburgh I managed to get vegan food and then shopped at the local WholeFoods store.

Back at the campsite, the sky cleared and I saw the stars for the first time since leaving Toronto. I didn't set up the telescope, as I was just too tired. I did see Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon. During the night it rained heavily and the next morning I packed the tent wet. Up until now, this was the best campsite I stayed in. Cheap, quiet and clean.

The road to North Carolina is really interesting, specially Route 19 through West Virginia. Very twisty and not a lot of traffic. It reminded me of sceneries in the Alps. Through Virginia, I basically took the interstate, and the border to North Carolina is at the base of the Appalachian mountains. The view was stunning. A vast plain, all green and lush extended below the mountain base. And finally a break from the clouds and cold weather all morning.
Flowering trees in North Carolina.
The weather felt like 30°C warm. I went as fast as I could to reach the meet site just west of Charlotte. I arrived around 5pm, but couldn't find anyone who could give me some clear information when the event the next day would start and where to camp. I ended up camping at the State Park campsite. I made a quick dinner and was too tired to do anything else. The next day, of course I missed the orienteering meet. Also because the time changed. I still found the event in time to meet Don, Hugh and Svatka at the finish. They're are from the Toronto Orienteering Club and came down from Toronto for the event.
Pippi (my bike) and me about to leave the campsite.
I then joined them on their way west to Asheville and had lunch in a small town filled with restaurants and souvenir shops. There were also hundred of bikers on the road, which was conducive to motorcycle riding. We then said goodbye and I guess I'll see them again in a few years or maybe at an o-meet in Europe or something.

I intended to camp at Smoky Mountains National Park, but the weather worsened and it started to rain. On my way, I drove on the Blue Ridge Parkway and it's an amazing road, going up and down the montains. It was also quite cold in the late evening. I didn't want to get my tent all wet again and thus stayed in a motel for the night. This provided me a chance to upload my pictures onto the computer. I think I'm taking too many pictures and will run out of space on the website, but I'll find a workaround.

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