My First Walkabout

by Perette Barella

In 2013, I was struggling with the tech job in which I'd been working full-time for over a year. As mental illness gradually took hold, skills disappeared or hid themselves in a mental fog. In the end, rather than continue pushing on and damage myself like I did in 2003, I resigned before things got terrible.

Nevertheless, by that time I needed out. I wanted away from everything. I needed to straighten myself out, to remember who and what was important to me, to find a reason for living. Inspired by the Australian Aboriginal peoples' rite of passage, I started calling this a "walkabout"--though, being a bicycle trip, perhaps it's more of a "rideabout."

I planned a route, gathered some supplies, and shortly after my last day at work I loaded up my Haluzak Horizon recumbent bicycle, shut down the house, and began cycling solo on a 2,000km route.

This travelogue follows that first "walkabout." Although I had planned to ride a full loop from Rochester to the Catskills, Adirondacks, and Canada back to home, I ran into trouble finding campsites around the Independence Day holiday, so a section got skipped between when my mom gathered me up and put me back on the road.

This log lacks pictures.


1. Rochester, NY to Rose, NY: 69km

Thursday 2013-06-27

Departed Rochester approximately 0900H. Had lunch at Williamson Towne Park (PB&J crackers & soup with rice). Arrived 1430H. Hills with gear in the heat made it tough. Hope I'll do okay with the Catskills.

Afterthought: That first night I stayed with friends, Larry and Mike. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and hearing it downpour outside. I'm very glad they let me stay with them that night.

2. Rose, NY to Cross Lake Campground, Memphis, NY: 60km

Friday 2013-06-28

Was supposed to be ~45km but went off cue and ended up being about 60km. Departed 1030H, arrived 1430H. Cooler, lots of rolling hill. A little rain was nice.

3. Memphis, NY to Sugarbush Haven, Lafayette, NY: 52km

Saturday 2013-06-29

Slept well. Woke to a dream, a showtune with RKS friends like we were in high school together. We were singing to someone, I forget the lyrics but the refrain was, "I love you, I love you, I love yooouuuu... Bitch!" Then my friend Kanin pulls out a trumpet and starts rounding with us singing (he even did those squeaky high-note things), the whole room of 40 or 50 people singing along.

Departed 0930, arrive 15:30ish at Susie's where there's a party tonight. Severian brought food box from my porch, I've got some meals out and Waxman is going to drop it in the post to mom & dad's tomorrow, for when I hit Tannersville. Party was good.

Afterthought: It was a hot day. The route skirted over some highlands to the west of Syracuse, and I remember stopping at a little gully was running between two houses and into a culvert to get wet and cool myself off.

Afterthought: I stopped for a snack and rest to the south of Syracuse, when it started drizzling. A little further along I stopped again at a grocery store, I think I got cheese and crackers for the party, and there was a downpour. I may have escaped the worst of it in the store. A short distance from there I stopped at a Native American owned diner for lunch, it was strange being in a place that allowed smoking again.

4. Layfayette, NY to Forest Lake Campground, Truxton, NY: 29km

Sunday 2013-06-30

Departed 1045, arrived 1500ish. Stopped at Tinker Falls along route. Nice people Helen & Earl have asked me to dinner here. First campsite was in woods, moved to open one--hot when sun was out but is nice now. Pleasant breeze at this altitude.

Wonderful dinner with Helen and Earl. Kind, generous people. Something to learn there.

Afterthought: The campground had a swing set that had a set of handrings, which I was glad for, having just started aerial school 3 months beforehand. I remember practicing my aerial inversions--and I wanted to keep my strength and coordination up while I was away.

5. Truxton, NY to Bowman State Park, Oxford, NY: 44km

Monday 2013-07-01

Departed 0830, arrived 1400. First half of route was fine, second half sucked--routed over some mountain on Shingle Street, a shitty seasonal dirt road, mostly unrideable. And like it was straight out of the Thomas Dolby song, it did indeed cloudburst. I walked my bike in the rain probably 6km down that muddy, rocky, rutted mess. Then more dirt roads, though rideable, into Bowman. Legs sore, feet drying out from rain. Staying here 2 nights to recuperate, then onto East Sidney.

6. Day of rest at Bowman State Park

Tuesday 2013-07-02

Rest day at Bowman Lake. Rained more last night, ground is saturated--everything is wet. Dry sacks work well though, and thermarest provides plateau above water that gets into the test. Nights have been warm, doing fine with light sleeping bag.

Morning was overcast with patchy light rain, but this afternoon is sunny and breezy. Hoping things (tent) dry out.

Current pace is 300km/week, which means 7.5 weeks to completion. Given time constraints, would need to increase this to ~400km/week to finish by Canada trip. Compromise may be to finish/join trip at Fort Erie, and use GO to skip the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). But pace may naturally increase as I lose weight (eat food) and get past worst of mountains.

Afterthought: I remember spending the afternoon on the beach at the park. It was sunny and warm enough to dry out wet clothes that I had brought and spread out on a rock, but I could see dark rain clouds to the south. Despite the foreboding, the rain stayed down there, which I appreciated.

Afterthought: The beach also had a reasonably-priced snack bar, which I appreciated.

7. Oxford, NY To East Sidney Lake, Sidney, NY: 55km

Wednesday 2013-07-03

Departed 0815, arrived 1400. Stopped for snack in Guilford & lunch on NY Rt 7 outside Sidney.

Holiday weekend poses campsite problems. I like the idea of just crashing in the woods, but I'm also terrified to do that. Considered backpacking in to shelter, but I don't have a way to carry equipment/food/clothing properly. Resorted to calling mom to come get me for the weekend. I'll head to Downsville in the morning, then head east on NY 30 for Margaretville and see how far I can get before they claim me.

Characterizing the anxiety: It seems I do okay when everything is as expected or when I have a sense of control. When things aren't as expected and there's no control to fix them, it creates anxiety.

  • The possibility of recurrence "hangs over my head" later, so the anxiety lingers.
  • I ignore impossible situations in hopes they will resolve, but anxiety lurks and jumps high when the moment of conflict arises.

8. Sidney, NY to Downsville, NY: 55km, hilly

Thursday 2013-07-04

Woke early, 0630H departure, 10:00 in Downsville. Bear Spring Mountain is a bitch; walking up took an hour. Flew down though--62km/hour. Was going to head for Margaretville, but mom met me in Downsville.

9. Amsterdam, NY to Sacandaga Campsite, Wells, NY: 60km

Sunday 2013-07-07

Dropped off in Amsterdam, NY 0830 by mom. Stopped 1030 at diner on NY30--Northampton Diner. Arrived 1230 Sacandaga River bend campsite.

Legs feeling good; 60km day but gentle hills, no monsters. Tomorrow onto Lewey Lake probably.

10. Wells, NY to Lake Durant DEC Campground, Blue Mountain Lake, NY: 80km

Monday 2013-07-08

Departed 0715H. Stopped for second breakfast on Speculator--King of the Frosties. Arrived 1500H ish, ended up going to Durant in Blue Mountain Lake.

Stopped in Indian Lake to write and mail some post cards. Life is different here; the Post Office is not just a business, it's a hub of social activity as people encounter each other and catch up.

Tired after 80km but seem okay. Tomorrow plan to stop at Adirondack Museum, which sounds like it takes a while, then onto Long Lake.

11. Blue Mountain Lake to Lake Eaton DEC Campground, Long Lake, NY: 25km

Tuesday 2013-07-09

The Adirondack Museum had a lot about the past--the boats, water travel, the work when this was all unmapped and less accessible. A lot about lumberjacking. It was interesting, a good museum.

Departed Durant 0900ish, spent a while at the museum, resumed 1515 and in about 1645. Ride was dry, a little rain after getting in but it's clearing up now.

Staying at Eaton Lake tonight. Friendly neighbors Bob & Jill let me use their covered picnic table to make dinner during the rain.

12. Eaton Lake to Fish Creek Pond Campground, Saranac Lake, NY: 50km

Wednesday 2013-07-10

Departed Eaton 0715H, second breakfast in Tupper Lake 0930H. Resumed 1030, arrived 1215 Fish Creek. A bit over 50km.

Made reservations for Friday/Saturday nights at Cole's Creek State Park on the St. Lawrence in Waddington, NY. Adirondack map I got the other day says there's a camp in St. Regis Falls; that makes ~65km Thursday and 75km on Friday. Hoping for a boost from the 400m of decline, but I'm off the planned route and there could be some up & down.

Weather is being "Adirondack variable": doing a bit of sun through overcast skies, periodically making intimations of rain with a dark cloud, some wind and a few raindrops.

On my quest to find myself: a little progress. I don't miss e-mail, FetLife, or any of that crap. Occasionally I miss 'net access (mostly weather and route research/verification). But, meh.

On other trips, hiking trips, I get tired/lonely & long to be home. Occasionally I get nervous about fiasco potential, and that makes me anxious and creates some homing instinct, but not enough to stoop--After all, I am on my way home, sort of. And I see and talk to people at the campgrounds, which helps alleviate the worst of the loneliness.

But who am I, what do I want to do next (work or otherwise)? I don't know; the answer is currently the empty set. Perhaps this means I'm coming closer to living in this moment.

13. Saranac Lake, NY to St. Regis Falls, NY: 65km

Thursday 2013-07-11

Departed Fish Creek 0730, arrive St. Regis Falls 1200. Alleged diner near Paul Smith's for second breakfast either doesn't exist or I missed it.

Weather is sunny, patchy clouds and cool now. Hard to find a good tenting spot, the ground is saturated in most spots.

Rt 458 was pretty nice, more open w/ wildflowers than NY 30. Got hilly after Santa Clara though. Tomorrow sounds like 80+ km, hoping to get some more hill in my favor like today.

14. St. Regis Falls, NY to Cole's Creek State Park, Waddington, NY: 80km

Friday 2013-07-12

Departed St. Regis Falls 0800, made Potsdam (30+km) by 0930, avg speed > 25km/hr, a part of downhill. Slower after that, arriving 1230. ~80km with spins around SUNY Potsdam & Clarkson.

The world is stupid sometime. Apparently not all mobiles work here, but they ripped out the payphones anyway. The calling card is really sort of useless most of the time; the world has moved on.

Realizing that although I grasp the "Live in the moment" dogma, how little I do it. Any forward-looking contradicts it, and it's a different dysfunction to never look forward.

  • Am I going to have enough for retirement?
  • Do I need to defrost or acquire food for a meal I want?
  • Do I want to do something with friends? It works much better with coordination & planning.
  • Do I want to do something? I may need to prepare, if it is a larger thing; if I'm just looking for options I'll need to research or it's unlikely something interesting will happen.
One's got to wonder if the crazy spending-life [consumerist-life] of most people is this "in the moment" thing. Are they spending themselves into slavery/the poorhouse as part of a never-ending series of "in the moment" purchases, things they want to do. Is "impulse" = "in the moment," or related in some way?

I was thinking how the masses live their lives with the treadmill choices--an endless series of bullshit, unimportant choices about what to buy, what to own, how to act. I've come to wonder if a job/career is a treadmill choice, a sort of a master- or meta- one. Mostly, what we do is unimportant; if we don't do it, someone else will. Most of what is done isn't really important either. So all a job does is define how much money we have to use for the rest of the treadmills in our lives.

On this trip, I've been a cog, not a treadmill. There are things to do, and it's just a matter of doing them each day. Get up, eat, pack, bike, eat, bike some more, set up camp. I worry about how bad the hills will be, or I don't like the rain, but しょうがăȘい (it can't be helped). It is what it is.

I think of RGIS. It was a crappy, hard menial job--but that was okay, until they introduced pay-for-performance. Then I had the choice of cherry picking to benefit myself (and feel like a greedy asshole doing it), or don't cherry pick and get screwed (don't make my numbers, get paid less, and feel victimized for it). There's a choice, but either option feels bad. But until the choice is there, it just is what it is.

15. Day of rest at Cole's Creek State Park

Saturday 2013-07-13

Idle day at Cole's Creek State Park. Waded in the St. Lawrence, read a lot and finished Michael Crighton's novel Prey. Feel low-energy, ate a lot despite doing little.

16. Waddington, NY to Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada: 105km

Sunday 2013-07-14

Departed 0630, arrived Smiths Falls 1230. Lots of flat, a few gentle uphills, one big bridge I'm not sure I was supposed to cross--steel deck and the sidewalk was terribly narrow, and didn't even run the central span. A little over 100km, glad I got out early, it was 31C today.

Smiths Falls has handled the Rideau Canal nicely. There's a park with camping and boat slips, right inside the town. Apparently it's a good place for boaters to reprovision, so they get a lot of business out of it. But I'm staying at the lock house, which cyclists can stay at for $5.

17. Smiths Falls, Ontario to Desert Lake Family Resort, Hartington, ON Canada: 87km

Monday 2013-07-15

Embarked 0700, made Skycroft by 1030 or 11ish. Felt okay, though I'd been on the road instead of rough trail. Pressed on to Frontenac Provincial Park, which was a disaster. Untrustworthy Google Maps routing (turned out okay, but...); Frontenac campsites are kayak/canoe/backpack in. They were nice enough to locate a campsite, pressed on 10km more. 95km total, in oppressive heat, with full gear & food.

From the exhaustion, I can feel the homing instinct.

Options tomorrow: originally a short day to O'Reilly in Mountain Grove, or go off-cue and aim for Tweed. I don't know, perhaps it will depend on when I get up.

18. Hartington, ON to Loon Lake, Madoc, ON, Canada: 92km

Tuesday 2013-07-16

Up early, departed 0615, arrived Loon Lake 1330 with a stop for second breakfast at a diner in Tamworth, ON, and a lunch/snack/dip in the lake at Tweed, ON. Tempted by cute motel but pressed on. 92km in all.

Planning to take Trans Canadian Highway 7 toward Peterborough tomorrow. I think I'll just look for a good spot, if I can find one (when I find one). The last three days have been long, hot; I need a rest.

19. Madoc, ON to Beavermead Campground, Peterborough, ON, Canada: 82km

Wednesday 2013-07-17

Depart Madoc 0715. Stopped in Haveloc for info, bought a Michael Crighton book, Lost World, because the info guy/bookstore/office help place was indeed very helpful, although I ended up spending about 45 minutes there. By then (1030H), a steady westerly wind had kicked up, so a hard ride the last 40km or so.

The heat was brutal, a grueling day even though "only" 82km. The heat was bad. The wind was hard, but at least provided a cooling versus the heat. The hills broke the wind a bit going up the leeward sides, helped a little going down though quite often pedalling was still necessary to overcome the headwind.

But I made it to Peterborough and there's a nice camp here, right in the city, with swimming and only $9 for cyclists. And the headwind (now "breeze") is taking the edge off the heat.

I'm going to cycle to the other side of the river, find some chow, and check out a free concert they've got going on.

20. Peterborough, ON to Arcadia, Toronto, ON, Canada: 80km

Thursday 2013-07-18

Departed Peterborough 0640H, arrived Bowmanville 1130. Took GO Bus to train, then GO train from there to Toronto/Union Station. Hilly, glad I was able to take bus--I'm tired and sore, I can't imagine how I'd be if I rode the whole way.

I stopped at Dufferin Grove Park for a workout & swim on the way to Arcadia.

Hot here, Arcadia is stuffy (not air conditioned) but it is good to see friends.

Afterthought: In Dufferin Grove, a sizeable area near the playground was set aside as a dirt pile in which the kids could play. This wasn't like the little 3mx3m dirt piles I had growing up--it was probably 15m*15m. The kids had full-size shovels and hoes and other tools working on this place. There were probably a dozen of them collaborating, and they'd dug a deep trench through the area and set up a hose to run their river. If me and my friends created some canals or rivers in my sand pile when I was a kid, these kids had created the grand canyon. In the US, we coddle our kids and keep them safe from the hazards: being injured working with the tools, falling in the holes they'd made, slipping in the mud. There, although there were adults nearby keeping an eye on things, the kids were given resources and the freedom to learn what they could do.

21. Toronto, ON, Canada to Niagara Falls, NY: 80km

Monday 2013-07-22

After a few days of rest, departed Arcadia around 0800 and took GO train to Burlington. Departed Burlington GO 0930ish, made Niagara Falls, ON by 1500 with 80km in. Was 1600 by the time I cleared customs; slow day. Didn't want to do 50km to camp, talked with David about rescuing me but he said just to get a motel even though they're a little steep. Had Indian food for dinner then visited the falls. Pretty sunset as I write this.

22. Niagara Falls, NY to home, Rochester NY: 130km

Tuesday 2013-07-23

My journal doesn't say anything about the last day, but I may have cycled the whole 130km, or I may have routed to Brockport, NY and caught a local transit bus from there for a 100km ride. I don't remember.