Join me as I bicycle across the United States. This blog is a combination of humor, and travel writing.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!
I have always been a huge fan of the Jerry Springer Show for many years. In college, I used to schedule my classes around this wonderful program. During each episode, I told myself that if I ever made it to Chicago, I would have to see this show being taped.
Coincidently, while bicycling around the perimeter of the US, I ended up in Chicago and knew it was my destiny to see the show. Normally, the protocol to see the show being taped involves waiting in line for tickets, only to come back later and wait in another line. I have never been a huge fan of waiting in line, so I called in a few favors and used some connections to have my name put on the VIP list. Let's face it, one has not arrived until you are on the Jerry Springer VIP list.
My friend and I showed up at the NBC building in downtown Chicago in August. When they asked if I had I ticket, I mentioned the VIP list. The lady behind the desk immediately responded with, “Oh. Right this way, Mr. Anello.” At that point, the head of security for the building personally escorted my friend and I onto the elevator. Soon, we were in the hallway outside all the dressing rooms for the show. The security lady then excused herself and left for a moment.
My friend and I looked at each other for a minute, not knowing what to expect. She then asked, “How, exactly did you get these tickets?” Without missing a beat, I responded with, “Oh...Right....That is what I forgot to tell you. We aren't people in the audience, we are guests on the show and there is a secret that I have to tell you.” She believed me for a minute, but knew I was just kidding.
A few minutes later, the security lady came back and apologized that the construction on the VIP lounge was not finished yet and we should go back downstairs and hang out in the cafeteria for half an hour. We enjoyed some coffee, then came back and had to wait for twenty minutes before they started seating people in the studio.
Every episode has the hottest women in the audience sitting front row, center. I, unfortunately, am not a hot chick. So, I sat in the front row, all the way to the right. I was four feet from where Mr. Springer does the final thought and three feet from the producer. Not only did I have an excellent view, but I was in the background of many shots wearing a bright red shirt so as not to be missed.
The topic of the show was transvestites. I thought I had seen crazy people before, but this collection of misfits was so bad that they almost create a whole other level of lunacy. One particular transvestite, Harold, insisted on wearing the underwear of his deceased mother. It was rather disturbing to see.
At the end of the episode, Mr. Springer asked for audience questions. As you might imagine, wearing a bright red shirt in the front row of the audience was not enough for me. I had to ask a question. So, I raised my hand and asked Harold, “Why couldn't you have chosen to wear the clothing of a deceased relative who had better taste?” My question was not insulting enough and the producer got the crowd chanting, “Apologize to Jerry! Apologize to Jerry.” Everyone in the room was chanting this, including the friend I brought with me. Jerry Springer then came back over to me and I shook his hand as I apologized for not being hysterically funny on cue. That, was the end of the show, and the moment I had been anticipating. Humiliation on national television next felt so fun. Some day, when I have grandchildren, I can tell them that the entire Jerry Springer audience booed me out of the studio. What a claim to fame!
It is tough to know what will sections of the show will air, and what gets edited out. At the minimum, I am wearing a red shirt in the front row. At the maximum, I will be in many shots, and have my question asked at the end. Only time will tell. This episode will air, Wednesday, October 18, 2006 and I cannot wait to see this episode.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Glacier National Park One Day Before Fire
The last time I visited a national park during the peak of the season, it was disastrous. The windy, steep roads of Yellowstone had no shoulders and no place for me to bike. All I remember was getting honked at by miserable people in RV’s trying to pass me as I crossed the Continental Divide three times in one day. It was disturbing that I could not enjoy the beautiful scenery and natural wildlife because I was concerned about my own safety.
Fortunately, Glacier handled the traffic flow a little better. There are red buses that carry transport the people to various stops in the park. Also, they do not allow bicyclist on the large pass during the busiest times. In a way, it was good that I was being protected, but it also meant that I had to climb this 6700 foot pass before 11AM. I was on the road at 7 AM. The first twenty miles were easy. I was rolling along at a decent pace when four cyclists caught up to me, but did not pass. They were behind me and asked half jokingly if they could draft behind me. It was rather humorous that I had fifty or so pounds of gear on my bike and was faster than these guys with light bikes.
The next ten miles after that were a little steeper, but manageable. When I was about two miles from the top, the park ranger stopped me to tell me that I could not continue because it was passed 11AM. It was incredibly disappointing for me because physically, I could have ridden uphill for another twenty miles. I did not know what the fine would be for disobeying those orders, but did not want to risk it. Luckily, I was able to catch a ride up the rest of the way in a pickup. It only took me five minutes to catch a ride to the top.
At the top of the hill was a visitor’s center which was a great place to fill up my water. As I left the parking lot, the construction workers told me they would hold the traffic back for me. After slowly ascending that hill for hours, here was my chance to take off…or so I thought. In front of me was a red Toyota pick up with a bicycle in the back. The driver kept his foot on the brakes and forced me to brake also. After I tailgated him for a few hundred feet, he finally got the hint and pulled over so I could pass. It was then that I could finally take off. I immediately switched into high gear and pedaled down the hill reaching speeds of 45 or 50 MPH. There were no cars behind me, so I rode down the center of the lane. 50 MPH might not be that fast for a car, but for a bicycle with tons of heavy gear it is extremely fast. Also, in the event of an accident the only thing between the road and my butt is a thin piece of spandex. I was going so fast that I caught up with two motorcyclists and tailgated them also. Those 12 miles downhill were some of the best of this whole trip. Scenes like this make me wish I had a video camera with me.
Monday, July 10, 2006
I have been on the road for a few months now and have spent most nights in a tent. So, the selection of a proper tent is very important. At the beginning of the trip, I picked up a tent at the Sports Authority in Orlando, FL. I found a small orange and black tent that was originally $30 and on sale for $24. At that price, if it lasted a few weeks, it was worth the money. Three and a half months later, I was still using it. By this time, it smelled a little funky, was loosing its water repelling ability and had a hole in the side from a hungry squirrel who stole my food . It was time for another tent.
Last week, I stopped at another Sports Authority. This time, in Kingston, NY when I was visiting for a family reunion-type party. In that store, I was shocked to find that they were out of stock on the $30 tents. Then, I was able to find an even lighter tent with a price of $19.99 on sale for $13. It seemed perfect. It was lightweight and designed for backpacking. Since the previous tent had lasted so long, I imagined that this tent was of similar quality.
It seemed like the perfect tent...until I set it up for the first time. Aparently, it was so much lighter because it was a lot smaller. It really looks like a children's tent. When I set it up, an old guy walking his dog told me not worry because there were no bears in the area. So, if I needed, I could sleep with my feet outside the tent. Considereing the condition of my feet, that might not be such a bad idea. At least that way, they might actually get tan some day. Soon after some kids walked by and said, "Hey. Look at that tiny tent!"
Sure it is small, but it fits me as long as I sleep diagonally.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
I was getting a little sick of Texas. It took me several weeks to get through the entire state. The desert scenery was nice, but it gets kind of old sometimes.
I even crossed into Mexico for lunch one day. I crossed from Persidio,TX into Ojinaga, Mexico for a few hours just so I could say that I have been to Mexico. I realize that judging the entire country from what I saw at a border town is not quite accurate. It is sort of like wanting to visit New York State and only getting to Port Chester, NY before turning around. Anyway, getting into Mexico is no big deal. As long as one is not bleeding from every orifice, they let you in. From there, I rode about three miles into downtown Ojinaga. It is a small city like any other and tourism is not their biggest industry. So, I ate at this tiny little restaurant which let me bring my bicycle inside the place while I ate. It was great. For $4.00, I ate a small steak, refried beans, rice, tortillas and some sangria-flavored soda. All this while enjoying the best of Latin American soap operas on the television.
After lunch, I quickly headed back to the United States. In order to get back into the US, I had to pay a toll of three pesos or $.30. I could not believe that these two guards were there specifically to make sure I paid the small toll. It seemed like the equivalent of having two armed guards watch a gum ball machine. After that a US Customs agent asked me a few questions about if I had any alcohol or anything and soon let me back in.
The whole Border Patrol thing is kind of humorous. Outside of Del Rio, TX, I saw one of the Border Patrol facilities. The building was constructed with Mexican-style architecture. It seemed rather odd because we all know what group of people did the actual labor for this building. Those poor guys had to come into this country illegally and then get jobs in the construction industry so that they could build a facility to keep them out.
On the West side of Del Rio, there is a sign giving directions to the Border Patrol Firearm Training Facility. I can only imagine that they shoot at those profile targets that every other police force uses. However, maybe those profiles have sombreros.
I have seen tons and tons of Border Patrol people. At first, I was amused because it was something I had never seen before. They set up inspection stations in the middle of nowhere and wait for illegals guys to just jump out from somewhere. I almost feel sorry for these guys sitting in a car all day on roads where cars come by only twenty or thirty minutes. I have to imagine that boredom plays a huge role in the attrition rate.
Recently, the Border Patrol started advertising on TV stations in the New York Metropolitan area. These ads seem to be directed by the same people that do the Army and Marines ads. They show guys going through the desert in Hummers using night vision goggles and flying helicopters. The reality is more likely as described earlier where they hang out in the desert 60 miles from the nearest town waiting for the action to come to them.
Monday, April 10, 2006
Texas has been interesting. As soon as we entered the state, it seemed different. I seriously believe that half the state's resources are consumed making sure that you know you are in Texas. Every intersection has a sign with the outline Texas in case you were driving for ten hours and not sure if you left the state.
We went to a Dairy Queen and found Texas propaganda everywhere. They sell meals in small, medium, and Texas size. The drinks came in Styrofoam cups with the major highways and cities decorating the outside. It reminded me of the Simpsons episode where Homer uses a Krusty Burger menu to find his way when lost at sea.
I have been trying my best to blend in, but feel it has been an upward battle as I am one of the few not carrying a gun. Obviously, guns are a big deal here. I have seen more guns stores, gun repair shops and gun clubs than anywhere else. I even saw a gun library. I guess Texans like to light a fire in the fireplace and curl up with a high powered rifle capable of taking down an elephant.
When we first entered Texas, I saw a sign that read "Quicksand Creek." I thought quicksand only existed in Wile E. Coyote cartoons. Somehow, it exists in Texas, also. One waitress was telling us about a few people she knew that camped near quicksand and lost their truck in the process. That must be rough, because a Texan without a truck is pretty much useless.
Only 800 miles left in Texas.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
The Wild One
I thought Ihad gotten that whole traveling thing out of my mind, but apparentlynot.I have begun another epic bicycle trip across the country. This time, from Florida to California over the next two months.
I started in Punta Gorda, FL, outside of Fort Myers and headed East toDaytona for "Bike Week." It is a crazy event where an estimated 500,000 people show up. It is so insane that computer programs accurately predict how many people will die in this event. Well, with that many people coming to the area, it makes finding lodging a little difficult. Naturally, I do not believe in calling ahead and making a reservation. So, on Thursday, I spent the night at a small campground located four miles from Seville, FL. Seville consists of a flashing yellow traffic light and a post office. After following some state road for four milesas I rushed to get there before the sun set I arrived at this little place.
I was looking for the owner who I was told was in the bar, in the next building. I walked over and pushed open a screen door to see this biker bar. I swear this place was identical to the biker bar in the opening scene of Terminator 2. The whole place smelled of cigarette smoke, body odor and stale beer. The room was lit by several pool table lights. Around the bar was the usual motley crew of characters. They were allHarley enthusiasts dresses in combinations of jeans, black t-shirts, andvarious amounts of leather. Meanwhile, I had been pedaling my bicycle all day and was dressed in a bright yellow shirt and black spandex bikeshorts.
I ordered a Corona and found out my tastes were too exotic as all they had was Bud, Bud Light, Coors Lights and Michelob. I went for the Coors Light instead and then studied all the decorations of the wall. Therewas a poster with the word "Crappemania" on it. I thought it might be a promotional poster for Yanni's new tour, but "crappe" is some type of fish. I might have insulted a few when I asked if the guys pictured onthe poster were full of "crap." One of the locals then explained the process of fishing for crappe fish. On the other wall were a few pictures of guys standing next to fifteen foot alligators hoisted up on a winch. The guys behind the bar noticedme looking at the pictures and that prompted one guy to bring out his own alligator souvenir. He came back with the entire head of a recently-killed alligator from his freezer. I took a nice picture of it as the guy told me his plans for the carcass. Apparently the back paw was to be made into a back scratcher and the front paw was to be a business card holder. We all know that nothing shows more professionalism than an alligator's claws holding your business cards.
At the time I was so focused on arriving at the campsite that I did nothave time to pick up some food for myself. I asked the bartender what type of food they had and was told just pretzels and chips. Luckily, another patron overheard the conversation and offered to go back to her camper and fix me something. I did not want to inconvenience her too much but she insisted and came back with a ham and cheese sandwich and aside of venison sausage.
As I ate the venison sausage, all of a sudden the bar got extremely quiet. I had no idea what was going on, until I looked up and saw all the monitors in the place were turned to American Idol. It was as if Ihad somehow ended up in a parallel universe where Clay Aken's biggestfans kill alligators for fun and where shirts that say "If you can readthis the bitch fell off." It was bizarre to overhear these guys arguing about how Bo Bice is not as good this season as last (since he is not competing this season).
Maybe I should just stay out of biker bars. This place was just tooextreme for me.