Square One

Hooray! I have made it to my starting point in Bar Harbor, ME. I plan to get on the road with my bike tomorrow morning. While I am here, I am doing my best to resist asking what must be a worn out question in this town: “So, hey. Where’s the bar?”

The train trip across the country was mostly pleasant. The weather was weird, as it is always now. Though it is mid-April, there was snow on the ground, sometimes quite deep, from North Dakota almost to Chicago. The snowstorm we went through in Montana around Glacier National Park was quite lovely though.

Snowstorm viewed from the Amtrak train, the Empire Builder, just south of Glacier National Park.
Snowstorm viewed from the Amtrak train, the Empire Builder, just south of Glacier National Park.

Going through Washington, DC, and Boston, I got to see friends that I don’t get to see often. In Boston, I rode my bike to the outskirts of downtown to meet my friend so that he would not have to become entangled in the heavy morning traffic. It was raining when I started, and then it started snowing (Please come to Boston for the Springtime…) It was an unexpected opportunity to test out some cold weather gloves I purchased before leaving. They worked wonderfully. I am so glad I got them. But, I hope things warm up enough so that I can soon stow them at the bottom of the least-recently-used-stuff pannier.

The people up here in Maine seem quite nice. The bus drivers have been helpful with getting my bike and all those bags I’ve got with me on and off the bus. At the end of the train/bus part of this trip, I think of all four of the panniers, the over-the-back-rack backpack, my travel guitar, and my helmet as my little flock of sheep as I herd them onto and off of whatever vehicle I happen to be riding. Every little lamb was here for the headcount this evening in Bah-ah-ah-ah-ah Ha-ah-ah-ah-ba-ah-ah.  What a relief because I have quite a knack for leaving things on buses and trains. I lost two rain jackets that way while in Mexico a few years back. Doh!

On the train, I wrote a really long post explaining why I avoid air travel, the text of which I was going to include with this post but I will leave it out. There was plenty of time on the train to write.  Hence, I soon began to delve into all of the moral complexities of modern life. The word count went through the ceiling and I now might have the basis for a book that has been written at least few dozen times, starting with Walden.

But in case you are wondering, the short answer is: frequent air travel is the one thing, even more than diet, that will blow the roof off of your personal carbon budget. I invite you to take this Ecological Footprint Quiz, first answering everything truthfully. Then, take it again, subtracting a few airline flights if you fly frequently, or adding a few if you don’t. Even if you don’t own a car,  never drive, only ride your bike, are a vegan, and use cat dung and candles instead of electric lamps, a couple of plane flights per year will turn you into a hopeless Onceler

It is complicated though. A lot of people fly to far off places to do great humanitarian work. Some people supporting their families have jobs that require frequent air travel. Who TF am I to judge. Amtrak trains are so clunky, I’m not sure if their BTUs per passenger mile stat on a cross-continental trip is that much better than a recently manufactured airplane. [It was not responsible for me to say that off-the-cuff. I double checked and found the statement not to be true. Amtrak, at least according the US Department of Transportation Bureau of Transporation Statistics is quite a bit more efficient than air travel.] “But it’s the symbolic gesture of it dammit!” I shout back at myself.  I better stop here or I’ll be up all night cranking out another incoherent 3000 words. I really should get some rest. Tomorrow will be kind of a big day.

A view of Mt Desert Narrows from a downtown park in Bar Harbor. A couple of islands are visible in the middle distance.
A view of the Mt Desert Narrows from a park in Bar Harbor.