Two years ago today (Sunday) was our first rest day, in Missoula, Montana. I needed another patch kit and more inner tubes. We had ridden 612 miles in 7 days. Today the hardest thing I did was pit two pounds of cherries and bake a cherry pie. I didn’t even have to pick the cherries – my son and daughter in law did that, from the tree in their backyard. (Thanks!)
Day 7 had been a 103 mile slog through nonstop rain, the last 50 miles into a headwind. My new bike was now broken in. Sunday was the day to clean the gunk of 103 rainy miles off the bike, relube, and get ready for another week (and another, and another…). We had crossed the continental divide for the first time by then. I wrote my two essential lessons about mountain riding:
1. Don’t worry about the top, it will be there when you get there;
2. Keep your feet moving in circles and all will be well.
I don’t have to look back at that blog entry to remember the day. It is one of those days that is burned deeply into my memory. It was cold and wet but it ended with a hot shower, a warm sweatshirt, pizza and red wine. We slept in a dorm for the second night in a week – the only time we would do that all summer. It was a day marked by camaraderie, as four of us stuck together to gain strength from each other, so we could take whatever nature dished out. Five miles from the end, we picked up a fifth. He was at the roadside fixing a flat in the pouring rain and told us to go on. We didn’t. We rode in together. It was exactly as Greg had said on the phone sometime in the spring: The days you remember won’t be the 70 degree and sunny days. Those will all run together. The days you remember will be the ones in which you faced adversity and overcame it.
We had already had our first night sleeping indoors on the solstice, in dorms at Gonzaga University. We covered the quad with drying tents and sleeping bags. Gonzaga is in Spokane, home of U. Utah Phillips, the Golden Voice of the Great Southwest. While he is best known for his recordings of the IWW Songbook, I have a warm spot for “The Goodnight-Loving Trail”, about life on a cattle trail in Texas in the 1800s. My friend Cripps introduced me to the song.
Cripps worked at the Whole Earth Co-op at the same time that I worked at the Willy Street Co-op. Whole Earth was one of the last of its kind. In lieu of a cash register, they had a cigar box and a spiral notebook. When you finished shopping, you toted up your goods, wrote the total in the notebook, and put your money in the box, making change yourself. We, on the other hand, had gotten our first cash register at St Vincent de Paul, and replaced it with a fancy one that ran on electricity (instead of a hand crank) when that one died. We were the first in town to have an electronic scale. The city weights and measures inspector told us he wouldn’t decertify our old scales, but he advised us to replace them. While they were inaccurate, they consistently cheated the store and not the customer. That wasn’t illegal but wasn’t a good way to stay in business. The new one had a calculator in it, so you could type the price per pound into the keypad and it would calculate the total price. (I know, all scales do that now; but back then it was a big deal. Scales had a chart with a range of prices and you found the price per pound and read along a red line to get the total. Since the ones we had were pretty old, the prices were low enough that you often had to multiply to get the real price.)
Cripps (remember Cripps? This is a story about Cripps) and I sometimes spent the night in the same house. One night I heard bass laughter coming up through the floor below me. I looked at my partner and she noted my surprise – “That’s Cripps”, she said. Cripps had a tenor voice but a bass laugh. Cripps’ partner was a woman from West Virginia. She taught me a line that I use to this day. You know how there are people you’ve seen around, maybe even know by name or have talked to, but you’ve never been introduced? Someone might ask, “Do you know Cripps?” And your reply might be, “I know who he is, but we’ve never been formally introduced.” Her reply was, “We’s howdied, but we ain’t shook.”
Another night Cripps and I were the last two awake in the house. He was sitting at the kitchen table with his autoharp and U. Utah Phillips songbook. I made myself a cup of tea and joined him. We sang our way through the book, but the first song we sang together was “The Goodnight-Loving Trail”.
One afternoon, too soon after that, Cripps got off the bus downtown, stepped out from behind the bus, and into the path of a bus coming the other way. He died that night. The song, and this post, are dedicated to his memory.
Wednesday Night’s Greatest Hits
Since we don’t have group rides this year, every Wednesday night I pick a ride and go. This week held scattered showers. I checked the radar and there seemed to be a hole in the storms. It corresponded with a favorite ride that isn’t on this year’s calendar. I checked the archives and found a cue sheet and headed out. It looked dark in the distance but that didn’t seem like a reason not to ride. I remembered this week two years ago and hit the road. If I can go 100 miles in the rain, what’s 20 or 30? The darkness seemed to stay in the distance and the roads were dry. About ten miles in it started to sprinkle. The sun was shining so I kept riding. The sun disappeared and the rain came harder. It was cooling off. A dense cedar tree appeared at the roadside and I took cover until the rain let up. There was thunder in the distance (in the direction I was pointed) so I took a shortcut back to my starting point. In the car on the way home it rained hard enough that I considered pulling over to wait for it to let up. The wipers on high were barely keeping up.