Crane/My Sunday Feeling

After my short jaunt on the bike Wednesday, a half-fast friend called about a ride on Thursday. I had afternoon plans so we had to go in the morning. We took variation 17A to Paoli. I just made that up. I’ve written about riding to Paoli before; a popular destination before I began riding there nearly 50 years ago. We rode a different route than I’ve ever taken.

One can no longer fill one’s water bottle at the town pump. They removed the handle early in the pandemic and have not put it back. Or else the pump don’t work cuz the vandals took the handles.

We came home through the arboretum. Just past Longenecker Garden we came upon a woman standing in the road photographing a sandhill crane standing in the road. We slowed down and passed between them the only line available. The human seemed to take more notice of us than the crane did.

As we rode away, I marveled at how inured to humans cranes have become in the past few years. Just then a shadow passed over me, close enough that I ducked. The shadow had a huge wingspan, appearing bigger by the fact that it was no more than five feet above me. I looked up to see a crane (the same one?) soaring just out of reach and then landing in the grass twenty feet off the road.

Photos: a selection of local cranes; none the crane from this ride, to the best of my knowledge.

My Sunday Feeling

Sunday is still laundry day, retirement or not. It was gratifying to see that there were no socks when I hung my laundry. No socks means no work. The newspaper today reprinted an editorial from 1922 asking “Is the barefoot boy a vanishing institution in our cities?” Bill Camplin, in his great 1993 kids’ album “Flying Home”, said “I Will Never Wear Shoes”.

“I Will Never Wear Shoes”. Bill Camplin, from the album “Flying Home”

Saturday is the day that retirement really sunk in. I went to the big local farmer’s market – I haven’t been able to go to that market on a non-holiday weekend for 22 years. I saw my old friend Bob and he showed me a poster they placed near his stand to commemorate the market’s 50th anniversary. It was a picture of him at his market stand in 1973. When I became produce manager at the co-op in 1975 I began buying apples from Bob and his cousin Edwin. Edwin doesn’t go to the market but Bob’s wife Jane does. She wanted to talk about bike touring, as she has toured England and France and the coast-to-coast trip intrigued her.

Wednesday Night Bike Rides no longer have to be on Wednesday nights, nor at night, for that matter. Monday afternoon the half-fast cycling club returned to one of our favorite Wednesday night rides out of Mt Horeb, touring the hills of western Dane and eastern Iowa Counties – the edge of the Driftless Area. Dinner followed at a Mt Horeb brewpub. Having just watched the Tour de France over the past few days made me wonder how/if these hills would be categorized on their system.

By the time you read this, my bike and gear should have arrived via van and trailer from the east coast. The bike will need some TLC before it returns to the road for the Peninsula Century Challenge next month.

Best of times, worst of times

The worst:

  • COVID-19 and the inconsiderate asshole who brought it to us. Sorry for the bluntness but I was really sick for five days and contemplated giving up and flying home due to someone who knowingly brought the virus to us.
  • Michigan with its poor quality roads, inconsiderate drivers, boring routes.
  • flat tires coming in pairs
  • Central and eastern South Dakota and most of Minnesota – flat, boring, windy, bad expansion cracks. Days of slogging to get through the miles to the next town. Days that had me singing “Every time that wheel turns round, bound to cover just a little more ground” to remind myself that I was getting somewhere.
  • Wearing through my front derailleur cage. I found a replacement! It is waiting for me at home. Chorus instead of Super Record, metal cage instead of carbon fiber. A few grams heavier but more durable if I have positioning errors resulting in chain rub.
  • Worst packing choice: not bringing a sleeping bag – it was cold out west and cold again in the northeast.

The best:

  • The week riding through Wisconsin – beautiful scenery on quiet back roads which followed the contour of the land.
  • The week riding through New York. Once we were out of Niagara Falls and past Buffalo, upstate New York began to resemble southwestern Wisconsin but with better pavement.
  • Three centuries in three days
  • Teton Pass – a tough climb but the sign that I had made it back from COVID-19; a beautiful descent to Jackson and then along the great bike trail system in the valley.
  • Needles Highway, the Black Hills, the Badlands – one right after the other; beauty on top of beauty
  • Dinners at SUNY-Oswego and Case Middle School in Watertown NY, breakfast at Zehnder’s in Frankenmuth MN
  • The final day riding through classic New England small towns (great pavement in New Hampshire, lousy in Massachusetts), meeting local riders; cheering crowd on our arrival, face hurting from grinning.
  • Best item I bought and brought for this trip: Gore C5 1985 Shakedry rain jacket. It is thin and light, stuffs into its own pocket and can fit in a jersey pocket. Small enough to bring every day there is any chance of rain. Keeps me dry and breathes. Has a back pocket, reflective accents, bright yellow accents. Fits well and has two-way zipper.

Small regrets:

  • Not bringing more 2.5 gallon Hefty bags. Zippers failed on a few, so I can’t squeeze out the air and seal the bag to compress it and save space.
  • Not bringing more snack bags. They make a handy waterproof phone case but they do wear out eventually. They also keep a small wallet dry and hold small keys to make them harder to lose.


I hadn’t been on a bike in 2.5 days. Yardwork and Tour de France highlights weren’t doing it. It was 4:30 on Tuesday afternoon and I needed a fix. I put on my bike sandals and helmet, put some air in the tires of the commuter/errand bike, and headed out for a quick neighborhood tour. I rode east to the edge of the neighborhood and turned back toward home. It wasn’t enough. For the past 9 weeks, the first five miles didn’t count. They were just the warm up. I continued west to the other edge of the neighborhood. That led to a bike path along the lake. Well, maybe just a quick out and back to the causeway. Yeah, but that leads right to the loop around the lake. Might as well ride around the lake. 15-20 miles later I was ready to go home, take a shower, and make some dinner. Ahhh, relief!

What it means to be home again

  • When I got out of the shower, no one asked “How are the showers?”
  • I didn’t have to ride 30 miles, eyes peeled for an “espresso” sign, to find a morning cortado
  • I didn’t have to explain to the barista how to make a cortado
  • No waiting in line for the washing machine, no need to find quarters
  • I didn’t have to put up a clothesline to hang my clothes, it was already there!
  • I did, on the other hand, have to chop through two months of unfettered growth of hydrangeas to get to the clothesline
  • Someone was sleeping in my bed!
  • I didn’t have to pack up my tent when I got up this morning
  • I will wear the same clothes all day
  • I will get to know my wife and kids (and grandchild) again.
  • I have two months of mail to go through
  • Stuff that broke while I was gone is waiting to be fixed (or replaced, in the case of a dead computer after multiple failed attempts at resurrection – granted, it was 11 years old)
  • Grass and weeds are calling my name. I told them to wait until the clothes are off the line.
  • Riding with old friends again.

Now what?

Reflections after two afternoon beers and two evening margaritas…

Gloucester harbor (same image is on the gym floor at the high school)

We arrived in Gloucester, waited for Tony to arrive, then headed to the beach with our police escort. Returning to the high school, we showered and changed. My former co-worker, then boss, now neither, just friend, met us at the school, walked down to the beach for the ceremony, then dropped off a few beers for me. I soon headed into town for dinner and to await our cruise.

I ate at the Minglewood Harborside. I admit I was attracted by the name. After a lobster roll with Parmesan truffle fries, I had crème brûlée and coffee before heading to the wharf, just a few feet away.

Server’s t-shirt
Based on a 1920s song first recorded by Noah Lewis

I sat at the wharf, looking out over the harbor. A cover band was playing, close enough to hear, far enough to not be overwhelming. I reflected on the last nine weeks and saw other riders drift by occasionally.

I alternated between “yep, we’re done, time to go home” and “holy shit, what have I just done?!” I looked at the other riders and thought, “No one looking at us would guess what we just did.” We are ordinary people who just did an extraordinary thing. We rode our bikes across the continent. To see us walking down the street, you would not guess that. We do not look like elite athletes. We look like the people you see on the street every day. We are the people you see on the street every day.

Despite spending a few hundred miles in the COVID bus, I rode a bit over 4000 miles. Coming close to flying home from Wyoming to recuperate, recovering enough to climb Teton Pass within a week of contracting the disease, and riding about 3000 miles after that made this trip special in an unanticipated way. I wouldn’t have wished for that, but I don’t regret it. I learned something about myself and others in the process.

At the appointed time, we boarded the boat for “a three hour tour”. We cruised the harbor, out past the breakwater into the ocean, then back again. We drank margaritas. We chatted, knowing that we would never see each other again. We shared, for the last time, this incredible experience. But we didn’t talk about it as an incredible experience. We talked about it as our daily life for the past nine weeks – the way you would ask your partner, “how was your day?”

In the morning I will pack up one last time and board the van one last time for a trip to Logan Airport. On Wednesday, if plans don’t change, I’ll meet Ed and Jerry as Ed drops off our bikes and my duffle bag, and we’ll toast the end of this long, strange trip with a beer on the Union Terrace.

Then it will be time to start this new post-retirement life.