Be Like Mike (or Betty and Graeme, or Robert)

Is it possible to live one’s own life vicariously? I’ve spent the last couple of weeks reading the summer’s blog posts and watching/listening to/reading all the links. What a summer! I guess you call that reminiscing, or nostalgia, not living vicariously. (Did I really do that?) Anyway, I’m itching to get back on the road. Anybody want to take me to New Zealand or Australia for the winter (here)/summer (there)? I’m ready to ride.

My daughter showed me this video yesterday. I hope the tandem cyclists from our summer trip see this.

Bicycling magazine used to have an annual contest to win the bike of your choice. You had to do or write something for your entry. One year was “Baikus”, short poems about bicycling, though they did not have to follow the formal structure of Haiku. I sent two entries: one called “First Ride”, about my daughter’s first ride, when I let go of the saddle and watched her ride away; and another called “Last Ride”, about my imagined last ride resulting in death from massive heart attack while riding down a mountain road, found with a smile still on my face. In the poem I would be, like Jiminy Cricket, 93.

I’ve since decided 93 may not be old enough. I might want to stick around long enough to break Robert Marchand’s Hour Record for the over 105 age group. (And I noticed that the original song said “I’m no fool, nosiree, I want to live to be 93”, but the safety cartoons all ended up at 103.)

Hats off to Graeme, Betty, and Robert! May we all continue doing what we love for as long as we love it.

An open letter

to my Cycle America community. To jog your memories, there will be one photo from each week, none of which have appeared here before:

Dear Friends,

trailer loaded, ready to head to ride start-WA

We have now been back in our respective real worlds for longer than we were away in our circus world. We used that metaphor during the trip because it seemed apt – we rolled into a new town every night, set up our tents, and were gone in the morning before most people were up and about. We didn’t put on much of a show, but…

Einstein in Jackson, WY

It’s also timely because I spent three days of the last week in Baraboo, home of the Ringling Brothers and the Circus World Museum. It was also where, for me, the two worlds intersected. My friends, my son and his wife, and my boss all came to Baraboo when the Cycle America Circus rolled through. It was my reminder that our circus world was fleeting, that the other world beckoned. It was the best of times…

Devil’s Tower, WY

And now we’re scattered across the globe doing whatever it is we normally
do; though even that is new for some – Ally went from being a student to being a nurse during those nine weeks. Mike stayed away longer than the rest of us to ride down the west coast of the US. How’d that go, Mike?

Did anybody do a Johnny Paycheck when going back to work?

Needles Highway, SD

I miss that world. I missed the daily routine of riding already by the first Monday I was home. I had my day of rest and was ready to ride again. I’m still looking for anyone who wants to pay me to ride my bike. From the headwaters of the Mississippi to the delta seems like a good route. Who’ll drive sag?

The jersey that got us in trouble in Belgium-Northfield, MN

But I also miss all of you. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna get all hold-hands-and-sing-Kumbaya on you. If we all lived in the same town it’s not like we’d all be hanging out every night after work (those of us who do still work) or be drinking coffee together every morning at the corner cafe (for the retired among us).

Wind farm – Pepin, WI

But we had a community for those nine weeks; a loose-knit one, perhaps, but we shared something I will never forget. We shared fun, we shared miseries, we shared deeply transforming moments.  We found out what we were made of. Some of you, who had done this before, may have had no doubts about it. But I bet most of us had moments when we weren’t really sure what we had gotten into, weren’t really sure we could do this. But we did. And we probably knew that all along but it seemed too arrogant to say out loud, just as voicing the fears seemed too insecure to say out loud.

100 miles is just a number – almost a century in Ontario

We ate some great food and some food that we may not have eaten had we not just ridden 80 miles. We saw the USA in a way that most people never will. We didn’t fly over flyover country. We didn’t cross the plains at 80 mph (~130 km/h for those of the metric persuasion), staring at the ribbon of pavement and ignoring all else. We did wake up sober in Nebraska (or close to it – Nebraska, I mean). Climbing mountain passes didn’t mean just stepping harder on the accelerator.

Cycle America International Bobsled Team – Lake Placid, NY

We did all that, and we did it together. I, for one, already think about a reunion. It’s entirely possible we will never see each other again. I know some of you are friends in real life and do hang out. The rest of us? Maybe we’d feel awkward, not knowing what to say. Maybe we’d need a long ride together with margaritas to follow. Maybe a short ride, but actually together as a group, like the brief stretches when we were together for ferry crossings or through construction zones.

End of the road, Gloucester, MA-only one way to go

And maybe doing it again in 2020 doesn’t sound crazy after all. (Don’t tell anyone here I said that!) If those of you with the wherewithal to do it again do it, I’ll meet you in Baraboo with a case of beer. Or we can find an Irish pub and Mike can show the bartenders the proper way to pull a pint of Guinness.

See you on the road!

Love,

Steve

Maybe a motor next time?
Maybe Hogwart’s next time?
maple
Home again

 

The Last Roundup (Blue Spoon to Little Village)

“It was a fine fall morning; early and cold and sweet as cider. It was one of the prettiest times of year at one of the  prettiest times of the day…” (Ken Kesey, Little Tricker the Squirrel Meets Big Double the Bear)

And so we met at the Blue Spoon Cafe in Prairie du Sac, WI.  Breakfast (for me) was cakes bluespoonand eggs with coffee. It was about 35 degrees, no wind, a bright sun low in the sky. By the time we finished our breakfast and were ready to hit the road, it was over 40; still pretty crisp, but with a promise of warmth to come.

We (the stalwarts of the Half-fast Cycling Club) headed out, crossing the Wisconsin River and making our way to the Merrimac Ferry.ferry (For Cycle America folks, the morning route was more or less the route from the July 26 posting “I will never wear shoes“, only in reverse.) We wound our way up the switchbacks of Devil’s Lake State Park and on to lunch at the Little Village Cafe in Baraboo, home of the Circus World Museum (and former home of the Ringling Brothers). Lunch was a grilled chicken sandwich with pesto accompanied by an Argentine Malbec, followed by bourbon pumpkin cheesecake and espresso. No pictures of food. I’m not that kind of guy.

Leaving Baraboo the temperature was over 60 degrees. The wind began to pick up, out of the west, meaning we’d have a headwind early but a tailwind to push us home. The afternoon is the hillier part of the ride, so it was a good thing we were well-fueled. We headed up Happy Hill (and were happy), Freedom Road (where we felt free) and Swiss Valley (where we saw Brown Swiss cattle).  Rollie and I waited for the others by an old stone barn foundation with a silo in the middle. Since I’m used to seeing silos outside of the barn, I decided it’s really the top of an ancient and long-buried castle.

You can see the slits for the archers to shoot through at the top of the parapet, and the lookout tower above. After crossing a busy highway (with only a few feet of milled pavement – see the August 6 post “Back in the US, back in the US, back…”) we crossed onto a bike path for the last few miles. We saw a bald eagle perched above the river, which looked much better through the viewing scope than in the accompanying photo.eagle

Back to the Blue Spoon for drinks and hors d’oeuvre on the patio overlooking the river (just upstream from the eagle) and then it was back home for dinner, driving into the rising and nearly-full moon. Today was probably the most beautiful day of the month, a perfect day for what may be the last ride of the year that is just for fun and not to get somewhere. We’ll see how many of the Half-fast Club are up for the New Year’s Day ride.

The Last RoundUp (take two)

Today was (probably) the last organized ride of the season. A year ago I might have looked at today’s forecast (50 degrees and rain) and decided to stay home to do the laundry. But I already paid the registration fee, and it’s warmer than it was from Thompson Falls to Missoula.

Sunday, October 7. I leave Madison in the dark. There’s not a whole lot of traffic at 6 AM on a Sunday. I’m listening to a Nigerian American artist and writer talk about his work on the radio. It starts to mist as I head out of town. I stop for coffee in the Only Waunakee in the World. As I start to dictate this in their parking lot, I realize that my phone is trying to type the nearest Spanish phonetic equivalent to what I am saying. When I say “Change to English”, it types “sangre”. When I say it again, it starts typing in English.

After riding with 2500 people in the Door County Century, on today’s ride I saw a total of five on the road. There were two people at the registration table when I arrived but I didn’t see them again. I saw a family of five about 20 miles in, but they were going the other way.

As a result, I had plenty of time to compose a letter to the editor.

Dear Editors:

The Wisconsin State Journal, like most of the mainstream media and the Senate, had the narrative wrong on the Brett Kavanaugh story. By casting it as a tale of “unsubstantiated allegations” you were able to reduce it to a he said/she said story. Since the “corroborating witnesses” had a vested interest in failing to recall the events of that night in 1982, and were self-professed blackout drunks, there is little surprise that no evidence was found to corroborate Dr. Ford’s testimony.

This way, Senate Republicans (and you, by printing their narrative) could cast this as the tale of “two lives utterly destroyed”. One of those lives can spend the rest of his life drying his crocodile tears with his new black robe.

Missing in this narrative is what we learned in the past week. Mr. Kavanaugh perjured himself more than once. He told us that his high school drunkenness was totally legal. Unfortunately, the record shows that the drinking age was 21 when he was engaging in his teenage hijinks. He told us he got into Yale with “no connections”. Unfortunately, the record shows that he was a legacy student, as his grandfather had gone to Yale. Why were these lies not the story? We didn’t have to go back 35 years to find out what kind of man he is, he showed us in his testimony. If he will lie about small things in order to gain power, why should we believe him about big things when he comes to power?

He showed utter contempt for the Senate and for the democratic process when he refused to answer direct questions and instead turned those questions around and asked them of the Senator questioning him. I’m no lawyer, but even I know that when you are testifying under oath your role is to answer questions, not to ask them.

So now we have a Supreme Court justice who shows himself to be a liar under oath and contemptuous of our constitutional form of government. And he is there for the rest of his young life.

As for the ride. It was misty/drizzling for most of today’s ride. When it got a bit chilly, I received the warming gift of a 20% grade to climb. After about 25 miles it became chilly enough to put my shoe covers on. That way, the next time we had a 10 or 15% grade, I was not in need of that grade to get warm. Leaves are turning, though with 100% cloud cover, we had to rely on the leaves themselves for their brilliance. There was no sunlight to add dazzle.

At one point I realized that it was not raining. I really don’t know when it stopped. I do know that the hardest rain came in the last 5 miles. We were provided with a cue sheet that recorded mileage to the nearest 1 1/1000 of a mile. Unfortunately, it was off by as much as 4 miles some of the time. Many road signs were missing. Being on a route with virtually no other riders and almost no route markings, this made for an interesting adventure finding my way back.

Most of the roads had names with “hollow” or “ridge” in them. It was clear we’d be going up and down a lot. One of the roads was “Dog Hollow”, which had me singing this:

Remember, there’s only a week left to vote in Madison Magazine’s “Best of Madison” awards.

Next week: The Famous Blue Spoon to Little Village Ride.