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

 

Happy birthday!

Today is my daughter’s 22nd birthday. As they are a big fan of Taylor Swift, I should link to a Taylor Swift song, but I can’t bring myself to do that 😉 not knowing what song to choose.

Instead I’ll go to our mutual love of Jackson Brown, and one ofthe songs that sustained me while working in a war zone in Nicaragua.

I know, this is not particularly celebratory, and doesn’t seem like a birthday song, but I think Emery understands.

We are leaving Emery’s alma mater on their birthday; this seems somehow fitting. At 22, working for a living, you’re definitely a grown-up. Congratulations!

I rode into St Olaf wearing my Wisconsin Bike Fed jersey and will ride out the same way. St Olaf’s crest contains a lion rampant, just like the flag of Flanders. The Bike Fed jersey has a cow rampant. I hope I don’t offend any more Belgians or Flemings. Thanks to Dave Schlabowske of the Bike Fed for defending our honor last time. Based on the Ole fight song (below) I don’t think they’ll take it too seriously.

Flanders coat of arms from Wikipedia, t-shirt from Wisconsin Bike Fed.

St Olaf Fight Song (altered, but the version I know) (It’s a waltz):

We come from St Olaf
We wear cashmere sweaters
We live on a hill t
o
Be closer to God.

We don’t smoke, we don’t drink
At least that’s what they think
And under the covers
We Um-Ya-Ya-Ya.

On (to) Wisconsin!

A great rest day in Northfield, and the first one that I didn’t really need. I still felt pretty good. The bike needed it.

Dinner (as planned) last night at Chapati. Breakfast (as planned) this morning at Brick Oven Bakery. Back to the dorm to clean and lube the bike, put on a new chain, and add a second layer of bar tape after the beating I took this week. (Also washed out water bottles.)

The bike sounds happier, which makes me happy. Then down to town for a late lunch at El Triunfo (a great little Mexican restaurant) and a visit with the rug seller who sets up outside there. I’ve passed him many times but never stopped to chat.

Old Main, our dorm, Big Ole (the source of St Olaf power)

                                         street sculptures
fairy garden (note the Little Free Library in the back), old train depot, Cannon River

I then went on a little tour of the other (Carleton) side of town before checking out the new brewpub, Tanzenwald. They had live honky tonk music with a singer/guitarist accompanied by a pedal steel guitarist.240F339E-B709-423E-A8A1-A8DD413DEDCD

We will cross the Mississippi River tomorrow, another milestone. Fourteen new riders, thirteen new bikes (another tandem). A short day so they are delaying breakfast by 45 minutes.  If breakfast is like dinner, that will delay our start by about an hour and a half.

St Olaf is hopping. We shared the cafeteria with a cello institute, a chess club, and a diving camp. They had us all arrive at the same time (which is not how it works during the school year) so it was a madhouse.