You know how, sometimes on a bike ride, your mind wanders? Some rides, you’re totally tuned into the world around you – the smells, the sights, the sounds. Wow! Listen to those spring peepers! Who knew such tiny animals could make so much sound? I hear a sandhill crane, but where is it? Wow! Way over there! It’s like the sound totally fills the sky! Look at the delicate green of those maple flowers! Hey, look! Those trees are leafing out and it’s a totally different green! Roadside asparagus! Is that an eagle? Why is that redwing blackbird dive-bombing me? Nest nearby? I smell honeysuckle! Where is it? I love the smell of new-mown grass! Is someone burning off a field? I remember the smell of burning leaves in the fall when I was a child. We don’t do that anymore – now they become mulch or compost.
Some rides, you’re totally tuned into your body and how it feels to ride. I’m one with my bike! We are perfectly matched. My legs could spin like this all day. 100 miles? Let’s go for 200! Something’s not right with my left knee…have I noticed that before? Will it go away? Oh yeah. My knee hurt before. I forgot. Feels fine now. Can I force any more air into my lungs? Are they going to burst before I reach the top of this climb? Can my heart beat any faster?
But on days like today, you just drift. Enough of your brain is tuned into riding that you stay safe, but some of it is elsewhere. I wrote of this before, how all my best ideas came when I was 13 years old, riding my bike in the pre-dawn darkness, tossing papers. Today I noticed all of my thoughts drifting to Cycle America. Don’t tell my boss or my wife any of what follows. I was thinking about the 2018 coast to coast ride. Not just the good parts, but about how the soles of my feet burned on endless days out west. I wanted to scream. (Okay, I did scream – just not when anyone was around.) At water stops I took off my shoes, doused my feet, walked around barefoot, and dreaded getting back on the bike. But I did. And I survived the day. And the ride is over. Was the agony that bad? What happens to agony once you’ve lived through it?
I thought about how I considered a coast to coast ride a once in a lifetime adventure. And that I want to do it again. Greg said he promised a 2020 ride but then might retire. I was going to meet them with a case of beer when they passed near here. The 2020 ride was canceled due to COVID-19 and Greg now promises a 2022 ride – and sent me the schedule. I was going to retire in the summer of 2023, after I turned 70. But other things (which are in a draft of a future post) have me wondering if I’ll make it that long. And this is only a year earlier. I spent 35 miles thinking about the ride – remembering and planning. (What did I bring last time that I wouldn’t bring again? What didn’t I bring that I should have; or what do I have now that I didn’t have then? Will any of the 2018 riders be back? Maybe a who’s who of prior years. Will I blog again, or just go out for a beer with the others after the day’s ride instead of sitting and writing. If I take pictures, will they be totally different? Will I need to buy some iCloud space?… ) At the end of the ride, the miles had flown by, and now I was left to think about what I had just spent the evening thinking about…
And this is the first post in a long time that is going up right away, with no time to edit or think about whether I really want to post it.
I’m gonna pretend I can ride a century without training. I trained hard for the Horribly Hilly Hundreds in June; surely some of that will bleed over into September, eh?
The Ride is a century sponsored by my employer. It is on (approximately) the autumnal equinox; seems like a good excuse for a century ride. It’s in a not-too-hilly area where I don’t ride a lot. I oughta be able to do this. They want me to raise $350. I mostly want to ride that day. It’s a century and it’s the equinox and it’s a Sunday so I don’t work. Seems like enough reasons to me. (Reasons? I ain’t got no reasons. I don’t need no reasons! I don’t have to show you any stinking reasons!) Since it raises funds for the Carbone Cancer Center, I welcome your donations in my name (Half-fast Cycling Club).
This is going to spawn multiple tangents, so strap in for the ride. The Ride reminds me of a plan I once had for The One Ride. I designed the logo, t-shirt, jersey, and the tagline: “One continent, One rider, One cause.” It was to be a solo cross-country fundraising tour to raise funds for the JNCL Research Fund. It never happened.
JNCL is short for Juvenile Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscionosis, which is long for Batten’s Disease. Battens’ Disease is an autosomal recessive genetically-transmitted disease. In lay terms, you inherit it from your parents. If both are carriers of the gene, you have a 1 in 4 chance of getting the disease. What does it mean? “Juvenile” means onset in childhood. “Neuronal” means it involves the neurons – cells which transmits signals in your nervous system. “Ceroid” refers to a yellow to brown pigment. “Lipo” refers to fats. “Fuscin” refers to a specific brown pigment in the retina. “Osis” means an abnormal condition. In short, this whole thing refers to an abnormal deposition of pigment in the retina and fatty deposits along the cells which transmit information in the nervous system. (Lipofuscin is a specific fat-based pigment that builds up as a waste product.) In short, our body fails to break down certain cellular wastes, which build up and cause symptoms.
In practical terms, it means a disease which leads to blindness, night terrors, seizures, eventual deterioration of the nervous system, and death before the age of thirty. Why am I telling you this? Because I had two nieces who died of this disease. While rare, it is most common in people of Finnish extraction (that’s me). So I planned a coast-to-coast tour to raise funds for research. At the time, the genetic component was just being discovered. One lab in the US was capable of running the tests to see if you were a carrier. There is still no cure and treatment is only symptomatic. Trouble was, I had a job and two young kids, so the trip didn’t happen, and my nieces died. That was another impetus to finally make the coast-to-coast trip last year.
Anyway, The Ride raises funds for cancer research. I see cancer patients in my day job, so I thought I’d raise the issue here. Donate if you will – no pressure. Time for the next tangent.
This weekend is the 54th annual Orton Park Festival. It takes place in an urban park (which was once our first cemetery). The park is a tiny oak savanna. The festivities begin with a performance by Cycropia, an aerial dance troupe. They string trapezes and various other accoutrements from an old burr oak in the park. It is only August, but it has suddenly changed from Pilsner weather to Oktoberfest weather. In February it doesn’t change from Stout weather to Maibock weather.
Tonight was a performance by the band formerly known as Get Back Wisconsin. Due to a cease and desist order from someone who claims ownership of Get Back, they are now Madison Mystery Tour (As of this writing, the website is a work in progress, due to the name change.) They perform a concert of each Beatles album on the 5oth anniversary of the album release. Abbey Road will be performed Saturday, October 5, 2019, at the Barrymore Theatre. I’m only telling you this because I already have my ticket. Tonight was mostly pre-Abbey Road material. The encore was “Here Comes The Sun”, which brings me to the next tangent.
It was 1987 – “En 1987 aquí no se rinde nadie” was the national slogan of Nicaragua. It was done as a call and response. The leader shouted “En mil novecientos ochenta y siete aquí” and the audience responded “no se rinde nadie!” In English, that’s “In 1987, no one here surrenders!” For those too young to remember, the US was trying to overthrow the Nicaraguan government in 1987 via an illegitimate war funded, contrary to an explicit law, by the illegal sale of weapons to an enemy (Iran), with the profits diverted to a CIA-organized and funded mercenary army (the Contra). Clearly, this was an impeachable offense, yet President Reagan remains a hero to many – a mystery to me.
In 1987, I was in Nicaragua, working for an organization called APSNICA (Architects and Planners in Support of Nicaragua), building housing on cooperatively-owned cattle ranches. We selectively logged the forests, milled the lumber, and made concrete from sand and gravel dug from the riverbank (mixed with water from that river) combined with cement from a local plant. We leveled building sites with picks and shovels (but we did have a theodolite [a precision optical instrument for measuring angles between designated visible points in the horizontal and vertical planes.]). We poured concrete slab floors and built masonry half-walls from river rock and concrete. Framing and siding were from the trees we cut and milled on-site. Zinc roofing and nails were imported from Canada. We constructed a potable water system, dug outhouses, and built a school for each group of twenty families.
It rained all night. The next morning clouds were thick. I was on the trucking crew and we were driving the loggers out to the woods. Keith Greeninger was on the logging crew. The clouds parted and the sun appeared. Keith and I were standing on the rear bumper of the truck, holding onto the superstructure onto which we would, before lunch, load freshly-milled lumber. We looked each other in the eye and began to sing “Here Comes the Sun” to each other. It was one of the more magical moments of my life. We had not spoken on the ride. We just burst into song together, there being no other apt response to the abrupt change in the weather. An hour later, he was being rushed to the hospital in Matagalpa to suture a large gash on his forehead. Upon returning, he was not able to go out and do the dirty work in the woods, so he stayed in camp and wrote songs. He is now a professional singer-songwriter. “Here Comes the Sun” still brings tears to my eyes.
The song I’d like to post, “Another Nicaraguan Night” captured those nights sitting in darkness after the generator was turned off, trading songs with the Nicaraguans. Keith tried out his new songs then. This one was also written in camp. The original title was “Eyes of Your Young” but people misunderstood the chorus, so he changed the title so that phrase was written out. (It was an unfortunate Mondegreen.)
I returned to the US, moved to San Francisco and became a plumber. But that’s another story for another time.
By the way, the third Grand Tour, La Vuelta a España, is now in progress.
Details have been released for Cycle America 2020! Now you too can ride coast-to-coast! The ride departs Seattle on Sunday, June 20 and arrives in Boston Saturday, August 22. You can ride all 9 weeks or any part thereof. Total cost is less than $7500 with early discount. That includes route planning, sag support, most of your meals, and a place to lay your head every night! (Not to mention good friends, beautiful scenery, and seeing the country at a pace amenable to that.) For those of the Facebook persuasion, you can also find info and lots of pictures from past rides here. (And even the non-Facebook users can still see the pictures – they’ll keep asking you to log in or open an account, but you can skip that.) Such a deal! Tell ’em the half-fast cycling club sent you.
A special shout-out is due to my friend at Plant-Powered Pedaling, who just completed Paris-Brest-Paris – 1220 km in under 90 hours! PBP is the ultimate in endurance rides. I’ve been following this guy for a while – I use the term “friend” in the internet sense of the word. We’ve never met. I read his blog, maybe he reads mine. He completes epic rides and (as the title implies) does it on vegan foods – not only does that mean you can perform tremendous feats on a vegan diet, but you can somehow find food while riding for hundreds of miles without external support.
Flying back home, I looked out the plane window to see this:
My house is just out of sight to the right of the frame. Nothing like living in a city that’s mostly water. I realized then that Dorothy was right.
I spent a few days in Estes Park, CO for a niece’s wedding, then a few more days in Oregon for another niece’s wedding. If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire, I won’t look any further than my own back yard, because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.
That doesn’t mean I won’t leave my back yard now and then. But, back in my own back yard (On Wednesday night’s bike ride), I happened upon a badger crossing the road, then waddling off into the undergrowth. I didn’t try to take a picture – badgers are notoriously vicious. A few miles up the road, a doe bounded along beside me for about 100 yards before darting across the road and disappearing into the woods. A bit later, two dogs came out into the road to greet me. I guess that made up for none of my friends being able to join me for this ride.
In between the two weddings, I was home for La Fete de Marquette, our annual Bastille Day celebration. We celebrated with Cajun, Zydeco, and New Orleans funk royalty. Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys played sets both Saturday and Sunday.
They were followed by Geno Delafose and French Rockin’ Boogie. Geno is the son of the late John Delafose and learned Zydeco accordion from his dad.
We rounded out the day with George Porter, Jr and Runnin’ Pardners. Porter was the bassist for the Meters, Wild Tchoupitoulas, and the Neville Brothers; in other words, he is the bassist of New Orleans funk.
And, speaking of bassists, I also caught a set by Josh Cohen at the Art Fair Off the Square. While he also got funky at times, here’s something completely different:
La Fete is held in McPike Park. While waiting in a food line, I heard someone lamenting that it used to be Central Park but, as usual, wealth won out and the park was renamed after some rich person who gave the city a lot of money. I was happy to inform her that, while that is all too common, it wasn’t the case here. Milt McPike was the principal of East High School. (Articles about him often attach the word “beloved”. Personally, I can’t imagine loving my school principal, but “respected” might fit.) Milt was a role model – an African American athlete who made it as a pro (San Francisco 49ers) but also got an education so he would have a life after football. He spoke at my children’s kindergarten graduations, telling them that he expected to see them all graduating from East in 18 years.
UPDATES FROM THE ROAD
Bob, Terry, and Ken from last year’s coast-to-coast ride have completed their 1600 km circumnavigation of France. Charlie is on his 8th crossing of the US, now in Montana, going east to west. Jeremy abandoned the Great Divide Ride in West Yellowstone, MT, having completed 929 grueling off-road miles in 12 days. His hands had taken a beating.
Flying to Oregon, the clouds parted and something looked familiar below. The map showed we were flying over Gillette, WY, the site of last summer’s worst nightmare. I followed our route in reverse from above, looking down and at pictures from last year. It looks different from 30,000 feet. I had to supply the details.
P.S. Happy Golden Birthday to you know who. (Well, you may not, but they do.)
It is 15 degrees F (approx -10 C). The sun is bright. The sky is a brilliant blue. There are no clouds. There is no wind. We have fresh snow, so the sun glints off of countless facets. It is the sort of day that those who don’t live in snowy climes may not be able to appreciate, and those who do often forget to appreciate.
As I rode home from the library, I began to ruminate over things I am thankful for (most, in some way, related to this blog). I am thankful for:
construction workers who work outside all day all winter long.
garbage trucks blocking the road so I can practice my cyclocross skills.
the lake near my house that becomes a massive and nearly private park in the winter. After skating on the street last Sunday, I skiied across the lake this Sunday.
Ally, Ed, and Steve – who turned a 105 mile slog through 40 degree (4 degrees C) rain into something do-able. While they claim misery loves company, company can also make it not misery, as evidenced by this smile at the end of that day. (Not to mention that we were even smiling for the picture.)
Steve (a different Steve) and Kevin, who stuck with me through thick and thin (and thinner) on a long and hard day in the heat and headwind.
Anders, who picked up a new helmet for me at the end of said long day, so I could ride again the next day.
the entire Cycle America staff, for handling the logistics so we could ride. A special shout out to Ed (a different Ed) for delightful surprises on the routes; and to Dan, who never met a hill he didn’t like.
the half-fast cycling club, including those I started riding with more than 40 years ago, and those I haven’t yet met.
the glaciers which all managed to miss the driftless area, making for great bike riding in the area of the Horribly Hilly Hundreds (and to HHH, as I just learned that I was selected in the lottery to ride this year).
icicles. Snow to sculpt.
EPSON MFP image
the Parks Department, for plowing the bike paths.
getting old. I’ve seen a lot of folks the past couple of weeks with broken ribs from slipping and falling on the ice. Many tell me how horrible it is to get old. I think it beats the alternative.