Wednesday night church is back in session. Services officially started a month ago but this was the first day that the weather and I were in agreement. We met in Mount Horeb. To some of you, this was where Moses received the Ten Commandments. (Maybe not this Mount Horeb, but the other Mount Horeb.) To others, it’s the home of the Trollway, the corporate HQ of Duluth Trading Company, the Grumpy Troll Brewpub, or (for the really old folks out there) the Gonstead Chiropractic Clinic (founded by Clarence Gonstead, 1898-1978).
[When discussing how to get to the ride on time several years ago, one rider said that his calendar at work was marked “Church” at 3PM every Wednesday so nothing could be scheduled to interfere with riding.]
To me, it’s the starting point of some of my favorite rides. This one makes a quick pass across the main drag in town, then heads downhill through Stewart Lake County Park. After a couple of steep switchbacks it sort of levels out for a four mile gradual downhill through Tyrol Basin before heading back up (and down, and up, and down, and up…)
While this form of worship requires no building, just the great outdoors, the ride includes another of my favorite spots, the climb up Vermont Church Road to Vermont Lutheran Church (home of the Blessing of the Bikes) at the summit.
The ride was followed by dinner (and a coffee stout) at the Grumpy Troll. My first ride far out of town for the year, it reminded me of why I like to get out of town to the driftless area – there are few 40 mph downhills close to town. [The Driftless Area refers to the southwestern corner of Wisconsin that remained untouched by glaciers during the last ice age. It is steeper and craggier than the rest of the state and upper midwest.]
I finished my first college semester in 25 years. Like any good student, I celebrated with a beer (Potosi Cave Ale) on the terrace.
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”.
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.
“I thought Wisconsin was flat”: most heard comment in the last two days.
Dinner last night was at Tumbled Rocks Brewery outside of Baraboo, with S&T, I, M, & L from my former job. After a walleye filet with grilled potatoes and green beans (plus helping the kids with their fries) accompanied by a Scotch Ale and a Dunkel, it was decided that I needed more calories so added a Champagne Crème Brûlée.
This morning we had a tour of Baraboo. Leaving campus we coasted down toward town but, on the way out, there was a short but steep hill that had some of the folks walking and led to a few of those comments above.
There is a nice (by which I mean short and steep) climb into Devil’s Lake State Park and then a switchback-laden descent to the lake. After a ride along the lakeshore there is a gradual descent back to the highway, then a turn through wetlands and down to the ferry. I offered folks the option of an additional pre-ferry loop up Devil’s Delight Road to the ridge again with a descent farther down. They all declined.
There was a healthy hatching of mayflies overnight to introduce folks to that feature.
After the ferry we continued through some of my favorite country before turning east into the flatter (more rolling) glaciated area. We came within about 25 miles of my house.
After lunch in Rio (pronounced “rye-oh”), we continued on to Beaver Dam. Ice cream and white cheddar popcorn helped delay my arrival but I was still much too early for the trailer unloading. The tent was spread out to dry and then packed away, as we are staying in the dorms of Wayland Academy.
Someone scoffed at my “Horribly Hilly Hundreds” jersey and asked, “how many feet of vertical?” When another someone pointed to the number “11,000 feet” on my back, his expression changed to one of respect. Yeah, Wisconsin is flat.
It may be just me, but I think from the turnoff to Schutte Road mentioned yesterday to the ferry crossing today may have been the best day of this tour.
I have just received a Major Award! For meritorious service, I have just been awarded The Golden Bedpan! No gold watch for me – an honest-to-god Golden Bedpan! (miniature facsimile.) 24k over pewter. Had I known I would receive this, I’d have retired sooner!
How does it feel to want?
I used to manage a housing project. As part of that job I supervised a maintenance crew, since I couldn’t do everything myself. I would get there early, check the maintenance requests that had come in overnight, balance those with the ongoing maintenance that was due, and any projects we had working. When Tom came in to work, I’d say, “I want you to…” and name a job.
Tom would reply, “How does it feel to want?” On the surface, this was me giving him a job for the day and him giving me shit in return. But what was below the surface? When I asked, this truly was what I wanted. As a human being, he had autonomy and could say no. We could talk about all of the work that needed doing, or something he had noticed the day before. We could have had that conversation first, in which I laid out all the work for the day and we chose together. He also was used to a boss who gave orders, not one who stated wants. Ultimately, he could refuse (whether an order or a want). Ultimately, I could fire him. He wanted the job and I wanted a staff I could count on, so we worked it out each day.
But on another level, he was offering me a spiritual/ontological lesson. I could actually take him up on the offer and feel what it was to want. I wasn’t paying him for that. It was a bonus.
There was someone else I was paying for that. We’ll get into that soon. So what is it to want? One meaning of want is to lack. Another meaning is to desire. If we smash those meanings together, we get desiring what we don’t have.
The Buddha taught that all life is suffering and all suffering arises from desire. Chew on that a bit. A lot of us will chafe at the notion that all life is suffering and insist we are happy. Buddha didn’t demand that we believe him. He demanded that we experience for ourselves. To get that suffering arises from desire might be a little easier but even that might get you thinking about how much pleasure you get from wanting something, planning and saving for it.
We bring a lot of passion to the quest. Passion comes from a Latin word which means “to suffer”. [It’s now a small leap to recognize that compassion means “to suffer with”. That’s a topic for another day.] So you want something. Depending on your personality, maybe you rush out and buy it. Maybe you read Consumer Reports and product reviews. Maybe you go try it out or compare different options. Maybe you save money for a long time, or maybe you just go into debt.
Now you have the thing. Then what? You go onto the next thing to want. My teacher asked us to consider the possibility of wanting exactly what we have. I suggested this to someone recently and they said “You can’t really ‘desire’ what you have though you can desire to maintain it. You CAN be content with it.”
Notice that there isn’t a lot of “juice” in contentment – it’s nothing like wanting, desiring, pining for, coveting. What if my friend is wrong? What if you can want what you have? What if you can bring the same intensity of experience to what is, as you can to what isn’t? Wouldn’t you suffer a whole lot less? Try it some time. (I’ll wait. Let me know how it goes.) Want what you have, not what you lack. See if it’s possible. See how you feel.
We like to complain about what we “have to” do. How would the experience change if we thought of it as what we “want to” do? You might object and say that is lying. But is it? When we make a choice, there is always at least one alternative. Let’s say I told Tom to trim the hedge. He could say he “has to” trim the hedge. He could also say he “wants to” trim the hedge. What is the alternative to trimming the hedge? Obviously, not trimming it. What are the consequences of not trimming it? The hedge doesn’t get trimmed, people get upset because the property looks run down. Someone else trims the hedge and resents Tom for not doing it. I fire Tom and he is out of a job and has no income. There are certainly others. But Tom has chosen to trim the hedge rather than accept the consequences of not doing so. He wants to trim the hedge more than he wants the consequences. How would the experience be different if it started with wanting to trim the hedge?
Top of the World!
Sunday’s ride with the Bombay Bicycle Club included the “Alpe d’ Huez option”. While that is a considerable exaggeration, it did include 3 consecutive climbs over a ridge in the driftless area.
After picking someone up at the airport, I hit the road an hour after the group left, so I didn’t see anyone. The forecast said warm, windy, and cloudy. There was no mention of rain. Twenty miles in, the sky to the north looked ominous. The radar showed it moving southwest to northeast and that it would miss me entirely, just giving some dark sky to watch. The wind was strong out of the south, so that seemed like a safe bet. Thirty-some miles in, it started to rain. There was no cell service, so I had only the sky to go by, not radar or a revised forecast. It was cooling down. With no access to a map, I guessed on a shortcut. It turned out to be more of a detour than a shortcut, only cutting 1.5 miles from the total ride. The good news is that it cut some descents that would be hazardous in the rain. The bad news is that it cut a couple of favorite climbs, substituting straight and flat miles in the valley.