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.

US Blues

Getting up to go to the bathroom during the night, I thought I saw an opossum. I gave it a wide berth and, looking back at it with better light, realized it was a skunk. Later in the night I met it again, this time exploring a fire ring.

The Canadian side of Niagara Falls was heavily commercialized. The strip we were on was hotels and fast foods.

Note zip line in foreground of video
Niagara River

We crossed the border to road construction, then someone crossing the street toward me and trying, for likely nefarious purposes, to get me to stop and talk. Next were streetwalkers at work at 7:30 on a Monday morning. That was all in my first 10 minutes in the country.

The first half of today’s ride was urban and suburban riding. The best thing I can say about it is that it was over by picnic. After picnic we were out in the country and it looked like the driftless area of southwest Wisconsin – quiet roads and steep hills; 7 mph up one side, 45 down the other.

The sky was cloudy all day, with chances of rain in the forecast. This never materialized. Arriving in Geneseo, we stopped at a coffee shop. When I got back on my bike I noted very little air in my rear tire. I rode gently to campus, walking the last bit. The cause of the leak appeared to be the rim tape slipping again. While replacing the tube I replaced the rim tape as well. Another tube to patch on the weekend. I just used my last new tube. At least this new tube appears to have a functioning valve stem after several faulty ones in this batch.

I didn’t wash my bike clothes in the shower, as they appeared to have no chance of drying. As I fixed my tire the sun came out. I washed the clothes and they are drying now. It will be a race against sunset.

The rider who left the tour with a detached retina is back after surgery and with vision nearly intact. He says he expects it to continue to improve. The rider who was not vaccinated rejoined us. My neighbor (who I had never met but lives within a mile of me) also rejoined us. Several new riders joined. Some of them have done this before, as they were greeted warmly by other riders.

New York and New England are left between us and the Atlantic Ocean. This week will feel a lot like home with the Adirondacks and Finger Lakes.

Play ball!

The Assembly of the State of Wisconsin has passed a bill proclaiming that “No sporting event may be held in a venue the construction of which was financed at least in part from moneys contributed by a state agency or local governmental unit unless the event is preceded by the playing or singing of the national anthem.” (AB 226, 2021)

The bill does not define “sporting event”. If I take a Frisbee to the park and toss it with a friend, is that a “sporting event”? How about a pick-up softball game? A kids’ soccer game?

A park is, by definition, “a venue …financed…by a state agency or local governmental unit” (unless a National Park). Therefore, it appears that any sporting event in a park must be accompanied by the National Anthem – if this bill passes the Senate and is signed by the Governor. Understand that this is a state that failed to pass any legislation establishing safety regulations related to COVID-19.

I, for one, am fully prepared to sing the National Anthem when I throw a stick for Bailey to fetch. If I don’t feel like singing, I have it ready on my phone.

I’m going to define this trip as a “Sporting Event”. In several weeks we will pass through Wisconsin and we will ride in “a venue…financed…by a state agency or local government unit”. Just in case I forget then, here is the National Anthem to kick off Cycle America 2022!

I think I’ll propose that this be the legally-required version (Ha! And you thought it was going to be Hendrix, but in MA that might be illegal.)

In Massachusetts, you must sing it correctly. To sing the anthem “other than as a whole and separate composition or number, without embellishment or addition in the way of national or other melodies” is a crime. (General Laws, Part IV, Title I, Chapter 264, Section 9.) Having heard some renditions before sporting events, I might be inclined to agree.

Day 1 Everett to Skykomish 76 miles, 3517 feet of climbing for 680 feet of net elevation gain.

Don’t expect these data every day. I set my altimeter according to Google at our start point. I believe there was a misplaced decimal point, as we were 160 feet below sea level when we reached Puget Sound.

Cold! Wet! Death-defying busy highway! Drawbridges without shoulders! And that was all in the first five miles.

We rode west (West!?) for the first 16 miles for the obligatory dip-the-rear-tire-in-the-Pacific-Ocean photo op – our first scenic detour. We didn’t actually make progress toward Boston for the first 30 miles. It’s a good thing crossing the continent is mostly incidental to having a good time.

Sealed with wax, it will be merged with the Atlantic in 9 weeks.

To yesterday’s list we add France and British Columbia to the homes of our riders. It rained a bit overnight so we packed up wet. My neighbor carefully dried her tent, then went inside for something. When she came back out, it was raining. Breakfast was forgettable – hash browns that had been rehydrated and heated. “Hash whites” would be more accurate. Coffee was ½ hour late and pale brown water. It looked like the water of Castle Rock Lake but lacked the flavor. It ruined perfectly good water. Thanks to my former co-workers for the shot of espresso at “Proper Joe”, a coffee shop at mile 30. The town of Snohomish seemed like a pleasant place if it weren’t cold and wet. My former co-workers will keep me in espresso and beer as I cross the continent. Thanks again! And feel free to comment below. Just don’t give me too much work news – remember the “former” that goes before co-worker.

I probably wrote of Skykomish’s history as a Superfund site last time, so go back to June 17, 2018 to read that story.

The rain stopped after a few hours and we had a cool and cloudy day. Arriving at camp, I dried out and pitched the tent, cleaned and lubed the bike, then took a shower. As they say, take care of the horse first.

After going back and forth a few times I decided not to bring a sleeping bag since I was usually too warm four years ago. Too warm has not been an issue. I need to sleep in more clothes tonight.

As usual out west, the most beautiful views were in places that it was barely safe to look – no way could I stop for a picture. Tomorrow we go up and over Stevens Pass.

Lush – that’s what you get when it rains all the time
The Cascades, shrouded in fog.

When the going gets tough

…the half-fast go for a beer. Today, the going got tough. Today was supposed to be babysitting and rain in the morning, a solo ride in the afternoon. Last night the babysitting was postponed, and at 9 AM the sun came out – just enough time to join today’s club ride.

My MO with this club is to start near the back, let the fast folks disappear, and join the moderately-paced group. When we get to the hills, those riders disappear behind me and I end up in no-man’s-land between the two groups, riding alone for the rest of the day.

Today was a relatively flat ride so I hoped I could avoid that fate. We started out as usual. One of the fast group drifted back to us, saying he’d rather be sociable than fast today. I had several miles to get to know this person and we had a nice chat. We rode along in a group of six. Three took a shortcut so three of us were left. When we hit the wind, the third rider kept drifting off the back and we kept waiting for him. We picked up a fourth and had two well-matched pairs. We couldn’t talk much while headed into the wind and the two pairs drifted further apart. The person I was with tweaked his knee and decided to take a shortcut home. So there I was, in a 20 mph headwind which was pushing rain in my face, with 30 miles to go and no one in sight. Oops, I did it again.

Eventually I decided on a shortcut. I saw a way to get to a bike path that would cross my route and be a straight shot back. Trouble was, it didn’t actually cross the road I was on, it passed under it. It took some doing to get to the path. Now I was on a straight shot home, but the wind had shifted from southerly to southwesterly, so it was back in my face again. The rain stopped and the sun appeared again.

I have mixed feelings about rails-to-trails conversions. They mean a dedicated off-road path, but they also mean that railroads will never come back. Other than the route, the infrastructure is gone. They are good for the slow and casual rider, families, people with strollers, and others who feel safer away from cars and moving slowly. They are not paved, and riding on dirt or gravel takes its toll over time. The town roads follow the contours of the land. I am riding in and of a place. The railroads cut through the land – flattening and straightening the world – but when the world grows back along the path, it can become a smaller disruption in the (adapted) natural world. Today’s path mostly ran through open land with no respite from the wind. In the last 10 miles I came into some woods for a bit of relief. When there is a bike (or multi-use) path, drivers think bicyclists no longer belong on the roads. Today the pros outweighed the cons.

Spring peepers (tiny frogs that make big sound)

The spring peepers are out in force and the magnolias are blooming.

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