Equinox

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.

Get Back WI/Madison Mystery Tour

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.

Not the song I’d like to post, but that one was never released.

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.

Breaking News!

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.

Copyright and Courtesy of Plant-Powered-Pedaling (and he drinks beer after riding!)

El triunfo

July 19, 1979 marked the triumph of the Sandinista Revolution over the Somoza family dictatorship in Nicaragua. I have to mark this day with “Hijos del Maíz”, by Luis Enrique Mejía Godoy y Grupo Mancotol.

For those who speak no Spanish, the song says that the Nicaraguan people are children of corn, and describes the many influences and uses of corn in their culture.

While in Nicaragua, I had the opportunity to hear his brother Carlos sing. He was described to me as “the Nicaraguan Bob Dylan”. That Dylan lacks a brother like Luis Enrique weakens the comparison for me.

I also have to mention one of my personal heroes. Ernesto Cardenal was born January 20, 1925, exactly 28 years before I was born. There is a 28 year cycle in many calendars, so this might mean something. It might just mean I’m full of myself to think I can compare myself to him in any way. Cardenal is a poet, a priest (who once studied with Father Thomas Merton in Gesthemany, KY), the former Minister of Culture of Nicaragua, and the founder of a communal artistic community on the island of Solentiname in Lake Nicaragua.

He is known mostly for long narrative poems and his poem “Zero Hour” (“Hora Cero”), about US imperialism in Nicaragua and the murder of Sandino, is one of my favorites. I had the pleasure of hearing him read from “Cántico Cósmico”, an epic poem of the history of the universe, beginning with the big bang. Yes, you can be Roman Catholic and recognize the big bang theory and a universe billions of years old.

He also wrote simple and short poems, so I offer this:

        Ésta será mi venganza: /Que un día llegue a tus manos el libro de un poeta famoso/ y leas estas líneas que el autor escribió para ti/ y tú no los sepas.

My own translation:

This will be my revenge:/ That one day a book by a famous poet will come into your hands/and you will read these lines the author wrote for you/and you won’t know them.

(I can’t seem to get line breaks to appear without extra spacing, thus the slashes for line breaks.) Somewhat the reverse of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain”.

We are two days from Northfield,  where my daughter spent the last four years at St Olaf College, a running Ole and Lena (or Sven and Ole) joke.

Today’s Ride

We slept in today because it was a short ride. We were headed north-northeast, with a wind from the southeast. During northerly stretches it felt like a tailwind and during easterly stretches it felt like a headwind. We mostly rode north so it was an easy 61 miles. The sun was filtered and it stayed cool. The forecast is for thunderstorms tonight so we were eager to beat the weather into Watertown.

Riding out of town we passed the Wilder homestead where I learned that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter was also a writer and the oldest war correspondent in Viet Nam.

We stopped in Hayti for gumbo, so of course I thought of Hank Williams.

 

Leaving Hayti we rode along a lake, a great change from the endless miles of prairie. There were even trees! Especially welcome was the fact that we rode much of the day on state and county roads, not US highways. In my hierarchy of roads,  town roads are first, then county, then state, then US. We’ve been riding mostly on US highways.

Overheard at the rest stop (from a concept by The Cheeky Cyclist):

”It’s not a pull when  you’re trying to drop everybody.”

I needed to buy a few things and Google Maps told me there was a bike shop in town, so I checked it out:

The owner was surprised to see us. He told us the bike shop in town had closed and he knew the town needed a bike shop, so he opened this place a month ago. He specializes in restoring and re-selling bikes from the 1950s and ‘60s. He didn’t have what I needed but we had a great visit. He is trying to get a contract with Trek to sell their bikes. He currently sells no new bikes. About the only new stuff I saw was a small collection of water bottles. The shop is called simply “The Bike Shop”.

South Dakota has a program to raise awareness of highway deaths. They mark the spot of deaths like this:06376029-39D1-44F7-9209-C4A57FA089CDSome of the signs, instead of saying “THINK!”, say “WHY DIE?”. On a climb in the Black Hills I saw six of these signs at one curve, in groups of three, two, and one.

We are now in the Watertown Middle School. Another in a series of inspirational school posters:

Tomorrow we cross the state line into Minnesota, one more notch in our belt as we leave South Dakota behind. The forecast is for rain all day all along our route, with a stiff headwind. Oh, joy.

Change of Plans!

A new plan has arisen, so a special post comes today. I’ve decided to leave my bike home.

Linder (JLinder)
Ben Linder (John Linder photo)

Instead I will be riding a multi-speed unicycle, in honor of Ben Linder‘s (1959-1987) epic ride down the west coast of the US. Ben was an engineer from Portland Oregon, educated at the University of Washington.

Upon graduation he went to Nicaragua. He worked initially in Managua, commuting to work via unicycle and performing with a local circus. He subsequently moved to the El Cuá, where he worked to build a hydroelectric dam on a small stream to electrify a rural community. It was while working on this project that he was assassinated by US government-funded terrorists.

While I never  met Ben, I worked with his Matagalpa roommate and visited his grave. Ben was both a dedicated engineer working to make the world a better place, and a clown performing as a juggling unicyclist. He was murdered 30 years ago this month.

I need to get some miles in on the unicycle to train. I don’t plan to juggle coast-to-coast – I want to see the scenery.

April 1, 2018

P.S. Whitecaps on the lake mean no ice from shore-to-shore; 25 mph wind means surf’s up! Grab your board cuz there’s nothing like surfing 32 degree (F) water!