I am just a vagabond, a drifter on the run

And eloquent profanity, it rolls right off my tongue.1

One of my favorite couplets, I had to find a way to use it. Four years ago, I rode across the country as a gainfully-employed healthcare professional. A job and 15 patients/day not that I could see that many) awaited my return. Today I ride across that same country, just a vagabond. No job awaits. I am a retired person. When I arrived in Gloucester, MA four years ago I wasn’t ready to stop riding. I wanted to turn around and ride home. This time, that is theoretically possible. (I say “theoretically”, as I am not on a bike suited to carrying heavy loads, so that would mean shipping stuff home and relying on motels and restaurants.)

While I have done this before, all that does is make me over-confident. Have I trained enough this time? After, all, I’m four years older now; pushing 70. Getting into shape comes more slowly, as does recovery.

“Roll um easy” sounds like good advice. There is no rush. The other coast will be there when I get there. Okay, so there’s a schedule – I do have to be at a campsite each night if I want a place to sleep and eat. But how I do that each day is open for consideration. Last time I was tempted to turn around and ride Needles Highway a second time. I can do that if I want. I was into camp plenty early every day – I could ride it twice if I want to.

It is not the same country I rode through four years ago. Even if it were, all I have to do is look to the other side of the road (from the one I was looking at last time) at any given moment and I would be seeing something different this time.

Day 2 Skykomish to Wenatchee.

We awoke in a cloud. If it gets much colder I’ll have to wear my fleece tights to sleep. I wore most of my non-biking warm things last night. We stayed in that cloud as we climbed Stevens Pass. Climbing for 16 miles is all that kept us warm. While Stevens Pass is only a little over 4000 feet, we started at about 800 feet, so it was a 3200 foot net gain. We came into snow at 3200 feet. I passed a snow tunnel (where the snow had melted over a stream but was otherwise intact). I thought about a picture but didn’t really want to stop. About 100 yards later I came upon a full bottle of beer (Modelo). I thought a photo op in the snow with a beer sounded like a great idea (for someone else) so I didn’t stop again. I did stop at Deception Falls to go over the falls in a barrel before getting back on the bike. See the post from 4 years ago for photo. I shot video but have no Wi-if connection here so won’t try to upload it today. No stop at the red caboose, but there is a photo (and maybe a little essay about childcare) four years ago so check it out. I’m not providing a link, since it’s a bit of a pain with the phone app. I likewise didn’t stop at the Iron Goat Interpretive Site but, as a public service, it’s the Cabra de Fierro Sitio Interpretivo. I could maybe get that interpreted in French, Greek, or Afrikaans if I asked around.

The song for the morning climb (to which I cannot provide a YouTube link due to lack of internet access) was “Easy Skankin’” by Bob Marley and the Wailers. I changed the lyric to “easy spinnin’” to keep a rhythm for the climb. Since I can’t listen to it, you go ahead without me.

Visibility at the pass was near zero but the staff were waiting with brownies as a consolation for the lack of view. Heading down the pass involved some serious evaporative cooling. My feet were numb and I kept shaking out my hands to get feeling back. At mile 25 the sun came out for the first time in the four days I’ve been here and at mile 44 I shedded multiple layers.

Descending along the Wenatchee River was breathtakingly beautiful. Most of the best views were in places where I couldn’t take pictures, so you just get the two below.

We rode through orchards. (If you look at apple or pear boxes you may see “Wenatchee Valley” or “Lake Chelan”. That’s where we are.) We saw apples , pears, grapes, cherries, and hops. The sunscreen was packed away so my face is slightly burned. It is >80 degrees F here.

Tomorrow will be the first day >100 miles. No rain in the forecast at either end, at the moment.

Tonight’s dinner was memorably wonderful. A green salad, a spinach and strawberry salad, slaw, pineapple, oranges, grapes, watermelon, rice and broccoli, a noodle dish, garbanzo beans in a fabulously spicy sauce, and ice cream. There was also chicken, but I was plenty happy without it. When I remarked that the plates weren’t big enough to hold it all, the cook said “That’s what seconds are for.” It was clearly not FHB night.

The post-dinner meeting let us know about a little route alteration, increasing distance to 107 miles, with lunch at 62; meaning I’m glad I replaced the calories burned today; and I’ll need some snacks to tide me over. Forty miles is my limit without food.

After the regular meeting there was a special meeting for the coast-to-coast riders. (Not everyone is here for the duration.) The meeting was getting long when someone ran in to announce that tents were flying away and bikes were falling over. After battening down the hatches, I’m ready for bed. I won’t cover the bike tonight, as I’m afraid that would only give the wind encouragement.

The rhythm of this life is pretty simple and satisfying – get up in the morning, dress, pack everything away, load the trailer, eat breakfast, ride. Arrive at camp, unload the trailer, hang everything to dry, then pitch the tent, clean and lube the bike, take a shower, and change. Hang out until dinner and a meeting. Set out clothes for tomorrow. Go to bed. Rinse, repeat.

1 Lowell George, “Roll Um Easy”, 1973

A Dream Fulfilled

For years, as I rode to work, I would think, “It’s such a beautiful day…I wish I could just keep riding out of town.” Today I did just that.

My computer screen, last day of work. There is a 7:40 video of all of the variations of “That’s all, Folks!”

It was the first real day of retirement – meaning the first day that I would have gone to work after my Sunday-Monday weekend. A co-worker texted me at 7:40 saying I wasn’t at my desk so I must have really retired.

I was hours late (if I were going to work) but rode past the hospital and continued along the lakeshore to the home of Cowboy Bob. Bob, Tim, and I saddled up and headed for the formerly-famous Roxbury Tavern. Instead of great food and a curmudgeonly owner, now they just have goats and llamas.

The Roxbury

After 47 glorious miles we returned to Cowboy Bob’s to toast retirement with a bottle of sparkling wine and then I rode the last 11 miles home. Bob lives on the edge of a nature conservancy and, to welcome the newcomers, a turkey, a deer, and two humans walked down the trail behind his house within seconds of us settling on the deck. Tomorrow I deliver the bike and a duffle bag to the home of Cycle America and I won’t see them again until I reach Seattle. (Don’t worry. I have another bike to ride while it’s gone.) That way I can fly with just a carry-on and the bike arrives fully assembled. If Greg gets there, my bike gets there.

Day one of retirement is in the bag!

The last view of my desk before I unplugged the laptop and turned it in. Note two masks. The N-95 (left) is for patient care, the surgical mask (right) is for the office. With four more therapists out with COVID-19 last week, I’m still pretty cautious. In my office, only the two old folks have avoided the disease. They just don’t make ’em like they used to.

The last time

On my penultimate day at work I was asked about the best bike route to work from my side of town – University Avenue vs Lakeshore Path – I said Lakeshore Path, hands down.

As I walked out my back door on my ultimate day, I was greeted by the lightening sky.

Pre-sunrise over the neighbor’s garage

As the sun rose over the lake, a Great Blue Heron, backlit, was wading in the shallows. As the sun disappeared behind the clouds, a pair of Sandhill Cranes grazed in the marsh. By 5:30 AM the sky was completely overcast. If you were still in bed, you missed it. If you slept in much later, it was a rainy day. If you were riding on University Avenue you missed sunrise over the water, heron, and cranes.

I’ve said before that retirement, like voting, should be done early and often. Having just retired (for the last time?) from the longest I’ve ever been at a job, I can say this is different. As one of my blog friends said after Saturday’s post:

This picture has nothing to do with the video

I aim to find it.

Hallelujah!

I worked my last day yesterday!
First song I remember learning to play on the harp
Never heard the lyrics – knew the instrumental version

You want writing? Hey, I’m retired. Few words today. Let me let this sink in. Off to Cannon Falls, MN to drop off my bike so it can meet me in Seattle. The bike is ready. Two weeks to get me ready.

PS: I got out just in time (I hope). Four more therapists are out with COVID-19.