Crane/My Sunday Feeling

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”.

“I Will Never Wear Shoes”. Bill Camplin, from the album “Flying Home”

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.

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.

Rest Day in Niagara Falls, Ontario

Two imperial pints of red ale and a medium margherita pizza (10 slices, they said – I didn’t count) went a long way to erasing the bad taste in my mouth from Michigan, as well as a long week of riding with threats of bad weather (which weren’t often delivered). A medium pizza for a 135 pound person, you say? Hey, I need all the calories I can get. Four years ago I lost 15 pounds on this ride. I didn’t regain them, so I don’t have many pounds to lose. The Datameister said I got noticeably slower as the ride went on four years ago, as I lost strength. Nothing like a several thousand calorie dinner to help prevent that. So far, I continue to get faster as the day progresses, so I don’t think I’m getting weaker. Last I checked, I hadn’t lost weight. I don’t normally weigh myself, but there was a scale outside my office in the hospital this spring and I’ve come across two in public bathrooms lately.

Returning to the campsite after dinner, it seems to be cooling down. There is a rock band playing covers. I stood to listen for a few minutes but can hear fine from my campsite.

I went to bed before it got dark. At 4:15AM the dew came. It was slightly damp on the walk to the bathroom, wet on the walk back. It cooled off slightly at 5 and I partly covered myself with a sheet. I stayed in bed until after sunrise!

Breakfast is in a Tim Horton’s. A breakfast combo includes a donut. Wifi is free and the coffee is hot enough that I “have to” sit here for awhile. This is the same Tim Horton’s where I spent the afternoon four years ago in order to listen to a live webcast of a concert by the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO).

After breakfast I’ll do laundry, since the laundry room doesn’t open until 8 AM. I’ll clean and lube the bike. After that I have no pressing issues for the day. Is this what being retired is like?

Cannabis store across from the campground. Or is that what retirement is like;)?

Seeing other riders walking through the campground or out on the street on our rest days is like meeting fellow members of a secret society. Others don’t know the bond we share or why we would recognize a random person on the street.

The campground bathrooms are gloriously air-conditioned. They are a welcome respite from the heat and humidity – and you can get dry after a shower. On the other hand, it is disconcerting to hear blaring pop music from a 24 hour radio station piped in – nothing like getting up to pee in the middle of the night and being assaulted by throbbing electronic percussion and auto-tuned generic voices singing emotionally overwrought ballads. Thankfully the laundry room is also air-conditioned and carries only the sounds of the washers and dryers. The dewpoint is 74 degrees (28 c) and the temperature a much-cooler 84 (29 c).

I was able to get one short story to download during my time at the restaurant, so I read for a while Saturday night. If I remember, I may be able to open the book at lunch and get one more story to download.

The tenting area is pretty nice here – grass and trees, a fair amount of shade. There are night lights (dim, yellow lights) to help you find your way back in the dark. Each nightlight is on a post with multiple electrical outlets. I don’t know if the Trail Boss paid for electricity, or if everyone gets it here. There are privacy fences that serve as secure bike locking stations.

My camp neighbor

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