It takes all kinds

There are all sorts of riders on this trip. There are those who look like they can barely walk when they get up in the morning, yet they mount their bikes and ride 60+ miles. Some are riding EFI (“every fucking inch”). Others ride part of each day and take the sag wagon for the other part. Still others pick and choose their days to ride. There are those riding on one or two artificial knees, and one riding on his second heart. There are the “big kids” who ride at breakneck speed and are the first ones in every day, and the one who looks like the little brother yelling, “Hey, wait up!”

There are those who leave at the crack of dawn (skipping breakfast) and those who get in at sunset (barely in time for dinner, much less changing and showering).

There are those who ride as though oblivious to the traffic around them, roaming across the lanes while shooting video, and those who ride in rigid pacelines. There are those who stop to take pictures of everything. There are those who ride with the same person every day, never leaving each other’s side, those who ride alone, and those who wander among groups.

Some sleep in their tents no matter what. Others stay in a hotel every chance they get. Some sleep on elaborate beds (one inflatable bed is about 2 feet thick) while others sleep on the thinnest of pads.

A group joined late and ride together every day in matching clothes. Multiple pairs and small groups have formed and become inseparable.

There are couples, a father and son, mother and daughter, mother and son, pairs or groups of friends, people who met on prior cross-country rides and wanted to meet up again, people who knew no one when we started. Some are probably already plotting when they will see each other again, seeming to be lifelong friends by the end of the ride despite never having met before.

There are those who ride all over the world, spending more time on their bikes than at home; those who have done this multiple times; those who completed their crossing in smaller chunks over a series of years; those who returned to repeat a favorite week; those who came just for the last week to say goodbye to the Trail Boss upon his retirement.

We ranged in age from early 20s to late 70s. There were a couple of bike racers, a couple who lead tours of their own, some using up all of their vacation time, some enjoying one last fling before embarking on a new career.

Who rides a bike across the continent? Years ago, it was mostly young people who were “between jobs” or taking a break between school and work, before entering the “real world”. Now it is often retirees and school teachers. The ones who worked in high tech jobs tend to be younger. They could afford to retire years before those of us in service jobs.

Cycle America has a weekly awards night, in which riders give each other awards. They used to be light-hearted and mostly inside jokes. This year they were almost entirely heartfelt thank yous for services provided, like helping to fix a flat tire.

As a result, most of my awards were not given out, but will be today.

  • The Dread Pirate Roberts Award: given to a rider who could do it all – ride fast up hills, on flats, through headwinds, and shoot video while riding. He was also an all-around good guy, helping others under tough conditions. [The award was a black mask.]
  • The Beast Mode Award: given to a rider who, after an electronic shifter failure, rode through the Black Hills on a single speed bike. Folks rode high-end racing bikes, touring bikes, e-bikes, gravel bikes, cross bikes, mountain bikes, commuter bikes – but she was the only one to ride a single speed through mountains for a day. [The award was a hat in the form of a bison head.]
  • The Hammerhead Award: given to a rider who rode hard. At the beginning she followed a stronger rider. By the end she was among the strongest in the group. At first she just rode as fast as possible. Later she was stopping to see the sights. Rumor has it she was the fastest up Whiteface Mountain, leaving her former mentor in the dust. On a windy day, she rode back several miles in order to help several other riders cut through a nasty headwind. [The award was to be a child’s toy hammer.]
  • The Eeyore Award: given to a rider who has crossed North America multiple times but still finds something to complain about almost daily – the course was too hilly, too boring, too long; there was too much lasagne. He took shortcuts, often deleting the most scenic part of a ride in order to reduce the mileage. Yet he was lovable in his own way and frequently stopped to help others. [The award was to be a stuffed donkey.]
  • The Nancy Sinatra Award: given to a rider who made it up every hill, but often by walking. I was worried about the state of her cleats so wanted to give her some boots that are made for walking. [The award was to be a pair of white go-go boots.]
  • The “Yes I Do Own the Whole Damn Road” award: given to a rider who tended to be oblivious to his surroundings. He often wandered into the other lane, or stayed out in the traffic lane when cars approached from behind. [The award was to be a title deed to “The Whole Damn Road”.]
  • The Stop and Smell the Roses Award: given to a pair of riders who were among the first out in the morning, always the first in at the end of the day (which was often before noon for them). I wanted to remind them that the east coast would still be there even if they didn’t get there first, and that there was scenery worth looking at, rather than just looking at each other’s back for 4000+ miles. [The award was to be a plastic flower for each – I carried them for a couple thousand miles but never actually presented them.]
Cranes waiting for clinic to open
My new riding partner
If it came any closer, I could have touched it

Parts of this post were written while on the road but never published. Other parts were written after getting home from the trip. Last week I went to get a post-ride massage. Waiting at the clinic entrance were a pair of sandhill cranes. I rode a few laps around the parking lot to give them time to move, time for me to cool down, and to wait for the clinic to open. After parking my bike, the cranes wandered back to check it out. While I was sitting on a bench reading email, I heard a sound close by and looked up to see one of the cranes (last picture) about three feet away from me.

Back from the trip, I am often sleeping in until sunrise. Hanging laundry this morning, there is a distinct feel of fall in the air.

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.

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.

The coots are back

(Sat) I saw a flock of about 100 on the water on the way home from work. I watched a car stop to let two Sandhill Cranes stroll across the street. Despite that fact that it is 34 degrees (1 C) and sleeting (after snowing all morning), I think that means spring is on the way. The loons should be here soon.

The big lake is the only one with ice left. It is shrouded in fog, which means that, when the fog clears, we should see liquid from shore to shore. Right now I can see only to that flock of coots, with the occasional mallard interloper.

(Mon) As I rode across the tracks (living on the “wrong side of the tracks” I was crossing over) I saw a rabbit dash across the road in front of me, in much more of a hurry than I usually see. I followed it (with my eyes) into the park to my right, then looked back left. A fox was loping along in its path, either having given up, or hoping to lull the rabbit into inattention. Ten blocks from the center of town, at 3:30 PM, a fox was acting like this was no big deal.

Urban wildlife here usually means birds; raccoons and opossums at night; foxes furtively making their way along the lakeshore at dawn – but not in broad daylight in the middle of town.

(Sun) I have ruined the last 9 liters of maple sap (what would have been about 225 ml of syrup) by taking my eye off it at the crucial endpoint. A foaming black mass on the stove said “Oops – have fun cleaning that pan.”

(Tues) I heard, then saw, a loon flying overhead on the ride in to work. The lake is now fully liquid. Crews were busy yesterday. The piers and hoists for the university crew coaches’ boats are in the water. The floating docks for the crew’s shells are in the water and this morning, as daylight broke, the water was filled with every 4 and 8 (person boat) the university owns. The rafts of coots were on the move, as they like the same area near shore the crew likes to row on.

I think I saw crocus shoots poking out through the ground. (9)