Baiku

Bicycling magazine used to give away a bike each spring. Each year was a different contest. I never won. One year they wanted a picture of your bike to show why you needed a new one. I sent a photo of a bike I’d made from snow. I figured it would melt soon so I needed a new one. They disagreed.

Another year they wanted you to tell them why you should win a particular bike. I wrote a song called “My Serotta” to tell them why I should win the Serotta Ottrott. It was written to the tune of “My Sharona”. They were not convinced.

Then they asked for baikus – haikus about bikes. I sent a bunch. I didn’t win again. Here are rewritten versions of two of the losers – one about my daughter’s first ride, one about my imagined last ride.

First ride – age 5

Holding the saddle –
I let go as she rides off.
She doesn’t look back.

Last ride – age 95

Steep mountain descent.
Heart stops – dead before I land.
Body found smiling.

The Norway Maple in the yard of our old house (across the street from where we live now) succumbed last year. Counting growth rings is harder than it seems, so I don’t know how old it was. I’ll guess it was around 50 years old, having been mature when we moved in there 27 years ago. Our son (who was born that year) wanted a particular cutting board this year, so I was looking at cutting boards, and end grain maple boards (like butcher blocks) seemed like a top choice (though he chose edge grain walnut). Most are made by gluing a bunch of small pieces of wood together. I figured, what’s a stump but a big chunk of end-grain wood? Who needs glue?

So I took various saws across the street and started cutting. Once I got a slice free I had to get it relatively flat and smooth. “Relatively” is an important disclaimer there – cutting through 18 inches of wood and having two flat and parallel sides is easier said than done. But now I have a tree-shaped end-grain maple cutting board. I liked the shape of the tree rather than cutting it into a rectangle. I left a few scars intact – I’ll say it’s because I liked the way they looked, but I could also say I would have had to take off a lot of wood to get it totally smooth, and without a planer (and especially not one that can accept an 18 inch surface) to run it though. The colors are natural. It has been treated only with a food-grade mineral oil and wax mix.

It must be spring. The loons are passing through on their way to Canada. The robins are back. It is 75 degrees (24 Celsius) and sunny. The first warm Sunday of spring means it’s motorcycle crash day. Lots of people will be out for the first time, riding too fast, and not noticing the sand and gravel collected on curves. Wednesday Night Bike Rides start this week!

Lake Placid

Here we are at the site of Olympic heroics of 1980. Everyone of a certain age recalls the “Miracle on Ice” when a group of US college hockey players defeated the mighty Soviet hockey team en route to Olympic gold.

Then there is local (for me)-boy-makes-good Eric Heiden, who swept Olympic gold in speed skating. Eric is the brother of Beth, another Olympic and World Champion speed skater, and son of Jack, an orthopedic surgeon and bicyclist.

Eric went on to race bicycles professionally for the legendary 7-11 team (which rode bikes painted with the Murray or Huffy brand, though they were built by the great Ben Serotta) and become an orthopedic surgeon.

My camp is on the grounds of Lake Placid High School, overlooking the speed skating track.

It dawned on me, while riding Friday, that we’re about to start the last week of this journey. That means I’m about to do this!

While my focus has been on each day, I have been aware that this is a coast-to-coast trip; and that the point (to some extent) was to get to the Atlantic Ocean. After all, I did seal up a vial of Pacific Ocean water, and I have carried it across the country.

But still – on some level it didn’t feel real until Friday. Truth be told, my focus hasn’t been on each day, it has been smaller than that.

I spend much of the time looking around. As far as distance, my focus is like this:

     The first five miles are my warmup                    

When I’ve completed 10% of the day’s miles, I’ve started

      At 20%, I’ve made a dent

     At 40%, it’s a pretty good dent

     At 50%, I’m halfway 

     At 60%, I’m more than halfway

     At 70%, things are looking good 

     At 80%, I’ve got this 

     At 90%, it’s in the bag, AND it’s time for increased vigilance – it’s in those last few miles, with fatigue setting in, that I’m most vulnerable.

On really long days I also look at miles – with 30 miles left, it’s an average Wednesday Night Bike Ride. I can do that. At 20 miles, it is the short route, or an early season ride – piece of cake.

In the same vein, this last week will call for increased vigilance, as well as simply paying attention. I don’t expect to do this again. I don’t want to miss anything. Barring disaster, I’ll do this; but it’s not done until I dip my tire in the Atlantic.

Today was a beautiful ride. We started late due to catering problems. The road early in was what Don described as “a bicycle autobahn”  – beautifully paved, with a shoulder wide enough to ride four abreast. As we moved into resort areas, the traffic got heavier, the road got narrower, and the pavement got worse.

I had my first flat in weeks. Tomorrow I will replace the tire, which is looking a little thin and has multiple cuts.

The route was up and down a lot. After 60 miles we had climbed more than 2000 feet but were at the same elevation as when we started – all of our net gain came in the last ten miles.

While we’ve been in the Adirondacks for most of the past two days, we finally see what looks like mountains.

A day off tomorrow, to do laundry, change a tire, visit the local bike shop. If I feel ambitious, there is the option of a 40 mile out-and-back ride to climb a nearby mountain, or a ride up to the Olympic ski jump.

[if there are formatting weirdnesses, I’m writing this on the phone keyboard, as I found a brewpub with WiFi.]