An open letter

to my Cycle America community. To jog your memories, there will be one photo from each week, none of which have appeared here before:

Dear Friends,

trailer loaded, ready to head to ride start-WA

We have now been back in our respective real worlds for longer than we were away in our circus world. We used that metaphor during the trip because it seemed apt – we rolled into a new town every night, set up our tents, and were gone in the morning before most people were up and about. We didn’t put on much of a show, but…

Einstein in Jackson, WY

It’s also timely because I spent three days of the last week in Baraboo, home of the Ringling Brothers and the Circus World Museum. It was also where, for me, the two worlds intersected. My friends, my son and his wife, and my boss all came to Baraboo when the Cycle America Circus rolled through. It was my reminder that our circus world was fleeting, that the other world beckoned. It was the best of times…

Devil’s Tower, WY

And now we’re scattered across the globe doing whatever it is we normally
do; though even that is new for some – Ally went from being a student to being a nurse during those nine weeks. Mike stayed away longer than the rest of us to ride down the west coast of the US. How’d that go, Mike?

Did anybody do a Johnny Paycheck when going back to work?

Needles Highway, SD

I miss that world. I missed the daily routine of riding already by the first Monday I was home. I had my day of rest and was ready to ride again. I’m still looking for anyone who wants to pay me to ride my bike. From the headwaters of the Mississippi to the delta seems like a good route. Who’ll drive sag?

The jersey that got us in trouble in Belgium-Northfield, MN

But I also miss all of you. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna get all hold-hands-and-sing-Kumbaya on you. If we all lived in the same town it’s not like we’d all be hanging out every night after work (those of us who do still work) or be drinking coffee together every morning at the corner cafe (for the retired among us).

Wind farm – Pepin, WI

But we had a community for those nine weeks; a loose-knit one, perhaps, but we shared something I will never forget. We shared fun, we shared miseries, we shared deeply transforming moments.  We found out what we were made of. Some of you, who had done this before, may have had no doubts about it. But I bet most of us had moments when we weren’t really sure what we had gotten into, weren’t really sure we could do this. But we did. And we probably knew that all along but it seemed too arrogant to say out loud, just as voicing the fears seemed too insecure to say out loud.

100 miles is just a number – almost a century in Ontario

We ate some great food and some food that we may not have eaten had we not just ridden 80 miles. We saw the USA in a way that most people never will. We didn’t fly over flyover country. We didn’t cross the plains at 80 mph (~130 km/h for those of the metric persuasion), staring at the ribbon of pavement and ignoring all else. We did wake up sober in Nebraska (or close to it – Nebraska, I mean). Climbing mountain passes didn’t mean just stepping harder on the accelerator.

Cycle America International Bobsled Team – Lake Placid, NY

We did all that, and we did it together. I, for one, already think about a reunion. It’s entirely possible we will never see each other again. I know some of you are friends in real life and do hang out. The rest of us? Maybe we’d feel awkward, not knowing what to say. Maybe we’d need a long ride together with margaritas to follow. Maybe a short ride, but actually together as a group, like the brief stretches when we were together for ferry crossings or through construction zones.

End of the road, Gloucester, MA-only one way to go

And maybe doing it again in 2020 doesn’t sound crazy after all. (Don’t tell anyone here I said that!) If those of you with the wherewithal to do it again do it, I’ll meet you in Baraboo with a case of beer. Or we can find an Irish pub and Mike can show the bartenders the proper way to pull a pint of Guinness.

See you on the road!



Maybe a motor next time?
Maybe Hogwart’s next time?
Home again


Niagara Falls

Saturday, 4 August (I know, I had the date wrong Thursday)

(Friday night) It is so humid in Port Dover that the grass is already wet with dew before sunset. The laundry I hung six hours ago is still wet. Even the shorts I washed yesterday, hanging for their second day, are still wet. I have one dry pair left. My sleeping bag is still soggy from last night before I go to bed. My tent rain fly is wet inside and out.

We’re in a “Conservation Area” that looks like a campground to me, but seems to be more an enclave of summer homes. 

Many of the trailers are up on cinder blocks. Many have wooden front porches or decks. Some have gardens and fences. While they are travel trailers, not mobile homes, it appears that most have not moved in years.

We rode 5.5 miles before breakfast.

I read a play by Gary Soto the other night.  It was written in Spanglish. (I know him primarily for his picture books for children, also in Spanglish.) This got me thinking about Spanglish and about the Lone Ranger.

The hypothesis I am about to explicate is one I developed some time ago. I could find no evidence to support it. As those who have heard my explanation of the origin of the town of Kaukauna well know, this does not stop me from making stuff up.

The Lone Ranger calls his sidekick “Tonto”. Those with even a rudimentary understanding of Spanish know this means “stupid”.

Tonto, in return, calls the Ranger “Kemosabe”. This could be rendered as “(E´l) que no sabe”, or “he who doesn’t know” or, more simply, “know nothing”. [Imagine the accent is on the E; that was the best I could do.]

Are these affectionate nicknames among friends? Or is it a comment on the power relationship? The Lone Ranger, in his arrogance, calls his sidekick “stupid” and thinks he’s putting one over on him. Tonto, in return, calls the Ranger “know nothing” but says it in a respectful tone. The joke is then on the Lone Ranger and Tonto exercises his power in the only way available to the oppressed, slyly and (apparently) innocently. 

We rode past a huge estate, said to have 27 bathrooms. One of our staff asked if it were correct that the owners made their money from vegetables. The pastor of the church where we were eating smiled slyly and said, “or something green and leafy.” It was only after the snickers died down that I remembered that we are in tobacco country. In the photo, the mansion is barely visible through the morning fog. Ironically, it is on Radical Road (see photo below).

Ther are lots of wind farms in Ontario and solar panels frequently stand among the soybeans.

We rode through summer homes along Lake Erie and into the town of Dunville, where I stopped for espresso and a scone.BBCB4FCC-3928-4322-B38F-E3CD247AB805

We rode on to lunch, where we said goodbye to Ally and Ed, who set off to meet up with the rest of the family for their ride home to New Jersey. A few hundred yards later we passed a mailbox reading “Ed and Allie”.

Gelato in Fonthill after lunch, then a quick ferry ride in a pontoon boat (I was the only passenger) before the final stretch into Niagara Falls. Then it was “hurry up and wait” for the campground to be ready. I hadn’t stalled enough – but I have wet clothes to hang and I want them dry today.