SUMMARY BLOG ENTRY
Saturday, July 1, 2006
Sunday, July 2, 2006
Posted on July 3, 2006
I apologize for the tardiness of this final posting. It's been Canada Day holidays up here and the library, where I get access to Internet, was closed. Also, my trusty helper, Suzanne, was too busy and could not get to the Blog this time. But I am now posting this from the Library computer. By the way, we were surprised to find the article about my journey published so quickly (today, July 3) in The Sault Star (on line at www.saultstar.com
see the "Algoma" section); the reporter did a fine job.
I will now pick up with where I had left off, earlier:
So, it’s come down to the final entry to this Blog that Suzanne created for me, “Bob Rides Into the Sunrise.” I am sitting in the screened porch of our cottage on St. Joseph Island, writing these notes on my laptop. The St. Mary’s River, linking Lakes Superior and Huron, is in front of me. The boat I’ve been mentioning that Lynn transported sits on the beach, tarped, ready to be launched when we get ready. It’s sprinkling with the threat of some big stuff off to the West on its way in. I enjoy the realization that I am not out on the road somewhere at the mercy of the weather. It’s wonderfully quiet here, with some birds chirping. Lucy, our dog, is at my feet. Lynn is doing the laundry. I’ve just gotten through mowing down some big, thick growth to make a couple of paths we can use. Music from the iPod that Suzanne loaded with 35 days of music is playing in the background. I’d have to say that life is good here.
My trusty bicycle sits to the side on the porch. I am aware of developing a kind of love affair now with my bike. We have been through a lot together on this trip, gotten very close, and I have a dependency on it. I kind of feel like my bike also is dependent on me (healthier to think of all this as an “interdependence,” I should think), and it just sits there wanting to go for yet another ride. It is denuded of its panniers. Instead of looking like some sort of pack horse, as it did, the bike now looks sleek, ready to take off. It has a certain beauty to it. Now free of its weight, the bike is agreeably lighter, too, and much better balanced. I plan to ride it here, avoiding my SUV, except when Lynn and I and the kids (when they arrive in mid-July) go out together, or when we need to haul garbage to the dump or go out for the ever-needed supplies.
I want to capture in this entry some recollections of my journey, now that I have some time and a bit of distance. As with any significant event that one has experienced, I’m sure there will be new revelations as time goes on, but this is where I am now…
First, as I am writing these notes I must say that I hurt. I think this is more related to PMR-prednisone than it is to the bike trip, although my quads yesterday were sore to the touch. Because I am not jumping up in the morning, and immediately (after breakfast and prednisone) and riding, the stiffness and discomfort of morning is more noticeable and more difficult to get rid of. So, I would have to say that the constant cycling action, 7 or 8 hours a day, had a positive effect on my health.
I have not crashed. I have been able to take part in some of the usual cottage opening up chores I always do. This is good, as there is a lot to do when a place has sat all winter in the middle of the North woods on a big body of water.
Yet, I also have been unable to sleep well, still. Very fitful. Why? My hypothesis is that I have not yet uncoiled from the very tightly focused energy I must have mustered to complete the 700 mile trip in 10 biking days, with my bike being fully loaded. Looking back, this “project” was one of the most intensely focused physical and psychological ones I’ve experienced. Running marathons also certainly qualifies, but they last for just a few (highly demanding) hours. The hike I did a year ago on the Appalachian Trail also qualifies, and even though it was just 5 days long, I returned much more beat up from it than I had anticipated being possible. With this “ride into the Sunrise,” I put myself on a very tight and rigorous schedule because I was goal-directed: to see sights along the way but, ultimately, the priority was to successfully make the journey from my front door in Cincinnati to my front door on St. Joseph Island at a fairly demanding pace. It became clearer to me that this was not a leisurely tour, although it had its moments. Rather, it was a mission needing to be accomplished.
And, I did it! Having heard by phone from friends who have been so congratulatory and apparently amazed at the speed by which finished the journey, I have become proud of having completed the trip, coming through unscathed, covering the fairly vast distance much faster than I had planned.
What else stands out? Most of what I will discuss can be found somewhere in the previous Blog entries, I suspect, and you may recall some references.
Conversations along the way with waitresses, motel clerks, fellow diners at restaurants, people I bumped into by chance, my friends and family who supported me all the way. Just a few examples might give a sense of what I mean. Right away on moving up one of the big hills (Gray Road) to climb out of Cincinnati, I will remember the old lady who was sweeping her porch and, when she saw me stopped on the side of the hill to catch some air, yelled out words of encouragement and of caution. Mr. Homan, from Coldwater, Ohio who came out of his shop to find out what I was doing, where I was going, and was so interested and friendly. Mr. Moore and his cronies at Bubba J’s in Paulding, Ohio and before that, the ladies at Los Gallitos who took the time to map out a less heavily trafficked route out of town. Suzanne, who joined me for 2 days on this ride, along with her boyfriend, Pete, who couldn’t ride this time, but maybe next—what a great Daughter-Dad trip! And for all of her great support along the way when we would talk by phone and she would keep my Blog going, and how she would scour Google to give me some alternative routes and possible places to stay up ahead. Zack, who is working this Summer at Georgetown U and could not come on this trip, who was so helpful during all the planning for it. Rob, the AmeriHost motel clerk in Ionia, Michigan who let me use an office computer to log into my email and keep up my Blog and who volunteered to have my rancid bike clothing be washed along with the daily motel wash. Doug Lamb, who came all the way from Bloomington, Illinois to catch up with me in Ionia, Michigan, no doubt at some sacrifice. My brother-in-law, Chuck and my sister, Mary, who also joined me in Ionia and then Chuck rode with me for 2 days up and down the hills, along the heavy traffic, down the country roads, and Mary would join us for great milk shakes along the way and, at the Homestead in Six Lakes, Michigan we laughed so hard at the sign which warned, “Some day you will find yourself…and wish you hadn’t.” The Super 8 motel clerks in Evart, Michigan who turned their Meeting Room into an overflow motel room for Chuck, Mary and me when there was no other room in any Inn, anywhere around. Of course, Lynn, who also joined us for a night in Ionia as she went out of her way on the course to pick up our new boat in Fenton, Michigan in her march to the Island—and for all her love and support throughout this journey, my planning for it, doing it, and now recovering from it. Although I really do not know him (yet), Marshall Eldred advised me to check out the “Lakes” area of Michigan (Petoskey, Harbor Springs, etc.), instead to the more direct inland route I had been plotting. The “Angel of Rudyard” was very special to me, appearing out of nowhere to guide me to a motel I badly needed that was on no one’s map, getting me to the Library email service, showing me a spiritually oriented book while at the Library, and then suddenly disappearing. The kindness of other strangers all along the way who, when I asked about my unknown whereabouts (usually on a side road with no signs or when coming suddenly on several options, none of which were marked) would point me in the right direction (most of the time!). And, of course, everyone who followed along on the Blog and participated, you were very encouraging. Steve and Marcia even plotted my planned itinerary with my actual route….. Donna Schell, the Sault Star reporter, her genuine interest in my story and her impressive interview once I arrived on the Island. I will look forward to what her Editor does to her story in an upcoming edition of the Star.
Walter Alston, the famous Dodger manager’s, marker in Darrtown, just outside Cincinnati. So near, but it took this bike trip to find it. Mark Center, Ohio, just a cross in the road, where we met the Postmaster and a most colorful local resident, posing for many pictures and lots of stories. I loved the little towns, I am very partial to them having grown up for several years in one of the smallest. Greenville, sorry I had missed the sandwich shop that has been extolled by Al Dye in the Blog, but I did see Annie Oakley’s statue. Van Wert seemed very pretty. Hillsdale, Michigan was a picture postcard of a spot, a place one could easily curl up with. Albion also seemed pretty (the latter two towns are college towns), but the impending Tornado warnings and heavy rain Suzanne and I had to deal with registers more heavily. The simple beauty of the “Wayside Chapel, where passersby can find some needed solace, along side Route 66 outside Marion, Michigan. The highly refined beauty and friendliness of the Charlevoix, Petoskey, Harbor Springs area where I was a “resorter” for two days will remain with me as will the quietly unfolding majesty of Route 119 around Lake Michigan to Mackinac City, with spectacular Lake views, sand dunes, the Tunnel of Trees. Being transported over the Big Mac Bridge, because one cannot walk or ride a bicycle over it, was sort of being treated like royalty…The Northern Country Inn at Rudyard, Michigan whose sight I was so happy to see after so many miles, with the bed pillow aphorism to be followed: “Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much.” The side of the road, which I mentioned in an earlier entry, which at times was as if we were “riding with the road kill;” squashed, dead deer, possums (vicious teeth), raccoons, snakes, squirrels, chipmunks, birds, wood chucks. On the main highways, which are direct but fraught with the terror of fast-moving large vehicles of many kinds (tractor trailers, RV’s, buses, motor homes, pick up trucks, not to mention speeding autos), the road side contains the animal residue and also bits and pieces, chunks of detritus—metal scraps, bolts, mufflers, tire treads, glass shards, screws, nails, etc. any and all of which can be bad news for a bicycle. The roads I spent a lot of time on: Route 60 in Ohio, Route 66 in Michigan…The “higher risk” highways I traveled will not be missed: sections of US 127 in Ohio and Michigan (from Van Wert to Paulding was especially harrowing, as is 127 out of Cincinnati to Hamilton), Rte 131 from Kalkaska to Mancelona, Michigan, parts of Highway 17 East from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario toward St. Joseph Island turn-off. These are places a cyclist could too easily wind up in trouble very quickly due to limited space, fast-moving traffic, huge vehicles. Coming upon the St. Joseph Island turn-off from Highway 17, finally, after all those miles and all that pumping, and feeling relief and joy at my cottage.
Flying down a long, steep hill at 35 miles an hour. And making it safely, too! Cranking up the same, long hill a few minutes before not topping 6 miles an hour and working very hard, in “Granny Gear.” Of the two, though, I prefer flying to cranking, bu there is a real sense of accomplishment in climbing the mountain. My legs getting stronger as time went on. Peaceful interludes on the back highways, crossing fields of gold and green, hills and dales, trees and lakes on all sides at times, hearing nothing but singing birds and my own breathing. At times of “flow,” bursting into songs and being surprised at what came out, mostly old ones from the 60’s and 70’s: Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, and even John Denver…at the end of the day, noticing I had come 80 miles, or 70 miles—not the 50 I had been trying for. Being able to locate in my packs what I needed—a tool, a map, my rain jacket when the rain hit—was a wonderful feeling. Searching for what seemed to be forever to find something was too often my experience, but certainly it was a part of my experience to be remembered. Laughing and sharing common moments with my “guests” who went way out of their ways to join me for parts of this trip. Knowing that I was being cheered from afar by so many friends and family was, and is, a deeply comforting and satisfying feeling. Realizing that “I can do this,” this very demanding and challenging adventure of 700 miles, despite the heavy load, despite the PMR, despite the threatening weather, despite the hills, despite the saddle sores, even despite my age…this is an empowering awareness. And, maybe finally (at least for now), allowing this journey to stand as a kind of metaphor for my approaching retirement, with its challenge, adventure, uncertainty, beauty, and threat—riding toward the sunrise, not the sunset, as life goes on.
I am reading two books right now, each given to me by my sisters for my 62nd birthday, and signaling the occasion of my impending retirement as well as the big bike trip that was upcoming. Julie’s is called, Bicycle Love: Stories of passion, joy and sweat. Mary’s is called, Goal-Free Living: How to have the life you want NOW! I am valuing these books. The first one is a collection of juried short stories about rider’s experiences with their bikes and their journeys. In one of these stories, Joshua Craine Anchors quotes Ernest Hemingway who said, “nobody lives their lives all the way up except bull fighters.” I agree with Anchors, who questioned the great writer on this viewpoint. On my ride into the sunrise of 70 mile days, complete with full panniers, I have to think I was living very close to “all the way up.” Each day was a contest, every mile was a challenge, sometimes a real gut check, sometimes a job that I had to do, and other times a period of joy. When at my best, I developed an “at-oneness” with my bike, with the road, with the air around me along the way. That feeling is to be treasured, and serve as a touchstone for life itself. Regarding the second book, I want to view my next stage of life as a period of “goal-free living.” Not being tied to and directed by goals to be met, around which there is a pressurized atmosphere. I want and need there to be meaningfulness, but my “goal” is for it to evolve through a more spontaneous, inner-directed existence that is connected to life opportunities. I want to develop a new relationship with Time and to experience my life as a more open, emerging state allowing me to be more observant, more in touch with the environment and with others. I would like to be more like Mr. Moore from Paulding who, you may recall, sat in Bubba J’s restaurant and joyfully talked with others and seemed to be very much in relationship. Not that I will sit, only (or to imply that is all Mr. Moore does). I need challenge, a lot of it. So, there will be continuing professional challenge, writing and consulting and through Charting Your Personal Future (see http://www.chartingyourpersonalfuture.com/
, if interested). There will be more time to sit and think, dream, or just hang out--and to be at Rosebush Cove, our Canadian cottage, as well as in Cincinnati. There also will be physical challenge, I hope, with more bike trips, or maybe duathalons, kayaking, travel, boating, or--who knows? I very much am attracted to the notion of, “Who Knows?”
Last, I offer my sincere thanks to all of you who followed along, who came on board along the way, who were with me, as Sam Gladding had promised at the start of my ride into the sunrise, “every step of the way.”