Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ten Years Ago Mike and I Rode Through New England on Bicycles. Here Is What We Posted.

Normally this is the most difficult commentary to write since the journey is over. We have traveled more than 600 miles through some rigorous highways in what the North East weathermen describe as the wettest spring in the last 20 years. Some areas experienced over 5 inches of rain in less than an hour. This is more rain that I have seen in NM in the last 20 years, total.
I must say that the bulk of the people we encountered were relatively happy to see us. Even with their gracious hospitality I couldn’t help but feel the overall disappointment in the outcome of the season. This had been the rainiest two years that the NE had seen in a long time.
The rain and the economy had discouraged tourists from coming and even camping in the area. In these parts the tourist season lasts approximately 150 days. 26 straight days of rain can really put a damper on the earnings potential of the community. That being said I pray for dryer days ahead.
In any ride there are certain adjustments that one must make. The physical, the mental, and believe it or not there is a spiritual adjustment.
There is the process of getting used to the ride (physically). As much training as you think you have done your muscles, tendons, heart, and lungs all need to get used to a six to eight hours of constant peddling. The tender part of your backside cannot be ready for the repetitious cycle that the thighs require and therefore your rump needs time to accustom itself to the shape of the bicycle seat. Hands become numb with your weight pressed against your palms and your arms continuingly being held in one position. To overcome this you must remind yourself to exercise and stretch even as you are riding or you will end up with prolonged paralysis in your fingers that may take months to work out.
Second one must rely and work together with your partner to make plans, follow maps, determine stops, and where and when to eat. You must both be flexible and willing to discuss even the most mundane of decisions before running off on your own. By the way Jon and I haven’t always found that our friendship sailed on calm seas; but we both have always had the common sense to meet each other half way. If you ever decide to make this type of journey a goal and are intending to have company remember tolerance and understanding hold the key to good relations.
Maybe the most important process is the ability to mellow into the hour after hour of mental deliberation. Meditation is something that one ought to cultivate long before beginning the trip. To meditate successfully you must be able to focus your consciousness and at the same time be aware of all that is happening around you. Cars and trucks are passing you with phenomenal speeds and bulk, changes in routes occur without much warning, roads lack adequate space for cars much less bikes, and above all you must know where your partner is at all times.
Once this mental talent is accomplished you can concentrate on the solitude and contemplation of the moment. You will not be dissuaded by incumbent weather, traffic or hours of deserted highways. Over the hours that it takes to cover miles and miles of road your mind is free to explore its own relevance. You have time and mental clarity to allow your perspective to open. I would find these journeys rather mundane without the opportunity to practice the spiritualism afforded me by the simplicity of the journey.
The several treks that I have been privileged to participate in have inspired moments that are etched into my mind. Butterflies that land on my handlebars, the slug that catches a ride in the rain, and the occasional lizard that races you along the shoulder of a hot dusty road, these are all about us but we rarely take or are afforded the time to focus on the most basic gifts.
This journey is much like many others I have ridden and I hope like many more. I hope that I can keep in mind to stop and observe the gifts that surround me whether I am biking, walking or just sitting. And that I always appreciate the journey.
Thank you for joining us on this ride and I hope all of you take the chance and enjoy the experience.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Fort Ticonderoga

We rested a day at Ticonderoga, New York on Sunday after the 4th. This would have been our twelfth day on the road without a break and it was time. The sun was up, the sky was clear and this is an interesting historical area.
The area is described by the Mohawks as “the place between the great waters”. The great waters being Lake Champlain and Lake George. The neck of land overlooking the only open waterway between these two lakes was strategic in controlling travel between north and south in this area. The French felt that this was meaningful stronghold to control the British from moving into Canada and in 1755 built a fortress atop this peninsula named it Carillon.
The French army outnumber 5 to 1 were successful in holding off more than 10,000 British soldiers at the Battle of Carillon, July 8, 1758. This was the bloodiest day in American history before the Civil War. At the time the French were also engaged in Europe with the 7 year war and were forced to abandon the fort to the British the following year. Before they left they ignited the powder magazine which did considerable damage to one side of the fort. The British controlled the fort for the next 16 years.
On May 10, 1775 Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold and the Green Mountain Boys- marked the first victory of the Revolutionary War by capturing the fort. The story goes that Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold both had the same idea and headed out to the take over the fort separately . On the way they joined forces. Arriving in the dead of night with 84 men they came upon the century who was taken by surprise and whose signal musket was dampened by the wet weather would not fire. The men then walked into the fort without a shot being fired and woke up British commander took him prisoner.
George Washington had the cannons hauled back in a monumental feat to Boston to defeat the British war ships. Many cannons have been returned to Fort Ticonderoga but only one has been positively identified and an original. The Fort has been in and out of disrepair for many years and after the Revolutionary War was deemed by George Washington not to have any significant value militarily to the USA. It was left to ruin until Stephen and Sarah Pell bought it in 1909. Sarah and her Grandson restored much of the fort and left it to the Fort Ticonderoga Association who has overseen this historical educational program.
As you walk through the peaceful woods that surround the fort there is an eeriness that arise from knowing that so many have died on this hill.