Tuesday, July 21, 2009

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.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sleepy Time Motel to Bridgton, Maine

This morning was rainy and the highway was wet. This gave way to more rain and wetter highways. Lunch had an intermediate light shower followed by a drizzle followed by heavy showers and rain. Most of our equipment is water proof. We on the other hand seem to be less than water resistant. Breakfast was secured at the local Subway, Chinese, Dunkin Donut express lane at the junction of a highway and an interstate. I am not sure but I don't think that Dunkin Donuts were started by the religion of the same name. The temperature was tolerable and really quite acceptable with little need for a jacket except to shed the water. The lakes "Small Lake" and others were very pretty. I'm sure once illuminated by the sun they must be spectacular. I climbed down to see a tree that had a rope swing that must be used to jump into the stream but by the time I walked through the growth of grasses and weeds I was already soaked. Then the mosquito's smelled me and it was a hasty exit to the highway.
Bridgton had a Laundromat where two young lady's realized that Jon and I had no business in trying to wash our own clothes. They both worked there and had a responsibility to the owner to keep it damaged free. Believe it or not there are procedures to washing clothes in a laundry mat. When they realized that I was taking off everything I owned to wash and dry, they directed me to the Lost and Found. "Please find something in that pile and put it on" as they pointed to a large basket of discarded clothing. After we had loitered for a few hours they assisted us in finding a hotel in the local phone book. I believe they thought we were homeless and were not leaving until the rain stopped. Now we are at the First and Last Motel in Bridgton and are glad to be here.
We have a short day tomorrow to a town just below a hill of 2,900 ft. We will stay there tomorrow tonight and begin the climb on Wednesday.

See Below:

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bar Harbor to Freeport, ME

Freeport, ME to Auborn, ME Sleepy Time Hotel

We we spent last night in Freeport where LL Bean never locks their doors. Why would you people are spending money night and day. We were so used to the rain we waited until it started raining to leave.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Bar Harbor, ME to Blue Hill

Geddys is a bar and Crabby place by the sea. We ate there before we got started.

This was taken in Acadia Park

We finally had to leave Bar Harbor in the fog. It wasn't pretty and we thought we would have rain. Luckily it didn't rain until we reached the hotel.

We got lost and headed too far towards the Ocean. By the time we figured it out it cost us 18 extra miles. That night we stayed at the Blue Hill Barn B & B. We straggled in like two wet cats and the proprietor felt so sorry for us she gave us some of her brother's Lobster stew. It was fantastic.

Everything seemed to be going fine until this turn.

We didn't know how lost we were until we found the red cones. Apparently we mosied into an area that was being worked on.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Sunday Poem: Russell Libby... Applied Geometry

American Life in Poetry: Column 194

Father and child doing a little math homework together; it's an everyday occurrence, but here, Russell Libby, a poet who writes from Three Sisters Farm in central Maine, presents it in a way that makes it feel deep and magical.

Applied Geometry

Applied geometry,
measuring the height
of a pine from
like triangles,
Rosa's shadow stretches
seven paces in
low-slanting light of
late Christmas afternoon.
One hundred thirty nine steps
up the hill until the sun is
finally caught at the top of the tree,
let's see,
twenty to one,
one hundred feet plus a few to adjust
for climbing uphill,
and her hands barely reach mine
as we encircle the trunk,
almost eleven feet around.
Back to the lumber tables.
That one tree might make
three thousand feet of boards
if our hearts could stand
the sound of its fall.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright © 2007 by Russell Libby, whose most recent book is "Balance: A Late Pastoral," Blackberry Press, 2007. Reprinted from "HeartLodge," Vol. III, Summer 2007, by permission of Russell Libby. Introduction copyright © 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bike and Trailer: Ready for Road Trials

NOB HILL--Before starting on the Transamerica bike trip, I went on a little jaunt along the Malpais to test out the equipment. Here everything is ready to go, waiting on the porch for Bob to arrive. His wife Wendy drove us out to Grants. We then biked south to Quemado.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Joe Lawson, The Gumball King, Dead at 58

NOB HILL--Joe Lawson died last Thursday night. Saturday we had a wake. There are no words that can express the loss.

But I tried. I posted a piece about him on The Duke City Fix this morning.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Border Folly: The Rest, Including Day #3...We Cross Paths With the New York Times

NOB HILL--We made it back about a week ago. We had no internet connection for the rest of the trip. I got sick and put nothing up about the finish. This led to an interesting development.

We had spent the third night at Organ Pipe National Monument...at their backcountry campground. There were only 4 sites, pit toilets, no water, no shade. They were perfect.

By mid-afternoon all the sites were occupied: two by single men who looked like they had given themselves over to the focused, sun-baked look of desert fever, and a young couple who never left their campsite. Everything was peaceful enough. Especially at night once the older wild man quit talking to himself. And the young woman in the next tent quit her rhythmic barking.

Anyway we hiked in the afternoon, ate a good supper and breakfast, and left by about 10:00 a.m.

It is a very lush part of the southwest, warm and full of vegetation. Our campsite was fortunate enough to have the only organ pipe cactus that was actually in the campground. Saguaros were everywhere, as was mesquite, creosote bush and some other native plants.

Most interesting was what is called the Jumping Cholla. This single-stemed cholla has lots of spikey balls attached to its arms that attach themselves to passersby. They don't actually 'Jump,' but they come off the plant extremely easily. In fact, they fall off.

They stick pretty good to your flesh, however. And you can't touch them to pull them off. A ranger recommended using a forked stick.

The New York Times Connection
Anyway, I picked up a copy of this Friday's NYT and found that in the Escapes section, Keith Mulvihill had written a piece on the Arizona Borderlands entitled "A Road Trip On the Edge Of America." He mentions Organ Pipe National Monument. It is a wonderful piece with a lot of information. I will say that Organ Pipe NatMon is definitely at the edge of America: right on the Mexican border and totally out of the way...except that the highway through the Park is the main road from the USA to Puerto Penasco (otherwise known as Rocky Point).
The NYT article has a picture of our campsite! That guy Keith probably moved the picnic table just a hair, but that is definitely our site! I keep wondering about that woman's barking...was that the Times reporter at work? Who knows.

We may have been there at the same time. Maybe not. But I'll tell you one thing: we ate better than they did. Beef Stroganoff for supper. Pan fried potatoes, sausages, eggs, and green chile for breakfast.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Border Folly: Day #2...Tucson

TUCSON, AZ--The TV weatherman was full of warnings about extreme wind in the southern part of New Mexico this morning. We left early and were already near the Arizona border before the winds came up. The winds out here can be dangerous. According to the motel manager, every year someone dies on I-10 while attempting to drive through a dust storm. So, as I said, we took off early. We pulled over at Stein's and MaryAnn took a quick picture through the window. Except for some power poles, this shot could have been taken 100 years ago.

We had intended to camp out at Parker Canyon Lake southwest of Fort Huachuca, but the wind was so bad and the temperature was so cold we decided to drive into Tucson and hit that area on the way home. We got a room at the Tucson Inn, a place I remembered seeing last time we were here. I especially remembered its big, beautiful neon sign. I couldn't wait until dark to take a picture of it.

You have to pay premium prices in a town like Tucson, $40. But with accomodations out of the way we decided to go to the University of Arizona Museum, which was featuring an exhibit of Arizona and New Mexico native life going back to about 1000 A.D. Now, having read Stuart's book the night before, this was outstanding. Actually, Stuart talks about discovered fragments of life in New Mexico going back all the way to roughly 10,000 B.C.! That makes the Hohokam and Anasazi peoples seem recent!

We got back to the motel just before dark. I wasn't feeling too well. It must have been the "Chorizo Mix" I had at Lindy Loo's for lunch. Anyway, it was dark soon enough and I got my picture.

It proved to be something of a disappointment.

Or maybe not so much disappointing as requiring a different aesthetic on the part of the viewer...one that appreciates both the fleeting moment when everything works just like it should, and the more common moments when only about half of everything is perfect. The rest of it is something that Time takes back as payment for having lived long enough to remember how it used to be.

Border Folly: Day #1...Deming, NM

DEMING, NM--The purpose of this trip is threefold:
  1. Get warm.
  2. Experience as much as possible.
  3. Spend little...very little.
Well, Deming fills the bill. We got a warm room at the Butterfield Stage Motel for $34.99. And it was a BIG room. Unfortunately it came with only two lightbulbs of limited wattage. And there wasn't much in the way of furniture either. But it was large and clean.

Once settled in our spacious abode, Room 11, we headed out for something to eat--although it was only about 4:00. The motel manager recommended The Campos on Silver just south of Pine. "They serve everything from salmon crepes to hamburgers."

"How are the prices?" I asked.

"Everything runs about 8 bucks."

We left for Silver and Pine immediately. The food was great. MaryAnn had two excellent Big Jim chiles rellenos. I had the skilletino, chicken, ham, and Andouille sausage in marinara sauce served over linguini in a hot 8 inch cast iron skillet complete with its own potholder. And two cups of decent coffee. Cost was 18 dollars plus tip. It turns out that the owner's brother is the head chef at the Double Eagle in Mesilla.

Anyway, we went back to the room and read by the dim light over the bed. I read all of David Stuart's little book Glimpses of the Ancient Southwest.

Later, listening to the rumble of the Southern Pacific trains and endless convoys of 18-wheelers on I-10, we ate the last of that great food from The Campos.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Countdown to Hot Cornbread

NOB HILL--Maybe we should form a Grandfather's Cooking Group to share recipes. My little Robby loves to bake. Here he keeps an eye on the cornbread. I know cornbread isn't the most complicated recipe, but we both like it...especially with butter and honey. We just follow the directions on the corn meal bag.

We used to make a lot of biscuits with Bisquick. But I was reading the label and found they use transfats in the mix. Unbelievable. Well, we've moved on to cornbread for now.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Sunday Poem: Steven Schneider...Chanukah Lights Tonight

American Life in Poetry: Column 140


Here's a holiday poem by Steven Schneider that I like very much for its light spirit and evocative sensory detail. Isn't this a party to which you'd like to be invited?

Chanukah Lights Tonight

Our annual prairie Chanukah party—
latkes, kugel, cherry blintzes.
Friends arrive from nearby towns
and dance the twist to "Chanukah Lights Tonight,"
spin like a dreidel to a klezmer hit.

The candles flicker in the window.
Outside, ponderosa pines are tied in red bows.
If you squint,
the neighbors' Christmas lights
look like the Omaha skyline.

The smell of oil is in the air.
We drift off to childhood
where we spent our gelt
on baseball cards and matinees,
cream sodas and potato knishes.

No delis in our neighborhood,
only the wind howling over the crushed corn stalks.
Inside, we try to sweep the darkness out,
waiting for the Messiah to knock,
wanting to know if he can join the party.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Reprinted from "Prairie Air Show," Talking River Publications, 2000, by permission of Steven Schneider. Poem copyright © 2000 by Steven Schneider. Introduction copyright © 2007 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Two Small Rains Equal 350 Gallons in the Barrels

NOB HILL--On the Duke City Fix one month ago I posted a story about my new rain barrel. It holds 100 gallons. I already had one that holds 55 gallons. And that covers the only 2 spouts I have on the entire house.

Well, here's an update. We have had two little rain events since they have been installed. Each one accounted for only about 1/2 inch of precipitation. From those I managed to harvest 350 gallons of water!

The smaller barrel filled up and I drained it during the storm into my small orchard. It has filled up twice since.

The 100 gallon barrel has filled up twice. Altogether that makes 350 gallons. Not bad for two tiny rain storms.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Find the Coyote...

NORTH BOSQUE BIKE TRAIL--Do you see the coyote? I didn't. Almost rode past him. Bob pointed him out.

This is in the same stretch of trail that has all those organic torpedoes littering the asphalt. Bold. But when you blend into your surroundings as well as this guy, what does a coyote have to fear?

If you need help, click on the picture.