Love the one you’re with

Been thinking about a song all day today written by Stephen Stills and sung so sweetly by Crosby, Stills, and Nash.

If you’re down and confused
And you don’t remember who you’re talking to
Concentration slip away
Because your baby is so far away

Each day I’m thinking about my baby (Mary Ann) and all my other babies too. My kids, grandkids, and all of my extended family and friends. It can make you sad missing them or make you glad for all the blessings I have.

But, right now there are two other objects of my attention. (Warning: this could be the 90 degree heat today, mind you). They are Silver and the Joker, my everyday companions on this cycling journey.

Silver is the name I just gave my bike. Its a titanium framed thing of beauty shining in the sun and the closest thing to me day-in and day-out. Its name is a fitting honor for “Silver,” The Lone Ranger‘s trusty horse. This goes way back to the age of cowboys and courage. He would shout, “Hi Ho Silver Away.” and the masked man would beat back all his foes and escape on Silver to save the day. It was awe-inspiring. And, Silver was a big part of the deal. So too, is Silver, my bike, who just seems to get better as the days wear on.

The Expat
A tuned and cleaned bike is a happy bike

The second object of my attention is the little talisman I have attached to my bike. On day three of this journey, I was starving and looking for a place for lunch after completing the 7-mile bridge on the Keys. The restaurant was closed but I looked down on the ground and found an old Batman toy character, The Joker.

I was immediately drawn to picking it up and examining it, then owning it. It has a button on the back that allows the Joker to extend an arm with a sign saying “Ha, Ha, Ha.” ! Guess that was the punch line. So, it now proudly rides with me on my rear commuter pack. When in a bind, traveling a bridge or just thinking crazy thoughts I go back to the Joker, who is basically saying “I’ve got the last laugh.” I’m still going!

pic of the Joker
The Joker is part of my team warding off evil spirits.

While I have not resorted to speaking directly to Silver or the Joker, there may come a time. All I know is that things are rolling along and I’m counting on my everyday buddies to pull me through. We are a team now – Me, Silver and the Joker. “Hi, Ho Silver and Away!”

Well there’s a rose in a fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey
Love the one you’re with

Magic Never Gets Old

I’ve learned first-hand what its like to seek out a place to crash at the end of a long day of cycling. Factors such as weather, mechanical problems and physical exhaustion can dramatically alter your plans. It’s hard to plan a long-term trip in detail in advance. Even more so when this is your first cycling tour.

There is a somewhat strange organization called Warm Showers that is a cooperative group of touring cyclists that puts up cyclists, such as myself, without cost and other of the etiquette of a B&B. The idea is you willfully accept others to stay with you if you are a host and do this thru the kindness and empathy as a fellow touring cyclist. I knew about this organization but was skeptical of its coverage and effectiveness, so I never really looked into it as an option. Figuring if you are paying someone you at least can expect something reliable in return. But, it’s still an admirable thing they are trying to do.

So far, I’ve been able to make a combination of airbnb 1 night stays and a few motels work for me on this trip. But, Monday as I got off the ferry my plan fell apart as the motel I reserved  near the Hatteras Ferry wanted $129 per night in a dead season and they informed me that the WiFi was not working. I was pissed as it was already getting near 5:00 pm and I needed shelter for the night, without a lot of choices.

Then I remembered Jim. Jim had approached me on the ferry going to Ocracoke Island as we discussed cycling and his main interest of wind surfing. I surmised we were of a similar age and background with an interest in lively sports. I wondered if there was others out there that saw a need to keep physically aggressive in different ways as we age. Jim offered me to stay at a place he was sharing with an older woman who was 85 and still was wind surfing. He also insisted that I take his phone number. Just in case.

So, here I was so pissed for being ripped off and remembering Jim’s offer, that I called him and he insisted I come right over and stay there. A brewing catastrophe was averted by sheer luck. I canceled my reservation and got back on my bike and headed 20 more miles more to Jim’s place.

By now, the sun is setting and I find their house at the end of a road that meets the sound. It’s Jim’s friend Lu’s place right on the Pimlico Sound where a bunch of now 60-80 year olds have rented each year about this time since the day they discovered and fell in love with wind surfing decades ago.

DSC09286Jim looks spry and is here to wind surf as is Lu. Many of their friends have left the sport behind. Some have stayed here at the Outer Banks. A smaller number come back each year as the numbers dwindle. This area seems to be the world-wide hub of the sport because of its vast body of shallow water and ideal winds. But newer sports like kite-sailing are getting the attention these days. This is the ideal time of the year for these wind sports.

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Lu is an interesting person. She remarks about her 6 or 7 joint replacements and endless PT.  But, you know these are all just temporary obstacles. She’s always been an active person from Vermont and an avid skier. Even at her age she is on the ski patrol at Mad River. Most of her injuries have been from skiiing.

After showing me my room, I sit down totally exhausted for dinner. Here I am in conversation with two very unique interesting individuals. Jim seems to know everything about wind and air and  various sports around that, from kiting to ice gliding and dessert sailing. Lu is active everywhere, looking after her five kids and their families now as far-flung as France and Utah. We eat a dinner of roast pork, potatoes and asparagus. This simple meal was some of the most appreciative food I have ever eaten.

I ask myself how does this happen? Is this just pure luck that I’m here? I’m convinced that it was Jim who took the initiative to introduce himself, engage with me and probably because he has experienced the magic that giving gives not only to the person receiving but to the giver too.

Jim and Lu asked nothing of me. No money or promise. I hope I helped them enjoy the two weeks of wind surfing ahead. I hope I can pay this too forward. And, I wish that at 85 I can still stay active and ride a bike, handle the problems of getting old and be generous enough to help others as Jim and Lu taught me that day.

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Yin and Yang of bike touring

I’ve mentioned my fear of bridges before. But recently I’ve learned that the Yin for that is the pleasure of ferries. If the threat of annihilation by truck, or the death falling off a bridge just to cross a body of water is the dark side (Yang), then the crossing of water by ferry, at least here on my trip, represents the zen-like pleasure of waiting, walking on and experiencing miles of your travel being lopped off for pennies on the mile.

Picture this. You arrive at a ferry stop which, at least this time of the year, is not busy or crowded. You purchase your ticket and learn that a passenger and bike crossing cost only $3 to get to the other side. One ferry went 5 miles and another 20 – that’s a 2.5 hr ride! And, get this. If you get to Ocracoke Island the hourly ferry to take you to Hatteras is FREE. Always. Both ways. Cars are a little more expensive. But in northeastern terms still a real bargain.

Once on the ferry, the ride is smooth, easy and relaxing. Strangers talk to each other, like the motorcycle couple who saw my Colorado bike jersey. They had to transplant to the Washington DC area for work but miss Colorado dearly. There were 3 Montreal couples on the strangest 3-wheeled vehicles, each with baggage in tow. Then there was then young wedding planner nervous about a big affair coming this Saturday (cinco de mayo) with a wild mother-of-the-bride to deal with. She was heading to meet her boyfriend to chill out for the day. And, on Cedar Island I met Harold who was a Long Island native clammer who has been chasing better waters until they become popular and too poluted and over fished. He was a vibrant 75 with a great friendly and accepting attitude.

Lastly, there was Jim. Jim approached me with admiration of my bike and mentioned he just bought a new one and was looking for a good seat for it. I learned he was going to Hatteras to do wind-surfing. He offered out of the blue for me to stay overnight if I need to at a place. He was sharing a big house with a friend and even gave me his phone number. There’s more to this story which I’ll post another time.

On the water there is no anxiety, only peace and calm, at least under this great weather day. For me, it’s an unexpected therapy after four bridges that day (and they were not even that bad).

Today, after appreciating the trek yesterday and realizing that I had made it to such a vast and beautiful place as Cape Hatteras, I decided to take it all in. Yes, take all the Yin I can find. I rode just 15 miles north to my planned KOA campsite. It’s a day off camping at the beach!

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