Month: May 2021

Riding Day #3 – part 2

Last night’s rain and more today, have turned the athletic field into a mud bath. No matter how big or gentle our steps, mud covers our shoes and flips up onto the back of our legs. Also, our gear was unloaded prior to the last shower so everything is wet, including my sheet and blanket. My tent mate and I ask for any extra towels and they become our bedding.  

Tonight’s dinner is on our own. Buses are available to take us into town. I indulge in a massage at the area set up at the edge of the tents. It is not enclosed, but careful maneuvering of sheets and towels allows for disrobing. My physical body is screaming for some kind of release, and finds it here through the skillful hands that manipulate muscles to soften the hard work of the day. I thought my legs would be the primary focus, but my back and shoulders require extensive work to relax towards their ‘normal’ state—which is a state of tension even within regular day-to-day activities. My hour ends before I am ready to say goodbye to the relief the kneading is just beginning to offer, but there are others waiting. Redressing within sheets held for privacy is harder than undressing. A quick shower in the gym and I am ready to join my tent mate and car mate for the trip into town. I am not sure but I think they waited for me. Really?? We are some of the last to head out. 

The town of Seneca Falls is basically closed. Supposedly this town served as the model for the infamous Bedford Falls from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life starring James Stewart. There is even a museum related to the movie in town, but it is closed by now. The favored restaurant is packed and we need to wait over an hour to be seated. But the bar is accommodating with rapid responses to drink orders. The boisterous, cheerful crowd almost makes me feel celebratory! We talk with another acquaintance of my two companions, a face I have seen but never exchanged words with. I am introduced, and he announces: “So, this is serious Sue I’ve heard about.” My immediate response is to take offense inwardly, wishing my image was one of a more carefree and fun nature, feeling betrayed by the only two people I have had any significant contact with on the trip. But I quickly realize that this trip is serious business for me, and that is exactly how I have responded every step of the way. What initially felt like an insult shifts to become more of a reminder, a confirmation, that this trip is much more than an exercise in my physical ability to complete the miles. I try hard through the rest of the evening to present a more relaxed response to everything, letting down my guard just a little. But I feel like an imposter and am sure they can see the effort it requires to move away from my serious focus. Play has never been a valued pastime in my life. Goals and hard work are solid players in the arena of getting ahead and making ends meet. Maybe this is why Ron’s ability to make me laugh has always been so attractive. Sometimes I resist the urge to laugh at one of his playful responses. I wonder, do I resist because I don’t want to give him the satisfaction or because I don’t think I deserve the break from the more serious side of life? 

Seneca Falls is most well known as the birthplace of Woman’s Rights. The small museum on its history is closed, but a tourist focused shop filled with all kinds of memorabilia is open. We go there after we eat. It is already dark and late, and we quickly look at all the merchandise, from socks to signs to shirts-both serious and humorous. I am attracted to the humorous cards and purchase a couple with the excuse that some friends will appreciate them, but also buy duplicates for myself.

 We need to rush to catch what someone just informed us is the last bus back to our campsite, as it starts to rain once again. We make our way through the sucking mud, barefoot to keep our shoes clean, taking huge steps and wiping our feet on one of the towels before we enter the tent. It is damp and uncomfortable and my dry bed at home reaches a new level of appreciation. But we are exhausted and crawl under our towels/blankets, thankful for their dry caress. 

Riding Day #3-part 1

It rained last night, and this morning fits of showers pepper the ride. I no sooner stop to don my rain gear than it stops and I begin to sweat. Then I stop again to remove my new ‘breathable’ Gore-Tex raincoat, only to have the rain return and force another stop. Thankfully, the fits die down to hovering clouds. We bike into a town with gigantic murals painted on the concrete support wall of a bridge. There are scenes of men with shovels working on the canal and scenes of women and children busy with daily tasks. The people are plain and the colors are muted, but the energy and determination of hard work intertwined in a full life radiates from the stone. I can’t stop staring at the paintings. Were my ancestors part of this creation that passes only a few dozen miles from the home where I grew up? No one ever mentioned it. No one ever talked much about anything from the past. But hard physical work and determination are part of the energy of my heritage that pulls me into these scenes.

   One of the rest stops today is in Palmyra, the home of Joseph Smith—founder of the Mormon religion. I had no idea something that seemed far away in Salt Lake City started so close to home. According to information received somewhere (literature? sign? lecture? word of mouth?) over 200 historic buildings exist in just one square mile of this town. Opportunities for lessons in history and camaraderie are abundant. I take advantage of some and let others slip by. The physical activity- tuned to the rhythmic movement of my pedals, scenery, open space, fresh air, and the quiet despite the large number of riders on this trip-contribute to softening the buzz of the never-ending demands at home. Out here on the trail I am constantly watching for ruts, other riders and markers that indicate where to turn. But that intense external focus seems to facilitate intense internal focus. I wonder where I am headed in life, am amazed that I am here doing this ride, and notice my growing desire to be back home—the place I have been running away from for years. Within the challenge of each day’s ride, moments of contentment hint at inner peace.

The small town of Lyons greets us with a set of temporary signs stating that the Peppermint Museum is open. The crowd of bikers signal the small building that I could have easily missed. Apparently peppermint was widely grown in this area, creating an oversupply of peppermint oil used in medicines and teas. The opening of the canal created an opportunity to export the oil to Europe, where it won multiple medals. This town became the peppermint capital of the world for many years! They also used the oil in the making of gum and candy at the Beechnut factory located further along the trail. I buy a small bottle to add to my tea and realize it is the first memento of the trip I have acquired (except for the impending pebbly scars on my arm from my fall)!

The afternoon rest stop is in Clyde. There is a small fair on the greens. I wander a bit and get ice cream before continuing on. The afternoon’s trip takes us past the lush green fields of Amish farmlands. We travel on a country road, with little traffic and an occasional horse-drawn carriage. Rolling hills stretch as far as my eye can see. I effort my way up each hill, passing my tent mate several times because she passes me on each downhill, where gravity increases speed and distance with ease. But fear of the speed and another fall force me to apply my brakes as I try to gain control over the bike that wants to follow the pull of nature. Along the way, a group of bikers are gathered at a farm. I stop to find children, well prepared for our passing, selling home-baked goods. I can’t resist a huge chocolate chip cookie and wonder if after riding 400 miles on  my bike I will actually gain weight! ‘Keeping my energy up’ seems like a good excuse to indulge. By the time we reach our evening tent site at Mynderse Academy in Seneca Falls, I have ventured across enough rolling hills to last me a lifetime.