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.