Before I left Old Forge, my host Nancy sent me off with some arnica-based muscle healing gel and a healthy granola bar before she sprang away to her yoga class. She noted that the winter classes she’d taken in Florida were less strenuous than the sessions offered at the brand new and eco-friendly arts center in her northern summer hometown- “I’ve taken three classes and it’s like they’re trying to kill me,” but she was optimistically health-conscious and persevered.
I was happy to see Pastor Lawrence and his adorable flaxen-haired dog in the church where my bike was stashed, and he and the church secretary Mary gave me plenty of time to re-pack my panniers and get ready for the next leg of my ride. Before departing, Tom arrived to give me a warm send-off, following by car to the brink of town, shouting through his open passenger window, “I’ll race you!” For a moment, I think I want to stop and go back to hike Bald Mountain, but the possibly stormy weather suggests that this is better left for another visit to the Adirondacks. There were so many great trails, lakes, ponds, and biking paths, that I could spend a whole season there. I’ll be back some day, I promise myself.
Leaving Old Forge was an easy, mostly downhill spin, and the heady 25-30 mph rolls were so sublime that I missed a backroads turn that would’ve taken me off of the busy main route. But once again, this turned out to be another instance of kismet, as the road I wasn’t supposed to be on was actually being traveled by my host Terry, who was on his way back from making donations to some of the local non-profits benefited by his church. When I saw him driving past me, waving and smiling, it was a nice boost of assurance that I was exactly where I needed to be.
My accidental detour also afforded me an unplanned 7- mile stretch of railtrail, which was just what Tunes needed to get her exercise. I made long, slow strokes alongside her, following her speed, and focused my radio onto NPR’s Fresh Air. There was a very interesting interview with queer Black lit writer Jacqueline Woodson, Young People’s Poet Laureate in association with the Poetry Foundation, and she read her poetry and excerpts from her book Brown Girl Dreaming. We slowed for a few ducks along the way, and the highlight of the day was that there was no bright sunshine, no blue sky. My dog was smiling and bouncing along, my knees felt warm and fluid, I was not in any pain, and although it was unremarkable in any way, the day was beautiful and happy, we were at peace, and made a few people smile along the way.
A couple of hours away in the town of Boonville, I stopped in front of the library to try and call my health insurance company about a weird bill they’d sent me before I left. I’ve been carrying these papers for almost a month and after half an hour of getting nowhere with the endless automated prompts and lack of human representatives, I give up and have a P.B.J instead. A nice older woman with a miniature daschund came over to say hello, and a little boy named Lucas smiled bashfully, asked me a few questions and learned that Washington state is “really far” away. A few people point out that the traveling version of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall was on display in the town, so I go over to see it, though I’ve seen the permanent version in our nation’s capital. Between the gray drizzle, the solemn roll call of honor echoed out from under a big white-topped tent, and the sight of over 58,200 names of people whose lives were cut short by war, the atmospheric grief is heavy. An ancient looking man shares his story with a much younger man in head to toe camouflage, and they shake hands, the younger man saying in a deep, low, drill-sergeant-like voice, “I thank you for your service.”
We leave Boonville behind quietly and full of wordless thoughts, and suddenly the sun comes out and I re-discover that I am simply here, grateful, and having the time of my life. I look around to my left and murmur, “yeah!” as I take in the scene, a big field full of cows and yellow wildflowers and a rolling hilly horizon. My cadence is easy and even, a farmer in dusty overalls tips his hat to me, and I see the most unusual color barn in a vibrant robin’s egg blue, and with increasing volume I whoop, “yeah!” It seeps in deeply. I am in the moment, I am present on the surface of this planet, filled with the joy of just taking in the daylight, and this is Good, I have nowhere to be but here, and nothing to do but this very thing, whatever this is. I don’t know how I got to be so lucky, but I get to live and be alive and see heaven everyday on two wheels.
I have only cruised about 30 miles, but Tunes looks pretty sleepy, and I feel like I could use a little post-Adirondack snooze myself. The Hilltop Market in West Leyden has listed itself on my map as a free place to camp, so although I’m in full view of all the market patrons, the kerosene station and two unsightly dumpsters, I set camp on a grassy patch out of the way and have a sunny late-afternoon rest.
Meanwhile, I have I talked to my boss, Anita, and we realize I’m going to coincidentally be in the Rochester area while she’s there on business with a few clients. I need to get a couple of reports done as a part of my agreement to be a “mobile evaluator” for at least a few days over the summer, and so the short days work out perfectly for my timing to meet up with her and work for a couple of days. I arrange to stay with a WS host the next night, and call it an early to bed evening. Just another day in paradise….
Song of the day: The Walker, by Fitz and the Tantrums