Yeast, Fire, and Friends

Yeast and Warmth at the Bike Shop

 

A year ago I posted a little piece on my friend Ted, and our annual MS150 pilgrimage through northern Colorado together. You can read that post here. In it I tell the story of how he was in great shape, I wasn’t, and he made me suffer for it. The punch line is that he’s in his mid-70’s, has leukemia, and yet chased down every young lion who passed us.

A year has passed, and Ted has just gotten stronger. He seems to have found a new lease on life in his 75th year, continuing to battle the little inconveniences and other BS that the cancer drops in his life from time to time.

Allow me to digress slightly, and talk about bread. I make bread around our house. It’s nice sourdough bread, and a batch nets me several loaves, most of which go into the freezer. When they’re gone, I’ll get the yeast jar out of the fridge, and start the daily feeding of it until it’s robust and ready to bake bread. Getting it there takes several days, then back into the fridge the yeast starter goes, waiting for the next round to begin. The jar sits 20 feet from me as I type these words, and it will start a batch of bread tonight before being tucked away for a few weeks.

I suspect it’s that notion of the perpetual yeast that got me thinking this morning, as I lay awake in bed, about the notion of fire, and how our primitive ancestors would have nurtured and protected their “starter” for fire, as starting fire up anew would have been a pain, what with all the rubbing sticks together and all that.

And all those thoughts churned around and brought me back to Ted, and the notion of friends. Friendship really. And the idea of a little jar of “starter” that friends represent in our life. We don’t spend every day with them, but when we get together, the yeast of love and friendship blossoms into robust delight at the good feelings that being together brings to us.

Which brings me to the real thing I wanted to say. My buddy Dave and I had a fantastic ride yesterday morning. Lots of climbing, lots of miles, some good discussions, a granola bar and some oreo cookies shared. Then we hauled our bikes down to Creekside Bikes for their annual physicals, where we unexpectedly ran into Ted with his bike shop buddies as they had pizza after their Saturday morning ride.

As I sat there, seeing my best friend Ted surrounded by his bike shop buddies, looking over his shoulder at my other best friend Dave as he huddled with the mechanic to finalize the treatment plan for his steed, it struck me how lucky I am to have the yeast of these friendships in my life. Their friendship feeds my soul and warms my heart.

And I suppose that’s how those thoughts of perpetual fire and yeast jumbled around together in my tiny little brain as I lay awake this morning, reminding me again of just how intertwined we all are with one another. I leaned over and kissed Christine, who mumbled something incoherent but loving as she wrapped an arm around me. I heard her smile as I climbed out of bed, headed downstairs to check on my yeast starter, and do some writing.

Oh, back to the MS150. Once again, Ted punished me up the hills, and kept the pace higher than I liked. He didn’t chase down every young lion who passed us, only the ones that seemed to be going particularly fast.

When I grow up I want to be as fast as Ted…

Day 16, Pilgrim Spokes – Into Maryland

A beautiful autumn morning in western Maryland and a broken chain

Our morning ride out of Grantsville begins with a stunning sunrise over the historic Casselman Bridge as we pedal out of town, followed by mile upon mile of pastoral surroundings as we make our way toward Cumberland, which is the perfect salve to heal our memories of our “day from hell” on the previous day.

After a hearty breakfast of chicken fried steak in the little town of Frostburg, we glide down into Cumberland, then begin a day of up and down climbing as we make our way along friendly and lightly travelled roads into the town of Hancock late in the afternoon, where we pick up a bicycle trail to follow for five or ten miles. It’s a beautiful ride along the trail with dappled shadows dancing beneath our tires, and it ends too quickly as we find our way back over to US 40. Soon afterwards, Dave breaks a chain as he’s climbing a little hill, offering us our first real mechanical breakdown of the trip all the way across the country. Some minor surgery puts his chain back in shape, and we’re off to complete our ride into the town of Hagerstown.

We find an “all you can eat” Chinese place close to our hotel and enjoy a hearty supper over our daily discussion of the excellent day of riding we just experienced.

A cross-country bicycle adventure is the canvas for this tale of discovery along the winding backroads of America’s heartland. The second book in the “Cycling Reflections” series, Pilgrim Spokes tells the story of the eastern half of the trans-American trek, continuing the saga begun in Neil’s award-winning previous book—Pilgrim Wheels—which reconnoiters the western half of the journey.

More than just a journal of a bike ride across the country, Hanson’s delightful and beautifully written story takes the reader on an engaging pilgrimage of observation and reflection. Often hilarious, sometimes poignant, and always inspiring, it’s a must-read adventure that will stir your soul.

Valentine Grebes

rngr-lis2

A pair of Red-necked Grebes has a heart-shaped encounter. Photo by Gregory Lis via Birdshare.

Just couldn’t resist this with spring coming on.

Day 15, Pilgrim Spokes – Western Pennsylvania

Our Day From Hell

 

The one consistent bit of advice I got for the eastern half of the country was to avoid riding on the highways in western Pennsylvania. Especially US-40. But after a particularly good day yesterday, we decided to go ahead and US-40 a try. How bad could it be, anyway?

By the end of the day we’d been assaulted with empty beer bottles from a passing pickup truck, ridden 118 miles, and climbed nearly 12,000 feet. I was bruised, battered, and bone tired as we finished the day well after dark, riding steep and hilly roads while the temperature plummeted to below 40 degrees F.

One large pizza (covered with every kind of meat available) and a hot shower fixed me right up. But it’s a day I won’t ever forget. Probably the hardest (and worst) day of riding between the Pacific and the Atlantic, sandwiched between two wonderful days.

A cross-country bicycle adventure is the canvas for this tale of discovery along the winding backroads of America’s heartland. The second book in the “Cycling Reflections” series, Pilgrim Spokes tells the story of the eastern half of the trans-American trek, continuing the saga begun in Neil’s award-winning previous book—Pilgrim Wheels—which reconnoiters the western half of the journey.

More than just a journal of a bike ride across the country, Hanson’s delightful and beautifully written story takes the reader on an engaging pilgrimage of observation and reflection. Often hilarious, sometimes poignant, and always inspiring, it’s a must-read adventure that will stir your soul.

Day 14, Pilgrim Spokes – Eastern Ohio

Finding Dave Again

It’s a delightful day of riding 131 miles through the rolling hills of eastern Ohio. We’re chased by thunderstorms across the final ten miles or so  into the wonderful old town of St Clairsville. We enjoy local gossip over lunch at Juanita’s in Zanesville just before crossing the historic “Y-Bridge” there in town. Looking back on the trip across the country, this day is clearly one of my favorites. A beautiful day gliding through beautiful rolling countryside, feeling strong at the end of a long day. The day ends with Dave and I making the worst decision of our trip, fueled by an arrogance born from a sense of strength, lots of protein, and a couple beers. We’ll pay for that decision the next day in the hills of western Pennsylvania.

A cross-country bicycle adventure is the canvas for this tale of discovery along the winding backroads of America’s heartland. The second book in the “Cycling Reflections” series, Pilgrim Spokes tells the story of the eastern half of the trans-American trek, continuing the saga begun in Neil’s award-winning previous book—Pilgrim Wheels—which reconnoiters the western half of the journey.

More than just a journal of a bike ride across the country, Hanson’s delightful and beautifully written story takes the reader on an engaging pilgrimage of observation and reflection. Often hilarious, sometimes poignant, and always inspiring, it’s a must-read adventure that will stir your soul.

Day 13, Pilgrim Spokes – Western Ohio

Finding Dave Again

We ride 123 miles across central Ohio, experiencing what might be the most spectacular sunrise of the entire journey as the fog and mist lift over western Ohio. A wonderful breakfast at Waffle House with a group of Amish caps a perfect morning, then I get us a little lost heading through Dayton, but we end up in the right place to ride for many miles along a wonderful paved bike trail. In London we meet Bicycle Bob (or Bicycle Bill?), who seems to be an unlikely town elder. Our day ends with a large dose of very rude drivers around Columbus, and a sleepless night thanks to a softball team full of party passion on our floor at the hotel.

A cross-country bicycle adventure is the canvas for this tale of discovery along the winding backroads of America’s heartland. The second book in the “Cycling Reflections” series, Pilgrim Spokes tells the story of the eastern half of the trans-American trek, continuing the saga begun in Neil’s award-winning previous book—Pilgrim Wheels—which reconnoiters the western half of the journey.

More than just a journal of a bike ride across the country, Hanson’s delightful and beautifully written story takes the reader on an engaging pilgrimage of observation and reflection. Often hilarious, sometimes poignant, and always inspiring, it’s a must-read adventure that will stir your soul.

Day 12, Pilgrim Spokes – Eastern Indiana

Across The Eastern Half Of Indiana

A drizzly day accompanies me along the roads and secondary highways of eastern Indiana. I cross the suburbs south if Indy, then make my way along a cultural seam that makes it clear that I’ve found the Mason-Dixon line.

Lunch in Knightstown, IN is quite an affair at the Knightstown Diner, and Kevin (the proprietor) introduces me to a cafe packed with Red Hat Ladies listening to some ragtime being pounded out at the piano in the corner.

Highlights of the days reflections include thoughts on flags, nationalism, Pastor Ed, Quakers and deer. The day ends with me finding Dave again, in Richmond, IN. From here to the east coast, Dave and I will be riding together again.

A cross-country bicycle adventure is the canvas for this tale of discovery along the winding backroads of America’s heartland. The second book in the “Cycling Reflections” series, Pilgrim Spokes tells the story of the eastern half of the trans-American trek, continuing the saga begun in Neil’s award-winning previous book—Pilgrim Wheels—which reconnoiters the western half of the journey.

More than just a journal of a bike ride across the country, Hanson’s delightful and beautifully written story takes the reader on an engaging pilgrimage of observation and reflection. Often hilarious, sometimes poignant, and always inspiring, it’s a must-read adventure that will stir your soul.

Three Top Images From The Day

Flags along the Mason Dixon
Deer along the old road
Indiana Backroad
Day 11, Pilgrim Spokes – Western Indiana

Crossing Covered Bridges, Meeting Ann in Greencastle, Confronting Shuddering Gremlins, and Dinner with Cathy

One of my favorite days of riding in my trek across America are described in several chapters of Pilgrim Spokes. The early part of my day lets me explore several old iterations of the National Road, leading up to an hour or so spent exploring a couple old covered bridges that I go several miles out of my way to see.

Had I not opted to detour off my route for many miles to explore the old bridges, (of which there are many in Indiana), I wouldn’t have ended up in Greencastle where I met Ann, and wouldn’t have discovered shuddering gremlins. It was this conversation that set me up for the important (if painful) discussion the evening dinner had in store for me in Indianapolis with my old friend Cathy.

And of course, it helped me find a slightly more charitable light to shine on the unfortunate series of events at the motel…

A cross-country bicycle adventure is the canvas for this tale of discovery along the winding backroads of America’s heartland. The second book in the “Cycling Reflections” series, Pilgrim Spokes tells the story of the eastern half of the trans-American trek, continuing the saga begun in Neil’s award-winning previous book—Pilgrim Wheels—which reconnoiters the western half of the journey.

More than just a journal of a bike ride across the country, Hanson’s delightful and beautifully written story takes the reader on an engaging pilgrimage of observation and reflection. Often hilarious, sometimes poignant, and always inspiring, it’s a must-read adventure that will stir your soul.

Three Top Images From The Day

The Hauke Bridge - One of many covered bridges in Indiana, and one of the two I explored on this day.
The inside of the Oakalla bridge in Indiana.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The indomitable, unstoppable, in·de·fat·i·ga·ble Ted.

Another year, another MS150 ride, another instance of amazement at my friend Ted

Ted’s my riding buddy. Fifteen or twenty years ago, he got me back into bike riding in a serious way. We started riding the MS150 together, and it’s become an annual tradition for us.

Ted’s been training hard this year, getting into pretty great shape. He decided we’d do the century option on Day 1 of the MS150 here in Colorado last Saturday, and I had no doubt he’d do it well and fast. It was me I worried about. My longest ride of the year so far had been 65 miles, and I’d done very little climbing. So of course, as I expected, once we started getting into the hills on Saturday, Ted took off and I didn’t see him for a while – not until the hills were over somewhere around 85 miles into the day, and I caught up to him as he napped under a tree, waiting for me at a rest stop.

Sunday wasn’t much easier, as Ted felt compelled to chase down every young lion who passed him, catching them just for the fun of it, then waiting for me to catch up. Although there was no century option on Sunday, (thank god for that), Ted pushed our pace all morning, and they weren’t even finished setting up lunch when we hit that stop. We finished the ride by 10:30 in the morning. Needless to say, there were very few people there by that time…

So not that big a story really, until you realize that Ted is 74 years old. Of course, here in Colorado, us old guys ride a lot, and some of us are reasonably good riders. I generally don’t think of myself as a slouch on a bike – I’m 62 and recently cycled across the country for example – but there was no way I could keep up with Ted over the weekend.

Ted, at 74, was chasing down the ones he calls the young lions… And catching them.

Not bad for an old guy, right?

But wait, there’s more, says the man with a tiny little fishing rig in his hand…

Did I mention this – Ted has Leukemia. Was diagnosed close to 20 years ago, and has gone through several rounds of chemo in that time.

So here’s to the old guys – the ones who are indefatigable.

in·de·fat·i·ga·ble
ˌindəˈfadəɡəb(ə)l/
adjective
adjective: indefatigable
  1. (of a person or their efforts) persisting tirelessly.
    “an indefatigable defender of human rights”

A cross-country bicycle adventure is the canvas for this tale of discovery along the winding backroads of America’s heartland. The second book in the “Cycling Reflections” series, Pilgrim Spokes tells the story of the eastern half of the trans-American trek, continuing the saga begun in Neil’s award-winning previous book—Pilgrim Wheels—which reconnoiters the western half of the journey.

More than just a journal of a bike ride across the country, Hanson’s delightful and beautifully written story takes the reader on an engaging pilgrimage of observation and reflection. Often hilarious, sometimes poignant, and always inspiring, it’s a must-read adventure that will stir your soul.

Pilgrim Wheels Wins New Award

Pilgrim Wheels was named a Foreword Reviews’ 2015 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards winner in the Adventure and Recreation category.