Back at the Church of two Wheels

It has started again.  Another clump of big outdoor pursuits is resurrected.  The two wheeled kind.  In the last 24 hours, I have taken two tough bicycle rides, and then fired up one of my motorcycles and  taken a short ride to picnic with some old friends.

I was up to my neighbor Andy’s on Saturday, buying a discount case of beer when he asked me if I wanted to ride bikes with him that afternoon.  Andy has a brewry, “Andrew’s”  right in the old barn.

“Sure” , I said, but then Andy told me that he had been riding all winter long in his house, on  a machine that allows him to ride his bike inside ( wind trainer).  That meant he was in shape. I really wasn’t .  We rode  hard 75 minutes over the back streets of Lincolnville and Belmont, ME later that day.  I took my road bike, which took a while for me to get ready, as the chain was screwed up and I had to work on it for about a half hour to get it right.  Pretty greasy and dirty.  Andy had a computer on his bike and at the end of the ride, he told me we were able to maintain a 17.8 MPH pace, which was shockingly good for such a hilly ride.  I wasn’t much good for the rest of the evening, was spent, and went to bed at 8:30 that night.

The next morning I got out the bike again , and rode to Camden to pick up the Maine  Sunday Telegram and the New York Times, my favorite papers.  It was an 18 mile round trip, over lots of hills.  It wasn’t too bad.

Then at noon, I fired up my Kawasaki KLR 650 motorcycle and met my friend Steve for our annual Great Northern BMW Riders to ride to our annual picnic.  We have been a club for 25 years now, and do this the last Sunday in April every year since the early 1980’s.

Spring is here, and I call it my rededication to one of my religious affiliations, The Church of Two Wheels.

April 25 and I’m Springing Ahead

Today I received a postcard from my sister in law , V8.

On the front was a ” ‘Life Is Good’ at Uncle Johhny’s” photo.

Johnny’s is a constellation of little cabins, camping sites, dorm style beds, and outfitter’s store on the banks of the Nolichucky River in Erwin, TN. v8 and my wife, Auntie Mame have already hiked north 338 miles from Springer Mountain, GA. They did well at Uncle Johnny’s.

April is usually a tough time for me. Most people love spring. I don’t, really. I get a sort of sinking feeling in my stomach. It comes from all that spring represents. I grew up on a farm, and no matter how hard it was to deal with the cold and dark of winter, that was a time to cut back, to retreat. Once the ground greened up, there was plenty of work to do, and then it was time to deal with humidity, sweat, and the feeling that nothing was ever really done. Sort of a dread thing.

The sinking feeling comes back to me every April , no matter what , but this year it is better.

I had a great time in Austin, Texas last week. I think the constant sunshine and living outside did me good. I appreciate the time that The Captain

and Louis ( Richard Wizard) spent with me bicycling

, swimming, eating Texas barbeque and hanging out.

Here is a photo of me sinking my hands into the automatic hand degreaser at Rudy’s Barbeque in Austin:

Yesterday I firmed up travel plans to head down to Damscus, VA for a week in May to attend a 25,000 person backpacker bash/party in celebration of the Appalachian Trail, even fitting in time to hike for 3 or 4 days with my wife, who is thru-hiking the AT this season. She passes through Damascus next Tuesday, so I’ll rent a car in Roanoke, VA and find her somewhere out there and we’ll backtrack to Trail Days.

I got a call last night from the Old Buzzard, who was at Newfound Gap, North Carolina, smack dab in the middle of Great Smokies National park. I met the Buzzard on the Trail in New Hampshire last year, and this year he is on the AT, kicking ass on his march forward. He called to thank me for helping him with trip preparation this past winter.

Today, I received confirmation for a reserved campsite for 6 people at Katahdin Stream Campground for Aug. 5, when one of my friends from last year’s AT thru-hike, has invited a few of us up there for three days of backpacking as part of her birthday celebration. We’ll climb up to the top of Mt. Katahdin on Aug. 5. What could be better?  Here is a 2006 photo of Auntie Mame coming up over the Gateway on Katahdin.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I called General Tso today at 1-800-BIKEMAN to ask him if her remembered last April 25. He knew exactly where we were.

“Yeah, we were at Uncle Johnny’s. We fixed up bicycles that afternoon.”

When I expressed surprise that he instantly was able to match the date with our location, Tso told me that he was able to do that every day.

” I am still on the Trail everyday, man,” he replied.

We talked a bit, and agreed to set aside the Memorial Day weekend next month to do a three day hike of the 42 mile Grafton Loop Trail up around the Grafton Notch area. I just e-mailed Rangoon to invite him as well. Here is a part of it:

View off Grafton Loop Trail

In the immortal words of Lifetraveler

“Life is good, today.”

Austin makes it

easy to enjoy life.  I was down there for a week, returning this past Sunday.

A string of 70 degree  blue sky days, and crisp clear nights held us closely.

Music, Mexican and barbeque foods, and  mountain biking out of the city on real trails with The Captain and Louis, my friends and part of MEGATEX from my 2007 Appalachian Trail thru-hike.
I saw a stunning concert by Bruce Springsteen in Houston. It involved  near 6 hours of driving, though. Traveling through the Texas countryside was part of the preparation for Springsteen’s unique take on our present, past, and future life here in the US of A.

Prominent in his set list were two tunes that have ascended to the Uncle Tom 2008 hiking Playlist: “Long Walk Home” and “Radio Nowhere”. For my money, these two tunes capture the raw experience of staggering around the Amercan experience right now, all that is honorable about it as well as the “No way, this is wrong!” storehouse of distress.

Sent from my iPod

Newspapers can offer lessons in frugality

Newspapers can offer lessons in frugality, but you have to be sharp enough to sift through the pancaked fluff to get there.
How about “How To Survive in New York on 99 Cents””?

The author made dinners for a week from ingredients purchased from $.99 stores, culminating in such a meal prepared for friends. Rice, beans , nuts, and candy abound. Little Debbie products rule the dessert section, nonwithstanding the author’s (Henry Alford) description of the Oatmeal Creme Pie as one “whose velvety filing so perfectly captures an imagined marriage between butter-cream frosting and Noxema.”
The recipe for the popular pea soup was appreciated . There are “incredible values” that can be found in Dollar Stores, and “One man’s penny is another man’s dollar.”

Sent from my iPod

Spending Money = Patriotism ????

The 4/8/08 Bangor Daily News editorial, “Early retirement is unpatriotic”, is a sorry excuse for a tenable position.

The first time I started to slog through it, I verified the date, and part of me still believes that it had been submitted as a satirical piece to run as an April Fools’ day literary joke. The editors must have put it in the wrong pile! The author lists reasons why it is both selfish and unpatriotic to retire at 55, or even 65! The reasons do not even merit detailed listing, but involve further amassing personal wealth, increasing billions in additional tax revenue, and slaving away a few more grueling years as we do our share to shore up this suckhole of an economy.

I formally retired at 52. I thought that offering up my position would open up a good paying job for someone else, get them up and spending. I have seen too many men die before they were able to really live their retirement dreams. My father was one of those men. If one buys this author’s reasoning, we may well need to sign over a death warrant to our children, as we pass our credit card and mortgage payments on to them. Those of us who have somehow have avoided buying that plasma screen TV are now unpatriotic Americans. I’ll try to spend more money, and not cripple the rest of America.

Where is the voice of Thoreau? We need some help here!

Whatever happened just taking care of food, shelter, and clothing?

Who is up for a real lavish traverse of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2010? We might be able to fuel some real appreciable economic growth if a big enough bunch of us each throws $6,000 into the suckhole.

A Cold Rainy Day

It’s funny how love becomes
A cold rainy day
Its funny,
That rainy day
Is here
-Frank Sinatra

Sitting this morning

On the Trailways bus,

winding our way

Down to Boston’s Logan Airport

In the early morning rain.
I lay my head down
and gaze out the window,
soaking in the misty woods.

Time flips back a year
and I am now walking
on a high exploding flowering
ridge in North Carolina,
on that cold
day when I backpacked
Eighteen miles in the rain.
That day
Is now a shimmering memory,
all the hurt gone.

It’s Finally Here!

Spring. Today. The first morning I was able to walk out to get my Bangor Daily News paper by the road on ground that was not frozen solid. Unbelievable! It is 7 pm now and I am still able to look outside and see the last traces of snow on the field in front of my house.

Springtime is generally a mixed bag for me. I grew up on a farm, and the arrival of spring has had long history of psychological hits on me. The arrival of Spring meant that the days of lounging around in the cold dark were done, and there were always things to do, work to be taken care of, rock to pick up, plants to deal with. It had a dread to it that no one else seemed to notice other than the poet TS Eliot:

“APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.”


Things are different now. I want to hike, and did, today!

Two nights ago I was over to Loon’s house. He hiked the AT back in 1998, and invited me for supper over to his house in nearby Searsmont, ME. His house looks over a broad valley with unique views of Levensellar Mountain way off in the distance. His partner, I think Sue, told me she has always wanted to hike up to the top of it, but that she tried and has not been able to do so. There are no actual trails up there, but I used to bushwhack my way up about 20 years ago. Today it hit 50 degrees, and I was inspired to get up there this afternoon .

I put on my Goretex lined boots, grabbed my Leki poles, asked Jody dog if she wanted to go with me ( She indicated yes) , put on my shorts, and drove up to a place where I could park my car. There was little snow at the start, which was at the base of a giant commercial wild blueberry field. I actually used to mountain bike up there, but walked this time. We started up a rough 4 wheeler trail that was badly eroded and had a pretty good-sized stream running down over the rocks and gravel. I didn’t care if my boots got wet, it was only going to be an hour and a half or so. There were some patches of snow to walk through , at the most a foot deep. No problem. It was a steep climb, all the way, up to close to 1,000 feet, starting about 300 or so.

We made it all the way up until we had to enter the forest, and feel our way up to the top. There was a very big “No Trespassing ” sign along a stone wall up that I ignored. Who the hell would care today?

We went over a stone wall and then the snow began to get deeper, and deeper. I should have taken a day pack and had my snow shoes strapped on it. The granulated refrozen snow was working its way into my boots. The further we went, the deeper it got, until I was sinking into granular ice, thigh deep. The sharp grains were abrading my bare lower legs, and shins. The branches I was plowing through were scratching my legs. Here we go again, an Uncle Tom moment. Jody was sinking with each of her tiny steps and working hard, all four pounds of her.

Eventually we reached the top , where there were fantastic unique views of Levensellar Pond, and the road I live on , High St. I saw some open ledges on top, and while there didn’t appear to be any decent tent sites, there were many gnarled trees that I could string up my sleeping hammock to. There was a fire ring on top , too. I plan to spend a night up there. I can actually walk there. it is about two miles from the house.

So, a good day , and some hope for me this Spring.

I am really looking forward to heading down to Austin , TX tomorrow for a week of basically nonstop revelry. I am heading down there with 4 guys from ME, and one from NH who have been camping friends at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival . We are going to take in the Old Settlers Music Festival ( camping Wed- Sat) . Even better is rendezvousing with a couple of the MEGAEX AT gang, the Captain and Louis , who live there. It is going to take some real serious risk management for me to pace myself. Someone has to do it.

I am going to take along my Big Agnes Air Core sleeping pad. ” Spend a night with Big Agnes and you may never want to sleep inside again.”  More later.

Still Hanging In There

      Had a great visit this morning.  I made breakfast for Loon, a thru hiker from the 1998 season.  He lives over in Searsmont, next town over from me.  I used to work with him when he was principal of Rockport Elementary school when I worked there in 1989.  He has left me  a hard copy of his daily Trail Journal, and it means a lot to me to read it.  I know a number of the people he refers to in the journal, folks from this area he had relationships with.

It is always a huge breath of fresh air to hang out with a fellow thru-hiker.  They have been there, done that, and are usually changed people for doing so.   Transformaitonal apprentices, I call them.

I had to share this piece from his journal.  Loon is not a big guy, might weigh about 160, pretty lean.  He didn’t eat very much here, but on 4/30/98 while in Damascus, VA

” This is what I ate:  scrambled eggs, potato hash,  five strips of bacon, four glasses of orange juice, four biscuit halves  with gravy, grits with cheese, two warm apple dumplings with caramel on them, a large plate of fresh fruit, three slices of tomato, four apricots, a biscuit with apple butter on it,  glazed apple dish, and several cups of coffee,  We ate for two hours.  “