Sunday, January 31, 2016

Prologue to a Cross Country Bike Trip

 Posted Spring 2009 on iWeb

Call me Frank.  It’s an alias.  You have to lie to tell the truth.  We propose and Reality disposes.  The most important idea is the infectivity of Truth. Love is the most important human attribute.  It is a sure connection to the Real. We know it when we see it.  But then we move on and need something else.  Love is not an effort it’s an expansion or, if it is a sacrifice, then it’s a different sort of love.  My children just are, perfectly. Now if I was making a movie and I thought it would make a better story……  My selfishness pours into trying to see the world like it ought to be seen.  But why the “ought”?  Is it possible for all men to somehow HARMONIZE?  Let’s go on a bike trip instead.

 A hard coming we had of it.  Just the three of us, Hardy, his friend Daniel, and myself.  We would meet Ralph in California to start the ride.  We took entirely too much stuff.  We had a bike stand for repairs if need be.  (We didn’t).  We had a Coleman camp stove and lantern we used but didn’t need to.  We had two large coolers, one for drinks the other for food.  One is sufficient. We had a guitar, played 20 minutes in two weeks.  We had three bikes on the Allen rack on the back of an Olds Silhouette and three empty rooftop Thule racks.  We had a plethora of “bike stuff”.  The hardest stuff to manage though is the electronic toys a bunch of guys bring. Consider:  3 laptops, 2 GPS devices, 2 Garmin cycle computers, 4 cell phones, and 3 iPods.  How do you keep this stuff charged with one cigarette lighter in the car?  I forgot my cell phone charger and when you are trying to make miles everyday, you don’t have time to look for a Verizon store.  We left Thursday night and drove to almost Little Rock.  The next night we were in Albuquerque (1000miles).  It was hot-105 degrees in Oklahoma City at lunch and all the way through Amarillo.  The “third” travel day we detoured to the Grand Canyon and ended up in Las Vegas--109 degrees at 10PM.  I thought we could camp but the heat was frightening.  I can’t sleep in a tent with temps of 109.  Our last driving day was through Death Valley early morning, Yosemite at noon, Central Valley of California in the evening and roll into Marin County at 7:00P for dinner at my sisters house in Larkspur.  Our car overheated in Death Valley, temps were 87 at Tioga Pass (10,000’) and brutally hot in the Central Valley, 111 degrees coming out of Yosemite.  I could not conceive riding a bike 100 miles a day through the conditions we had experienced.  Marin County had record heat that day!  Fortunately, it cooled off some that night and we Alabama rubes pitched tents in my sister’s backyard.  Yea, we’re a classy bunch.

The American moment is beginning to fade.  America had a dream at one time.  We were a freedom-loving bunch of money grubbers but we “aspired” to starting something really special.  Perhaps a multicultural utopia, perhaps a society so rich no one had to work, but the facts are in-“Show me the money”.  The rest is window dressing.  Let’s raise a wan toast to the projects of the 21st century—a lot of the same ones we had for the 20th that didn’t turn out and didn’t get done, like peace, justice, sustaining the environment, meaningful work, meaningful play.  If we were explosively creative we were also explosively destructive—two World Wars and a boatload of wars declared and undeclared.  So if we consider the last century “successful” then there were still a lot of things that didn’t get done. When a country is declining, how do you define Progress? It used to mean going forward getting better, but now it may mean going back to something that almost worked, to a critical turn we may have missed.  Two billion plus people  when I was born but  now pushing 7 billion…Do we have a prayer of achieving something called Civilization?  The Captain D’s we have sprinkled across the landscape do not bring to mind the Sistine Chapel or the David statue. If we are starting to decline, is it beat the riff-raff out of the lifeboats and by the way where are my season tickets to the Symphony?  Societies choose to fail.  Our leaders are choosing to fail us and we are choosing to let them.  High minded hijinks in the desert.  Let democracy bloom in Baghdad. We know what the problems are but we don’t want to work or sacrifice. We’ve contracted that to the Army.  I will say straight out, I’m guilty. You may be an idealist and blameless. What we need are a bunch of people that have a dream of the future and do not mind the hard work of the present.  Most of us prefer the opposite:  Bookmark the “ideals”, order pizza in, check the tube or PC for something entertaining.  Maintain cool cynicism about honor or nobility.  One shouldn’t touch dangerous things.

Where can we find honor or nobility?  Tomorrow we will ride our bikes around Marin and I might come up with something.  California is paradise but it’s too expensive and doesn’t have any money....

It is hard to plan a possible once in a lifetime trip with strangers. The Adventure Cycling Companions Wanted page was a good resource.  I found TWO guys who wanted to make the cross-country trip BUT each had last minute issues that prevented them from going.  This could have been disastrous if I was relying on them. A ride across America by myself would have been anti-climactic.  So my old friend Ralph got fired up about going when his summer family reunion was postponed a week.  Ralph and I have been friends forever and ridden together forever and so was perfect that he could go.  He is a venture capitalist and entrepreneur while I am a stay at home dentist.  I save teeth and he travels to Singapore or Sidney chasing some idea.  He’s plugged in, I’m a little cottage industry craftsman.  I climb better on the bike though. He loves to fly downhill.  On the flats we are exactly equal and we make a great partnership.  The trip dynamics would be better--I didn’t have to pretend to be young with my son and his buddy and they could do what they felt like while we rode together.

On the trip out, we only touched the bikes to store them in the hotel rooms.  I had imagined that every day, I would take the bike off the car and ride a time trial maybe 20-30 miles, keeping in shape. But traveling is a lot about getting there and it’s always hard to be deflected from the goal.  But in Life?  Death is the end so what’s the rush? 

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