last night goes

August 21, 2009

The clouds are ajostling

thisdyingevening,

running down the sun,

to bleed their violet

and their orange.

My feet

pivotagainst their center

and repeat, and repeat, and repeat,

as,we,all are wheeling

to the crickets

of Summer.


It’s my hundredth,

for all I know, thousandth

time racing the sundown

in this-particular plain, but


these geese overhead

complain nonetheless,

as if they

didn’t know

me

from Adam

Advertisements

another approach

August 16, 2009

Whitey’s Sports Bar & Grill (Hamilton, IL: 5/20/09)

There’s a pool star portrait, signed, reminiscent

of a porn star glamour shot,

cue in hand and cleavage to the fore,

at the divide, where this juke joint roadhouse makes a stab at

local billiards legitimacy.  “She’s almost undefeated

and this guy beat her.  What was it, Charley?  Three games out of five?”

Charley demurs, swigs his Budweiser, “We tied.”

White plastic letters pegged in a slotted brown board

advertise tenderloin, steak fries, and the odd burrito.

Sign on register, names two, Banned For Life,

both women, and another owes the bar

$45, says another sign.  The barmaid, in cutoff jeans,

a severe face, disappears for 10 minutes or more,

to make my tenderloin and steak fries.  Says nothing

as she places it in front of me.  I talk to Charlie the pool shark

and Mike the welder, as they put back Budweiser bottles,

racing the end of Mike’s lunch break.

Charlie’s got nowhere to be, but he’s improving

upon the opportunity to be social.  The relative

merits of cycling and motorcycling are discussed,

and Mike wishes he had the time to travel

and to really do it right

but he’s locked ‘til retirement.  When I go

the barmaid follows and I think she must be smoking

but she asks me if I need any water.

D Rex: the Lost Chronicles, Vol. 2: Discontinuation

August 14, 2009

-5/18/09: Cuivre River State Park to Louisiana, MO

Not another camper was stirring when I pulled out of the Cuivre River State Park campground.  Not that I was eager for more travel, not after the previous day’s low-hum labors.  But I was up, so it was wallow or get moving.  The road out of camp was merciless and I had to hop off to shove the bike up its steepest hill.  In all my loaded touring experience, I’ve only had to give up the climb one other time: in deepest, steepest Appalachia.   Stopping to breathe and rest your legs is acceptable, but to have your legs refuse to go again is akin to heartbreak.  I was off to a very bad start.

By a dirt road just outside of the Park, nearly obscured by weeds, I saw a well-weathered sign for Nota Lota Acres, and stopped to take its picture.  The lack of guile in that name and its presentation was an antidote to the bad taste left by the prior day’s sprawl.  But my body needed more than better vibes.  I made it another mile, then collapsed in the grass before a spec-metal rural fire station after leaning my bike against the flagpole.  Some dogs were barking at me from a little further down the road.  A few cars passed; their passengers gawked.  I drained my Gatorade bottle and blankly chewed down another 400 calories of Pop-tart: my second package in less than an hour.  I started to wonder who I could call, and how long I would have to sit there before they arrived to pick me up, and whether anyone would take offense to my bike leaning against their flagpole.

Then the Gatorade pushed whatever liquids my stomach had been holding onto into my bladder, and that was encouragement enough to push on toward the barking dogs behind a fence, behind a house that was also a gas station, just another 100 yards down the road.  They didn’t allow the public in their bathroom though, so they volunteered the bathroom of the Laundromat at the trailer park, a hundred yards back down the road, across from where I’d been sitting.  By the time I got relief, I was finding that particular locale disagreeable, so I got back on the bike and left it.

Then Route W swung out into glowing, gently blowing, rolling hills of grass and cows and horses.  Blue skies, fluffy clouds, the whole bit.  Scenery is nourishment; and I was filching from the Mississippi River’s ample garden.

But by the time I met the river proper in Clarksville, I wanted something I could sink my teeth into.  Searching my way down SR 79, someone called out to me.  I stopped and they asked if I had a moment.  So, hoping they could point me in the direction of food, I turned around.  He was leaning against a white Chevy Cavalier, wiping his hands on a rag, and he asked where I was heading.

I told him and a big smile spread across his face.

“No kidding?” he said, and he sort of guffawed.  “How long’s that gonna take you?”

I told him I wasn’t sure, but that I had a lot of time and wasn’t really worried about it.

“Now that’s what we like to hear, people living their dreams!” he said, and he introduced himself and his partner.  Partner in glassblowing and kayaking, it turned out.  The shop behind the Cavalier was theirs, and they had another along the Missouri River in New Haven, MO.

I asked how one comes to be a glassblowing kayaker along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.  And he told me, but honestly, I spaced out.  I needed to eat again.  So, at the next pause in the conversation, I asked where I could get food in Clarksville on a Monday afternoon.  They directed me to the Clarksville Station Restaurant and said it was either that or stale fried goods from the warming box at the gas station.

“But before you go, I wanna give you something,” he said and ran into the shop.  He was back a moment later with a small glass figurine, small glass head tucked between arms raised triumphantly, legless trunk marbled orange and blue.

“We call them ‘dudes’,” he said.  “Maybe you can hold him up to celebrate when you get up to Maine.”

“Hey, that’s great!” I said, examining the dude.  “Really, thanks a bunch.”  Then I looked over my gear, puzzling over how to safely carry the dude all that way.  “I’m not really sure…”

“Oh, you need something to cushion it?  Hold on.”  And he ran back in and came back with a little blue bubble wrap bag.

I stowed the dude in his sack and tucked him into my handlebar bag.  “Thanks again, guys, really.  The dude’ll be a talisman.  It’s perfect.  Good kayaking to ya!”  And I rode back the way I’d come, to find the Clarksville Station.

And then I ate and talked to a waitress who lost interest as soon as she had moneyed customers to cultivate.  And rode back by and didn’t find the glassblowing kayakers, and passed a rusting scenic chair lift perched on the bluff side.  Watched the shabby industrial buildings pass as I cycled parallel the river on into Louisiana, MO.  Found the bluff-top John Brooks Henderson Park that I was to camp in, and took pleasure in Wikipediaing that name on my iPhone on a park bench overlooking the river.  Made the first of three phone calls to the city police, trying to get permission to camp in the park.  Wandered back down from the bluff to eat a sub-Sysco slice of cake a la mode, in a tiny, dirty diner with a TV blaring Dr. Phil, and an uncomfortable tension between the young black proprietress with extensive burn scarring and an older white man who came in for coffee as I ate: excessively polite and attentive to one another, to a point bordering on absurdity.  Went to the river and exchanged smiles and hellos with a few little girls out for a walk.  Met the previously mentioned Chinese waitress.  Made the second phone call to the police.  Loafed.  Made the third phone call to the police, finally receiving permission to camp.  Got dinner—pizza—from a restaurant that was like a big, empty Elk’s Hall.  Listened to the prater at a table of eight or nine, glowing Greek Week-shirted, hometown-visiting co-eds, who not-so-secretly seemed to hate each other.  Went back up to the bluff, ate the rest of my pizza and blogged.

… And that’s what happened that day, and this is what I’ve been working on for entirely too long.  Not very satisfactory.  Sticking too close to a chronology: I’m telling, not showing.  Back to the drawing board.

What’s time got to do with experience anyway?

any button to continue

August 7, 2009

I think I’m going to have to try a different tact.  I’ve spent a lot of time these last two days going over notes and maps and blog entries, reenacting the trip in my head, trying to decide when—exactly—my notes/blog become so lacking as to warrant a retelling.   Only the maps give a truly linear retelling of my progress.  The blog and the journal bounce back and forth, catching details as I caught the opportunity to record them.  And I’m able to recreate the story, reading back and forth, but neither medium catches all of the details.  Taken as separate documents, they are woefully inadequate records of the experience.  Combined and reconstructed in my head, they’re pretty good.  But there are still details missing from both that bring a smile to my face.

So, now what?  Create another patchy and inadequate supplement?  Or, set forth on a synthesis: a complete retelling?

D Rex: the Lost Chronicles, Vol. 1

August 1, 2009

In addition to this blog, I have a little red, hardbound journal.  I took it along with me on last year’s trip to DC, but there’s not a single entry in it from that journey.  Sure, there’s some scribblings that probably found their way out of my pen somewhere along the roads out that way, but nothing concrete: no dates, place names, or even events really.  At the time it all seemed so fresh and new and magnificent that I thought it would all remain, forever vivid in my memory.  It didn’t.  Events, names, places, mix and mingle, get muddled, and probably even slip through the cracks

This go around, I barely let a day go without an entry—for the first three weeks.  Flipping through it now, in the 5/24 entry, I see an enthusiastic, big-lettered, exclamation-marked detail nearly missed, added in the top margin: did laundry.  Then, about halfway through New York, the cracks began to form.  A couple of days between entries, then a few.  They widened as the trip went on.

So, while I’ve got the time, the inclination, and the powers of recall still at hand, I’m going back through my little journal, my blog, and my maps, to see if I can’t plug the holes—at least temporarily.  Time shakes all things loose, but the opportunity to play warden to whatever we hold dear is one of the blessings of being human.

And I’ve decided to share these recollections here on the blog as some further incentive to myself to keep at it and to keep it fun.  The adventures are still possible, even when the journey’s done.

D Rex, Coffee Zone, 8/1/2009

5/17/09 – Hermann, MO to Cuivre River State Park

Woke early with the air still cool and the sunlight visibly falling soft and wispy, across the slowly rising campers as they began to disassemble their big box retail camps.  It surprised me that so many were already stirring given the revelry I had witnessed and blocked from consciousness, passing into sleep the night before.  But then a lanky, middle-aged motorcyclist approached me, holding out a limp, grey, dismal-looking sleeping pad and asking about my own.  He’d ordered his off of eBay and it wasn’t worth a damn.   I could see that, plainly, but I didn’t tell him so; and then I remembered the miserable sleep I got while camping before I’d learned the tricks and grown accustomed to it—and especially, the misery of waking on the cold, hard ground after a night of heavy drinking—and the mystery of their waking was dispelled.  Then a couple—cyclists but not tourists—from Springfield, MO came by to say hello.  He worked in a bike shop and wanted to talk gear,  but I have to count the chain rings on my bike to  tell you how many gears I’m riding on, so I steered the conversation away from that as quickly as possible.  They had both attended college in Columbia some years ago and they were surprised at the thriving bike culture there as I described it to them .

Got breakfast at Lyndee’s Restaurant.  Had the feel of a real, genuine small town diner, but overlain with a patchy veneer of Cracker Barrel idolatry.  But the food was alright if maybe a little overpriced.  I guess they’re still paying off their antique Americana conceits.

Then it was 23 miles to Marthasville on the Katy.  As reported in ‘where I am: 5/17’ (https://bikeset.wordpress.com/2009/05/17/), Marthasville is where I left the Katy and headed north.  In Wright City, I crossed I-70 and got lunch at a Mexican restaurant called Ruiz Castillo after finding everything south of I-70 closed (and verifying in a gas station that this was, in fact, the case: it was Sunday).  It wasn’t that I didn’t want Mexican, it was that I had to cross the Interstate hungry:  Ruiz Castillo was the only restaurant in town on the north side of I-70, and the only restaurant open on a Sunday.  But I endured the noisy Interstate over my growling stomach, and it was a good, filling, cheap meal, and the restaurant, right next to the Interstate, was a place I’d driven by many times with some small curiosity over its unnecessarily grand size.  Up close, it’s still oversized, and the four occupied tables had to cope with their existential significance in the sea of open tables and empty space.

Leaving Wright City, I entered an overgrowth of residential plats and underdeveloped roadways that left me feeling depressed: sprawl 50 miles from St. Louis, an exurbs grown out of nobody’s money or good intentions.  Turning east on SR 47 in Troy, I saw that I’d be crossing Highway 61 on my way to Cuivre River, so I stopped, struck up Highway 61 Revisited on the iPhone, and the opening strains of ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ gave aural courage against that busy roadway.  I stopped it sometime before ‘Desolation Row’ though, ‘cause I was wondering hopelessly around Cuivre River State Park, looking for the campground, and finally I called the park office for directions.

The Adventure Cycling maps had described the campground as being only half a mile from their route and advised walking your bike around the barrier when you came to it.  I’d picked it as my stop for the night because I didn’t like to veer too far off of the route (a prejudice I was to overcome in the course of this trip) and because those directions led me to believe that this was a low key, un-rangered campground where I could get away with not putting my money in the collection box.  I did find the campground Adventure Cycling had described, but it was overrun with a cultish crew of children and their middle-aged wards who looked at me cockeyed and shy as I cycled through their religious rites.  Probably this campground is usually unoccupied, but it’s set aside for group reservations, so it’s luck of the draw for a cyclist.  My luck had not proved good, so I had to go an extra, very hilly mile and lay my $11 down with the rest of the schmucks.

It had been a day of subtle trials and I lay in my tent weighing my options at the end of it.  But I got up the next day and got on the bike and kept going and the going got better.  I won’t recount any of 5/18 as I already addressed it extensively in that day’s blog (https://bikeset.wordpress.com/2009/05/18/), my journal, and again in ‘still moving (in Virginia)’ (https://bikeset.wordpress.com/2009/07/03/) .

on sewage

July 30, 2009

Pulled Kerouac’s Dharma Bums off the shelf today because I’ve been thinking about how to write about climbing mountains and I believe his description of climbing Matterhorn was the first I’d ever read of the activity.  I’ve read Dharma Bums a few times, but it’s been many years.  Before heading up the mountain, Kerouac uses the journey’s preparations as a means of introducing Japhy Ryder, his character based on Buddhist poet Gary Snyder, and in it, I came across this:

Japhy was considered an eccentric around the campus, which is the usual thing for campuses and college people to think whenever a real man appears on the scene—colleges being nothing but grooming schools for the middle-class non-identity which usually finds its perfect expression on the outskirts of the campus in rows of well-to-do houses with lawns and television sets in each living room with everybody looking at the same thing and thinking the same thing at the same time while the Japhies of the world go prowling in the wilderness to hear the voice crying in the wilderness, to find the ecstasy of the stars, to find the dark mysterious secret of the origin of faceless wonderless crapulous civilization.  “All these people,” said Japhy, “they all got white-tiled toilets and take big dirty craps like bears in the mountains, but it’s all washed away to convenient supervised sewers and nobody thinks of crap any more or realizes that their origin is shit and civet and scum of the sea.  They spend all day washing their hands with creamy soaps they secretly wanta eat in the bathroom.”

And it reminded me of a poem that I wrote while I was training for my DC ride.  I’ve shared it on MySpace before, but I really like it, so thought I would share it on here too.  I wrote it while stopped on a bench near the wastewater treatment wetlands just off the MKT trail outside of town here.  Columbia pumps its sewage and wastewater into these vast lagoons built in the old, nearby,  Missouri River floodplain.  Apparently cattails and various other tall grasses and whatnot planted in these things treat the wastewater through naturally occurring microbes, and then it gets pumped into the Eagle Bluffs area and mixes in with all those streams and creeks and rivers flowing into, and occasionally out of, the big river.  The swampy grassland attracts birds by the hundreds, and riding the section of MKT contiguous to one of these lagoons–prompting masses of wary birds into brilliant swarms of temporary relocation—inspires awe, laughter, and occasionally, tears.

It is also a uniquely aromatic place.  And when the wind is just so—not too strong, just gently blowing—and the humidity makes the air sluggish and stubborn as it often does here in Missouri, the odor can choke.  So, without further ado, I give you:

An Address from the Refuge

My fellow citizens,
I am sitting, now, so near the filth
of our collected leavings—
the final resting place of your most intimate moments—
the refuge of our sewage treatment wetlands—
that there is no telling whose microbes
are mingling and collecting in my nasal cavity
this very moment: and whose I may later
pick away from my nostril’s perch, or whose
will find its way oozing down my throat
to collect in the mucus I sometimes hack back up.

It is a uniquely civilized moment;
and I wonder is it the greater appetite
of some community leader
that wafts its way, more pungent than the rest
to the place I sit down wind?
Where the words of their mouth have called
men and women together to community action
back in town, does the product of that
other end of them, here give out the strongest
warning to turn back and return to the bosom
of our fair and sanitary city?
And is it not heroic—in the nose of these warnings—
to press on?

bread and home

July 21, 2009

It’s a rainy day. I’m drinking coffee and reading about yeast. I cannot tell you how many rainy days on the road I wished I had some shelter equipped with a coffee pot to while away the day in. Posdnous hangs luxuriously off the sides of my lap and I remember when I first brought him home, a kitten, and he sat upright in the palm of my hand. Yesterday I seasoned the cast iron skillet my grandmother gave me. It was beautiful, scoured free of rust, black, smooth and gleaming in its new coat of baked-in grease when I pulled it out to make my breakfast this morning. Eggs and fresh vegetables are the predominant occupants of my refrigerator, and it’s a real pleasure to have them ready at my beck and call.

Today, I will make bread for the first time. It’s an idea that occurred to me as I hiked around Acadia eating a loaf of bread I’d puchased from a good bakery in Bar Harbor. The bakery and its bread reminded me of Uprise here in Columbia and I realized what a comfort it is to find good bread. There might be a culture out there that doesn’t make some kind of bread, but it would be a wild and alien one to me. Then again, the weird little loafs uniformly stacked in the supermarket aisles seem a little otherworldly to me too. In any case, I realized just how central bread was to my humanity and felt a little less human for never having made any.

So, today I make bread, though really I started several days ago with a trip to the library. There I got a book called ‘bread’ with big print and even bigger pictures. I read the first few sections and compiled a list of ingredients and kitchen necessities. Two days ago, I rode out to Hyvee and picked out my ingredients. Yesterday, I sought out the kitchen implements I was lacking. Deliberation: it’s what I’m about. I haven’t dissolved the yeast in water yet, but I’ve probably spent eight to ten hours making this loaf of bread.

A couple of posts ago I contrasted my travel life with my home life and described the benefits of travel as “a narrowed playing field for the choices of the moment.” In this time I have before my school and job responsibilities begin, I am striving to create an expanded, but similarly narrowed playing field here in my new home. Instead of checking tasks from my ‘to do’ list, I am investing myself in the refinement of that list.

Laundry is a good example. I don’t have access to laundry machines in my new apartment, so instead of defaulting to a trip to mom’s or to the laundromat, I’ve decided to borrow my predominant travel method: I’m doing it in the kitchen sink. It’s a nice, big, duel basin, stainless steel sink, and I’ve installed heavy duty hooks near the ceiling in my east and west kitchen walls. Kneading and wringing the clothes (which can be therapeutic and a bit of a workout), I wash and rinse in the sinks, then hang them to dry on my camping line strung between the hooks. I direct my window fan onto the clothes to speed the drying process. Since only a finite number of items may be dried at a time, I do the laundry in small chunks every couple of days or so. Rather than it being a task I have to remember and work into my schedule, removed from the more organic home-based chores of cooking and cleaning, it becomes an integrated process. The clothes drip and I mop up the water, cleaning the kitchen floor in the process.

I may not have time for the level of deliberation that I’m exercising now once school starts but that’s okay. We’ll see what sticks and what compromises become necessary. The important thing is that I’m putting in the practice now, while I have the time to go as deeply into the details as I’m inclined to. It seems to me that even deliberation has a coarse of evolution to follow. As I write this on my iPhone, I am reminded that I’m looking forward to the delivery of my new laptop tomorrow. At the end of my last trip, when I found myself with ready access to a full size keyboard to write on again, I generally continued to shun it in favor of the iPhone I’d grown accustomed to. But all along the second half of this trip I found myself growing frustrated with the extreme deliberation enforced by the iPhone’s one-fingered tapping. It may be that I’ve finally put in enough time as a writer (and I’ve always been an extremely slow writer: taking at least an hour to compose a single double spaced page, on average) to feel constrained by this particular method.

But anyway, I’ve let this blog interrupt my reading on yeast and delay my bread making even further. Wikipedia tells me that yeasts dominate fungal diversity in the oceans. This interests the part of my imagination that wrote the ‘from the cliff I ate my burrito on’ poem (https://bikeset.wordpress.com/2009/06/27/from-the-cliff-i-ate-my-burrito-on/) and I’m glad to know it before I put my yeast to water. Lord only knows how many other related topics might catch my interest before I do so. Bread may not get made today afterall. That’s okay. I’ve got time. And it’s pretty pleasant sitting here near the open window in my little living room, drinking coffee, and pulling CDs from my collection that I haven’t heard since sometime before I went on the trip. I’m realizing that the acoustics in here are very good: the sounds are rich, full, and distinct, without the need for a lot of volume. The patter of the rain can still be made out in accompanyment. I guess the diagonal ceiling creates a sort of amphitheater sonic environment. I think I’m going to be pretty happy here.

the radical year

July 6, 2009

I find myself tonight back in Indiana, at the edge of a stream, which the brochure of the RV park tells me is the middle branch of some river. I am sitting on the bank, at a point where the flow leaves a stretch of gentle rapids and becomes calm a while–about 50 ft–before exiting over rapids once more. And as the sun goes down against the gentle trickle, on this eve of my homecoming, I am reflecting on the events of the past year.

A year ago this month, I was beginning to sell off and give away the greater part of my possessions. I was training two people at work to take over the position I had held for two years. I was preparing to see off my partner of three and a half years, whom I still loved, for an indefinite absence. And I was planning to relocate to Austin, TX, by bicycle.

In another month, my partnership dissolved. My travel plans changed, then changed and changed again. And I found myself treading water, living in my mother’s spare bedroom, looking for direction. In my journal, I find this entry, undated:

1) Where am I going?
2) Why am I going?
-For the experience.
-For piece of mind.
-To break free from daily domestic patterns.
-To learn a little more about what exactly is important in life.
-To look for peace and happiness and do my best to express it, and bring it back to my friends and loved ones.

I’m amazed at how spot on this list of travel aspirations remains, now with two journeys behind me. I won’t claim to have found or accomplished these points, but they are still my aim. It is a practice of hints followed by guesses. Perhaps a spiritual practice. And as such, the goal is never where you left it. An answer to question one is, and remains, conspicuously absent.

So I wound up riding to Washington DC, which wasn’t too terribly far (1400 miles, all told) and where I had kind and caring family to receive me. It was the first time I’d been away from home for more than two weeks, ever. For a time, I thought I might live out there, but after a month spent largely in strolling the city streets and prowling the museums, I decided not to. In November I caught a train back home and wound up back in my mother’s spare bedroom, treading water and looking for direction again. But looking for employment first.

And so began the winter of my discontent. In December I got a job at Walmart. In February, I got on as a substitute teacher. At first I worked a lot, doing both jobs. Then I started fazing Walmart out. All the while, I had all of the comforts of home, but felt more or less homeless, living in my mother’s spare bedroom.

This was not my mother’s fault. She was never anything but obliging and understanding. I was free to do as I wished with my room and I often had the shared living space at my sole disposal. But in getting rid of my things, I had embarked on a project that was put on hold all the while that I was under her roof. I was supposed to start over, to reevaluate my needs and refashion my surroundings accordingly. Instead, my stuff was replaced with her stuff, and I went from three years of having a home that was very much my own–that I painted, mowed, maintained, molded, and built a life with a partner in–to helping with the chores and defaulting to a low profile in hers.

Worse still, mom lives a fair piece north of town with only two, not-very-bike-friendly roads to choose a path in from, and I used this as an excuse to retreat from my deliberate travel habits. Borrowed cars were almost my exclusive means of transportation until about a month before I left on this trip.

Now, the hard part, with no way around it but to ignore it, politely brush by it, or face the thing head on. To do either of the first two would be dishonest, cowardly, insulting or worse, so here goes: Into this shambles of an idealist’s ego and ruined world walked Kelsey; or, maybe criminally, I ran from the shambles to her.

I don’t know how to explain or justify my actions without sounding like an even bigger fool (and yes, I wrote it then deleted it), so I’ll just say that Kelsey is a woman of the highest order: a former Trinity dancer, an artist who spent time practicing and thinking about art at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin, and a geologist who genuinely loves geology and is well on her way to a great career in that field. In short, she’s an independent thinker with the energy and the will to back it up. And she’s caring, patient, and considerate to boot. She deserved a whole lot more than the whimpering mess of a manchild she got in our relationship, and I’m sorry for subjecting her to him.

Ah, but these were just the trappings by which I lived as I plotted and planned and waited for the thaw, for the springtime, biketime, D Rex rebirth! And that’s what makes the Kelsey part the hard part. All the rest of it I did to myself, and in retrospect I can chalk my failing to overcome whatever circumstances were holding me back that winter up to a sort of self-flagellation or contrition: masochistic perhaps, but arguably preporatory and purifying. Kelsey was caught in the crossfire. Maybe she didn’t mind, but I probably shouldn’t have taken the risk.

Of course, the winter wasn’t one long, sustained horror. And when I was in a better humor, my time with Kelsey shined among the diamonds in that rough. Also shining significantly were: time spent with friends and family; many successful days of substitute teaching, and even some less successful ones; my firming up of plans to return to school and to work for Jumpstart again; my GRE score…

On the note of those last three, going into this next year: I feel confident in my desire and ability to be an educator, and I am wholeheartedly pleased to be working for Jumpstart again. But I have some misgivings about graduate school and the hoops that must be jumped through in order to acquire a teaching certificate. First, I have never taken an Education class before, and I have not heard a lot of positive things about Education schools and their curriculum. Second, I have already felt like a capable teacher under many circumstances because I have already exposed myself to the profession, meanwhile a lot of the courses required for certification seem to be designed as a gradual introduction, pushing new educators deeper into the pool of classroom management through field work. I worry that this may be redundant in my case. Finally, I had intended to leave Columbia for grad school, but the opportunity to work for Jumpstart again and the assistanceship that came with it was too much to resist. But, even though everyone says it doesn’t matter where you get an Education degree (another strike against Schools of Education?), I can’t help but feel that I didn’t really apply myself in the application process. I did very well on my GRE and I don’t really know what other doors might be open to me.

But I digress. Those rapids will come soon enough. Let’s dwell in this calm awhile longer.

Where was I? Well, I guess I was just about to the point where I left on this trip. The one that ends tomorrow. It was a Saturday, sunny. I had a very pleasant ride on the Katy and found a carnival waiting for me at the Hermann Municipal Campground… (I didn’t run away to join this)

I did get to sleep that night. Pretty easily. And I slept well. Tomorrow night I’ll probably be sleeping on mom’s couch, or in the guest bed if it’s convenient. Wednesday, I’ll move the bed my sister snagged for me (thanks Jennifer!) to my new apartment. It’s the upstairs of a house on the northern fringe of the Benton-Stephens neighborhood. There’s a preschool playground outside my bedroom window and the guy beneath me keeps a garden of Banzai trees. There’s a place for the cats’ litter box in the entryway at the bottom of the stairs, so I don’t have to worry about litter trails and odors dominating the place. It’s not very big: just a bedroom, a living space, a tiny bathroom, and a tiny kitchen. I think I’m going to teach myself to make bread there. I’m looking forward to it.

Finally, yes Dre, I did stack them rocks in the post from York Harbor. It’s become something of a habit for me since. I stacked these at sundown, the night before I left York Harbor. By far my most elaborate assemblage, and I think my prettiest. I spent a long time picking the rocks out on the beach–I had two sets of visitors come and converse and leave while I worked at it! I set them up on a drainage outlet, a big hunk of cement, where I knew the waves would get them when the tide rose in a couple of hours. But I got pictures with a buoy and a lighthouse shinin’ behind ’em first.

the ground of our beseeching (thoughts from Dickey Ridge)

July 5, 2009

The appeal of traveling slowly, or what it has in retrospect, in the timeless aspect acquired as it is dwelled upon, in the moments between, before, and after travel–is the simplicity. There is but a limited array of labors to devote yourself to, and so it is easier to accept and be devoted to them more fully.

There is a time for heroism and greatness, a time for dispensing wisdom, and a time for making decisions and taking actions that will have a great and lasting effect on your life and the lives of those around you. But, as the Old Testament says, there is a time for everything. This is what Ghandi understood as he raised crops and spun thread in his quieter hours.

For me, travel is a narrowed playing field for the choices of the moment. And like a child in preschool, I make my choice from the limited options and I grow and learn from it.

The moment is everything. It is all we have. Whatever greatness has been expressed in your past is over; its validity has passed. Only what you are doing at this present moment matters. And at home there are so many choices that it becomes bewildering and tends toward dissipation. We plan and we scheme and we work to determine just what it is we should be doing–and much labor is lost in the process.

This is my problem with cars, with the schizophrenic modern mode of living: so much time is spent in transit, in the planning of places to be and the time it takes to get there. Not to mention the acquisition of the means to do so.

So for me, all travel, including my commutes in Columbia, is an opportunity to exercise my appreciation for and understanding of the moment at hand. And, for me, this is best accomplished by forgoing the speedier conveniences–the going that is fed by foreign energies–and by letting my body determine my progress. Because the battle for the supremecy of the moment, which holds the prize of right action, will not be won on this or any journey. It is the battle of a lifetime.

return to Skyline Dr

July 4, 2009

Today I rode 32 miles of Skyline Dr. I rode from our Louray, VA campground and started the Skyline at the 211 intersection, then rode to the northern end at Front Royal and met dad and Diane just as they were checking into our second Virginia campground here.

I’d done a section of the Skyline south of this on my trip over to Washington DC (see the very, very, very…. big… day and this side if the mountains), but I went into it already exhausted and had a hard time appreciating it then. It’s a fantastic road to ride. There’s no commercial traffic. The speed limit is 35 mph. The surface is very well maintained. The views are astounding.

But there’s a lot of climbing involved, so being fit and well-rested should be a prerequisite. That said, I found myself easing off and trying to slow down to better appreciate my surroundings. It can be a bit surreal, so quickly covering that much ground in the clouds. It got to feeling like an amusement park ride, which was reminiscent of my experience of Acadia’s loop road a well. This feeling, coupled with my recent hiking excursions, is a large part of what’s got me thinking about the Appalachian Trail lately. I can’t imagine riding the Skyline in a car, though that’s what it was built for and is still by far the most common means. What can I say? I dig going slow.

But I will admit: I woohooed and hooted heartily as I sped and glided along those last five miles of descent off of the mountain range and into Front Royal.

*

No wifi at this campground and my signal’s not very strong, so only two pictures tonight. Two views from the Jeremy’s Run Overlook on Skyline. First is the mountain I climbed yesterday; second is the valley I hiked along the stream and out of the park in.