A Rambling Head Case Waits For His Girlfriend

NOB HILL--Yesterday afternoon I was waiting in front of the Central Ave. Flying Star for my beautiful GF to come walking down the street. I love meeting her as she walks home from work. Last Thursday we met at an outdoor table in front of La Montanita Co-op. Today it's the FS.

Ants in my Pants
I'm a little antsy these days. Last April I flew out to Virginia for a bike ride and didn't get home until 8 days ago. It was the TransAmerica Trail, 4500 zig-zagging miles of backroads wandering through 11 states. It started in Yorktown, Virginia and ended in Astoria, Oregon. I was by myself most of the time and now I'm paying for it. Sometimes I don't say much about anything. Sometimes I just start gushing with all kinds of stuff...pulling out unrelated ideas like they were three months worth of dust bunnies from under the bed.

Anyway, I'm sitting in front of the FS yesterday. I have no drink or food items. The guy next to me has lots of stuff and relaxes reading a book. I'm sure he thinks I'm about to ask him for money. I don't see MaryAnn anywhere.

I See a Bike
There are always bikes in front of the FS. But this one is a little different. Maybe you noticed it right off in the picture: the racks...both front and rear racks. That only means one thing: this is a bike with a history! This is a touring bike. I looked around. The guy sitting next to me was wearing one of those cotton bike caps. Maybe he doesn't really think I'm going to ask him for money...maybe he thinks I'm going to steal his bike.

But I say to him, "So, where has this bike been?" Well, that led to an hour's worth of conversation. His name is Robert and he is going to be heading north in a few days. His likely route goes up through Glacier NP and then back home to Pennsylvania.

The Fateful Words
We are deep into discussing this when MaryAnn walks up. We kiss. She sits down next to me, and I continue talking to Robert about places to stay, mountain passes, different towns. MaryAnn sits there patiently. Half an hour later she says she needs to get something to eat and walks home. But not before I utter those fateful words to Robert about his bike trip: "I wish I were going with you."

Oh, I don't think I meant it, but I did say it. I certainly don't want to leave MaryAnn any time soon! But I can't get that bike trip out of my mind.

Head Model
Take last Thursday. While waiting for MaryAnn in front of the Co-op, a man I didn't know approached me and asked if I would model for a portrait class he was teaching at the Harwood Studio. So Saturday and Sunday afternoons I did it. I sat and looked at a door hinge across the room for three hours each day. I did get a break every 20 minutes.

It was a wonderful class with interesting and talented students and a great teacher, Leo Neufeld. Now I don't know that much about art, but I did teach school for 31 years and know good teaching when I see it. He was simply great.

Anyway, I'm starring at that hinge and my mind starts wandering back to the TransAmerica Trail...every little town...every little gas station and store...every night I crawled inside my tent. My legs weren't moving as I sat there, but other than that it was a lot like just another day in the saddle.

Meanwhile, my face must have been going up a long, long hill...for none of the portraits show a happy or even a contented look. But I guess that is how it was. Much of the time I rode with a mind fairly empty of thought. Just a kind of contemplative peace.

Meanwhile, Back at the Flying Star
I say good-bye to Robert and wish him well. I take a last look at those racks on his bike and walk away. I'm happy where I am right now. Next May, MaryAnn and I are going to ride the Katy Trail in Missouri. It's a 230 mile 'rails to trails' bike path with lots of towns along the way. It follows the Missouri River for most of its route. It's flat...and no traffic, a perfect way for MaryAnn to see if she likes the idea of bike touring. Well, maybe not.

If you are considering a long, long bike route, consider this: however hard you think it is going to be, riding across the country is twice as hard as you think. But don't let that stop you. Then again...you might want to read the following 10 ways to prepare for such a trip. It is from the journal of Mark DeLucca, a TransAm rider I met in Falls of Rough, Kentucky.

Step 1. Get a spaghetti strainer and several small sponges. Soak the sponges in salt-water and paste them to the inside of the spaghetti strainer. Place the strainer on your head. Find a busy road. Stand by the side of the road and do deep knee-bends for 8 hours. This will acclimatize you to a days ride.

Step 2. Take some sandpaper and rub your rear-end and then insides of your legs for about 20 minutes. Rinse with salt water. Repeat. Then, sit on a softball for 8 hours. Do this daily.

Step 3. Each day, take two twenty dollar bills and tear them into small pieces. Place the pieces on a dinner-plate, douse them with lighter fluid and burn them. Inhale the smoke (simulating car-fumes). Rub the ashes on your face. Then go to a local motel and ask for a room.

Step 4. Take a 1-quart plastic bottle. Fill it from the utility sink of a local gas-station (where the mechanics wash their hands). Let the bottle sit in the sun for 2 or 3 hours until it is good and tepid. Seal the bottle up (kinda,sorta) and drag it through a ditch or swamp. Walk to a busy road. Place your spaghetti strainer on your head and drink the swill-water from the bottle while doing deep knee-bends along the side of the road.

Step 5. Get some of those Dutch wooden-shoes. Coat them with gear-oil. Go to the local supermarket (preferably one with tile floors). Put the oil-coated shoes on your feet and go shopping.

Step 6. Think of a song from the 1980's you really hated. Buy the CD and play 20 seconds of that song over and over and over for about 6 hours. Do more deep knee-bends.

Step 7. Hill Training: Do your deep knee-bends with the salt-soaked spaghetti strainer on your head, while you drink the warm swill water and listen to the 80's song over and over (I would recommend 'I'm a Cowboy/On a Steel Horse I Ride!' by Bon Jovi). At the end of 4 hours, climb onto the hood of a friends car and have him drive like a lunatic down the twistiest road in the area while you hang on for dear life.

Step 8. Humiliation Training: Wash your car and wipe it down with a chamois-cloth. Make sure you get a healthy amount of residual soap and road-grit embedded in the chamois. Put the chamois on your body like a loin-cloth, then wrap your thighs and middle section with cellophane. Make sure it's really snug. Paint yourself from the waist down with black latex paint. Cut an onion in half and rub it into your arm-pits. Put on a brightly-colored shirt and your Dutch oil-coated wooden shoes and go shopping in a crowded mall.

Step 9. Foul Weather Training: Take everything that is important to you, pack it in a nylon bag and place it in the shower. Get in the shower with it. Run water from hot to cold. Get out and without drying off, go shopping at a local convenience store. Leave wet, important stuff on the sidewalk. Go inside and buy $10 worth of Gatorade and Fig Newton's.

Step 10. Headwinds Training: Buy a huge map of the entire country. Spread it out in front of you. Have a friend hold a hair-dryer in your face. Stick your feet in toffee and try to pull your knees to your chest while your friend tries to shove you into a ditch or into traffic with his free hand. Every 20 minutes or so, look at the huge map and marvel at the fact that you have gone nowhere after so much hard work and suffering. Fold the map in front of a window-fan set to high.

No wonder I love it so.

Views: 23

Comment by chantal on August 26, 2008 at 9:46am
Welcome home, Johnny_Mango! We missed you and your leisurely insightful prose.
Comment by Rocky on August 26, 2008 at 9:58am
ROFLMA (while trying to simulate spinning @ 80 rpm)
Good on ya, Johnny – my longest tour was 5 days, not 5 months – couldn’t go wrong with that training regimen, though…thanks for telling your story(s) -
Comment by JMG on August 26, 2008 at 1:40pm
Once Banned, Twice Shy, childbirth is the easiest part. The hill climb is the next 20 years.

Nice story, Johnny. Good luck to you AND to MaryAnn during your reacculturation to home life.
Comment by Barelas Babe on August 26, 2008 at 2:30pm
Welcome back! Loved the post, and especially the comment about good teaching - it is an art, isn't it?
Comment by Neonnoodle on August 26, 2008 at 5:33pm
Great post, Johnny! Makes me want to take a trip :) oh no, the bug has been planted.
Comment by Jessie on August 26, 2008 at 6:20pm
Love it! Welcome back!
Comment by Pat O. on August 26, 2008 at 6:26pm
I used to do bicycle tours with an Indianapolis bike club when I was in my 20s. My limit for touring in a day was 100 km (62.5 miles) though I only went that far twice. That was painful enough, and I never did a century (100 miles).
Comment by Adelita on August 26, 2008 at 6:29pm
Well, Johnny, glad your trip was only 4500 miles rather than the 45,000 that I reported last week! I was a little excited to know you were back. Although I'm sure at times it did feel like 45,000 miles. So glad you are home with your sweetie and now the rest of us live vicariously through your journey. You are one awesome human being!!
Comment by Doc Mara on August 26, 2008 at 6:51pm
Welcome back! BTW, hiking cross country isn't much different.
Comment by Paula Manning-Lewis on August 26, 2008 at 7:10pm
You are so right about Leo Neufeld, he is an excellent teacher and an amazing artist too! Welcome back!


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