“I’m right behind you, all the way!”
“The sound of crickets
Unnoticed in daytime sun
Thunders through the night.”
While sitting at David’s parents’ family friends Ester and Sayre’s dinner table in West Lebanon, NH, their son David asked what else the two of us did for fun. After a hesitant pause, Dave and I quickly brainstormed and concluded that we were a boring old couple. We told him how we played board games, went on walks, read to each other, went swimming twice a week, and wrote haikus. Just then Sayre ran out of the room. He resurfaced a few minutes later with a read-a-loud bedtime book and a collection of haikus authored by his father, Roy B. Merritt. This made us feel a lot less lame.
Surprises like this have happened at just about every place we’ve stayed at. Halfway through the night hanging out at Nathan and Caitlin’s place in Grafton, NH, Nathan pointed out that he only had nine fingers due to a touch-football game at work. This guy’s living room was completely filled with all sorts of extreme adventure gear and he was telling us that he lost one of his fingers in a game of football! Another time when we stopped in a town for a quick lunch we passed by their Chamber of Commerce and realized we were in the town where the Simpsons were from when we saw all of their memorabilia. A few days ago we stumbled upon Robert Frost’s house and the next day in the next town, his grave. A few posts ago Dave mentioned the BMX national competition we stumbled upon one night– I think that’s been the biggest surprise so far.
If you didn’t already figure out, this is Valerie. Ever since we kicked things into high gear and the trip has gotten rolling I’ve sort of taken a backseat to things like bicycling and blogging. As the stoker of Black Beauty though, I’m totally stoked to be reporting to you now!
Today was spent at an awesome camp called Adam’s Eden in Lafayette, New York with the energetic and numerous family of 14 who run the place! While waiting for my birth certificate to come in the mail, David and I went on a hike down one of trails, a 400 foot decline to an winding stream at the bottom. Halfway down it began raining so we decided to head back. All of a sudden we heard what sounded like 100 thundering elephants stampeding in our direction and the yells of a hundred savages following. Within seconds 15-20 six to twenty year old boys and men ran past us on their way to retrieve the tools they had left out on their lunch break that were now getting soaked. Then we saw it. The five-wheeled tracker missing one tire that was filled and spilling with adolescents zoomed by in the direction of the boys and their tools. Dave and I stopped and and watched the madness ensue as all of the homeschooled kids from the work program scrambled to rescue all of their supplies. We felt like we were watching The Goonies!
Ridiculous moments like this have happened just about every day of the trip. One of my favorite moments so far was in Peru, Vermont with a couchsurfer named Scott. This guy lived on a road called Lover’s Lane, went to the same college as the man who wrote Into the Wild, and owned his own general store. On our last night together he told us a story about when one of his buddies did a “keg stand” with his soft-serve ice cream machine. Immediately inspired, I had David lift me up and I had my first ever keg stand experience. (It was chocolate if you were wondering.)
Another unforgettable moment was on one of our first days in the mountains. Picture this: You’re driving home in the middle of the afternoon up a steep mountain on a slightly sharp curve. As you approach the top you see what looks like a 10 foot long bicycle and a couple next to it holding each other and gasping for air. We couldn’t begin to imagine the faces we must have gotten!
It’s a wild experience cycling for so long and going so far. We’ll go several miles, sometimes through several towns without our feet touching the ground once. Travelling in a car is a similar experience (especially because you don’t have to touch the ground to brake) but it’s something I’ve never thought about before. I wonder, have you really been to a town when your feet have never greeted its pavement? We’ve been up, down, and around the streets of so many towns without ever setting foot in them. Have we been to these places or through these places? I think through. But in a more intimate way than one does in a car because we’ve greeted their joggers and neighbors and traffic cops. We’ve smelled their BBQ diners, construction workers, and fresh-cut grass. We’ve seen their details– their insects, their graffiti, their toddlers’ Dropkick Murphys t-shirts. On one of our first and longest and hardest days David pulled over at one point and I jumped off, got on all fours and kissed the pavement. How many of that town’s citizens have gotten that acquainted with their land?
By the way, after getting off the bike and embracing the pavement we collapsed in the yard of whatever business we had stopped in front of and both immediately fell asleep. If you ever want a good sleep or to feel completely satisfied with a meal, I suggest bicycling for eleven hours straight. You’ll sleep anywhere and eat anything– happily!