Tuesday, 17 June. An infinitely advanced wordsmith once coined the phrase, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Today's 58 mile ride from Oberlin to Fremont embodied the wordsmith's idea. Please allow me to adroitly describe today's 'worst of times.' Wind. Headwinds blowing on the nose at a steady 15-20 knots, gusting with malice at times to 35. I spent the majority of my time in the saddle managing gears to match the wind. Headwinds are the penultimate bane of the long distance tourist. A reasonable man would prefer a day's ride in the hills and heat. A touring bike is the aerodynamic equivalent of the windward side of a barn. Not so great in the aerodynamic's arena. Pushing a touring bike into the wind is akin to spending the day trying to push a cement block up an uneven brick wall...for 6 or 7 hours. It makes for a
long, tough trudge. Ah, but do not the worst of times often yield to the best of times?
Today they did, in spades. I'll give you the "Cliff Note's" version of today's good times, and conclude with one of those amazing moments that can only happen on a bicycle tour. My fraternity brother Ralph made an ad hoc decision to ride out a little with me this morning. I got to go bicycle riding with one of my brothers who I had known for 35 years, but had never ridden with. Today as we parted company after 10 miles and exchanged a fumbled fraternity handshake in our bike gloves, I felt something powerful and wonderful. I have always admired Ralph, and today Ralph respected me and my efforts on behalf of the Special Olympic kids. That meant a great deal. Less than 10 minutes after Ralph went east and I went west, I was 'grannying' my fat bike up a short, steep incline when I saw a cyclist in my mirror. Dave caught me at the hill's crest and we rode and chatted. Small world? He knows and rides with Ralph. He also gave me excellent directions for a modified route and then told me that if I went to Fremont, his former bike mechanic worked in town and I should meet him. The route suggested was kharmically fated. Cross the turnpike, bear left on Joppa Rd. and then left on...you are not going to believe this...MASON ROAD. I spent the majority of my day on Mason Rd. Almost stopped for lunch at the 'Mason Jar Tavern'. (I have the photos and we are working on gettin them up.) Please be advised that I suffer slightly from technophobia. I still play 8-tracks. But I'm learning. And isn't that one of the life's great lessons? Keep learning. And our Masonic brotherhood has so much to share and teach.
Quick hits. Other cool moments...a guy saw me coming and idled his zero-turn lawnmower until I passed and we shared a thank-filled wave...young guy in a pick-up pulls up to a stop sign and could have rudely pulled out in front of me as I pushed wind toward his intersection, but instead he smiled and waved me through. Another nice hand-signaled exchange. And then I pulled into Fremont...
It was easy to find the bike shop after a construction worker on a closed bridge provided me with exact directions. I met Phil, the former Oberlin bicycle mechanic who now plied his magic in Fremont. He knew both Ralph and Dave from his days spent spinning wrenches in Oberlin. It was like meeting a friend of a friend. As I was telling my story of riding for the Special Olympics, a slightly built middle aged black gentleman who had come to the counter looked at me and said,
"My name is George, and I was a Special Olympian. I ran 30 years ago and I met the Kennedy's when they came to event." George had a work badge hanging from his blue denim work shirt's pocket. It said he was a custodian. And he was the happiest, most joy-filled person you could ever stand next to. He gave me the distinct impression that his experience as a Special Olympian taught him that he could succeed given the cards he was dealt. And he did succeed. He had a job he was good at and he loved his bicycle and the freedom it provided. Self-actualization? May we all be so lucky. God bless George. My dedication to doing my part to rasie awareness and build publicity for the Special Olympians has never been higher. It actually makes me feel young again. Napoleon, Ohio tomorrow. Please turn off the west wind. Peace.