Monday, July 7, 2008

Day 8: Powered by the Finish Line

If this were Day 2, we would have been doomed.

Day 2: Wiscasset to Brunswick, via Bath (24 miles)

The word of the day was pain. My right knee hurt when I woke up but got steadily worse with each passing hill, grinding on inclines more than 7 or 8%. Hills I could have taken blindfolded yesterday proved to be endurance tests beyond, well, endurance. There were tears and gritted teeth, plus a demoralizing moment when, for the first time, I had to alight the bike on nothing more than a bunny hill and walk it up to the top. The joy that's greeted us around every corner -- because it might be a lovely town or glassy body of water -- today felt like an adversary. The agony of defeat.

John was a trooper, staying slow behind me and offering words of encouragement when I came close to falling apart. The roads, though, were kind and forgiving. And a brief junket to beautiful Bath (the perfect town to picture living in for a good long stretch, if not for the missing bike shop) let us rest our aching bones, grab some locally-roasted coffee, and get directions from the two angels of the natural food store, who seemed to read my mind, and body, in suggesting a flat if roundabout route into Brunswick.

This was the same road we'd learned about from that second cyclist stopped by Boston Bob the day before. I ran into him outside of Red's Eats and he tipped me off to a great bike path that wasn't on our map. A merciful thing, because it was a paved, traffic-free, and relatively even stretch that, best of all, spit us out right in front of Frosty's donut shop in the heart of downtown Brunswick, Maine!

Brunswick came up quickly and caught me by surprise, and by the time we pulled into the Sea Dog brewery for a victory beer, I was overcome by emotion in a way that also surprised me, and I blubbered like a baby . . . for our 325 miles in eight perfect days, for the 40+ mile/day average distance, for the agonizing knee pain that burned now even on the downhills; for all the majestic views, great nights' sleep, and kindness of strangers; for the way my 42-year-old body rose to an occasion I never even envisioned doing, much less doing well; for the reliability of my trusty Bianchi (thanks to Kevin at Boulevard Bikes for handpicking my perfect steed); but mostly for the way a trip John and I knew could go either way -- we could get along famously or drive each other over a cliff -- felt so fully like a partnership, like such a peaceful and productive collaboration, that we fantasized about just chucking it all: the jobs, the house, the urban living, and just going until our resources ran out.

Alas, one key resource -- a healthy body -- had its number come up today. But even that cup was over half full. If this had happened Day 2 or even Day 6, there would have been the deflated call to my parents to come pick my sorry ass up off the asphalt. As it is now, we'll ride triumphantly, if painfully, into their driveway, and they'll welcome us with open arms and eager ears. Our good fortune continues to shine.Now, sadly, the real world begins to encroach. There are at least five televisions on in this restaurant, and we've learned despite trying to block them out the recent baseball scores, political scandals, and weather reports. Back at the house the internet will offer its temptations (I should really clean out that inbox before it's even more full of spam). Our cell phones will come out of roaming and we'll probably balance our checkbooks.

But for eight much-too-brief days, all of that was irrelevant, and we were just bodies with machines, and bodies as machines. This is as important, I think, as flexing the mind. I only hope this time next summer, we may be sitting in a place not unlike this one, recounting another ride.


Diana Sudyka said...

In case it is not completely obvious: You and John are not, I repeat, ARE NOT, allowed to move to Maine unless you take Jay and I with you.

Oh lady, congrats on the trip! What a heroic trooper you are. It's so fantastic you two did this. Beautiful posting too.

Diana Sudyka said... la Ortlieb panniers! The best...

psychlops said...

beautiful Bath (the perfect town to picture living in for a good long stretch, if not for the missing bike shop)

Ah, but there is a bike shop nearby - in fact, you rode right past it - it was a quarter mile or so north of the bridge to Bath in my town of Woolwich, Bath Cycle and Ski. They have an old ski lift gondola hanging on their sign. Good people, it's where we bought our bikes and get them tuned up.

What Bath really needs is a movie theater (though Brunswick has a great independent theater, in addition to the bazillion theater googolplex).

Thanks for the great journal entries! I'm 44 and you've really given me hope/inspiration that I can do something similar in the not too distant future. :)

psychlops said...

You and John are not, I repeat, ARE NOT, allowed to move to Maine unless you take Jay and I with you.

Heh - well if you all do move here you better join us for a beer at the Montsweag Roadhouse now and again :)

Diana Sudyka said...

Hah! Careful what you ask for, I. If that happens, you can count on us joining you guys for many, many beers!

psychlops said...

Beers, biking and birding! Sounds good to me :)

kkurtz said...

the maw of the minivan has devoured your bikes. oh, my!

great saga.
props all around.

what's next for our intrepid adventurers?
I can't wait!

leslie said...

Well done, Christy & John! You're in inspiration, and these journal entries have been the best summer reading yet.

Adriane said...

Congratulations on a marvelous event!! Each day I look forward to another installment of your trip diary. What a lovely vacation - the pleasure of your destinations even greater in light of the effort to reach them. P.S. I join you in the "chucking it all" fantasy.

Benjamin said...

Wow. What an amazing journey. Congratulations. Truly inspiring and such a well-written account of your travels. You should submit it to Adventure Cycling magazine.

tracy said...

Thanks for the ride, Christy! I'm feeling kinda sad now that the virtual journey is over. Easy for me to say, with no knee pain.