Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Slow One

weeks of May 10 - 16 and May 17 - 23 plus
Memorial Day with pictures!

“Here – we’re going to be late – toss me the keys – I’ll drive.”

“Mom.” And Eldest waits until I meet her eye. “I can’t in good conscience let you drive when we’re running late.”

“And you're trying to say what?”

But she just shakes her head and I laugh as she fastens her seatbelt and looks up into the rearview mirror until her brother and sister have their belts fastened, too.

Because I know. I am a speeder. Who married a conscientious toe-er of the line. Who has obviously passed down his conscientiosity. And I have always hated going slow.

Waiting for people to get to the point. Reducing my long-legged pace to a picky dawdle. Driving with my grandfather (another conscientious stickler to the speed limit). These were all small martyrdoms, years past.

I am more mellow now. Or slower, anyway - the consequences of age maybe. No one out here in the West, where I live now, has to say any more, “Whoa – I can’t understand – you’re talking way too fast!” I can walk hand-in-hand with Fritz now without trying to drag him onward! And I don’t roll my eyes visibly any more when we start the third time ‘round the same old points in a meeting – at least not so much that anyone seems to notice. I’ve learned to take in details of faces and hands, mannerisms and intonation – revel in the non-verbal a little when the verbal gets stuck in repeat – repeat – repeat. So I’m making progress.

But I still hate going slow.

Which makes it so galling that – when it comes to biking – I AM SLOW.

I didn’t train this winter for our annual ride to the coast. And when I finally started biking in the spring I was slow.

Because I AM SLOW.

In fact, I was so slow, I thought I’d have to drive sag wagon instead of pedaling because we have to finish in one day, before dark, and I was sure that there was no way in God’s green earth that I was going to be able to make it. But my marathon friend – who is so fit and so fast and about 15 years younger than me – got me out riding the hills, pushing my pace.

I came home the first ride and lay on the basement floor.

The next ride when I said she was a good soul for going so slow with me, she pulled a face and rolled her eyes. “I don’t mind,” she said which I decided to take on faith and I shut up and pedaled. And made it up the Monster Hill that had been scaring me all spring. “See,” said my marathon friend, “you broke its back. You faced it. You can do this.”

After that, my addiction to exercise-endorphins finally started to kick in. I biked Monster Hill front and back. Then my elegant friend – who is so fit and so fast and about 15 years older than me – rode Monster Hill and Monster’s Other Brother both ways with me. “You’re strong, Emma J,” she said. “You don’t realize it, but you are strong.”

Yes, I am. I am still slow, though, so I planned to rely on superior planning and organization to compensate for speed. I forced everyone to pack two days early.

“I want to leave by 5:30!” I told them.

“No later than 6!” I insisted when they complained.


The morning of: “I’m going to leave whether you’re ready or not – 6:30!”

We left at 9. Which is still earlier than in years past. And the ride was good. Nice weather. Low traffic.

And we made good time. Despite derailed chains (Middlest’s) and a flat tire (mine)

. . .  waiting . . .  aha! the piece of glass that did the mischief . . . still waiting . . . .

And despite long rest-stops.

First, at the Birkenfeld country store: eating Ben & Jerry’s mint chocolate chip (the girls) and trading biking stories with the Tattooed Man and admiring his custom-built Harley, all brilliant chrome and new-penny-orange sparkle-paint with dinosaur-hide seat (the boys) (okay, we girls admired some, too).

Second rest stop was at the elk overlook: lying in the grass, laughing for sheer pleasure, in each other, at the slightest thing, until the volunteer caretaker chugged over on his mowing tractor to let us know that there was no camping there at the reserve and moreover, we were about halfway to anywhere so we'd better get a move on – and then talked another hour to us about his adventurous life and his vagabond retirement now, splitting his year volunteering at the elk reserve, visiting his daughter in the Rockies, and summers fishing on the Madison River.

Further up the road we actually saw the herd of elk - about 50, Fritz estimated, more than 20 anyway, says I. We made it up the last climb over the Coastal Range and into Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River with daylight to spare. And all in good shape.

Okay, there was that blubbering woman at the top of the final hill, “I can’t do anymore. I can’t go any farther. I can’t . . . ”

– what was that all about? We were already there. Eldest, Middlest, YoungSon gathered around, distressed. I was hovering somewhere above the group there on the hilltop above Astoria, wondering at this hysterical, illogical woman. Fritz said, “Give her something to eat.” A honey stick and some salted pretzels and she subsided back into normalcy.


And all weekend, glorious weather. In all the years we’ve  been at the coast this early in the year we've never had warm blue skies all weekend long.

No aches, no pain, and after a long soak in the motel’s hot tub the first morning, no tiredness. Astoria (and our motel) likes to make the most of its Scandinavian heritage - except aren't these door ornaments Pennsylvania Dutch (so German)?

At least, Home Bakery, our regular and requisite first stop Saturday morning, has been owned by the same Swedish-Finnish family for generations. Cardamom flecking the pastries, cherry fritters . . .

outside the Children's Firefighter's Museum which has a cool door, but whose real attraction is its position just across the street from Home Bakery

carb and cardamom joy!

Middlest teaching her brother a great pick-up line
 (how does she know these things?)
"So once upon the time there was a boy turtle and a girl turtle . . ."

". . . and why are we still talking about TURTLES!?"

Saturday was sunshiny and warm, but only when out of the wind. We pedaled from windbreak to windbreak and soaked up the sun.

Leeward of the Maritime Museum (as opposed to windward, right?)  In the distance, between Fritz and Eldest, you can pick out the hilltop tower of the Astoria Column.

The wind comes straight down the estuary from the mouth of the Columbia on the Pacific. Even a low hedge blocks enough, though, to make a cosy corner.

One of the perqs of having ridden so hard the day before is that it feels so good to laze about the next day.  Any of the old irritations and worries having been burned away some fifty miles back on the hills yesterday.


Even warmer and brighter. Not wanting to arrive over-perfumed, we walked our bikes up the hill to the church building - and then coming out once more into the warmth and sunchine we figured we were so close to the top, we might as well bike up to the actual peak of the Astoria column hill - which we've always meant to do but never been able to convince our recovering muscles it was worth doing.

We've been here before by car, but the view is even better by bike!

Coasting back down the hills - and they ARE hills - we admired the bright-colored Victorians and the stained glass of old churches.

And basked in the sunshine.

Once down at sea-level once more, and pedaling along the river path back, we had to stop by to see the Biggest Losers in Town (lonely, grumpy bachelor sea lions - the ones no sea lioness would hook up with this year) . . . 

. . . and then taking the woodsy little side trail that winds back to some side streets below the motel.  I felt good and strong and not so slow after all. And if I was last in line it was just to take pictures - yeah-huh!

Fritz and YoungSon took an afternoon ride (30 miles!) to the beach (or per YoungSon: "Thuh Beagch," repeated ad nauseum à la Mr. Bean). The chicas and I took a nap, then soaked in the hot tub.
I was so looking forward to the ride home on Memorial Day – my muscles strengthened by the ride there, my body all loose and rested up over the weekend.

And we could really get an early start . . .


. . . except no one would pack up the night before. And that morning Fritz and unnamed offspring discovered they had mold in their water-pack tubes.

Which would make them sick if they sipped.

Because they hadn’t cleaned them out when we arrived.

Emergency environmental mop up ensued: 

essentials: heavy needle, dental floss, tissue paper . . . oh, and bleach

Once the dental floss is threaded through the tube:
tying the wad of tissue and gently pulling through.

Aren't you loving the details?

Believe me, I was in ecstasies myself.

Swish . . . .  . . . . . . swish!

Rinse, rinse, rinse, rinse, rinse . . .

This is so incredibly thrilling and enjoyable.

Time for Happy Kola gummies!

By the time it was nearing noon I’d exhausted my scanty store of patience (i.e. my disposable camera was full) and I was now nicely consumed with anxiety and irritation - yes, yes, trying to keep it pleasant - but chompin’ at the bit to get going.

At last! following the riverside path out towards the ocean where we'll circle around Astoria instead of climbing up over the hills and link up with the road to Jewell on the other side of town.

Because I knew who was going to have to pick up the pace to make the difference so we didn’t get caught in the dark. That's right.  The SLOW One.

And it was not a fun ride. Which is a shame because it was absolutely beautiful – my assessing brain took note of
  • sunshine (check),
  • blue skies (check),
  • scent of summer woods (check),
  • wildflowers (check check check)
As I steamed up hills I tried to listen for birdsong, but if it was there it was drowned out by the buzzing chant of overheated blood in the veins.

I had to make it at least to the campground 24 miles from home where I could stay with YoungSon while the speedy ones raced home and got the car to come back for us before dark.

And we had to pare two hours off our journey to beat sundown. Which meant I had to keep up a pace about 4 mph faster than I was used to. Which also meant no lolling in the grass and only the briefest bathroom breaks in the few sparse towns we biked through. At each of which I practiced deep yoga breathing to fake myself into thinking we'd really rested.

 In cooler weather, Olney store often has a crock pot of hot chowder waiting - but we barely stopped this time.

No Ben & Jerry's this time

Eldest and Middlest left us in the dust repeatedly.  They would wait, graceful and nonchalant, if somewhat unwillingly, at the tops of hills for us slower ones.

Or should I say, Slower One.

Fritz with YoungSon on the tagalong stayed back with me, laughing and talking.  “Hey," said Fritz, "you’re going to write about this and it will be a great story.”

"That’s not the way it works,” I spluttered. “You can’t count on the writing beforehand like it’s credit to cover other people’s lack of thoughtfulness and refusal to prepare the night before!” (or something to that effect – there were more gaps - gasps - between the words and possibly more plosives from between gritted teeth).

So I’m not going to write any more about it. Except to say that I pedaled past the campground. Very slowly and not too happily. But I pedaled. And I pedaled over Monster’s Other Brother, then up and over Monster.

With hardly any blubbering.

And the sun was still above the hills when we coasted downhill into the outskirts of our community.

But I did walk up the hill to our house.

And I was the last . . . because I am the Slowest One . . . home.


Cait said...

:( I am sorry for not packing the night before. I thought you did an excellent job on the ride. You have to remember how we were last year. We blubbered considerable more than once on the top of the last hill!

Mrs. Organic said...

Fabulous pictures and scenery. I'm very impressed by your determinedness (actual word?). What a great tradition.

B said...

Hi slow poke,

I could give you all sorts of wisdom (cough cough) on what you accomplished, but I won't. Because you know. I know you do.

And to answer your comments, yes, I am happy with my choice. I shall miss all the excitement of said races, no doubt about it. But you know what? LIFE is exciting too, if I choose to live it as such. I sort of forgot I had that power, you know?

My mode of transport is bike, if I am sans kids, whether it be 5 miles or 500 miles, and I cant wait. Not to be totally lycra-clad and so serious all the time is wonderful to daydream about.

Are we still shooting for weekly rides? (said in hopeful tone)

Emma J said...

Definitely weekly rides. Especially now that I'm starting to feel endorphins again.

Next week. Same time/ place - unless I hear different from you.

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