Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Bike Report (4/5) : Recovery, Return . . . no rain!

Part 4 of 5 
of this Bike Reportage
on our long rides
of this last summer
before Eldest leaves for college . . . 

Bear with me.
This is not braggage.  This is just long leisurely riding.
But not too long.  Never too long, now that we see
how short our time
 has always been.

  For us, this revisiting is a kind of cycling through impending change,
this looking back and holding on to days 

intensely lived
the first part of letting go and living forward.
This is where we breathe in, one last time, 

almost the last time,
the essence
of what (and also how) we've become as a Family

before this cycle rolls forward
and breaks down into new cycles,
some of them centered elsewhere.

You're more than welcome to ride along.

Part 1- "Riding in the Rain"
Part 2 - "Still Riding in the Rain"
Part 3 - "Still Rain, Still Riding"

and now Part 4 . . .

 Day 3 - The Beach

In fact the longest beach, they say, in the world.  At least the longest in the US.  At least, the longest drivable beach.  Long Beach, Washington, its name. And the annual kite flying festival its claim to fame - coming up this year August 16 - 22.

We follow our usual pattern for the day after a long ride in.  Walking into town for a bakery breakfast.

Browsing the shopfronts.  Wandering into the ones that catch our eye.

Frankly, it feels good to walk and walk.  None of us too eager to sit ourselves down on a bike saddle today.  We head towards the beach.

Stopping by the small but worthwhile Kite Museum

with its magical kites from around the world, exhibits on kite design, kites as transportation, as tools, as weapons, and kite folk traditions from around the world. 

I sat dreaming over a video of kite skiers who leap and spin in slow motion over the frozen surface of  a lake on cross-country skis, their broad bright colored kites pulling them up into the air and zipping them through ice and snow.  Then mused over exhibits on arctic and ocean explorers who use kites to pull their loads (as conditions allow) including a female duo crossing the polar regions, from Norway and the US, both in their early 40s (oh yes!).  Most fascinating of all, though, were the exhibits upstairs: kite festivals and traditions from India, Thailand, Malaysia, China and Indonesia - with more videos, photographs and gorgeous, gorgeous kites on display.

The price of admission provides you with material to build small kites of your own which we took with us out into the wind and down the sidewalk to the beach.

They're not partucularly great fliers and served only to whet our appetite for kite flying.  A quick walk back to the main drag gives a wide choice of kite stores.  And yea, we did indulge ourselves - to the pleased surprise of the offspring - two small diamond frame kites (giraffe for Middlest, abstract rainbow shapes for Eldest) and a wild two-handed delta kite for the two boys (yes, Fritz, I'm counting you). 

The diamond kites are peaceful. Rising serenely into the sky.  Gently tugging at the string.  Flying the long fluttering pennant of childhood memories. 

But the delta, emblazoned with flames, was like getting a bridle on the wind.  I couldn't leave it alone. 

Fritz and YoungSon and I vied for turns at the reins, intoxicated at the challenge of keeping it swooping back and forth in the air, sudden loop-de-loops, fighting to avoid the sudden hard nosedive.   Unfortunately, a guy in a jeep, too deeply steeped in a long day of beachside beer, drove unseeingly through our line and brought our kite down crashing once too often and a bit too hard, cracking the center rib.  The broken bit was easily replaced back at the kite shop but that was the end of the day for the delta. 

And for us as well.

Day 4 - Astoria Bridge and Breakfast

"Will you make it to the 4th of July breakfast on Saturday?" one of Middlest's friends from the coast had asked while they were dancing at one of the last youth dances. 

25 miles before 8:30 a.m.  We had to set and keep a bright, brisk pace.  But there was the promise of pancakes if we made it in time.

Coastal Highway 101 is a much different proposition in the early morning, without rain, before the motor homes have roared to life.  I took back my deathless vow to never never ride down the coast with Fritz some long summer from now.  Amending it to maybe and only from dawn to early noon.

There was almost no traffic: views of the sea and charming Victoriana seaside towns between sweeps of trees.  An easy ride, mostly flat  - except for the Astoria-Megler Bridge

which is 4 miles, rising gently before leveling out to float on the surface of the river,

image from Wikipedia Astoria-Megler Bridge
topped off with an intense climb

image from ODOT Coastal Highway Bridges by James Norman

before a short sharp zoom down onto the Oregon side of the Columbia River mouth.

Once in Astoria it's all hills

and we have yet to figure out the easiest way up to the church near the Astoria Column.  Maybe there isn't an easiest way.  But we made it before the flag-raising

and patriotic speeches and in plenty of time for a delicious potluck breakfast - a big pot of hot cocoa, pancakes, bacon, multitudes of homebaked Scandinavian pastries, fresh berries, potato-sausage, potato-cheese casseroles, banana bread . . .  We had nothing to share but some crumbling granola bars . . . and our expert dishwashing skills which were generously accepted as a full fair share.

Afterwards Eldest and Middlest played some crazy-wild version of doubles tennis with two friends - both highly proficient, one a shoo-in for a college tennis scholarship I gather.  Fritz and I leaned against each other's backs as the sun rose and warmed, he deep in  Meterology, I diving into The City & the City by Mieville, but with ears tuned to young laughter, the girls scoffing their own misses and awkward swipes,  while the boys patiently explained and demonstrated, cheering on the beginners' progress, while YoungSon chased escapee tennis balls and unwary birds and climbed the patient trees.

Day 5 - Memorably Uncatastrophic

Without anything being said, this Sunday, unlike our unfortunate ride to church the month earlier, we rode in a phalanx, Middlest buried safely in the center.  The front riders pointing out briskly, sharply, anything approaching hazard - delicate sprays of glass shatter, rusty bolts, rocks above the size of a marble.

And happily there is nothing more to report.

Day 6 - Riding Home

What began as gray and gloom and rather cold

progressed to gently overcast with occasional bursts of sun

We rode the same familiar roads we've been riding every summer since Eldest was just a little older than YoungSon is now.  Sure now we'd be able to make it home. 

Expecting every notable rise and fall in the road.  Knowing which curves were false promises of hilltop and which were truly the last bend before the glorious glides down into the Elk Reserve.  Startled, but not surprised, when a mother deer and her fawns trot across the road.

Measuring our endurance out between known distances from stop to stop. 

At Birkenfeld, Middlest fell into conversation with a group of college-aged kids who were riding from San Diego to Seattle, raising money and awareness for a clean blood, clean water program in Africa.  Her eyes alight as we climbed back on bikes to ride once more, "They're doing what I want to do.  How cool is that?" 

They rode on toward Astoria.  We rode on toward home.

"Do you feel it?  How the scenery closes up behind us?" says Middest, as we bike away from Young's Bay.

"I know," I say.  "I was feeling that too.  Like a curtain."

"Or a waterfall," says Eldest.  "How water closes when you come out of it."

"Me, too.  It's like we've finished.  We don't ever have to come this way again."

"Though we could."

"We have to," YoungSon insists, pedaling hard behind his dad on the tandem. "We have to.  I haven't ever done it yet all alone on my own bike."

"True," I say. "Probably we will.  We could come this way again."

"And I'll be coming home for summers," says Eldest.  "Some summers."

"Probably we'll do it again.  Maybe."

"But it won't be the same."

"Nonsense," says Fritz. "This isn't the end, guys."


suzanne said...

What a gorgeous memory you've built them. Well ridden.

ArtSparker said...

Refreshing ride.

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